NPR put out a story on the May 21, 2007 edition of Morning Edition, about how the United States military is drawing up plans to be in Iraq for decades. This shouldn't come as any surprise.
NATO forces have been in Kosovo now for over a decade and there doesn't seem to be any timetable for withdrawing them. In fact, if Kosovo goes ahead and declares independence from Serbia, they will be needed to make sure that the Albanian majority doesn't start killing the Serbian minority.
What do Kosovo and Iraq have in common? They are both societies where there is a sizable minority of people who are unwilling to accept political and social domination by the majority population.
In Kosovo, the majority of people are Albanians, but there is a significant Serbian minority. The problems in Kosovo started when the Serbs, backed by the Serbian central government in Belgrade, decided to ethnically cleanse the Albanians from Kosovo. This led to civil war, NATO intervention, the overthrow of the Belgrade government, and a war crimes trial for the leader of then Yugosalvia.
In Iraq you have a Sunni minority that used to exercise power over the Shia majority that has lost power and is using violence to try and get it back. In both situations armed forces from the outside are trying to stop an internal civil war. In Kosovo this has been successful, but in Iraq it obviously isn't.
There are literally hundreds of places around the world where this situation potentially exists. The United States cannot intervene in all of them if violence breaks out. We don't have the human resources, the financial resources, or the desire to act as the world's policeman to stop internal violence in societies.
Yet, the last two presidents have gotten the United States involved in such situations. Clinton in Kosovo and Bush in Iraq. In both situations the United States administration was reacting to short term concerns without thinking through the long term consequences. The NATO intervention in Kosovo went comparatively well and the United States intervention in Iraq is a disaster. The difference in outcomes, however, shouldn't obscure the fact that America needs a debate on when and where it is going to involve itself militarily. Yet, such a debate doesn't seem to be happening. The failure to have such a debate could lead to more military involvement in someone else's war. Do the American people really want that?
Thanks to De Mango Opere for the link to the NPR story.