Rolling Stone gathered notables ranging from Zbigniew Brzezinski to Juan Cole to learn their takes on the future of Iraq. They agreed on one thing: The war is lost. Gen. Tony McPeak (ret.), formerly of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, put it this way: “Even if we had a million men to go in, it’s too late now.”
The war in Iraq isn’t over yet, but—surge or no surge—the United States has already lost. That’s the grim consensus of a panel of experts assembled by Rolling Stone to assess the future of Iraq. “Even if we had a million men to go in, it’s too late now,” says retired four-star Gen. Tony McPeak, who served on the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War. “Humpty Dumpty can’t be put back together again.”
Those on the panel—including diplomats, counterterror analysts and a former top military commander—agree that President Bush’s attempt to secure Baghdad will only succeed in dragging out the conflict, creating something far beyond any Vietnam-style “quagmire.” The surge won’t bring an end to the sectarian cleansing that has ravaged Iraq, as the newly empowered Shiite majority seeks to settle scores built up during centuries of oppressive rule by the Sunni minority. It will do nothing to defuse the powder keg that an independence-minded Kurdistan, in Iraq’s northern provinces, poses to the governments of Turkey, Syria and Iran, which have long brutalized their own Kurdish separatists. And it will only worsen the global war on terror.
“Our invasion and occupation has created a cauldron that will continue to draw in the players in the Middle East for the foreseeable future,” says Michael Scheuer, who led the CIA’s hunt for Osama bin Laden. “By taking out Saddam, we have allowed the jihad to move 1,000 kilometers west, where it can project its power, its organizers, its theology into Turkey—and from Turkey into Europe.”