Since I'm going to be back to blogging this weekend, I'll obviously have a few words to say about the new "time horizon" for the American occupation of Iraq. Before I get into the specifics, let me just make a couple of observations that hearken back to the first postings on this blog, early in the Iraq war.
As Fred Ikle nicely summarized in the title of his great little book, Every War Must End. How it ends, of course, is less certain. Wars almost never end in the way the original parties, including the victors, intended. The Iraq war has been an extreme example of that maxim.
Therefore, we're far from being done talking about the beginnings of the Iraq war. All the lessons of this war will be shaped--perhaps warped--by the wide gulf between US war plans and the outcome. In fact, this gulf may make these lessons harder to discern. The murk at the grand strategic and theater levels will obscure many of the successes and failures at the tactical and operational levels.
We are also well on our way to re-creating the emotional and doctrinal chasm that separated Americans after the Vietnam War, to the point where people with differing views often could not have a civil conversation about the subject. Rancor, in large part the deliberate creation of one faction in American politics, is one of the great costs of the Iraq war, because it will make it hard to learn from it. As the Iraq war itself has shown, even learning the lessons of the last war is no obstacle to ignoring or misapplying those lessons. In other words, rancor makes grave risks even greater.