I’m not sure who is writing the New York Times’ unsigned editorials these days, but they are demonstrating once more a lazy support for thoughtless imperialism. We are all happy that the Iraqis have cobbled together a government nine short months after their elections, but that’s not the real point of this column.

The administration deserves credit for goading Iraqis into a political deal. But the long delay and Iraq’s daunting list of problems is a reminder that, even after the troops come home, Iraq will continue to need American attention, support and pressure.

Why will Iraq “need” American attention, support, and pressure after all our troops come home?

At this point, Iraq’s most dangerous fault line may be the oil-rich region of Kirkuk, which is claimed by Arabs and Kurds. Washington must press Iraqis to find a solution, making clear that a Kurdish secession or a grab for Kirkuk would mean the end of American support.

President Obama has rightly promised to withdraw all American troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal that was published on Tuesday, Mr. Maliki insisted that that deadline is firm. Still, the two leaders need to consider whether some number of forces — American or from the United Nations — should remain temporarily as a buffer in Kirkuk.

The whole point of having a government is so you can peaceably resolve internal disputes like “who owns all this damn oil anyway?” If you can’t resolve them peaceably then you resolve them with force. But you don’t “need” attention, pressure, or support from outside powers to do these things.

One of the more disturbing pathologies of the American mind is our ability to go blow the crap out of a country, ruin all its institutions, cause irresolvable internal conflicts, and then argue that we’re absolutely essential to fixing everything we’ve screwed up. No, we’re not. We’re really not. We’re responsible. We’re liable. We’re not essential.

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