"While Iraq certainly is a huge opportunity missed (as has been pointed out on DW/JW and NER many times), actual defeat there would mean less in the long run than Muslims' perception of defeat there."-- from a reader
This business of thinking that an American withdrawal from Iraq would lead to a "perception of defeat" is misguided. That "perception" will last, at most, a few weeks or a month. As the Sunnis continue their attacks on the Shi'a, without the Americans around to hold the Shi'a militia back, those militia, their ranks swelled, will attack back in the only way that they know, being fellow Muslim Arabs, that the Sunnis will understand. It will be most unpleasant -- for the Sunni Arabs and for the Shi'a Arabs. But not for the Infidels.
And the Sunni Arabs, who are at this moment, in Cairo and Amman and Riyadh, moving heaven and earth to get the Bush Administration to keep its forces in Iraq to prevent a final Shi'a takeover of Baghdad and of all of Iraq, outside the Kurdish north, save Anbar and parts of Diyala Province, leaving the Sunni Arabs with nothing at all, removing fabled Baghdad and the Land of the Two Rivers, site for 500 years of the Abbasid Caliphate that looms so large in Arab history-haunted psyches (history-haunted because for Arabs, the only history is that which begins, and ends, with Islam, and with the "greatness" of high Islamic civilization, centered on the Abbasid Caliphate, first in Samarra, and then four hundred years in Baghdad, until Hulego and the Mongols arrived -- and according to some Sunni stories, were helped to enter Baghdad through the treachery of those "Rafidite dogs," worse than Infidels, the Shi'a -- the very
Shi'a who have now won, now control, and will never give up control, of Baghdad and most of Iraq.
Oh, the "perception of [American] defeat" will not last very long. Not at all.
It will, the end result, be recognized as the terrific blow to the Camp of Islam that it is.