"Democratization in combat boots" has been a glib but accurate way to describe President Bush's foreign policy. But when the history books a hundred years hence are written, the invasion of Iraq will go down as an old-fashioned balancing-of-power success for U.S. policy. Henry Kissinger should be proud.
By creating a Shi‘a Iraq, Bush has superseded the Arab-Israeli balance of power with the Sunni-Shi‘a balance of power, to America's ultimate advantage. Iraq's important characteristic now is that it is Shi‘a; not necessarily democratic, or liberal, but Shi‘a. And through Iraq, Bush will have reconciled all the American national interests in the Middle East for the first time since 1948.
Why is that? Well, since then, the United States has had three policy objectives in the region. In no order, these were 1) support of Israel, 2) access to oil and 3) democratization. Of these, the United States could choose only two.
If America wanted to help Israel and still buy oil, it had to support rulers who did not represent the popular Arab hatred towards Israel and America. If the United States wanted democratic, oil-friendly states, it couldn't support Israel. And if it wanted to support both Israel and Arab democracy, it wouldn't receive oil from elected anti-Israel Arabs.
This was the Gordian knot. Not anymore.
Bush's war transformed Iraq into a Shi‘a-run country. To that end, Iraq's enormous military and economic power have evened the odds between Sunnis and Shi‘a, making the Sunni-Shi‘a sectarian balance of power in the Middle East roughly equal for the first time in history. In this rebalancing, the traditional Sunnis and the Shi‘a finally have to contend with a more immediate threat than Tel Aviv: each other.