Though the news media has excoriated Washington for the fiasco in Iraq, the ultimate responsibility for this disaster rests with us, the American people. Why? The government has merely done what we wanted it to do. We live in a democracy, and the government serves at our pleasure. If the direction of the government displeases us, then we vote the offending politicians out of office.
Exercising the right to vote carries a heavy responsibility. A voter must study the issues and keep abreast of current events in order to make an informed choice.
Yet, most Americans reject the responsibility of suffrage. They ignore current events and cannot be bothered to study the issues.  According to a survey in 2006, 63% of young adults -- the likeliest source of future military draftees -- could not locate Iraq on a map.  Equally shocking, 64% of all Americans could not identify the president of Russia, our strategic partner in
dealing with North Korea and other rogue states. 
Most Americans view politics and voting as a game: a sports match between the Republicans and the Democrats. Roughly 61% of Americans tend to mindlessly vote along party lines.  Instead of studying, in-depth, the relevant issues (e.g., transforming Iraq into a democracy), many Americans simply parrot the official line of their favorite party or their adored commentator (e.g., Sean Hannity). They mock and lambaste the opposing party. The whole process is just good, clean fun.
This willful ignorance leads to our supporting the wrong foreign policy. According to numerous polls in 2003, the American people firmly supported using a too small military force to invade and occupy Iraq. The idea of war on the cheap appealed to us, and President George Bush eagerly obliged. Though he executed the war and subsequent occupation, we -- the American people -- bear the ultimate responsibility for the outcome because he simply did what we wanted. We gave him our approval by re-electing him and his pro-war Republican colleagues in the 2004 election.
The postwar occupation of Iraq went horribly awry. Neo-conservatives touted post-war Japan and post-war Germany as the model for the occupation of Iraq. Being ignorant of world history, the American people bought this nonsense. We simply did not know that the correct model is the Japanese occupation of Taiwan.
After imperial Japan took control of Taiwan, Tokyo stationed soldiers on the island at the ratio of 1 soldier per 60 Taiwanese.  Using this troop strength to crush the occasional violent uprisings, Tokyo successfully transformed Taiwan from a barbaric society into a Western one. Applying the Japanese lesson to Iraq, we can conclude that the non-Kurdish part (numbering about 22 million people) of Iraq needs 370,000 Western soldiers to transform the nation into a prosperous, Western democracy. 
Yet, Washington deployed only 170,000 soldiers (including ones from the "Coalition of the Willing") and told the Iraqis, "You build a democracy. You are in charge." The American people cheered this simple-minded approach to nation building. The result is a violent civil war. What else would you expect from the Iraqis? They lived their entire lives under a brutal dictatorship and lack any experience with Western liberalism. Meanwhile, 3200 American soldiers have died for nothing. An additional 24,000 soldiers have been seriously wounded and will need lifelong medical care. 
For decades, educators have warned us that American ignorance of world history, geography, and current events will exact a high price. Today, we pay the price in wasted lives.
Twenty years from today, we will pay the price again. Pushing Iraq out of sight and out of mind, we intend to promptly exit Iraq -- after we completely wrecked its society. We intend to leave the Iraqis to wallow in the devastation of sectarian violence. An Iraqi child growing up in this violent mayhem will become an angry adult in 2027. He will likely commit violence against American citizens on a massive scale. Will we Americans then cry, "We are innocent!"?
There is no clean, easy solution to the Iraq fiasco. There are only difficulty choices, of which 2 are the following.
Plan #1: We ramp our troop commitment to 370,000 soldiers for a multi-decade occupation. We push aside the Iraqi government and run Iraq as a colony. Taking a cue from the Japanese, the American military must occupy Iraq for, at least, 20 years in order to enable an entirely new generation of Iraqis to grow up in a Western society and to learn how it operates. At the conclusion of 20 years, we can begin transferring the reins of government to democratically elected Iraqi politicians.
Plan #2: We pull all our troops out of Iraq. As they withdraw, we welcome, to the United States, any Iraqi who wants to flee Iraq. The number of refugees admitted to our nation may number several million. For the next 20 years, we pay financial compensation to the Iraqis who choose to remain in Iraq. To finance the compensation, we levy a special Iraq Compensation Tax on all American citizens. The funds from this tax would be used by the Iraqis to try to rebuild their society. General Colin Powell did say, "You break it, you own it." Now, we pay for it.
Both plans restore normalcy to the lives of most Iraqis, but plan #1 achieves the superior result: a prosperous, Western democracy in the heart of the Middle East. Achieving this Western beachhead requires a multi-decade occupation, and it surely requires a military draft, which most Americans oppose.
So, only plan #2 is realizable. This plan specifies not only exiting Iraq but also making amends for destroying Iraqi lives. Many Americans may cringe at the idea of welcoming Iraqi refugees and paying financial compensation. Well, that is just too bad. Ignorance (of world history, geography, and current events) and an irresponsible attitude towards voting have a price. Would we prefer paying some compensation and admitting some refugees, or would we prefer to confront, in 2027, an Iraqi suicide bomber whom, in his childhood, we abandoned to the violent mayhem in 2007?
1. The Department of Defense publishes a field manual for counterinsurgency. The document prescribes an occupation ratio of 1 Western soldier to 50 inhabitants. 
2. When the Iraq war began in 2003 March, 68 percent of Americans supported the military operation. 83 percent believed that it would succeed. 65 percent were proud of the operation. 
1. Laura Miller, "America the ignorant", Salon, 2001 September 27.
2. "National Geographic-Roper Public Affairs 2006 Geographic Literacy Study", The National Geographic Education Foundation, May 2006.
3. "What Americans Know: 1989-2007", The Pew Research Center, 2007 April 15.
4. Heidi Przybyla, "Republicans May Need to Soften Message to Win Back Independents", Bloomberg.com, 2007 November 21.
5. "Strength of Partisanship 1952-2004", The American National Election Studies, 2005 November 27.
6. Kiyoshi Ito, "Chapter 5: The Republic of Taiwan", Taiwan History, 1996 July (translator: Walter Chen).
7. "Iraq", The World Factbook, Central Intelligence Agency, 2007 April 17.
8. Andrew Lee Butters, "Kurdistan: Iraq's Next Battleground?", 2007 April 12
9. Judith Miller, "Kurdistan", "Wall Street Journal", 2006 October 28.
10. reporter, "The Number of Soldiers for a Successful Occupation", 2006 September 17.
11. "Iraq Index", The Brookings Institution, 2007 March 29.
12. Michael R. Gordon, "News Analysis: In Baghdad, pressing to meet new standard", "International Herald Tribune", 2007 January 18.
13. Mark Benjamin, "Bush's new friends: The Sunnis", "salon.com", 2007 September 5.
14. Keating Holland, "Poll: Confidence in Iraq war down sharply", CNN, 2007 March 18.