A lot of awful things are likely to happen if and when we pull our troops out of Iraq.
That's not an argument for staying put. Awful things are happening and will continue to happen while we're there and the awfulness that might be doesn't necessarily outweigh the awfulness that already is.
If x number of Iraqis very well might die in the expanded civil war after we get out but the same number of Iraqis plus y number of American troops most certainly will die in the civil wars over the next five years if we stick around then just by the measure of body counts sticking around is the worst of two terrible choices.
Of course there are other factors that need to be considered---the straining of our military to the breaking point, the continued decline of our prestige, influence, and trustworthiness in the rest of the world's eyes, the increase of the world terrorist threat---all things that we know will happen, and weighed against things we are worried might happen they argue that we need to get out and get out now.
But there is one thing we do know will happen if we leave now.
We will be leaving behind a broken nation with no army worth mentioning and no working government, multiply fractured along ethnic and religious lines, and there will be chaos and violence that we should not expect Iran to tolerate so close to its borders and a political vacuum we should expect that Iran will be tempted to fill.
Anyone who thinks that the Bush Leaguers' warmongering over Iran is just about the Iranians' building their own Bomb has not looked at a map.
Or thought much about where we get our oil from.
The reason we invaded Iraq---the real reason---was to attempt to secure for all time our interests in the Mideast, which are the continued existence of Israel and the uninterrupted flow of oil.
By the way, these interests are real, they are vital, and they are why many Democrats, including some of those running for President, are being what we here on the left side the blogosphere call, with all due respect, cowards on the subject of withdrawing our troops.
They've looked at the map.
I happen to think that we can secure Israel's future and find alternatives if Iran or someone else over there turns off the spigot on the oil. But I'm not a neocon or influenced by any of them.
Anyone who thinks that the Bush Leaguers' warmongering over Iran is just about the Iranians' building their own Bomb has, besides not looked at a map, not paid attention to the neocons who have been running our foreign policy for the last six and a half years and who have been warping it for the last 35.
The mark of a neocon is the absolute inability to tolerate the idea that there are other nations who might get in the way of the United States doing whatever we want whenever we want to protect what the neocon intelligensia has decided is in our vital interest.
The guiding principle behind neocon thinking has been that America's military might can and should scare the living daylights out of any potential enemy and that we should use it to do that anytime we feel our interests are threatened.
These were the geniuses who thought that our goal in the Cold War should have been not containment but rollback. They itched, even pushed, for a confrontation with the Soviet Union because they believed that when push came to shove the Soviets would get all scared and back down.
When sensible people pointed out that the Russians have a long history of not getting all scared and backing down (cf. World War II, Eastern Front, Stalingrad; Napoleon, retreat from Moscow) and they might very well react to our pushing by shoving back and start World War III in the process, the neocons would roar their terrible roars and gnash their terrible teeth but that was for show. Inwardly, they shrugged and grinned. They wanted a war. They were sure we would win it. If a bunch of European capitals and a few American cities were vaporized in the process, well, that was the price we had to pay.
Neocons have always been very brave about sacrificing other people's lives.
The reason we invaded Iraq was to create Fortress Iraq. The neocons believed that if we threw enough of our military weight around in the Mideast our enemies there, Israel's enemies and any OPEC members who got it into their collective head that the oil underneath their sand wasn't put there by God to keep America's economy booming, would be terrified and hand themselves over to our mercy as essentially client states.
If they objected, if they were the opposite of terrified, and decided to fight back, good. Bring it on.
In fact, believing themselves to be mind-readers, because they believe that everybody else thinks as they do and so reading the mind of another nation is always a matter of asking, What would I do if I was in their shoes, with the answer being, Kill the enemy, they know that Iran's, and Syria's, intentions would be either to attack our troops in Iraq or attack Israel while we appeared to be tied down in Iraq, the neocons have always planned for preventative attacks on Syria and Iran launched from within Fortress Iraq.
President Bush will not bring all or even most of our troops home, although, as Atrios predicts, next year as the Congressional and Presidential campaigns hit high gear we will probably see enough "redeployment" to lower troop levels back to what they was a couple years ago so that Republicans and Vichy Democrats can brag to voters that they're bringing our part in the war to a successful close.
But the neocons know that the next President will almost certainly have to get us out of there, probably later than sooner, in time to help get re-elected, but still we will leave, and the neocons have looked at the map, obsessively.
The only way to prevent Iran from rolling into Iraq the day after we leave is to make sure now that the Iranians have nothing to roll with.
This is why I believe that they---and by they I mean their leader, self-appointed shadow President Dick Cheney---will attack Iran.
And it won't be a surgical strike. The Iranian nuclear program could be set back with a few well-placed missles, but we aren't pointing a few missles at them at the moment. We are loading for bear.
We are going to destroy as much of their army and air force as we can.
We will do what we can to wipe out their infrastructure.
We will do what we can to reduce the country to chaos and ruins.
Some neocons and their apologists in the Media will talk hopefully about how out of the ashes will spring a democratic and secular Iran full of people who either love us so much for ridding them of the mullahs or fear us so much for ridding them of their nation that they will bow to our every wish and command.
But I'm sure that for most of the neocons an Iran that is a heap of ashes will sit with them just fine.
Sensible people---sane people---can ask, What makes you think the Iranians won't be angry about what we've done and retaliate?
If there are any neocons who can fathom the question, if there are any who aren't completely blinded by their faith in American military might accomplishing anything and everything we need it to, they will probably reply, Bring it on.
I suspect that they are even hoping for Iran to retaliate or even launch a preventative attack of their own. I suspect that there are neocons who would love to see a conventional land war replace the depressing and frustrating war of counterinsurgency we're fighting and losing now.
Perhaps the plan is to leave Iran enough tanks and planes that they can retaliate.
The added beauty of this plan is that it saves so much face.
If we have to abandon Baghdad to go fight Iran in the open desert then Bush and Cheney and the neocons and their apologists and flunkies in the Media and the liberal warhawks can all breathe a sigh of relief for their rescued reputations.
It won't be the case that we lost the war in Iraq, or that they got us into an unholy mess that they couldn't fix or bring themselves to admit they'd caused. It will be the case that we had to give up the job to turn our attention to more important things.
We'd have fixed everything in a few more Freidman Units if the Iranians hadn't needed a good sound whipping.
President Bush could leave office as the Warrior-Prince who defeated Iran or who set the stage for the next President to do so.
Iraq? Never heard of it.
This of course assumes that the neocons are stupid enough to assume the Iranians are as stupid as the necons.
Iranian retaliation, especially if we've done a thorough job of bombing their bases, is most likely to take the form of terrorism.
And I doubt the Iranians will be content with fighting us over there so they don't have to fight us over here.
Now, some people might suspect that the Bush Leaguers and the Republicans would be happy if there was a terrorist attack on American soil. It certainly would make a bunch of Right Wing bloggers happy. Even Hillary Clinton thinks that another terrorist attack would help the Republicans in 2008.
In fact, just talking about how Iran might retaliate helps the Republicans.
Fear helps the Republicans.
I'll go farther. Just talking about the possibility of attacking Iran helps the Republicans in that it forces Democrats to do what they've done best over the last six years, worry about appearing weak to the point that they cave in on whatever the Bush Administration wants.
I suppose all the warmongering against Iran might be a plot against the Democrats.
Defeating the enemy at home is just as important to the neoncons as defeating our enemies abroad.
But I really think that they're not giving any thought to what the Iranians might do to retaliate.
This is what makes them neocons, their absolute faith in our power to scare the daylights out of everybody.
I think they believe that this time shock and awe will actually shock and awe.
See, the problem is that when we went into Iraq, we didn't truly give it our all. We were too concerned to leave enough standing so that the democratic and secular Iraq that would spring up from the ashes would have an infrastructure, at least a vestigial one to build upon.
Knowing what we know now, we probably should have just leveled the place.
But we won't have to worry about that with Iran.
This time we can really show them who's boss of the world.
Related: Glenn Greenwald sees signs that top Cheney aide David Addington has been "drooling with anticipation at the prospect of another terrorist attack so that [the Bush Administration can dispense with the FISA courts entirely] could seize this power [to spy on any American they want to] without challenge" in a NT Times magazine article by a Right Winger advisor to Bush who was run out of the White House for not being gung ho enough when it came to grabbing power for the President.
At No Quarter, former CIA analyst, Ray McGovern, thinks there's plenty of evidence that Bush and Cheney are going to take us to war against Iran and they're going to do it to "scapegoat" Iran for our own failures in Iraq.