The Compass

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Things Fall Apart (Iraq Edition)

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No sooner do U.S. forces leave Iraq than Prime Minister Maliki sends the tanks towards his political opponents. It's a measure of how debased Iraqi "democracy" is that the sympathetic figure in this latest drama is a man accused of running death squads to murder his political opponents.

This incident underscores just how fragile Iraq's government really is. The timing of Maliki's moves was clearly intentional and it's hard to believe he would have pulled a stunt like this had the U.S. remained in Iraq in force. So supporters of an indefinite U.S. military presence in Iraq have a point - the U.S. might well have stayed Maliki's hand and lent a degree of stability to Iraq that will otherwise be missing.

But this also demonstrates quite clearly that actually creating an Iraq that does not descend into violence the moment the paternalistic hand of the U.S. military is withdrawn was going to be the work of decades - or more. And that's if everything went well - and there's no reason to believe that it would have. Asking large numbers of troops to stay inside Iraq as a hostage to Iraqi political squabbling is a huge investment at a time when the U.S. has other pressing needs around the world (and at home).

(AP Photo)