The truth is, Iraq is, right now, a failed state. The government is unable to provide, security (a must see video here), services or opportunity to it's population. In the parts of the nation where we have turned over control to the local force, the various Iraqi militias are far more effective in combat. Iraq is right now a lawless zone, where might is right, and there is little or no hope for improvement.
Stated simply, Iraq is lost. There will be tens, if not hundreds of thousands more dead before a new national form is developed. The only thing left to debate is who those dead will be, in what manner of conflict will those deaths occur, and will these dead continue to include notable numbers of Americans.
To try to continue on the path we have been on for the last 4 years is utter stupidity. Right now we are sitting in the middle of a multi faceted civil war/insurrection, and are the target of everyone. We lack the power to effect change, and our presence continues to inflame segments of the population into taking up arms. If we want to try and salvage something, or if we simply feel a moral responsibility to try to fix what we have broken, we must select one of these two new paths.
We can either redeploy the troops, or triple the number we have in place.
By redeployig our forces, we can assist the Iraqi forces when they are in dire straights, but they will be forced to take over all of the regular patrolling. The police work, the dodging of IEDs. The living every day with a target on our backs will end. The Iraqi government will have to get serious about finding accommodation between the various factions, and will have to take responsibility for the day to day improvement of their nation.
With forces in the Kurdish areas, and in Kuwait (and maybe 1 small base in an isolated area in the center of the nation) we could deploy quickly, but would be out of sight for the vast majority of Iraqis.
By doing this, we do maintain ties to the government, and will have the opportunity to exert some influence in the tenor and direction of the government(s) that finally evolves in the area now called Iraq. There are risks. This action would most likely allow for an increase in domestic fighting, and may directly lead to open civil war (as opposed to the covert one that is occurring right now). The advantage to this plan is it will greatly reduce US lose of life. The disadvantage is, it may greatly increase the lose of Iraqi lives.
If we want to have more control, if we want to continue to have the final voice in Iraq, if we still dream of a US client state in the middle of the Middle East, we have to follow the second option. We have to find another 300,000 combat troops and insert them into the field at once. Overwhelming force is not needed to defeat a third rate army, but overwhelming numbers are needed to police and lockdown a restive population.
It will take time, my guess is 6-8 years, and money, again guessing at 3 trillion dollars, but an occupation force of half a million men should be able to bring calm to the nation. This calm would allow US to go back and try again at the rebuilding of the nation, and may allow us to get some form of secular west friendly government.
I have no idea where we will find another 30,000 men to place in Iraq, much less another 300,000, but that is what it will take.
We have to abandon the absurdity of 'stay for course', or 'adapt and adjust', or what ever Bush wants to call it today. It has failed, and there is no reasonable prospect that the spilling of more Iraqi and American blood on this path will make any positive difference. If we refuse to demand change, we will just continue to see the U.S. Death Toll continue to rise, The Iraqi death toll continue to rise, the cost continue to rise and another years will pass.
Those are our options, now make your pick.