Kissinger's approach to statecraft in terms of 'balance of power' has been under fire these days. With good reason. Let's look at all the civil wars we put our fingers in, only to make a hash of it. But 'balance of power' still needs to be in the analysis, as can be seen in the current ascendancy of Iran.
What was going on before our war in Iraq? There were two powerful countries fighting each other constantly, degrading their resources and strength trying to kill each other. Hence, a balance between them, since neither side truly dominated the other. There was also a check on the power of both in the form of the other country.
Enter the United States. "Hey, let's get rid of the Saddam Hussein guy and establish truth and beauty in Iraq! Imagine how grateful the Iraqis will be!" Aside from the merits of the grand political experiment, the U.S. upset the balance of power between the two nations and the whole region.
With no enemy next door to waste its resources and power on, Iran has been able to shore up, save, rest, and get stronger. Now they are being viewed as a stabilizing force. Their power is being felt all over the Middle East, and the U.S. has only itself to thank.
It has always been Econo-Girl's contention that all this 'hating your neighbor' thing in the Middle East is a distraction from widespread civil wars. Like in almost every country there. Witness the children who were assassinated yesterday in the Palestinian Territory. The Middle East is unstable because most of its countries are unstable.
So, what could distract Iran once again, causing them to spend resources tilting at another windmill? A Shiite-Sunni war. The disadvantage would be that the entire region would erupt. Such a conflict would not help anyone.
Now don't get hysterical. Econo-Girl does not think this is, ever was, or should be, a policy goal of the United States. No one was thinking of religious war going into Iraq. That's what you have to understand about Americans, we don't spend a lot of time thinking.
Also, an intra-religious war was the one thing al Qaida was trying to avoid, until they used tensions between Sunni and Shiite to destabilize Iraq. The short term goal of putting a finger in the eye of the U.S. has ruined the long-term goal of al Qaida of a pan-Islamic movement. Cooperation between Muslim sects has seriously degraded and the whole idea of a pan-Muslim political movement is over.
You know, like 'together we stand, divided we fall'?