you go to war with the politicians that you have, not the ones that you wish you had
Heh. Be sure and read the excellent war analysis piece that spawned it over at Wretchards:
American political hopes rest on the Shi'ites keeping their cool and resisting any large scale attempts to lash out uncontrollably. There have been simultaneous American efforts to divide the Sunni insurgency by working with the Anbar tribes, taking advantage of the alienation caused by al-Qaeda in Iraq's vicious brutality and unyielding fundamentalism. (This process is vividly described by Outside the Wire.) If the Sunnis insurgents could arrange for Iran to turn Sadr or some other Shi'ite leader into loose cannons, the both could cooperate in politically undermining the US, in the hopes of removing it from the board leaving the field clear for the two Muslim parties to settle differences between themselves later. We have already seen the tactical response of the Sunni insurgents to the surge. But their political response has not yet been been unveiled. Can the Sunni insurgents forge an alliance of convenience with their sectarian enemies to evict a common foe by concluding a 21st century Molotov-Ribbentrop pact? Time alone will tell.
The US operation in Iraq has consciously or accidentally, but nevertheless definitely had the effect of transforming it into the central battlefield of the current world crisis. The al-Qaeda type forces have converged there because there they can attack the hated American in the heart of the Arab world. But that circumstance also allows US combat power to be focused on individuals who would otherwise be scattered throughout the world. But the contest in Iraq is not purely military; it is also political and psychological. What is underappreciated is that the war in Iraq has also forced Sunni Islamic fundamentalism to indirectly take the Shi'ite world and explicitly show the world its political face. A victory in Iraq for either side will not simply be one of arms, but of legitimacy.