"These are valid reasons not to pull out," Daniel Pipes writes, "but they lose their pertinence if one expects, as I do, that the mission in Iraq will end in failure." Pipes' new pessimism comes with a proposal: "Take coalition forces off their patrols of city streets and away from protecting buildings, and put them in desert bases," let the Iraqi governing council form a government, and reduce the role of L. Paul Bremer III.
This sort of strategic reversal is not a new thing for Pipes, whose 1987 article "Back Iraq: It's Time for a U.S. Tilt" in The New Republic (co-authored with Laurie Mylroie) called Saddam's Iraq "the de facto protector of the regional status quo." But I think this shift leaves a pretty big question unanswered:
What would this withdrawal leave behind? You may or may not believe the occupation is going well (and even through the haze of Peter Jennings' calls for worldwide jihad and the death-to-America fatwas regularly issued by the Crescent News Network and the Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation, I get the impression it's going better than any prudent person had reason to expect). But some issues still stand out: Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, the most important political figure in Iraq, was assassinated. So was Abdul Majid al Khoei, the most pro-western cleric. Muqtada al Sadr, the man who probably killed both of them, is said to be now the most popular leader in Sadr City. The people who are killing American soldiers at a fairly steady clip are, I'd guess, not likely to beat their swords into plowshares in the face of an American withdrawal. Nor are those storied Werewolves and Dead Enders (even without the ever-popular Huntz Hall) likely to be cowed by the martial figure of Ahmed Chalabi. Is this really the time to start talking about Vietnamization of the conflict?