Towards A Good Samaritan World

Friday, July 21, 2006

GRAND STRATEGY

Josh Manchester writes:

The US invasion of Iraq has so shaken and stirred the Middle East that some exceptionally strange things are happening. More importantly, these things unequivocally favor the US in influencing the outcome of the Israeli-Hezbollah War now taking place in Lebanon...

Saddam [Hussein] is quite astute when he notes that the Arabs are placed between the US-Israeli hammer and the Iranian anvil. Before the US invasion, Iraq was the geostrategic pivot of the Middle East. All of the fault lines in the area's politics converge there. The Sunni-Shia split; the Arab-Persian split; the Ba'athist-Wahhabist split; and the Muslim-Israeli split: each of these ran through Iraq via its ethnic and religious makeup; its geographic location; and its former interests, alliances, and enemies.

The 'big bang,' as invading Iraq has sometimes been called, was meant to reorder the nature of politics in the region. This has been accomplished in a fundamental way. The idea of dividing an enemy force into its constituent parts and then dealing with it piecemeal is at least as old as Caesar's actions in Gaul. It applies no less to US strategy in the Middle East. Every faction there has been made to reconsider its relationship with every other. Rather than there being a monolithic clash of civilizations, thus far the US is dealing with the area in pieces -- in whatever way it sees fit to do so -- whether making it tacitly clear to Syria that what happened in Iraq could more easily happen to it, or threatening Iran on behalf of the region and world, or seeking cooperation with the Saudis in hunting down al Qaeda.

Far from being a bit of belated triumphalism about the invasion, all of this has immediate and direct consequences. While the success of Iraq's democracy hangs in the balance from an operational perspective, the strategic advantages created by the invasion of Iraq are working very favorably for the US in the current Israeli-Lebanon crisis in very tangible ways.

Were Saddam still in power, the Arab world would not feel nearly as threatened by Hezbollah, the Frankenstein's monster of Iran's creation. Instead, they would have sided with the Syrian foreign minister's strong support for Hezbollah. Saddam himself might even have offered cash rewards to anyone attempting martyrdom against the Jews.

Instead, they came to no consensus. The leading Arab League states, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt, call Hezbollah's actions "inappropriate and irresponsible." This lessens the urgency of calls from the international community, whether the G8, UN, or EU, for a ceasefire. That lessened urgency creates something very precious indeed: a moment in time and space wherein Israel has the most fleeting of opportunities for decisive action against Hezbollah, an avowed foe, a terrorist organization, and a constant threat to the security of its populace.


The Iraq War's geostrategic benefits are an example of a general feature of life, namely, that doing the right thing more or less disinterestedly tends to benefit you in unanticipated ways.

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