While working away on the soon-to-be-submitted final draft of the dissertation, I’ve been working on a new article about the hawks’ ‘grand plan‘ for the Middle East, of which Iraq is only the opening act. As part of the reporting for that piece, I spoke yesterday to a retired, high-level member of the US Intelligence community who specializes in the Middle East.
This is someone who has always been very sour on the idea of invading Iraq. And when we spoke yesterday, I asked him what struck me as the big question: What’s your best guess for the near and medium-term repercussions of what we’re about to do.
His answer, or at least part of it, surprised me. He didn’t think the repercussions within the neighborhood — i.e. in the neighboring Arab states — would be nearly as good as the hawks believe but also not nearly as bad as many nay-sayers expect. No governments falling. And probably — after a rough few months — even that much change from the status quo ante.
His greatest worry was not in the neighborhood, but the world: the costs — unreckonable to some degree — of wrecking the international state system to get this done. The pros and cons of handling Iraq have never been separable from how you do it, the costs you rack up in the doing of it, calculated against the gains you’ll get in having accomplished it. At this point, we truly have the worst case scenario on the international stage. And I think that those costs now outweigh the gains.