Empire In Iraq?

A reader writes:

I'm seriously skeptical of your reader's optimism about Iraq - despite his claimed military insider knowledge - for several reasons:

(1)  There are those Washington Post articles quoting high-ranking US military officials as saying they're still scared of the Shiite insurgencies and that the Maliki government is still stubbornly refusing to make any conciliatory moves, which don't mesh well with his statement that the Sunnis and Shiites are starting to pal around together:

(2)  There are Gen. Jones' maps showing that the segregation of Sunnis and Shiites in Baghdad has continued to massively increase.

(3)  Last but definitely not least, we have Mark Lynch's description today of Stephen Biddle's latest optimistic scenario for Iraq's future (via Kevin Drum).

I think Biddle is probably right on, and it's important to understand what this means for the debate on the war. Marc Lynch describes the best possible outcome thus:

If everything goes right and if the US continues to "hit the lottery" with the spread of local ceasefires and none of a dozen different spoilers happens, then a patchwork of local ceasefires between heavily armed, mistrustful communities could possibly hold if and only if the US keeps 80,000-100,000 troops in Iraq for the next twenty to thirty years.  And that's the best case scenario of one of the current strategy's smartest supporters.

I think that is indeed the only scenario that currently keeps the "country" from exploding, which is why I do not see how this has turned into anything other than an up-front imperial project. The trouble is: no one is honestly presenting this as a choice to the American people, explaining the costs, the opportunity costs and the dangers.