Thomas Friedman surprised me by offering an interesting take on the state of the Middle East today. I’d summarize it as: Iraq is at present the most stable country in the Arab Middle East, at least relative to the others. Why? The US deposed the dictator Saddam Hussein and then actually stuck around long enough to contain the resulting civil war and to channel the opposing sides into working together (comparatively speaking, of course). But Obama’s in trouble now because he wants to get rid of the dictators without expending the effort to shape the region afterward. And now that he’s pulled out of Iraq, even that country might end up mucked up.
Friedman manages to write the entire column without once mentioning Bush’s name, except to say that Iraq and Afghanistan were the trouble spots during his administration. But the entire column is, surprisingly, a tacit vote of approval of the Bush approach versus the Obama one.
From the start I’ve said that if you’re going to invade a country like Iraq and topple a dictator, you’d better be willing to stick around for the difficult reconstruction. I once thought we had the stomach for the enterprise, but some time in the middle of the first decade of 2000 I realized that we didn’t.