From an Op/Ed by General Wes Clarke... Some reasonable advice from an experienced leader:
The Arab states agree on one thing: Iran is emerging as the big winner of the American invasion, and both President Bush's new strategy and the Democratic responses to it dangerously miss the point. It's a devastating critique. And, unfortunately, it is correct.
While American troops have been fighting, and dying, against the Sunni rebels and foreign jihadists, the Shiite clerics in Iraq have achieved fundamental political goals: capturing oil revenues, strengthening the role of Islam in the state, and building up formidable militias that will defend their gains and advance their causes as the Americans draw down and leave. Iraq's neighbors, then, see it evolving into a Shiite-dominated, Iranian buffer state that will strengthen Tehran's power in the Persian Gulf just as it is seeks nuclear weapons and intensifies its rhetoric against Israel.
The American approach shows little sense of Middle Eastern history and politics. As one prominent Kuwaiti academic explained to me, in the Muslim world the best way to deal with your enemies has always been to assimilate them - you never succeed in killing them all, and by trying to do so you just make more enemies. Instead, you must woo them to rejoin society and the government. Military pressure should be used in a calibrated way, to help in the wooing.
If this critique is correct - and it is difficult to argue against it - then we must face its implications. "Staying the course" risks a slow and costly departure of American forces with Iraq increasingly factionalized and aligned with Iran. Yet a more rapid departure of American troops along a timeline, as some Democrats are calling for, simply reduces our ability to affect the outcome and risks broader regional conflict.
We need to keep our troops in Iraq, but we need to modify the strategy far more drastically than anything President Bush called for last week.
My worry -- supported by my time in Iraq -- is like that of General Clark: that Iran's influence will be much greater in the region as a result of a pro-Shia government in Iraq.
I believe our policy in Iraq will result in the installation of a regime that, at best, is only marginally sympathetic to their Iranian brothers -- and at worse, very closely aligned with them. ... And remember: Iran is the #1 state-sponsor of terrorism in the WORLD... That's quite possible what our service men and women are dying for: a pseudo-democratic/theocratic state that will greatly increase the influence of Iran in the region.
Such an outcome speaks directly to the problem with this administration: we need forward-thinking, analytical people formulating policy in Washington. Not black-and-white, shoot-from-the-hip cowboys.