Just when I was feeling good about the political re-alignment promised by Lieberman's imminent defeat in Connecticut, Billmon has to remind me about the continuing insanity of the Bush policy in the Middle East, and its consequences.
"If the United States were to begin pulling troops out of Iraq now, it would be interpreted correctly throughout the Middle East as an open admission of defeat -- one that would likely lead fairly quickly to a complete American evacuation of the country. (Maybe not literally by landing helicopters on the roof of the embassy, but all in the region would understand the military reality that as the force grows smaller it will become progressively more dangerous to keep it in Iraq.)
Such an outcome could force well Iraq's Shi'a political leaders to snuggle up even more tightly to Iran, if only as a matter of physical survival. If the full-scale civil war everyone seems to expect were to break out following an American withdrawal, Baghdad might even feel compelled to call in Iranian troops. At a minimum, Iran could be left with enormous influence over, if not outright control of, the Iraqi government and its security forces. Access to Iraqi air space would give Iran a direct resupply corridor to Syria, and, through Syria, to Hizbullah. A ground presence could provide Tehran with a direct ground link -- call it the Ayatollah Khomeini Trail -- assuming the Kurds could be bought off and/or intimidated, or the Sunni belt pacified (one shudders to think of what that might involve.)
Presto: one Shi'a crescent to go.
Of course, it might not actually come to this -- or if it did it might not come quickly. But the fact remains that the U.S. Army is the only significant force standing between Iran and it's closest allies, and thus between Iran and Israel. If, as it now seems, Washington and Jerusalem both perceive Iran as the primary threat (and/or target for aggression) in the region, then there is no real distinction between America's occupation of Iraq and Israel's intended re-occupation of southern Lebanon. They are, in essence, both part of the next war.
It seems increasingly probable that that war will come soon -- perhaps as early as November or December, although more likely next year. Israel's failure to knock out Hizbullah with a rapid first strike has left the neocons even deeper in the hole, enormously ratcheting up the pressure to try to recoup all losses by taking the war to Damascus and Tehran.
In other words, it's almost time for the ultimate "flight forward" -- the one that finally pushes the Middle East into World War III."
Having warned us of Armageddon, Billmon then goes on to analyze his fears regarding the political potency of the Democratic Party. Ok. That's not usually where the topic of WWIII takes me first. But, fair enough: the Democrats have taken the better part of 3 years just to get themselves to the point where they kind of, sort of, agree that Bush's Iraq Adventure is a disaster. Politically, they have not really figured a way out, or what their alternative policy would look like.
It does look like Bush wants war with Iran.
Frankly, whether the Democrats support or oppose, does not seem to me, to matter much. It is still wildly hypothetical.
I have always thought the Democrats are wildly naive, politically as well as substantively, to propose withdrawal in any form, which is not preceded by some other form of massive aid to the Iraqis. But, no one is paying any attention to me.
I am really not too concerned about WWIII starting between Iran and Israel. Iran does not have that kind of military power or reach, even if they had access to the airspace or the landroutes between Israel and Iran, there's not much they could do, because they lack the logistical capacity.
Iran may well end up dominating Iraq. Just let it happen, say I.
Bush is insane. That's the critical realization. His narrative, which ends in the urgency of war, is based on that insanity. The dangers here do not really exist on the existential scale, which all this drama presupposes.
Bush may well attack Iran. Such an ill-advised adventure would bring down his Administration and American dreams of Empire, and be a tragedy for many thousands. It might even bring down the American Way of Oil, with it. And, that, in the long run, could well be a good thing.
The School of Experience is a tough school. The entrance requirements are low, but the curriculum is extensive and the teaching methods rough. Still, some will learn in no other.
The Democrats will be able to fashion a reasonable alternative to Bush's insanity, when the American People are finished learning from it.