The situation the United States finds itself in the Middle East and in Afghanistan is like a bookshelf filled with tome upon tome of similar questions.
Just as to answer to the wife beating question is self-incriminating, and based upon a hopefully false premise -- that you beat her in the first place -- so it is too if we try to describe Iraq and Afghanistan today as an "either or" proposition.
Taking troops from the "wrong war" and putting them into the "right war" is simply to make worse a shameful situation, one that might be salvaged to some extent, and then setting off merrily to fall into a bottomless pit.
The war in Iraq is/was a criminal error and the USA is stuck with the results. As Colin Powell said, "you break it, you own it." We broke it and we own it. the situation, not the country, but almost the country.
In my opinion George W. Bush is a straight forward war criminal and should be tried by the Hague Tribunal, just like Milosevic or Charles Taylor. I also agree with Barack Obama when he says that the invasion of Iraq distracted the United States from the priority of catching Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. However I would put emphasis on the use of the past tense... It was a distraction, it no longer is.
Osama bin Laden is not the priority he once was and the "terror" (that threatens the USA) is not being fought in either country today. Terror that could affect the USA is to be fought in the immigrant communities of Europe, whose passports grant them visa-free access to the USA, not in benighted Waziristan.
The United States should never have invaded Iraq... but it did and that cannot ever be changed. It is still a matter of argument whether the USA invaded Iraq for "oil" or for "Israel", I think that both were factors, but whatever the reason, it has been a disaster for both oil and for Israel.
Like many people caught in a criminal situation, the United States has to brazen it out. Repentance, Confession, Restitution, followed by Absolution, which is how Christians are supposed to handle such situations, are unfortunately none of them options for a superpower.
Much is still at stake in Iraq.
Take this example:
Do you think that people all over the world happily accept dollars in payment: dollars which the USA prints at its pleasure like bubble gum cards with nothing to back them up except a huge current account debt... and its military power? Do they accept this near worthless paper just because they think we are cute?
Try to imagine your life if America had to buy Euros in order to pay for oil.
In my opinion America's real challenge in Iraq today is to extract itself with mastodontic leisure in order not to terminally destabilize the Middle East.
Most of the Middle Eastern regimes are clients of the USA, this includes an extremely precarious Egypt, with its 70 million people, and most of the major oil producers... excluding Iran.
Any American enthusiasm for accepting Maliki's (of all people's) endorsement of a pre-established date for a complete American withdrawal from Iraq might have consequences similar to those that June to August 1914 had in Europe. A vortex of unforeseen consequences.
At this point the United States must not be seen to bow to any pressure, especially from a rogue puppet like Maliki, a man that the USA installed in the first place.
"Act in haste (invade Iraq) repent at leisure" (leave at a time entirely of our own choosing) should be the guiding principal.
The damage has already been done, it cannot be undone, there is no hurry now. If the USA gets neither oil contracts, bases nor any safety for Israel out of this disaster, it will not only be (justly) accused of criminal behavior, but also thought (justly) to be weak, feckless and stupid. On this point of being thought weak and stupid. the opinion of "nice" people is not as important as the opinion of, say, Russia and China.
If the United States, just because invading Iraq was a criminal mistake in the first place, now "declares victory" and withdraws within a time frame not entirely of its own choosing, a general war may break out between Israel and its neighbors within weeks or months. This is not a serious option and neither McCain or even Obama will finally do that, no matter what they are saying today.
Hold on, it gets worse.
Iraq is a war that strains America's armed forces "to the breaking point", but in fact has been "managed", by a relatively small number professional troops and a pack of venal contractors.
Iraq is civilized, modern country, which we have done our best to destroy, but it is still able to re-organize itself. The situation, in Iraq, miserable as it is, could drag on for years and the USA would still control some of the world's best oil fields at what would probably be a decreasing cost to its forces.
Afghanistan is a completely different story. it never was organized, it never was "civilized"... Afghan's are famous for being the most recalcitrant and bloody minded people in the world... They are famous for that and for flying kites.
To quote my favorite pundit, William Pfaff,
There is a civil war going on in Afghanistan. There may soon be a civil war in northern Pakistan. The Taliban are involved in both, and the United States has every interest in staying out of both. (...) The Taliban believe in a deeply obscurantist mixture of fundamentalist Islam and traditional tribal practice. They belong to the Pathan (or Pushtoon) people, which means that they are kinsmen to more than 40 million other Pathans in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere in Central Asia, whom no one has conquered since Alexander the Great. (...) The vast majority of Taliban undoubtedly are ignorant even of the existence of the United States of America, other than those currently being bombed by the United States in Afghanistan or Pakistan. At one point in their tangled history they afforded hospitality to their fellow-traditionalist Muslim, the Saudi Arabian Osama ben-Ladin. That was their big mistake. The Bush administration made the bigger mistake of becoming entangled with them, for which the United States will eventually be sorry. Barack Obama should think again about what he proposes to do.To "win" in Afghanistan would mean bringing back the draft in order to put boots on the ground of every inch of Pakistani Waziristan for the next decade (at least). It would probably cause the disintegration of Pakistan itself and destabilize all of South Asia... And still lose!!!
Iraq and Afghanistan have no real connection to each other except the idiocy of George W. Bush. They are a "do you still beat your wife?" equation, to which their is no clean answer.
The harm done in and to Iraq can never be undone, the harm the USA does in the near future, to itself and those oil rich criminals upon which our way of life so depends, is still in the hands of the US armed forces.
Afghanistan, thought erroneously to be the "war we cannot lose", should be left to its own devices.
To not do so invites the fate that Rudyard Kipling so colorfully described,
"When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains, and the women come out to cut up what remains, jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains and go to your gawd like a soldier."If I didn't think Barack Obama was a total opportunist who will say anything at any time to anyone, I might take what he says about Iraq and Afghanistan seriously and get seriously concerned.
One takes comfort where he can these days. DS