TOUGH NUT TO CRACK. As Harold points out, the dawning realization on the part of the right that Iraq is facing a civil war puts enormous strain on the administration's justifications for U.S. policy there. A new National Review editorial provides an example of the kind of anguish and addled prescriptions that emerge when conservatives try to square the circle of remaining committed to the American occupation and the administration's war aims while also grappling with the reality of an Iraqi civil war in which we have no interest in picking a side:

If the administration isn�t going to send more troops to Iraq, there are other things that can be done. Resources should be poured into improving the interior ministry and its forces, which have been infiltrated by the killers preying on Baghdad�s Sunnis. American advisers should be embedded with interior forces as they have been with the much more professional defense forces. We will have to confront the Shiite militias, although with some delicacy since they have their patrons and supporters within the government. It would help if Moqtada al-Sadr were killed at the hands of mysterious assassins. And any fight for the future of Iraq that has a chance of success will have to include efforts to check the Iranian training, funding, and supply of the radical militias. The U.S. has said it won�t tolerate this Iranian bid to influence control of Iraq, but has never roused itself to do anything beyond rhetorical posturing.

Grim ironies abound here, not least the suggestion that the problem of extralegal killings carried out by paramilitary outfits in Iraq be addressed through an American-authorized extralegal assassination of Muqtada al-Sadr by Iraqi elements of some kind or other. Meanwhile, the problem of an interior ministry that is, in reality, less "infiltrated" by hardline Shiite militiamen than simply comprised of them is to be addressed through pouring American resources into said ministry. And, of course, we'll have to attack Iran -- or at least "rouse ourselves" to do various things beyond what we're doing now.

--Sam Rosenfeld