"Satisficing" is an economists word. I'll use it loosely to mean finding a set of measures, regarded under uncertainty, but likely to maximize (or minimize) some quantity(ies). The quantities here will be casualties and expense in Iraq and in a much wider and longer Middle East War to come. The measures below deal only with Iraq, not the Israeli government - Palestinian part of the Middle East problem. No imperial interest group is going to get everything it wants out of the Iraq disaster. A later than Lancet study of Iraq casualties puts the death toll now at about 1 million Iraqis killed in war by all parties since 2003 (in addition to our own casualties.) So let's consider a realistic satisficing set of measures to limit further harm.
When an expansive Islam met Christendom on the Iberian peninsula conflict lasted off and on from the 700s through the 1490's. A wider war or a Euro-Korean length occupation of Iraq (50 -60 years) are abysses from which we must try to save ourselves and others. Big, primitive countries like Iran and Pakistan still don't have full control over armed groups in them. Bush or the Israeli's current government could still attack Iran by air. Iranians would retaliate in part by infiltration into Iraq and attacking our troops. Worse yet: Bush could order an attack that would almost certainly leave American hostages in Iran, trapping the next U.S. president in a nightmare hostage crisis. That would happen before summer 2008, while our troops are still at surge strength. In Iraq, Turks massing on the north, the Brits pulling out of the south and the bombing destabilization of Pakistan are harbingers of a wider war. And our military is not quite broken: Bush could transfer troops from the over 60,000 in Germany and 45,000 in Japan.
Soft partition should mean that U.S. troops, while withdrawing from Iraq's cities, would escort only willing Iraqis to resettle to zones of others of the same sect. Under soft partition Iraqis unwilling to move would assume the risk of fighting or making peace. Mixed marriage Iraqis should be helped to emigrate. Assumption of risk is a principle of freedom. Door-kickin'-in forcible occupation is a principle of domination. Baghdad can be partitioned along the Tigris. The Green Zone can be given to Sunni's moving from east to west Baghdad. Turn Bush's embassy into a hospital, rehabilitation center and orphanage for Iraqis. The Kurds have their own government. The Sunnis are out of Maliki's government. So we should offer Maliki's government the choice to stay in Baghdad alone or move to a self-defensible base in Shia territory. Set up a modest U.S. embassy there. Let local Iraqis defend themselves as necessary against Al Qaeda. A dozen countries have moved their capitals, largely under pressure of war.
It's fantasy to think the Military – Energy – Israel Lobby complex is going to let our troops out of oil-rich Iraq. So U.S. troops should be redeployed to new bases in relatively underpopulated areas and re-missioned basically to guard Iraq's oil for an adjustment period not to exceed, say, 8 years (2 presidential terms.) They could also engage in quick reaction against Al Qaeda. Enough room should be left between U.S. forces and the borders for insertion of a U.N. border guarding force. This is the only measure that will induce oil companies to invest the $billions necessary to increase Iraq's oil production and adjust to hiring mercenaries to guard its infrastructure. Even then, the U.S. government will need to provide “incentives” to the oil companies and do heavy jawboning to get them to invest. But it would mean all U.S. troops out, 12% per year, in 8.5 years! An enhanced SIGIR might be trusted for that time to distribute profits equitably to all Iraqis.
A large U.N border force is the only thing that could keep Iraq one federated country, let unarmed refugees return and keep us and the Iranians apart. The U.N. performed poorly for Iraqis under sanctions, partly because the U.S. and U.K. blocked shipment of any dual use exports to Iraq and because Iraq's oil was irresistible to corrupt oil dealers. But it's the only game in town where you can rent developing country soldiers, through peace keeping – peace enforcement programs, for about $1,000 per month. That's about what it costs for a U.S. soldier with combat support for one day! And of course, Blackwater mercenaries are paid 4 to 6 times what U.S. soldiers are paid. The U.S. should pay for this force to keep Iraq “one” country. In the long run it will be cheaper than combat and paying mercenaries. We could allow U.S. air support for attacked U.N. and U.S. troops so long as its ordinance only falls within the borders of Iraq. The Zionists get out of this an 8-year friendly force U.S. occupation in the Middle East. By “Zionists” I mean those persons who want to keep Israel a Jewish state rather than a secular democracy and keep most of the now about one-half million Jewish colonists in place who have moved into the area called the “West Bank” of the Jordan River. The Iraqis get offers they can't refuse: we stop killing so many of them, our support for keeping “one” regionalized country, and equitable, if insufficient distribution of profits from their oil. The contractors get to build new bases and the mercenaries get extended guard jobs.
It's also fantasy to think the U.S. can democratize Islamic countries by force and then they will automatically be favorable to U.S. - Zionist interests. It's a worse fantasy to think even that we can eliminate all armed groups in Middle East countries that attack us now and then.
When Napoleon and Hitler each invaded Russia, a vast, primitive country with difficult terrain and bad weather, their armies were destroyed. Likewise with the U.S.S.R. in Afghanistan. We are already just holding on in Afghanistan and Iraq. If we have to fight Iran and in nuclear Pakistan as well, our military and economy will be severely stressed. War deficit spending will erode the dollar to the point where it will lose status as the world's reserve currency. Americans and our economy can tolerate a limited occupation, much less than in Europe since 1945 or Korea since 1953, but will not tolerate a two-generation war for “democracy.” Antisemitism and isolationism would damage our historic bond with Israel beyond repair. So all Americans and especially true friends of Israel better step up and vocally and officially support the measures listed above and require Congress to refuse further war funding unless the President makes the redeployment and re-missioning of our troops described here the “way forward.”
I don't claim that this set of measures is at all just, merely that if adopted, it is likely to produce less casualties and expense than the endless occupation of all Iraq and not worsen the Palestinian part of the crisis. Every vote front-runner Senator Clinton makes suggests to me she would be an enabler of endless occupation. So if Congress won't refuse further funding until these measures are adopted by Bush, progressives ought to unite in urging rank and file Republicans and Democrats, following the primaries, to de-register from their parties to show their disapproval with current office holders and candidates. Just informing one another of wrongs and complaining in blogs is not productive. Hopefully candidates with real alternative ideas, e.g., a Green Party candidate, or Bloomberg, or some other non-oil, non-pro Israeli theocractic state, wealthy, self-funding person will emerge to run an independent campaign.