It won't be quick or easy. But, surprisingly, there are at least some ideas
Autonomy or partition. The case for increased autonomy for Iraq's Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish communities has been put forward by Sen. Joe Biden and former Council on Foreign Relations President Leslie Gelb. Former Ambassador Peter Galbraith has made the case for partition of Iraq. The premise of the two proposals is that Iraq's warring groups cannot reach an accommodation, so they should be permitted to rule over the geographic areas they dominate with a minimal central government that would guarantee fair sharing of oil revenues. The main difficulty with this is that some one third of Iraqis live in intermixed areas, and many Iraqis are intermarried. As the authors acknowledge, a neat geographic division is impossible without mass population movement.
The Iraqi ambassador to the United States, Samir Sumaidaie, criticized this proposal in an interview with U.S. News. "There are some American politicians who think that they can devise a way out, sitting here in Washington or spending a few hours in the Green Zone," he said. "The idea of subdividing Iraq is very dangerous. It will create far more problems." A senior U.S. intelligence expert on Iraq believes it is "a nonstarter" for the practical reason that "the people with the guns don't accept it. ... The Shia and Sunni both still want a unified, Arab-dominated Iraq-dominated by them."
Rapid or phased withdrawal. Rep. John Murtha, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, is the principal advocate for withdrawal of U.S. troops. Others call for fixed dates for withdrawal or not replacing brigades as their rotations end. More and more Americans support withdrawal, but Hamilton, Baker's cochair, opposes both formulas. "Pulling out precipitously could cause considerable damage to U.S. interests," he wrote in the Indianapolis Star last year. "Arbitrary deadlines will not work."
The directors of both the central and defense intelligence agencies testified recently that the departure of American forces, without any other steps, would make the violence worse. A defense intelligence official described what he believes would be the Iraqi reaction to such a move. "Any attempts to draw down dramatically in the near term will be seen as a sign of weakness by Sunni Arabs and will accelerate score settling," he told U.S. News. "The Shia, in turn, will feel they have to assert themselves."
Larry Diamond, who advised U.S. officials in Iraq and subsequently wrote a book criticizing U.S. policy there, paints a stark portrait of what he believes would ensue. "Withdrawal would lead to a ghastly, all-out civil war and a sudden, cataclysmic collapse of the Iraqi government," he says. "If we just start heading for the exits, and that's all we do, all of the most extreme elements will seize power."
Troop increases. Sen. John McCain advocates sending more troops, arguing that the continued violence demonstrates that there are inadequate numbers to deal with the problem and that the Iraqi security forces aren't ready to shoulder the task. Gen. John Abizaid, overall commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, testified that Washington could temporarily increase troop levels by some 20,000-and said he is weighing all options. But he also said such an increase could not be sustained indefinitely. Retired Gen. Jack Keane, former Army vice chief and a senior consultant to the Baker-Hamilton group, believes that "the Iraqi political process has failed because the Sunnis are not participating. As far as the Sunnis are concerned, they are succeeding in their desire to create an unstable environment, fracture the Iraqi government, and drive the United States out. The evidence suggests they are right." Therefore, he argues, "for a political strategy to work, the military strategy has to enable it. The military strategy must force the Sunnis to seek a political solution, and right now there is insufficient pressure on them to seek one," he told U.S. News. "The current level of Iraqi and U.S. forces is not adequate to the task." Iraqi police and military forces now number 322,000 and U.S. troops about 140,000. General Keane advocates raising the Iraqi forces to some 650,000-which will take time-and increasing U.S. troop levels, at least in the near term.