Reihan responds to Joe:
This is an aspect of the withdrawalist critique that I find particularly frustrating. “Aha! But you didn’t turn Baghdad into a harmonious multifaith enclave of cosmopolitan prosperity! Yet” Right. The history of partitions in divided societies is long and ugly. That said, we don’t exactly think of Greece or Turkey, or even India or Pakistan, as failed states. We consider them troubled states that are fragile in many respects. The question is, is the ethnic cleansing reversible? Even now, over a decade after Dayton, Bosnia remains a divided society. Some refugees have returned home, but many more have not many more have built new lives in new parts of the country or overseas. But maintaining a single state allows the possibility of long-term reconciliation. Refugees are returning to Iraq, perhaps prematurely. This will be an enduring challenge. Yet it is a challenge that can be managed successfully, provided we don’t abandon the Iraqi state at its most vulnerable point.
I think it's extremely premature to start talking about Iraq as if its fundamental problems have been solved, just because we have had a breathing space in the conflict long enough to make both withdrawal and a permanent occupation more palatable. I do not believe permanent US bases in Iraq will mean anything but endless war and endless expense. The question now is: how do we get out with as little catastrophe as possible?
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