I mentioned this in a sarcastic mode, but Kevin Drum’s right that it’s worth considering the possibility that the essential “plan” in Iraq is just to stay there, in force, vaguely allied with whichever side (or sides) we perceive to be willing to ally with us, until, eventually, the civil war ends, a brilliant victory is portrayed, and the hippie peacenik scum are told to beat it. After all, civil wars do end if you just wait long enough.
On the other hand, the Tamil Tigers have been fighting for about thirty years and there’s no particular sign of Sri Lanka’s civil war coming to an end. Peace does seem to possibly be dawning in Northern Ireland (although not totally) but the current phase of fighting there’s been going on for almost forty years. Meanwhile, at times it seems to me that the US military is leaning in the direction of exacerbating problems by introducing more and deadlier weapons into the area while tending to fragment political authority as elites lose authority (but gain guns) through association with us.