The “Domino Theory” made headlines during the Viet Nam war, i.e. that if we left that country the entire southeast would fall to the Communists and be lost forever to rapprochement with the west. That isn’t quite what happened; Viet Nam appears to have a bustling economy whatever its political inclinations, with the U. S. and others pursuing diplomatic and economic relations there.
But it is today that, relatively un-remarked, the dominoes have begun to fall. Caught in the vortex of failed policies our prestige in the world has evaporated and, far from spreading democracy to other lands, we have contributed to the fracturing of fledgling democracies and countenanced a host of muddle-headed decisions. And with the prospect of a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq our country’s well being will continue to be compromised as a result of an unconscionably flawed rationale for invasion and a naïve, under-informed post-war strategy.
And all this has been accomplished by the Bush administration with a sang froid that is both puzzling and terrifying. The president rejects any notion that our invasion of Iraq has been normative in the growing hatred and distrust of our country by the Muslim world, saying recently that they ‘didn’t like us much even before we invaded.’ In passing we have seen the diminution of prisoners’ rights to habeas corpus and a willingness to forgo the strictures of the Geneva Conventions on a technicality that un-uniformed combatants shouldn’t be allowed to claim rights of any kind. One can only imagine the outcry if one of our nationals was held without charges or legal representation for years.
The country is sunk in a moral miasma in which there are people who suggest that prisoners at Guantanamo have a rather pleasant existence – – three squares, freedom to pray and clean linens, an observation reminiscent of Barbara Bush visiting displaced Katrina victims at the Houston Astrodome where she allowed as how the folks there weren’t used to much anyway so the sports arena “was working quite well for them.”
There seems to be a disconnect on the part of the Bush family and many Republican stalwarts that keeps them at a far remove from the human condition except insofar as it affects them directly. After all, three squares isn’t any real solace to people imprisoned for years without charges any more than the Astrodome was a little slice of heaven for people who had just lost their homes and all their possessions. This is a structural collapse all our own as our nation is imperiled by a government that undermines our Constitution with a series of variables never before contemplated.
Wavering political entities are barely standing in Iraq and Afghanistan where our ill- conceived efforts to promote democratic institutions have left faltering governments with no real power to conduct their countries’ business effectively. In addition to having failed to fill power vacuums of our creation, we also neglected to develop programs for the local populace so in the case of Iraq, hordes of the disaffected joined violent insurgencies that have become a way of life. And in Afghanistan, with no viable economic alternatives, poppy farming has once again become that nation’s most lucrative occupation, its crop the source for production of the world’s largest heroin supply.
Elsewhere in a region marked by violence and instability our leaders joined Israel in condemning Palestine’s democratically-elected Hamas leaders, and supported Israel’s effort to topple that regime. And last summer we condoned the death and destruction Israel wreaked on south Lebanon, which has served to increase Lebanese support for Hezbollah and threatens to dismantle the fragile democracy there.
To date there has been no measurable success in the attainment of any of this administration’s stated goals but there remain very real fears about what might occur in the region if we left Iraq precipitously. The Iraq Study Group said as much and proposed an approach that would include talking to neighboring regimes and establishing a timetable of sorts for departure. It is presumptuous of course for a commission to dictate the conduct of foreign policy to a sitting president. And although there may be some points with which the president might concur, there isn’t a whole lot of hope we will just up and leave any time soon, leaving the people of Iraq to muddle through the violent backdrop that has accompanied the “freedom” we initiated.
But while there may be good reasons to discuss conditions in Iraq with Syria and Iran the president is unlikely to agree to such meet-ups, and probably not simply for political reasons but, more importantly, because he lacks the diplomatic skills and the intellect to engage with other leaders about serious matters of state.
Thus Iraq and its neighbors will continue to be an endangered landscape in a state of disruption that has only been further disabled by our intransigence – – on the verge of disintegrating in scenarios that could in fact become a latter-day domino theory played out across the Middle East.

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