""The United States certainly has inflicted a massive blow on the
Arab, if not the Islamic, psyche. The only comparable moment was
in June 1967, when Israeli forces defeated the Egyptians, Syrians
and Jordanians. It should be remembered that the defeat had
unintended consequences: Not only did Egypt and Syria attack
Israel with some effect in 1973, but the consequences of the
defeat energized the Palestinian movement. The Israelis have
begun warning the Palestinians to think through the lessons of
Iraq. On the other side, the United States must carefully think
through the lessons of 1967.
The simplistic idea that resentment of the United States will
generate effective action by Arabs misses a crucial point. Two
scales are at work here: the radicalism scale and the hope scale.
On the radicalism scale, the level of radicalism and anti-
Americanism in the Arab world has been off the chart for months.
Increasing the level would be difficult. However, radicalism by
itself does not lead to action. There must also be hope -- a
sense that there are weaknesses in the U.S. position that can be
exploited, that there is some possibility of victory, however
distant. So long as the hope scale tends toward hopelessness,
radicalism can be intense.
The United States was prepared to allow the radicalism scale to
go deep into the danger zone, but Washington has been trying to
keep the hope scale deeply in the green zone. Israel's failure
after 1967 was inherent in its position: The Israelis depended
heavily on outsiders for national security. The Arab perception
was that the Israelis could be attacked by splitting them from
their patrons. This sense of vulnerability led to an active
response to defeat.
The task facing the United States now is to avoid projecting a
sense of vulnerability. This is easier for Washington than it was
for Israel. The United States comes out of the war less dependent
on others; it also has a strong domestic consensus in favor of
the war. The United States presents, at the moment, a seamless
face to the Arab world: It is hated but feared. Washington now
must act now to maintain the fear, while reducing hatred. How it
manages Iraq will determine the outcome. If the United States
loses control of the situation, it quickly could lead to a
perception of vulnerability. It must control the situation in
Iraq while maintaining a benign administration. This will not be
as easy it sounds: Where Washington can choose between
unrelenting strength and the risk of perceived weakness, it will
have to carefully choose strength. That is implicit in the
>From a geopolitical perspective, we already have seen the United
States transiting from the Iraqi war phase toward confrontation
with the surrounding states. Saudi leaders capitulated in
fundamental ways before the United States went to war, permitting
U.S. aircraft to fly air strikes against Iraq and allowing U.S.
forces to pass through Saudi territory. Jordan and Kuwait are not
problems. But there are three issues: Syria, Turkey and Iran.
* Syria: Syrian behavior has become unpredictable. The Syrians
have long understood that, as a consequence of the war, their
country would be surrounded by three enemies: the United States,
Turkey and Israel. Rather than trying to reach an accommodation
with the United States, Damascus stepped up its aggressive
behavior during the war, permitting volunteers to go into Iraq to
fight coalition forces and apparently permitting Iraqi personnel
to seek shelter in Iraq. The Bush administration has made it
clear that it finds Syrian behavior intolerable, and Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has refused to rule out assertive
action against Syria. There was no question but that the United
States was going to confront Syria at some point from its bases
in Iraq, but the Syrians seem to have chosen to accelerate the
process -- perhaps feeling that a better settlement could be
reached earlier in the game.
* Turkey: Washington needs to defuse the bad end to the pre-war
confrontation. Turkey is a geopolitical foundation of U.S.
strategy -- not only in the Middle East, but also north of the
Caucasus, in southeastern Europe and Iran. A permanent rift with
Turkey would be intolerable. Similarly, the United States remains
the foundation of Turkish national security policy. Without it,
Turkey has fundamental problems. The two countries may not be
friends at the moment, but they share fundamental interests. Both
nations now will attempt to extract themselves from the
unacceptable situation they created for each other. The key will
be limiting Kurdish expectations.
* Iran: the extraordinarily complex game that Tehran is playing
makes Syrian foreign policy transparent. Iran has positioned
itself in such a way that its pro-Iranian Shiite groups in Iraq
could wage a guerrilla war against the United States, while
Tehran holds open the possibility of reaching implicit
accommodations with the United States -- all at the same time.
Iranian subtlety notwithstanding, Washington regards Iran as the
single most potentially dangerous regime in the region, because
of both its resources and the complexity of its politics and
policies. Iran has positioned itself to be fundamentally
unpredictable -- and having achieved this goal, it concerns the
United States tremendously.
Therefore, if the goal of the United States was to create a base
of operations in Iraq from which to influence the dynamics of the
region internally, the game is in play even before the war is
formally ended. The Syrian situation will probably be contained,
but it represents a fundamentally destabilizing factor to the
region. The Iranian situation is much more difficult to predict
in the long run, even as the Iranians practice their
traditionally complex prudence in the short run.""