Removing Hussein from power was far easier than many feared. Taking control of Iraq has proved far more difficult than many expected. Months after our "victory," American troops are still dying and a Free and Democratic Iraq appears no closer now than it did when Sadaam was in power. We imagined ourselves a liberating army: unfortunately, there appear to be many in Iraq who disagree with us. Gaining territory is one thing: holding on to it is another. Superior firepower will often win a battle … but the largest, most well-equipped army can often be defeated by ragtag bands of desperate guerrillas. History is replete with tales of over-extended empires.
We need not worry about Iraq "becoming a quagmire." It already is. We cannot pack our bags now and go home. If we do, we may well find ourselves facing World War III, as anarchy and religious fervor spreads from Iraq to Iran, Turkey and Central Asia. Yet if we stay, we are likely to see more body bags shipped home. We may also see atrocities committed by our troops, as they find themselves unable to distinguish between "friendly" and "hostile" civilians. This will only result in even greater resentment of our presence… and further deterioration in morale at home and on the front.
There is no choice but to go forward. And yet we need not go forward blindly. We can examine how other countries have handled occupied territories… successfully and unsuccessfully. Perhaps we can learn from their triumphs and tragedies, and make the best of an increasingly gloomy situation.