Points taken. I would draw a distinction, however, between “maintaining the status quo” as a mission, and simply leaving well enough alone when regimes we don’t care for represent no threat.
Also, it is obviously not realistic to believe that the status quo today will be unchanged in 5, 10 or 20 years. That implies that strategic planners need to attempt to foresee likely developments (as well as unlikely developments), and examine the impact they will have on national security. Then, contingency plans must be formulated and, as needs arise, effective policies implemented.
This job has not been done adequately by recent administrations. How hard would it have been at any point since 1985 to foresee that Iran’s mullahs were working on nuclear weapons and would have to be stopped? How difficult was it to recognize that the IAEA would probably not be up to that task and to craft other options? Surely something effective could have been done years ago about the rising threat that North Korea has come to represent.
It goes without saying that the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran in 1979, the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. and the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York in 1993 did not set off the right alarms or cause nearly enough creative thought about the changing risk matrix America was facing.
Finally, I would argue that there is a difference–a difference I failed to articulate in my earlier post–between giving full-throated support to tyrants (e.g. toasting them, praising and funding them) and merely dealing with them as necessary for the sake of various national interests.