Tom Barnett insists that we cannot midwife consensual democracy in Iraq and our presence can, at best, slow down the pace of the inevitable ethnic cleansing that must take place before a stable Iraq can emerge. In addition, he assigns a fair amount of blame to the Bush administration for, essentially, their neglect of the realpolitik that he espouses:
Bush let the Sunni-Shia civil war unfold by waiting too long to surge the necessary numbers.
Bush THEN accelerates a fight with Iran on WMD, despite his intell community's judgment that Iran is 3-5 years away from fielding a bomb.
By doing that, and prepping the American public for military strikes with Iran, Bush not only loses popular support at home (sheer fear over a premature escalation and spreading of the war) but encourages (!!!!) Tehran to push as hard as possible in its proxy war in Iraq, so as to keep us diverted and bleed our troops. THAT Bush decision kills ours troops unnecessarily.
THAT Bush decision also encourages (!!!) Riyadh to counter in Iraq with its own effort. That effort also unnecessarily leads to American troop deaths.
Finally, Bush refuses any serious diplomatic surge to accompany the troop surge, and that means he's led America into a strategic cul-de-sac: we either preside over slo-mo ethnic cleansing, losing troops unnecessarily along the way, or we watch it go faster from the sidelines. Either way, our credibility in the region plummets. If we lose enough Americans in this idiotic pathway of Bush's stubborn creation, he'll singlehandedly kill American popular support for a long-term presence in the region. Those deaths that follow will also sit on Bush's head.
Hugh Hewitt has fundamental differences with Tom Barnett and his conclusions flow from a contrary set of assumptions and expectations: