I heard two interesting tidbits from Peter Galbraith on a replay of Al Franken's show today:
1) The average civil war in the Middle East last at least 10 years (assuming there's no outside power who is prolonging the experience).
2) Eighty-five percent of civil wars end in one side beating the other, as opposed to a negotiated settlement.
In Iraq, the Sunni's have the know-how in fighting and governing while the Shiites have the numbers. All have plenty of weapons thanks to the U.S. The Sunni's are united while the Shiites are split between the SCIRI and Moqtada al Sadr (the Badr Corp vs. the Sadr militia). The U.S. is moving towards supporting the Iranian backed SCIRI, which will piss off every other Sunni nation in the region (can you say Egypt, Saudia Arabia and the smaller Arab oil producers?) And I'm still wondering why the media isn't noting these other two factors:
1) Bush, the Bush family, and the Bush crony's are all completely in bed with the Saudi's and oil interests in the area, and
2) There is an implicit if not explicit agreement between the Saudi's and Bush that the U.S. would be the army proxy for Saudi/Sunni interests to counter Shiite fundamentalism, i.e. Iran.
Bush is certainly stubborn. But I think to miss the Saudi/Bush family connection is to minimize the influence of the Saudi's on the entire situation. It's really no wonder Bush is frozen like a deer in the headlights. Aside from all the obvious issues, to piss off the Saudi's is to seriously endanger the west, particularly with China in the wings. Abandoning Iraq or siding with the country's majority Shiites will get a tsk tsk from the Saudi's (in the form of oil leverage) while siding with the Sunni's will cause a very large regional Islamic explosion.
What would you do?
The U.S. population, so far, has had the luxury of having this all go on in Iraq without real personal sacrifice (beyond the military that is). We are on the brink of a period of time where something is going to change in Iraq, and all possibilities mean true American sacrifice. That sacrifice may minimally be much higher oil prices, economic deterioration, or further military degradation while the worst scenarios are not even pleasant to think about.
Update: Josh Marshall's thinking along the same lines