The conversation that has started (Pestritto, Tucker, Hayward) as a consideration of the Iraq inspection issue is slowly turning into a larger and broader conversation, as it should, on what American policy should be with regard to the Mid-East. To say this is complicated is an understatement. It is primarily a matter of deliberation because of our war on terrorists. It’s not that we didn’t know before 9/11 that Saddam was a bad guy, or that the Saudis are not to be trusted (just because we have had relatively good relations with them over the years based on common interests doesn’t mean we have reason to trust them beyond those interests). But now we have arrived at a point where those more abstract considerations have become more practical, yet our public statements on the issue continue to be full of diplomatic niceties. I don’t really have a problem with this apparent disjunction between what we say and what we do, as long as we do the right things. Besides, when you are a hyper-power you don’t have to be beat your chest every time you want to make a point; and, you have the luxury that your enemies (and soft allies, or the UN) will pay attention even if you whisper. (See this thoughtful piece by Mark Steyn--even though he objects to the charade--where he compares Bush and Bandar with James Bond and the supervillain meeting face to face and are most polite, yet each knows who the other is, and what he is about to do.)
In short, what I am trying to say is that it is one thing to say that these guys are SOB’s, and another to say whether or not it is in our interest to do something (e.g., take Iraq, overthrow the Saudis, encourage a revolution in Iran). It sems to me plausible that our whole campaign against Iraq is a feint, it is a sideshow. We have essentially gotten the UN to do our work for us, and it is only a matter of time before the chips fall our way (by peace or war). We are not in a hurry. Furthermore, this feint allows us to do certain things in the region that otherwise we couldn’t have done; including a huge buildup in the region (which, it goes almost without saying will be useful for other purposes, not just going into Iraq) and allowing the Israeli’s to do some necessary housecleaning. Think Trojan Horse here; or, war by proxy. In the meantime, our military and diplomatic investment in the region makes perfectly clear to the various tyrannies there that we are serious and that we will stay, if it proves to be in our interest. And that interest has primarily to do with our war on terrorists. Our policy therefore does instill fear in these regimes (remember our success in Afghanistan as well); they know we will act if we think it is in our interest. So help us clean out the terrorists. It looks like most of them--to one extent or another--are helping. We will continue to have to make those judgments along the way, and each will be a tough call.
Yet, it is a matter of no small consequence that in this process of pursuing our interests in the region, we are finding that the whole region is quite unstable and that some of that instability is--at least indirectly--caused by our actions. Then the next question will have to be whether or not we want to maintain stability in the region or attempt to seriously reorganize it. I am open to the possibility that we can help establish more moderate regimes in the area (even though I admit that they are not likely to become liberal democracies) if those moderate regimes pursue policies more in line with our interests. But these possibilities will have to be taken on one at a time.