The Present Dilemma

Marc Lynch appears on a Cato panel and comes away with a great post. First on the intellectual laziness and dishonesty pervading our culture:

I gave my usual argument about what happened in the Sunni areas, which I won't recapitulate here. I concluded with my mind-boggling experience yesterday of watching an American neoconservative on al-Jazeera lecturing a Sunni Iraqi tribal shaykh - in English - about what is really going on in the Sunni tribal areas, and warned against believing our own propaganda about the Sunni areas.

But of course, Lynch is an Arabist, so you don't want to trust him. Then, he channels James Dobbins:

He argued that no civil war can ever be resolved if the country's neighbors don't want it to be resolved; the US can either contain Iran or stabilize Iraq, but it can't have both.

This seems important to me, and at least one reason to believe that withdrawing from Iraq might change things in that country for the better. Iran's interests are better-served by a stable Iraq than by a chaotic, violent Iraq. But Iran's interests are better-served by a chaotic, violent Iraq than by a stable Iraq that collaborates with American efforts to overthrow the Iranian government.

I would love to see a large-scale diplomatic rapprochement with Iran, but barring such an unlikely reversal of alliances (and as Dan Drezner and I agree on BHTV we probably don't want to see someone as inept as Bush even try super-ambitious diplomacy), the best thing we could probably do for Iraq in this regard is to just make it not be a proxy ground for US-Iranian conflict. The idea that Iran would adopt an attitude of indifference to events in an adjacent country is ridiculous, as is this notion that they'll adopt such an attitude if we complain loud enough. For the US, by contrast, not occupying Iraq is a very realistic option.