Back before the U.S. invaded Iraq, a number of worst case scenarios were advanced by anti-war activists, with the effects of the invasion depicted as rippling through the region, toppling friendly regimes and resulting in general chaos. These of course were largely dismissed or ridiculed by proponents of the war. But now David Brooks has apparently reconsidered. In After The Fall he envisions just that occurring through the course of a "thirty year war" which follows a U.S. withdrawal:
In fall 2007, the United States began to withdraw troops from Iraq, and so began the Second Thirty Years’ War. This war was a bewildering array of small and vast conflicts, which flared and receded and flared again across the entire Middle East, but which were joined by a common theme.Meanwhile, Spencer Ackerman reminds us that before the war we were often hearing quite the opposite from the pro-war side.
The essence of all this disorder was that the Arab nation-states lost control. Subnational groups — like Hezbollah and the Mahdi Army — and supranational groups — like loosely connected terror networks, the new Sunni and Shiite Leagues and the satellite television networks — went from strength to strength while central national governments toppled and fell. The collapse of national governments led to a power vacuum that the more authentic and deeply rooted social groups sought to fill.
These scenarios have their value, of course, and at times they may even prove to be what occurs. But for the most part they have to be recognized for what they are - a doctrinaire trip down the slipperly slope. The proponents of all of these scenarios have one thing in common - they underestimate the ability of tyrants and dictators to control their populations and hold on to power.