But strictly on policy terms, doesn't the desirability of a pullout depend on whether the hell that is going to break loose when we leave is becoming a bigger hell or a smaller hell because of our continued military presence? Right now, despite the disputes over pre- and post-surge death counts, etc., it looks like it's becoming a smaller hell, no?
No. The desirability of a pull-out on policy terms depends on whether or not Americans can put an end to the relentless slide towards open civil war that appears to be taking place in Iraq, or whether our forces are simply serving as a "cap" on the violence with no ability to prevent a more serious civil war in the future. The latter is NOT an argument for staying in Iraq, as about 0% of Americans-including the war supporters-believes the purpose of American troops in Iraq is to cap the violence for an indefinite period of time (decades) without any promise of eventual political stability. No one is arguing in good faith that things are going to get better when we leave; merely that we can't prevent them from getting any worse. Kaus would do well to really pay attention to what intelligent people are actually writing about the war, as opposed to playing "gotcha!" games with short, snarky posts that demonstrate a misunderstanding of the debate.