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August 07, 2005

"Hated and Not Feared"

Does anybody dispute that the Bush administration's adventure in Iraq has inflicted the worst strategic defeat on America in fifty years--the worst since Douglas MacArthur triggered Chinese intervention in the Korean War?

Stanley Kober writes:

Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy: Karim Sadjadpour... in Beirut's Daily Star on September 17, 2004, [writes]:

While Bush administration officials talked of how success in Iraq would change the political culture of the Middle East, few seemed to contemplate the regional repercussions for Washington if things didn't go as planned. In the case of Iran, the chaotic state of postwar Iraq has served not to intimidate Tehran's mullahs but rather to embolden them. Today, nearly 17 months after the fall of Baghdad, Iran's Islamic regime appears more entrenched than it has been in over a decade.... Tehran's ruling mullahs have far more reason to smile than their counterparts in Washington. Rather than extinguish Iran's Islamic regime, the Iraq war seems to have given it new life.

And finally... Barry Rubin in the Jerusalem Post:

Something remarkable has happened, even by the Middle East's usual standards. For the first time in history states in the region are conducting a systematic, covert war against the United States. The question is, what can America do about it? Not much....

Having gone into Iraq and found that step so controversial and relatively unsuccessful, the US is not going to undertake other offensive actions, whether or not they seem justifiable to some observers. Arguably, any gain in the "fear factor" brought about by the US overthrow of Saddam is being eroded. Those who argue, in the words of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini two decades ago, that the US cannot do a "damn thing" are having that feeling reinforced today.

The Iraq war's outcome has undermined the credibility of US power no matter how long American forces remain in Iraq. Indeed, one could argue that the longer they remain, the worse the problem will become...

In his classic work, The Prince, Machiavelli wrote "a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred; because he can endure very well being feared whilst he is not hated." In other words, the best position to be in is to be feared and loved; the next best is to be feared and not hated; and the prince should avoid being hated and feared. Tellingly, Machiavelli did not even consider the possibility of being hated and not feared - presumably because a prince in that position would not be a prince for very long.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the situation in which the United States now finds itself. Fear of American power is diminishing, while animosity toward U.S. policy is increasing. We are, in short, in the worst situation possible, and as a consequence we can expect further grim challenges ahead.

Posted by DeLong at August 7, 2005 08:28 PM