VICTORY….Jim Henley on how the war will eventually play out:

Most civil wars eventually end, so the Beltway Consensus intends to ride the Iraqi one out. Assuming it concludes, whoevers in charge can declare victory, as if the whole point of invading Iraq was to eventually “end” the civil war that would break out as a result of the invasion. The whole course of events will have made a mockery of every public justification for the war in the first place. The only way anyone could declare it a “victory” would be if, after all, the aim of being in Iraq was simply to be in Iraq. Which is to say, if we end up with a basing agreement after an eventual armistice, the real purpose of the war will have been served. It just happens that they could never have convinced the country to waste thousands of American and millions of Iraqi lives (counting the refugees) and hundreds of billions of dollars on building some new forts where they’re not wanted. Which is why they didn’t sell the war on that basis.

True enough. The civil war has to end eventually, and George Bush’s plan seems to be to hold on and hope that maybe it burns itself out on his watch. You never know, after all.

But while it’s true that all civil wars end eventually, “eventually” can be a very long time. If we’re lucky, this one will end when the ethnic cleansing is finished and every region in the country and every neighborhood in Baghdad is fully segregated. That might only take a couple more years. If we’re unlucky, the war will continue until the Sunni minority is obliterated and one of the Shiite factions has gotten a firm upper hand. That might take more like five or ten years.

The latter is more likely, but in any case the final resolution hardly depends on the U.S. presence. The Iraqis are going to do whatever the Iraqis are going to do. As Jim says, the only thing we get out of staying — aside from the certainty of increased instability and at least a decent chance of a wider regional war — is the possibility of owning two or three gigantic bases once the fighting stops. Pretty good investment, eh?

POSTSCRIPT: And if we’re really unlucky? Let’s not even go there this evening. The idea that an American withdrawal could lead to increased bloodshed is conventional wisdom, but for some reason, the idea that America’s continued presence could be the thing that turns an Iraqi civil war into a regional conflagration seems to be beyond most people’s imagination. They should think harder.

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