Peter, first off, I did not mean to imply that I agree with Dov Zakheim, or that any other current or former officials do. But I think it is important that such a strong supporter of Rumsfeld now counsels shifting the focus from local security to regional stability. Zakheim’s proposal that we redeploy forces to the Turkish, south Iranian, Jordanian, and Syrian borders is conceptually a perimeter defense strategy that banks on time to sort out the internal situation so long as Iraq remains a viable geographic entity.
The immediate goals of the Iraq invasion (eliminating of an incalculable WMD threat, a state sponsor of terror, and one of the world’s most sadistic dictatorships) have all been met. But now we have to resolve the second- and third-order effects, which could include–worst case scenario–an implosion of the Iraqi state that would create a massive terrorist haven and engender such severe security problems for neighboring countries as to draw them across the border.
If Turkey comes across the border, it will mean war against the Kurds: and the prospect of our most loyal allies in Iraq fighting the only Muslim member of NATO (at a time when Turkey is increasingly succumbing to the Islamist tide) is more than a little depressing. Further south, if Iran comes across the border in a much more significant way than it has, it will mean war with the United States among others. Dito for Syria. And the chaos could undermine the state of Jordan.
All of this would inure to the benefit of Al Qaeda’s newly declared caliphate in west-central Iraq. I think Zakheim’s piece was a call to keep our eye on the worst-case scenario and make sure we are doing what is possible to stave it off. Iraq may be able to survive the current violence in the long run. But things could get much worse.