With or Without Saddam, War Rages in Iraq

As the United States approaches the grim milestone of 3,000 servicemen killed in Iraq, the trend lines are going in the wrong direction. This month has the dubious distinction of being the deadliest month of the year.

Without or without Saddam Hussein, the war rages.

"This is yesterday's man," said Tony Cordesman, ABC News national security analyst. "The issues today between Sunni and Shiites have moved beyond Saddam. The risk of civil war in Iraq is not driven by loyalists to Saddam."

Saddam's hanging is a strange anticlimax for the man who has been the arch villain of American foreign policy for more than a decade.

The White House called Saddam's execution a "milestone," but this milestone comes without the expectations of earlier war achievements.

The capture of Saddam three years ago produced euphoria in Baghdad and Washington, providing a belief that the insurgency had been dealt a decisive blow.

There were similar high hopes after the deaths of Saddam's villainous sons, Uday and Qusay, and after the death of al Qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

But, in each case, the situation in Iraq only continued to deteriorate, and military commanders now acknowledge their enemy is too diverse and decentralized to be defeated by killing any one leader, even the former dictator.

"It still pales in comparison to the real crisis that Iraq faces," said Shibley Telhami, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "That is the reason why I say that it isn't going to be the make-or-break either for Iraq or for American policy for Iraq."

At the Pentagon, there certainly isn't any mourning for Saddam, but there's also no expectation that his death will improve the situation in Iraq.