Forget military option. Americans are tired of wars.

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Cal Thomas is a conservative columnist. Bob Beckel is a liberal Democratic strategist. But as longtime friends, they can often find common ground on issues that lawmakers in Washington cannot.

Today: Dealing with Iraq

CAL: You have consistently opposed the Iraq War that toppled Saddam Hussein, and you were right. However bad Saddam was, he kept the lid on the religious tensions between the Sunnis and Shiites. His demise created a vacuum and unleashed a reign of terror on Iraq that will come back to haunt us.

BOB: Given the loss of American lives, I'm not going to say I told you so, but we went into Iraq under the flawed assumption that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration promised we were not in the business of "nation building." But after we invaded, the Iraqi military was disbanded and the U.S. took control of the government. In the intervening years, we've tried to rebuild and train a new army to stand on its own, but with little success. With an army that weak, civil war was bound to break out.

CAL: Vice President Biden said Iraq "could be one of the great achievements of this administration," and President Obama has claimed al-Qaeda is "on the run." What I'm seeing instead is an Iraqi army "on the run" from the oncoming fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

BOB: Biden was referring to the president's pledge to end our military involvement in Iraq, which he did. The command structure for al-Qaeda that planned and executed 9/11 has been decimated and its leader, Osama bin Laden, is dead. Islamic groups have hijacked the term "al-Qaeda," but remember ISIS is not al-Qaeda.

CAL: True, but the president is right. There is no military solution, especially when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has refused to reconcile with the Sunnis. ISIS is a marauding army of Sunni extremists who are decapitating people and imposing sharia law as it goes. This is a preview of what Europe and America face if they are not stopped.

BOB: The U.S. government installed Maliki. He was then elected on the promise to include the minority Sunnis in his government. He reneged on that promise. Instead, Maliki decided to partner with Iran, a Shiite country, forcing the Sunnis to take up arms and rekindle the civil war. Maliki wanted U.S. troops out of Iraq, but he's now pleading for them to return to help end the Sunni revolt.

CAL: On Wednesday, President Obama met at the White House with the top Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress to discuss options with them on how he might deal with the Iraq crisis. Given his declaration that wars are "receding," I doubt he will escalate it again.

BOB: Instead of a military option, the president likely will pursue a more thoughtful strategy that would provide intelligence to the Iraq military, deal with the country's widening political divisions and seek the support of our allies in the region.

CAL: We need a unified approach to defeating Islamic jihadists in Iraq and elsewhere. Arab nations and every free nation must adopt a strategy that will bar them from our countries, deport those already there and shut down Islamic schools that teach hatred of Jews, Christians and Western values. Additionally, as David Ignatius wrote in The Washington Post, major nations with interests in the region need to possibly redraw the boundaries established in the region following the 1919 Treaty of Versailles that replaced the Ottoman Empire. Those boundaries, he writes, "can't hold the fractious peoples together."

BOB: That's a good idea if those nations would cooperate in what is really their own self-interest, because their countries contain factions of extremists that have the potential for growing worse. In the meantime, America's responsibility is to protect its citizens and our allies against Islamic radicals. It is not our responsibility to fight civil wars that have been raging for centuries. Let's be honest, no Arab nation is going to side with the U.S. against fellow Muslims.

CAL:Which is why the Obama administration's notion of being "open to discussions" with Iran on this crisis is crazy. Although Iran is Shiite, like the Maliki government, Iran is not our friend. In addition to trying to build a nuclear bomb, Iran has been supplying arms to many of our longtime enemies, such as Syria, the Taliban and Hezbollah. Need I say more, Bob?

BOB: You know, Cal, we've dealt with a lot of our enemies over the years when it suited our purposes. This could be one of those instances, and could even improve our efforts to contain Iran's nuclear ambitions during the negotiations in Vienna.

CAL: You're more trusting than I am. Americans are tired of war and want to keep our troops home. A new Public Policy Polling survey shows that 74% are opposed to sending our troops back to Iraq. But our enemies are not tired of war. We can't let our guard down, especially not at home. The Islamic terrorists pose a clear and present danger to free societies.

BOB:I agree if they bring terrorism to our shores, but it's time for America to come home and no longer use our soldiers to chase Islamic terrorists around the globe. On that we agree.

CAL: Partially. Some may already be here. If we wait for more to come, it could be too late.

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