U.S. must adjust to a new reality

Insurgents are gaining a stronghold in Iraq to the point where there is serious danger that the nation’s democratically elected government could fall soon. That the government isn’t helping itself in statement or deed is something that could have been suspected from as far back as the waning days of the administration of President George W. Bush.

Indeed, the advance of an Islamic insurgency bent on making the Middle East into a theocracy from gulf to sea was a predicted fear by pundits and political scientists and diplomats as far back at the earliest days of the post-Sept. 11 attack on Iraq.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki rejected an ongoing American presence in his nation, one that would have been similar to post-World War II American troop presence in Europe, where bases remain to this day in a peaceful part of the world.

Al-Maliki has rejected allowing Sunni Muslims a greater say in the government as a way to stop the warfare in the streets that threatens Baghdad.

President Obama continues to try to make overtures that are futile at best. The sectarian split on the streets of Iraq’s major cities is an ancient one dating to the continuation of Islam after the death of the prophet Muhammad. It is one that leaves many non-Muslims out in the cold, watching as the United States works with Shiite Muslims in control of Iraq but opposing Shiite Muslims in neighboring Iran, where Shiites tossed out the United States during the late 1970s revolution.

Americans, nearly 13 years after Sept. 11, 2001, have little stomach for more ground troops in Iraq, yet Obama has sent in a couple of hundred “advisers.” We hope the mission is clear: Protect American assets, namely the people and diplomatic staff at the big embassy in Baghdad, assisting any other Westerners who want to get out of the falling nation to do so safely, and then to come home.

It’s a sad commentary to the thousands of men and women who served honorably and came home wounded or in coffins, but the situation in Iraq isn’t about building a nation in a peaceful manner anymore. It’s about ancient fights for control that have gone on for centuries.

As the Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani said earlier this week, it is a new reality and a new Iraq. His people are seizing control of their part of the country and setting up defense.

The U.S. needs to adjust its policy to reflect the new reality and deal with whatever the aftermath will be.