A week after the fifth anniversary of the War in Iraq, we passed another tragic milestone, the 4,000th death of a soldier in the war.
There's been a increase in violence in Iraq recently, despite the "surge," which to this point had been largely working. The surge showed that if Bush had listened to his generals in the first place, and put in the 400,000 troops they'd initially recommended, much of the violence that has cost us and the Iraqi people so dearly, might have been avoided. Instead, even with the surge, we're only at about 40 percent of that figure, and the surge didn't begin until after things had gotten completely out of hand.
But one of the factors that has helped the surge has been a reduction in sectarian violence, in particular by the Mahdi army, whose cease fire appears to be on the verge of being canceled.
During the surge, we've also been arming paramilitary forces like crazy to supplement the Iraqi army, which still can't operate on its own without U.S. support. These paramilitary forces have undeniably helped us, but as a temporary solution they are potentially a long-term problem. And when (or if) we ever withdraw, it will be those forces that will launch the inevitable civil war that will occur once we're gone. And we'll have armed them.
The civil war that Iraq is facing after U.S. troops withdraw is almost certain, since the government has been unable to solve the political problems of the country, has failed to adopt an oil sharing plan, and is hopelessly corrupt.
Depending on the elections this fall, we'll either be there a very long time, or we'll be pulling out, but either way, all we've done with the paramilitaries is raise the bar for future violence.
We've already lost way too much in a war started by leaders who lied to us. Every day we spend there costs us in both American lives and American treasure, and the underlying problems of the country are not being solved.
For the United States, this is a hopeless situation. This week's "milestone" is just one more reminder of a cost we should not be paying.