Avatar suggested on a different thread that any military bases we build in Iraq would be temporary and the keys would be handed to the Iraqis when we leave. In fact, building permanent bases was a major goal of the original neoconservative strategy for the invasion. The hope was that a democratic Iraq would become a beacon for the region, and a friendly place for us to base our forces there. I think the "war on terror" discussion page needs a rule: stop saying "they" and "them" when talking about various groups of Iraqi people. It's the source of so much confusion. Instead, let's specify who wins and loses: 1. Al Qaeda and related groups. This is where Bush and the remaining Republicans on his side say that if we leave Iraq, we're surrendering, and I think that's sort of true. Al Qaeda will be able to say, "look, we kicked them out." And it's probably reasonable to argue that one reason we've had no further attacks in the U.S. is that we've created a war arena in Iraq where Al Qaeda can fight us. Let's not forget that they were not there before we arrived, and they had zilch to do with Saddam Hussein (per George Tenet's latest book). The latest estimate I've seen is that 3% of attacks in Iraq are due to Al Qaeda. Hence it's a major misdirection for Bush to say this is what we're doing there, fighting "terrorists." 2. Sunnis. They were the big losers when we invaded, and it's making sure they're taken care of properly which will ensure a successful Iraq. The biggest news of recent days to me is not the increased U.S. casualties--it's the threatened withdrawal of a major Sunni block from the parliament, which follows al Sadr's withdrawal a while ago. This suggests the political process is running backwards not forwards. If the civil war expands, they are at risk of wholesale slaughter by Shi'ites. Hence they are running the insurgency which is killing most U.S. troops right now. It's not at all obvious that remaining there as targets for Sunnis is a smart move on our part. 3. Shi'ites. They are the majority, and have elected a former death squad leader (Maliki) as their president. Not a good way to start a dialogue with the Sunnis, huh? Yet we're forced to support Maliki because he was elected by Iraqis with purple fingers. Iran was the giant winner in our invasion of Iraq. At the moment, Shi'ites can happily kill Sunnis in large numbers, since we are providing stability and preventing wholesale civil war. The Democratic idea is this: when we leave, Shi'ites will have to take a hard look at themselves and realize that if they continue to persecute Sunnis, their society is doomed. This idea is certainly no worse than Bush's obviously failed policy of trying to stabilize the country militarily. 4. Iranians. They are the huge winners in our invasion. We're spending what will eventually total around $2 trillion (when you include $ for rehab and disability benefits) to knock down their old enemy, and give them major fodder for Islamist thinking: "Look at those imperialist Americans, attacking a Muslim country. We'll be next. So we'd better elect hard-liners and support terror to prevent it." If we hadn't invaded Iraq, Iran would likely have a much moderate leadership than it does now. 5. Muslims everywhere. Along the same lines, the real war against "terror" is the war for the "hearts and minds" of Muslims around the world. Terrorists aren't born. They are made. They come into existence when there is asymmetrical military strength and a combination of desperation and humiliation. Our greatest ally in reducing the recruitment of terrorists is the good will of moderate Muslims--the relatives, neighbors, and friends of people who might want to become terrorists, and who can either dissuade them or encourage/finance them. Right after 9/11 we had a historic opportunity to earn and hold Muslim favor--we had a 90% approval rating in parts of the Muslim world. After the invasion, with Abu Ghraib, rendition, Guantanamo, etc., opinion in the country that used to like us the most--Indonesia--is now 15% favorable to the U.S. That is defeat in the arena that really counts, period. It means we're in for a generation of ongoing terrorism around the world. We need to acknowledge that there is simply NO purely military solution to Iraq. Look at the French experience in Algeria, where 1 million Algerians were killed in France's failed efforts to battle a tiny Islamic insurgency (this was the first one, and the Palestinians and Al Qaeda studied it well--while Bush and the neocons apparently never considered the dramatic parallels). That's why France never joined our coalition--they'd had this experience already, and knew the likely outcome. The second part of the proposed Democratic strategy is setting benchmarks for progress tied to troop withdrawal. The idea is to force Maliki and the gov't to show actual reconciliation and to take easily measured steps, like deciding how much oil revenue to share with Sunnis, in order to keep us there. We also need to acknowledge that we have created far more terrorists via Bush's strategies than were there before. This has been widely reported in Pentagon, defense dept, and other reports in the past year. Over 100 new terrorist groups have sprung up in Iraq. These people can lie low until after our surge, and then strike freely. In the meantime, they're reminding us of their potency via the various audacious attacks we've seen in the past 3 months. Terrorism around the world is UP, not down. Great Britain is no longer using the phrase "war on terror," because they rightly see that terror isn't an enemy--it's a technique used by people who are desperate. It's best addressed not by killing terrorists--each one become a martyr, and leads to moe--but by addressing the desperation. Ending our occupation is the fastest way to do that: there is clear evidence that occupations in general, e.g. the British occupation of northern Ireland, are the major root source of terrorism. After all, how would we like it if a Muslim country invaded us with the goal of improving our government, killed 30,000 or more of us in the process, and was still occupying us 4 years later? We'd hate it, and many of us would doubtless become deadly insurgents. Wouldn't it be smart of the invading country to leave? Mariner. P.S. The latest thing that makes Bush's team look like idiots to Muslims is the guy who coined the phrase "Shock and Awe," who has now been named by the "D.C. Madam" as one of her clients. That's the hearts and minds war that Bush has thrown away in his incorrect focus on military victory. It's why withdrawing is probably the better bet overall, though no one can know for sure. Algeria had a terrible civil war after the French left. Iraq may be due for the same, whether we stay or go.