Years ago, demonstrators in Yugoslavia protested against NATO troops—not the occupation but the less than perfect water supply. Brave NATO soldiers rushed to upgrade services.

Iraq’s Maliqi takes US troops not for plumbers but for security guards. Exploiting American democratic rhetoric, Maliki posits himself as the ruler of Iraq. So he orders the US military out of Sadr City. Astonishingly, the Americans complied. Muslims cheered. Maliki’s ratings soared. US credibility dwindled.

The US has to stop the comedy. The American people need not die and pay so some Iraqi puppet can imagine himself the boss. Lives and money are the legitimate sources of power, of US power in Iraq.

The US cannot reach any meaningful objectives in Iraq. In the best case scenario, an Iraqi strongman will succeed Saddam. He won’t be pro-American. Oil is not cheaper. With guerilla training camps dotting Iraq, the Middle East has not become a safer place. In the realistic scenario, Iraq will fall into civil war.

Now the US has the time and a good reason to leave Iraq. Announce that the new democratically elected Maliki is an acceptable alternative to Saddam. Say that the US has reached its goal of inhibiting Iraqi military programs. Get out of Iraq, and limit US operations there to strikes on the terrorist training camps.