When an old Cold War warrior like Zbigniew Brzezinski argues for exiting the “foolish” war in Iraq, you have to take it seriously:

The case for terminating the war is based on its prohibitive and tangible costs, while the case for “staying the course” draws heavily on shadowy fears of the unknown and relies on worst-case scenarios. President Bush’s and Sen. John McCain’s forecasts of regional catastrophe are quite reminiscent of the predictions of “falling dominoes” that were used to justify continued U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Neither has provided any real evidence that ending the war would mean disaster, but their fear-mongering makes prolonging it easier. Nonetheless, if the American people had been asked more than five years ago whether Bush’s obsession with the removal of Saddam Hussein was worth 4,000 American lives, almost 30,000 wounded Americans and several trillion dollars — not to mention the less precisely measurable damage to the United States’ world-wide credibility, legitimacy and moral standing — the answer almost certainly would have been an unequivocal “no.”

Nor do the costs of this fiasco end there. The war has inflamed anti-American passions in the Middle East and South Asia while fragmenting Iraqi society and increasing the influence of Iran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent visit to Baghdad offers ample testimony that even the U.S.-installed government in Iraq is becoming susceptible to Iranian blandishments.

Brzezinski correctly notes that al Qaeda doesn’t have much influence or impact in Iraq, although it’s not clear whether he recognises that al Qaeda in Iraq is unrelated to al Qaeda:

The end of the occupation will thus be a boon for the war on al-Qaeda, bringing to an end a misguided adventure that not only precipitated the appearance of al-Qaeda in Iraq but also diverted the United States from Afghanistan, where the original al-Qaeda threat grew and still persists.

(Via Liberal Values.)

I have sympathy for those who genuinely take the moral position “We broke it, it’s our duty to stay until we fix it”, but that’s not how it works. Despite the neo-con fantasies of being welcomed as liberators (remember those film clips of Iraqis waving American flags that they just happened to have lying around?), whatever gratitude the Iraqis have for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein is outweighed a thousand times by the anger and fear of seeing their sons and husbands killed, their houses blown up, the torture, the mass arrests, and the undeniable fact that their country is under foreign occupation. The problem isn’t al Qaeda, the problem is the occupation, and the longer it goes on, the worse it will be.