Zakaria outlines a speech for Obama on the subject here.
Key quotation (my italics):
These reversals of strategy have had the effect of creating what General Petraeus calls ‘breathing space’ for political reconciliation. And he has always said that without political progress in Iraq, military efforts will not produce any lasting success.
“He is right. All today’s gains could disappear when American troops leave—and they will have to leave one day. The disagreement I have with the Bush administration is that it seems to believe that time will magically make these gains endure. It won’t. Without political progress, once the United States reduces its forces, the old mistrust and the old militias will rise up again. Only genuine political power-sharing will create a government and an Army that are seen as national and not sectarian. And that, in turn, is the only path to make Iraq viable without a large American military presence.
In other words, Zakaria is advocating a policy of conditional engagement. FYI: Colin Kahl author of the policy is an Obama adviser.
While a part of me leans to the William Odom rebuttal (same piece linked above) that is not politically feasible in US politics (see Democratic Nominee Bill Richardson for proof). I also tend to lean towards a Biden federalization plan outlook (Obama so far has not and Zakaria’s speech correctly reflects that fact).
My fear is a combination of the (by me) italicized passage as fundamentally correct as well as the inability of the US to help broker political progress (Odom’s point as well William Lind’s). Meaning the inevitability of the return (they never really left) of the militias.
Nevertheless, still sane points in Zakaria’s approach. One point that would add strength to the speech is a call for no permanent bases.