Last act in the Mideast

Andrew Bacevich writes:

Gaddafi’s fall (assuming it occurs) will close a chapter in Libyan history but won’t open a new chapter in the history of the Middle East. Libya is an outlier. It won’t be and can’t be a bellwether. Apart from enabling policymakers in Washington, London, and Paris to reclaim a sense of self-importance, Western intervention in Libya will have little effect on the drama now unfolding in the Middle East. Pundits can talk of the United States shaping history. The truth is that history is shaping itself, while we are left to bear witness.

The result is that for the moment serious policy—as opposed to gestures—has become an impossibility. That leaves Americans in a thoroughly un-American position: they must be patient, waiting on events to ripen. In due course the dust will settle. At that time, prudence will dictate that the West make what it can of the outcome, offering support and assistance to Arab governments that share our interests and values and withholding them from those that do not. The big story is this: the century-long battle to control the Middle East is ending. We lost. They won. No amount of high-tech ordnance can alter the outcome.

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