Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Grand Strategy

Matthew Yglesias somehow manages to keep track of our network of alliances and interests in Iraq:
"We're giving Israel billions of additional dollars to get them to not object to us selling advanced weapons to Saudi Arabia. We're selling the Saudis the weapons to check Iranian influence.

"Meanwhile, we're complaining that the Saudis are undermining Maliki's government in Iraq. The Saudis are doing that in order to check what they see as Iranian influence. Maliki wants us to sack our commanding general in Iraq or, at least, to stop arming what he sees as anti-government Sunni rebels. We think we need to arm those rebels to check al-Qaeda influence. And now our special forces are going to attack Kurds -- along with Israelis, the one group in the region that seems to genuinely welcome American influence -- ostensibly in order to head off a more dramatic Turkish intervention."

When diplomatic and military historians examine the Bush administration, the thing they will probably find strangest is our decision to abandon the time-tested "divide and conquer" strategy in favor of taking on all possible enemies at once.

Let's go back to 2002. The United States had deposed the Taliban and had al-Qaeda on the run, part of a campaign against a group which had attacked us. In the process, we had cooperated with Iran, which would in just a year offer to negotiate the so-called "grand bargain" to end a generation of hostility. How might the past five years have gone if we had followed up on the Iranian diplomatic track rather than lumped them into the "Axis of Evil" and put them on the regime change list? What prospects for dealing with Saddam Hussein's Iraq might that have opened up?

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