Bang Bang Theory of Iraqi Invasion
Josh Manchester argues that the toppling of Saddam’s regime in Iraq has had enormous, positive consequences for the region. The money ‘graph:
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.
TigerHawk adds more analysis. His most controversial point is this:
[W]e have gained enormous leverage over the region by interposing American troops in Iraq. The left argues that we have limited our military options against Iran by having “stretched” our military in Iraq. This argument is silly. We have vastly more leverage over both Iran and the Sunni regimes to the west and south of Iraq precisely because we, rather than Saddam, now guarantee the security of the latter against the expansion of the former. When Saddam was all that stood between Iran and the Sunni Arabs, he had enormous influence over both. Now the United States does. It is that simple. Yes, it comes at a huge price to us and it remains to be seen whether the gains will be worth that price, but Saudi Arabia and Jordan (particularly) are in the fight against both the Sunni jihadis and the Iranian proxy Islamists only because the United States is fighting the war in Iraq.
With the same caveats, I agree.
Still, the precipitous escalation of the crisis by Israel–provoked by both Hamas and Hezbollah, to be sure–is another matter. While having a large troop presence in Iraq has some enormous logistical advantages, it also all but ensures that we will be stuck in the middle of something that may well escalate out of anyone’s control. An all-out conflict involving Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, and the United States–with various internecine sectarian and/or ethic squabbles thrown in for good measure–would, to say the least, be unwelcome.