Based on what I've seen over the last six years, I fully expect the Democratic party to fail miserably to fulfill the mandate of the electorate. I anticipate that some kind of bipartisan compromise will be achieved after months of debate regarding Iraq, and that it will cost yet more American lives unnecessarily. Never the less, here's what the Democrats need to do and why:
There must be no slow withdrawal or incremental withdrawal.
There must be no temporary increase in troop levels under the vain delusion that security can be temporarily increased.
There can likewise be no delay under the illusion that we can successfully "train" the Iraqis to secure the country.
The facts must be faced: There are two factors at work causing the violence; Foreign terrorists labeled Al Qaeda by the United States, and a sectarian conflict between the Shittes and the Sunni. The so-called Al-Qaeda terrorists in Iraq are only there because the United States is there, and have only been able to act under the cover of a common enemy -the U.S.-. Once we are gone, Al Qaeda in Iraq will be rapidly defeated because there is zero historical support for them from either the Baathist Sunni, or the Shia Muslims. That is fact number one.
Fact number two, is that the sectarian divide has a very good chance of continuing after the United States withdraws; the only factor preventing war between these factions, was the iron fisted rule of Saddam Hussein, and he's gone.
Fact number three is that in any civil war likely to continue after the United States leaves Iraq, the Shia are going to prevail. They are 70 percent of the population and there is absolutely no way they are going to be defeated by the Sunni. Nothing the United States can do is going to prevent this conflict from happening. This too must be accepted.
When these three realities are understood, there is only one sensible path out of Iraq for the United States: Immediate and full withdrawal of our troops as quickly as humanly possible. Anything less than this is going to result in additional U.S. casualties for exactly the same outcome:
If the U.S. attempts to withdraw incrementally, it will fundamentally have decided to leave it's troops in harm's way while simultaneously weakening them. This will result in increased casualties.
If the U.S. increases troop levels, this too will increase casualties because the problem was never a question of troop numbers after the disbanding of Saddam's army: It's not being able to identify the enemy to kill him. You can double the troop levels, and the nexus doesn't change; you simply kill more Iraqis indiscriminately, and increase the motivation of the resistance. The result is simply the equivalent of giving someone a bigger shovel when they've dug themselves into a hole; it only makes the hole deeper, faster.
Finally, the notion that the U.S. is going to succeed in training enough Iraqis to act in it's place so it can leave, is just too stupid for words. In four long years we've only succeeded in allegedly training one or possibly two brigades out of 114. If the military force of the United States with all it's training and equipment can not prevail against an unidentifiable enemy, you'd have to be a Koolaid drinker to believe the Iraqis are going to succeed. It's never happened for a reason. It's not going to happen.
A bi-partisan "compromise" regarding Iraq is going to make an intolerable situation even worse. If the Republicans refuse to accept the reality that this war is lost, that neither the United States nor it's failed Iraqi security forces are capable of preventing the final resolution of a sectarian conflict and of they refuse to get out immediately to save American lives to allow the inevitable to run it's course sooner rather than later, they will have failed miserably. the Democrats must stand up for once and do what is right: Cut off funding for the war. This does not "strand" U.S. troops in Iraq without equipment. U.S. troops are currently stranded in Iraq with no hope of a military victory.
It gets them out of harms way and preserves what's left of our damaged military. To do anything less than act and to act immediately with or without Republican support, is to play political games at the expense of the lives of our troops. Nothing could be more dishonorable, unprincipled, and unpatriotic.
The Democrats as individual representatives must finally unite as a party and forcibly remove the President's ruinous hand from the wheel before another single American spills his blood for the cause of Republican pride. I doubt they will, but like all Americans, I am watching.