With all the talk about what to do in Iraq after Gen. Petraeus makes his report, there is a lot of discussion about Iraq descending into civil war. I think that’s likely, although today on ABC, Zakaria said that the civil war is basically over; the ethnic cleansing has already taken place. I don’t think so, or otherwise things in Iraq would be quieting down. A US departure could well escalate a civil war into a regional war where the Iranians and the Saudis (to whom we are selling $20 million in military equipment to prepare) fight each other in support of their Shiite and Sunni proxies. Maybe some other neighbors will join in.
In any case, before the US invasion, there was no civil war in Iraq. After we defeated Saddam for his invasion of Kuwait, things were relatively quiet. The no fly zone and other limitations kept Saddam in his box. It was a successful containment (a la the cold war) on a small scale. So if Saddam could prevent civil war among the Iraqi populace, the US should also be able to, but it would require many more resources that we are willing to put in.
We should go back to square one: re-occupy the country with something like 1,000,000 men, and mete out something close to Western justice (not Abu Ghraib justice) to Iraqis who do anything wrong, from stealing hubcaps to insurrection. The US occupation failed when looting broke out after we entered Baghdad, and we did nothing to stop it.
Saddam kept order by terror; we could keep order by establishing a real occupation with real justice, but we won’t do it.