Immanuel Wallerstein | Commentary No. 227, Feb. 15, 2008
Except for a hardy band of neo-con optimists and the official apologists of the Bush regime, almost everyone is agreed today that the United States has gotten itself into a nasty, self-wounding mess in Iraq where it is fighting a drawn-out guerrilla war it cannot win. At the same time, a very large number of the critics of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, both in the United States and in Europe, repeatedly say that nonetheless the United States cannot just "walk away." What not walking away means is not very clear, but it seems to mean maintaining U.S. troops and bases in Iraq for a considerable length of time while the United States tries, vainly, to enable the Iraqi government under its tutelage to assert some kind of reasonable control over its territory and restore a modicum of peaceful life to its citizens.
Let us explore why it is said that the United States cannot just "walk away." There is a long list of supposed consequences that all seem plausible on the surface. One is that it would result in unconstrained civil war in Iraq. This may be true, although many Iraqis feel that they are already living in precisely such a civil war, even with U.S. troops on the scene.