First, there is the General Colin Powell statement (also attributed, by some, to The Pottery Barn) that "If you break it, you own it." And make no mistake about it, we (the US) broke Iraq! The pundits who are now wringing their hands over the fact that Iraq has become unstable, never mention that before we deposed Saddam Hussein (having failed to require him to formally surrender at the end of Desert Storm---missed opportunity number 1), the country, though beaten, was still stable and functioning. He (Hussein) may have been a bastard, but everyone knew he was still in charge.
Now, let's talk about who is responsible for the breakage. God knows, I am no fan of the Obama administration, but Bill O'Reilly to the contrary notwithstanding, you can't hang this albatross entirely around the current President's neck. O'Reilly can (and he does) claim (I think unfairly) that Mr. Obama exacerbated the situation by withdrawing our troops too early. And that may be true, but you can't, realistically, claim that he (Obama) "broke Iraq". We need to look further back in time to find the authors of the mess that is Iraq and that honor belongs to George W. Bush and his buddies, Dick Chaney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Pearle, Tommy Franks, Paul Bremmer, et al.
They are the guys who engineered the invasion of a country in a region with tribes and religious factions which we did not, do not and may not ever fully understand, on a questionable premise. And in the process of not finding any WMDs, destabilized the country with no apparent plans for the transition from combat mode to non-combat operations other than A)"De-Baathification", B) disband the Army and put the soldiers on the street without jobs, but let them keep their guns and, then C) when looting became rampant, adopt Rumsfeld's "shit happens" attitude. This was not the heir to the Marshall Plan by any stretch.
So, we have a problem. What, if anything, do we do about the situation in Iraq? What can we do about it? Should we do anything about it? If you believe General Powell's point, the answer is, clearly, yes---but what? Here's where I hear not all, but many, of the pundits, including the aforementioned Mr. O'Reilly calling for airstrikes. They are always calling for airstrikes! On the other hand, the President is keeping "...all options on the table" except, of course, ground troops---which the press always like to refer to as "boots on the ground" so they can sound all militarily savvy and tactical. However, the politicians and the pundits want to avoid calling for ground forces because it conjures up images of bloody battle, smoke, mud and flag draped coffins of which most of the American people have had a belly full. And, in addition, the airstrikes "solution" offers its advocates the prospect of a stand-off and "clean" war.
However, I have a problem with the "let's hit'em from the air" crowd. It seems to me that these folks have bought into the fiction that air forces have been peddling since WWII. To wit: you can fight the war from high altitude at high speed, nobody gets killed but the bad guys and we all go home and sleep on clean sheets. Hell, in WWII, they even had the stones to call their operations "Daylight Precision Bombing" when, in fact, their version of precision was that they managed to hit some part of the European continent. But even if the air guy's claims of accuracy were correct, air delivered firepower is transient by it's very nature. It only exists, for all intents and purposes, while the aircraft are over the target area and its effectiveness is highly dependent upon accurate target locations without which the strike will be precisely right and exactly wrong . In my view, those who contend that all you need is air are suffering from a delusion, and just as Marx called religion the opiate of the masses, I think airstrikes the opiate of the strategically naive whose main activity is wishful thinking. You just can't do it all from the air.
Indeed, that fact led noted historian and author T.R. Fehrenbach to write, "...you may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life---but if you desire to defend it, protect it and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men in the mud."
From this discussion, one might logically conclude that I advocate going back into Iraq with major ground forces, but that is not the case either. This is because, in point of fact, we no longer have "major ground forces" having consistently cut Army end strength over the last few years and continuing to periodically announce further cuts. Moreover, the soldiers we have, have got to be getting worn out from multiple combat tours---their equipment certainly is. So, absent a major coalition of other nations willing to join us and commit significant forces (good luck with that), I don't see how we could do anything on the ground even assuming the political will to do so. And, even if a miracle happened and the forces, a multi-national coalition and the political will both here and abroad came together such that we could go back in on the ground, I am not at all confident that we wouldn't screw it up again either by backing the wrong local leader (again), upsetting the clerics and/or the tribes, further alienating the population or just by trying to turn a 7th century, backward, tribal society of religious fanatics who believe in honor killings, into a Jeffersonian Democracy.
But wait, maybe and extension of General Powell's comment is appropriate to give us a third option. To wit: We broke it, we own it and, as the owners, we choose not to fix it.