The Turkish paper Sabah and, in slightly more detail, the Malaysian site Malaysiakini, both report that Robert Pearson, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, told officials last week that "we are going to Iraq to stay at least 25 years."
This story is a little too neat to be readily believable, but it's interesting to see even a rumor of a U.S. official acknowledging what should be obvious to everybody: that we're about to tie ourselves to Iraq for a long time.
Fouad Ajami's excellent pro-war article in Foreign Affairs (an article I suspect is more admired than read) made the point that, if the United States is not planning for an extended stay in Iraq, the project will be a failure. In January I described Ajami's guarded optimism as being in fact pessimism because I believe the American population is categorically not prepared for such a postwar commitment. This is partially because the coming war has not been sold to us on these terms, but it's also because the American people have little interest in maintaining an empire—no matter how stridently Kaplan, Sullivan, Hitchens and company (and their counterparts on the anti-American left) argue that we're already doing just that. I've seen the argument that the war will be a quick in-and-out affair. Can anybody make the same claim about the peace? And is there a scenario under which even deeper and more prolonged intimacy with the politics and culture of the Middle East can be anything but poisonous to our republic?