“A general US retreat from the region, with troop withdrawal at its core, is no doubt a prerequisite for, and yardstick of, the emergence of a healthy, self-reliant new Middle Eastern order. But, with the kind of ignominious scuttle from Iraq that failure would presumably entail, the region won’t just revert to the status quo ante. Instead of Iraq becoming a beacon of all good things it will become the single most noxious wellspring of all the bad ones the invasion was supposed to extinguish – and new ones to boot.
“If the Middle East was a jungle before, it will be a wilder one afterwards, with most elements of the decadent existing order, in their increased insecurity, driven to even cruder methods – increased internal repression or external adventurism – to preserve themselves. And it will become even more anti-American. For while a ‘good’ retreat would decrease such sentiments, a ‘bad’ Iraqi one will only spur and spread the active, often violent expression of them. That is because, for the Arabs, Iraq was only the latest drastic episode in a long history of western interference in their affairs. Until the wider, pre-Iraqi consequences of that interference are remedied, the example of successful anti-American resistance in Iraq will only encourage it elsewhere, especially in Palestine.
“On the other hand, no one invested greater expectations in the Iraqi adventure than Israel. US success, it thought, would transform its strategic position. But with US failure, Israel will grow more repressive against the Palestinians, and more ready for military action against Iran. Should the US itself deal with Iran in the same violent and partisan fashion as it did Iraq, the adverse consequences of that new adventure will outstrip those of the earlier one. For there is no reason to doubt that Iran’s response, from both itself and its strengthened Shia and Islamist allies in the region, will be the devastating one it constantly promises.”