The American Interest

The Empire: Not So Great in ’08

Iraq will continue to top the list of American foreign-policy concerns in 2008.  While tactical successes in Baghdad and the Anbar Province were achieved in 2007 through the U.S. forces’ marriage of convenience with various Sunni Arab tribal leaders and former Saddam loyalists who detest Al Qaeda even more than they dislike the Americans, translating tactical gains into a strategic endgame is beyond the ability of the Bush administration.  It cannot engineer a stable and durable political accord among Iraq’s three major ethno-religious groups.  The best we can hope is that, in his final year, President Bush does not aggravate the Iraqi quagmire by launching a war against Iran.

Unfortunately, there are no major domestic obstacles to some form of military action against Iran’s nuclear program and against the extensive Revolutionary Guard network.  Many congressional Democrats—including Hillary Clinton—sound hawkish on this issue, which resonates with a small but influential segment of the electorate.

The obstacles are mainly external, and a powerful Euro-Asian bloc is now preempting threats to the existing balance.  A land war is no longer a viable option for 2008 following Vladimir Putin’s series of meetings with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the Caspian Summit in Iran last fall.  The declaration signed at the end of the summit obliges the Caspian littoral states...

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