Tuesday, July 18, 2006


The Black Hole Theory

General William Odom calls it a "Reverse Domino" theory. I call it a "Black Hole" theory. Whatever it's called, it describes the same thing: How our invading and occupying Iraq has sucked up America's and much of the rest of the world's energy and attention, and destabilized the Middle East. From General Odom's recent Nieman Watchdog article:

We should have learned a number of things from the Vietnam War, but most of all that unintended consequences are often the most significant outcomes. Our well-intended policies in Vietnam soon rendered the United States incapable of accomplishing anything positive in the region. Massive use of American combat power justified all of the extremism that North Vietnam used in pursuing its course, and most important, it removed all doubt about who could claim the banner of "national liberation" in Vietnam. The Saigon government was soon seen as no more than America's lackey. Thus withdrawal from Vietnam actually improved America's strategic position for turning the tide against the Soviet Union, beginning during the Carter administration and accelerating during the Reagan administration.
Is the domino theory valid for the Middle East? No, not any more than it was in Vietnam. But a reverse domino theory is. The longer the U.S. stays in Iraq, the more likely the collapse of the secular regimes in those Muslim nations, and the more likely a full-scale war between Israel and its neighbors. It’s American departure from Iraq that could prevent it.
The U.S. forces in Iraq opened the country to al Qaeda cadres, and democratic elections have cleared the way for radical rulers. The longer U.S. forces stay, the more likely it is that their radicalizing impact will reach beyond Iraq to Egypt and Saudi Arabia – and perhaps to Pakistan. Not the other way around! Tied down and strategically immobilized by its entanglement in Iraq, the administration has no credibility with most of its major allies. Only after it withdraws from Iraq and admits its own complicity in this spreading crisis will it be able to help stem the tide it has set in motion. Why? Upon our withdrawal, our allies will be far more likely to respond constructively to a U.S. bid to design a joint strategy for restoring regional stability in the Middle East. Decreasing the likelihood of more radical (and possibly undemocratic) regimes emerging in the Middle East requires a coalition of the major states of Europe and East Asia. It is beyond U.S. power alone. The longer the United States keeps troops in Iraq, the greater that challenge will be.

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