Charles Krauthammer officially throws in the towel on Iraq as a unified democratic country for the foreseeable future. But that doesn't mean, in his view, that we should peremptorily withdraw. In fact, he's arguing for US forces to help police the three separate mini-states that have emerged out of the chaos. It's the most plausible pro-surge piece I've yet read, because it concedes that putting Iraq back together is largely hopeless, but that some kind of tactical stability is not impossible:

A weak, partitioned Iraq is not the best outcome. We had hoped for much more. Our original objective was a democratic and unified post-Hussein Iraq. But it has turned out to be a bridge too far. We tried to give the Iraqis a republic, but their leaders turned out to be, tragically, too driven by sectarian sentiment, by an absence of national identity, and by the habits of suspicion and maneuver cultivated during decades in the underground of Saddam Hussein's totalitarian state.

All this was exacerbated by post-invasion U.S. strategic errors (most important, eschewing a heavy footprint, not forcibly suppressing the early looting and letting Moqtada al-Sadr escape with his life in August 2004) and by al-Qaeda's barbarous bombing campaign designed explicitly to kindle sectarian strife.

Whatever the reasons, we now have to look for the second-best outcome. A democratic, unified Iraq might someday emerge. Perhaps today's ground-up reconciliation in the provinces will translate into tomorrow's ground-up national reconciliation. Possible, but highly doubtful. What is far more certain is what we are getting: ground-up partition.

The weak link in the argument, I'd say, is the notion that Sunni Anbar won't try to regain control of the Shiite center. Or that Baghdad itself won't explode. The other obvious inference that Charles doesn't address in the column: If we really do want to put enough troops in to create stability, then we shouldn't just be stabilizing the surge but increasing it. How many troops does he envisage for how many years? 100,000 for twenty? Let's be as honest as we can, can we?

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