"To posit such ideas is to ignore history. The second Great War ended, yet we still maintain a presence in Germany, and throughout Europe. Not to mention post-war Japan. War is over. Yes we will be in Iraq and the rest of the region, probably, for generations to come. We are not leaving. Not in the way that you're thinking. To do so would be the height of folly."
The people of Japan at the end of World War II did not have significant internal divisions. Neither did the people of Germany, except for the unnatural division into East and West which was enforced by the two rival occupying powers. The main problems that these peoples faced after the war had to do with the devastation of their homes and their total defeat-- neither of which they could do anything about, leaving them to pretty much just get on with life.
The people of Iraq, however, face a much more complicated picture. First, there are the three broad ethnic groups that everyone knows about, along with all the other smaller groups and sub-groups, which have often conflicting interests and still do not trust eachother. The Sunni-Shia divide has generated some of the worst bloodshed so far, but the Kurd-Arab divide has real potential to explode violently, given the Kurdish government's clearly separatist trajectory and the boiling uncertainty over cities such as Kirkouk. Iraq must also deal with the essentially unchecked influence of a sectarian power, Iran, over much of the country, a situation which is not really tolerable to a significant portion of the Iraqi people.
And however much inspiring progress has been made against Al-Qaeda, this movement can still not be discounted as a de-stabilizing factor in the country. They do not need a high proportion of popular support to operate. And we can see how they continue to exploit the Arab-Kurdish conflict in and around Mosul.
Michael Yon is right that there are many promising signs. Heck, there are some downright amazing, wonderful signs, there is no denying it. But to declare the war over seems obviously premature-- except to the extent that US troops will withdraw within a few years and therefore might miss out on future showdowns.
It is actually not correct to say that US troops will be in Iraq for decades to come. It seems pretty clear at this juncture that there will be no long-term bases held as in Germany and Japan, and that US presence after a few years will be at most what it is in places like Colombia-- involved, but without boots on the ground. This is what seems inevitable given the political consensus in the US, the political consensus in Iraq, and the recently signed security agreement.
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