Iraq under the Dictatorship of Saddam Hussein was analogous to Yugoslavia under the rule of strongman Tito. Both dictators used force to prevent sectarian fighting among the countries religious and tribal institutions. For centuries these groups have been warring over religious and tribal rivalries. Only a despot could keep them from each other’s throats.
When Tito died, there was no institution to prevent Yugoslavia from disintegrating into chaos, ethnic cleansing and the death of thousands. After long Diplomatic debate, NATO and the United States finally had to step in to end the slaughter. The Soviet Union tried to meddle in the chaos, but was stopped by NATO and American resolve. Although Yugoslavia has dissolved into its ethnic regions, Western troops have been forced to occupy the place for a decade and a half to prevent the resumption of genocide.
Iraq’s Hussein was mortal. When he "Shuffled off this mortal coil" there was no one to succeed him. His sons were degenerate hedonists unable to replace their father, and the Baathist party dared not formulate a plan for succession. Sooner or later Iraq was destined to go the way of Yugoslavia, degenerating into sectarian and tribal warfare.
America’s forcible removable of Hussein only hastened this situation. We had not learned the lesson of the Balkans so Iraq is going through the same chaos that plagued Yugoslavia in the early years after Tito’s death. It took some time to put an end to fighting there, and it will take time to end it in Iraq. Like in Yugoslavia, we are stuck to this "tar baby" with no way out. Our only options are the Yugoslavian model of a long term occupation, or leave and watch the genocide as we are doing in Darfour.
We face a "Hobson’s choice" which likely will be made by political expediency rather then the right thing to do. The present debate in Congress bodes ill for Iraq and it’s neighbors. Rancor between the two parties may lead to a deadlock resulting in delay until the next Presidential election. If that occurs, the toll of death and destruction will continue unabated.
The longer the situation remains in doubt, countries who believe they can gain from instability, such as Iran, will continue to meddle in the conflict. That could be the spark that sets the entire region ablaze.
If Mesopotamia explodes, the economy of the West, which depends on a continued flow of oil, will suffer serious damage. Europe will be the most affected by a shortage of petroleum. Russia is already flexing its energy muscles by blackmailing neighbors like the Ukraine. A cut off of oil from the Middle East would give Russians the clout to extend its influence into Western Europe. It is questionable if the European Union would have the will to resist Kremlin demands. That would result in the resumption of the Cold War.