The Middle East Mess

by Victor Davis Hanson

Most polls show a decided unease to preempt in Iran, at least for now. The nearly inexplicable failure to encourage the 2009 Iranian protests seems more regrettable each month. Trying to lecture and embarrass Israel the last three years led nowhere. The Syrian dissidents are now infighting. Assad, once well-spoken-of by the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton, is receiving Russian arms, and seems to be silently warning to fight to the last bunker, atop supposedly massive amounts of WMD. 

Libya — no U.S. congressional authorization, exceeding the much-referenced U.N. authorizations, and chaos in the postbellum era — is a blueprint for nothing. The verdict is out on the Arab Spring; but confidence mostly hinges on believing the supposedly reformed Muslim Brotherhood and affiliates either do not have broad support or are not as radical as they sound.

 The once-”good war” in Afghanistan is being dissected every which way in terms of getting out without avoiding a 1975 Vietnam-like scramble. Certainly the old mantra that we took our eye off the ball in Iraq needs revisiting — given that when we put it back on Afghanistan and poured manpower and capital into the country, things either did not improve or got worse. In any case, four ground commanders in three years, diplomatic musical chairs, surges cum withdrawal deadlines, and a disengaged commander in chief did not send the message of a new administration finally bent, as promised in summer 2008, on winning the “real” or “good” war.

Only Iraq seems to offer anything resembling a constitutional government and probably enjoys a better future than under Saddam Hussein — but it came at a cost that no one would wish to repeat. All this depressing outlook comes at a time of record gas prices, record aggregate debt, and near-record trade and annual budget deficits, suggesting that even if we had the wisdom or will to do positive things in the Middle East, the enterprise would be based on yet more borrowed money and even higher gas prices. The Obama naïve foreign policy — his unique profile, rhetorical fillips, and opportunistic attacks on George Bush would, of course, open diplomatic doors once gratuitously closed — is in shambles, and has regressed, more wisely perhaps, into a do-nothing, vote-present mode, while praying for some calm at least through the election year.

All this reminds us that we can at least in the mean time get our own house in order and should be hell-bent on tapping all our quite amazingnewly discovered gas and oil reserves, adopting the Simpson-Bowles fiscal-discipline plan — as a start — addressing entitlements, and working with the allies that we had cultivated for decades rather than flirting with Russia, Iran, Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other sorts that have long despised us.