At some point, it always comes to this in an American intervention:
Iraq is almost defenseless. That makes it easy prey for Iran, its historic rival. This doesn't mean that an Iranian invasion is likely. Yet Iranian bullying and influence-peddling is going on all the time, and if Iraq can't defend its borders, Tehran will have an extra element of coercive leverage. Under these circumstances, leaving Iraq entirely would be an act of folly.
We are still in Kosovo, South Korea and other post-conflict zones that are far more stable. We need to be in Iraq too. We don't need to keep 50,000 troops there, but a continuing presence of 20,000 military personnel, as argued by military analysts Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, would seem to be the minimum necessary to ensure Iraq's continued progress.
It would also make possible an Iraqi-American alliance that could become one of the linchpins of security in this strategically vital region. Having active bases in Iraq would allow us to project power and influence, counter the threat from both Iran and al Qaeda, and possibly even nudge the entire Middle East in a more pro-Western direction.
That's the latest Boot, to which a military source responds:
I know Max fairly well and think he’s a genuinely decent fella.
I also believe him to be absolutely delusional and blind, lock-stepped neocon. The presumption that we could simply do this sort of thing (and that the Iraqis would “ask” for this without considerable coercion) is comically short-sighted. But to think that the Sunni/Shiia/others might be tamed or otherwise calmed simply by continuing our presence there is dangerous.
Wouldn't a complete US withdrawal – as promised – actually be more help for our cause in the region? It would reveal our non-imperial motives, and help add legitimacy to the much more profitable pro-democracy training we've been quietly doing around the region. As for Iran, its rise was made partly possible by the Iraq fiasco. There's no undoing that now.
(Photo: Iraqi soldiers walk during the start of the Lion's Leap Operation, a joint US-Iraqi service exercise to demonstrate the Iraqi Security Forces' ability to provide for the security of the Iraqi people and maintain stability throughout the region on April 18, 2011, in Basmaya base, south of Baghdad. The operation which will continue on for the next ten days in different regions of Iraq will consist of Iraqi troops on the ground and US F-16 fighter planes in the air. By Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images.)