FOUR WARS….In Slate, Phil Carter writes that our problem in Iraq is that we’re not fighting either a civil war or a counterinsurgency or an anti-terrorist campaign. We’re fighting all of them at once. In fact, there are four separate wars:

  1. Shi’a on Shi’a, principally in the south. Requires delicate political maneuvering. Military action would “undermine the goal of building a legitimate and stable government for Iraq.”

  2. Sectarian conflict, principally in Baghdad. Requires a “massive imposition of force and control.”

  3. The insurgency. Requires a traditional counterinsurgency approach. Unfortunately, the training of indigenous troops, the obvious first step, “has merely trained and equipped the partisans fighting Iraq’s sectarian civil war.”

  4. Al-Qaeda. Plays the role of spoiler anytime it looks like the other three wars might be flagging.

Phil doesn’t say it, but the conclusion from this is pretty obvious: continued American engagement is futile. No matter what tactics we use, at best we can win only one of these battles — and only at the cost of making the others worse. Read the whole thing.