I want to just reiterate how crazy the idea that we’re ten years from victory in Iraq by briefly recollecting America’s attempted intervention in Lebanon’s 1980s-vintage civil war. We went in, you’ll recall, in 1982, about six years into the fighting, and really expanded our mandate in 1983. This led to the bombing of the Marine barracks later in ’83, and US forces were withdrawn in early 1984.
Some people think the Reagan administration made the right call by withdrawing; others think it did the wrong thing. Nobody, however, regard the intervention as a great success. Nevertheless, the civil war ended just five years later with the 1989 Taif Agreement. To say that our current policy is working and needs just ten more years to stabilize Iraq is lunacy — just leaving stands a perfectly good chance of working just as quickly at radically lower cost.
UPDATE: Yes, I know that the total duration of the Lebanese Civil War was longer than that. The point is to put the ten years time horizon into some perspective. Even an effort to stabilize a country that everyone agrees was a failure, like America’s 1983 peacekeeping efforts in Lebanon, can come fewer than ten years away from the dawn of stability. By a similar token, the American Civil War ended fewer than ten years after James Buchanan’s blunders. Ten years isn’t just longer than America has political will to sustain, it’s genuinely too long. Policies that work accomplish their goals faster than that, something that’s supposed to unfold at the speed Petraeus is talking about isn’t working at all.