The most likely case still seems to be mixed success in nation building that puts Iraq on a better political and economic path, but does so in a climate of continuing low-level security threats and serious Iraqi ethnic and sectarian tensions. This would be a case where the US and other nation-builders muddle through to the point where Iraq is making progress, and they can declare victory and leave. Scarcely the "shining city on a hill" that would transform the entire Middle East, but still a kind of victory and better for the Iraqis than Saddam and Company.
The problem in terms of lessons learned is...that, after a great military victory, the US and its allies were not able to take the right course of action from the start. They were unprepared to win the peace, focused on the wrong objectives, and lacked meaningful coordination and central guidance and direction. Unless this situation changes in Iraq, the US may end up fighting a third Gulf War against the Iraqi people. If it does, this war will be primarily political, economic, ethnic, and sectarian; and this is a kind of asymmetric war that US should never have to fight and cannot win.
This should be the last war in which there is a policy-level, military, and intelligence failure to come to grips with conflict termination and the transition to nation-building. The United States and its allies should address the issues involved before, during, and after the conflict. They should be prepared to commit the proper resources, and they should see political and psychological warfare in grand strategic terms. A war is over only when violence is ended, military forces are no longer needed to provide security, and nation-building can safely take place without military protection. It does not end with the defeat of the main forces of the enemy on the battlefield.
Best New Blog finalist - 2003 Koufax Awards
A non-violent, counter-dominant, left-liberal, possibly charismatic, quasi anarcho-libertarian Quaker's take on politics, volleyball, and other esoterica.
Lo alecha ha-m'lacha ligmor, v'lo atah ben chorin l'hibateyl mimenah.