The Islamic Republic of Iran has, by its own admission and actions, been at war with the United States for 34 years. Since the hostage taking of the US embassy in Tehran, 6 different US presidents have had to deal with the Iranian problem. Using different tactics, and at times looking dazed and blind-folded, the US has been searching for a way to win that war.
Regarding the Middle East wars, the Republican view has mostly been more optimistic (if not wishful thinking) than the more pragmatic (if not cynical) view held by the Democrats. The naïve optimism of Republicans has lead them to believe that things can’t get any worse in the Middle East, whereas the more pessimist Democrats know that it can!
The stated goal of George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq was to “bring democracy” and remove the tyranny of Saddam. Based on US actions, they seem to have foolishly believed their own dream. As a result, the United States dragged almost the entire Western civilization into the surrealistic, mind boggling exercise of “democracy building” in the heart of the Middle East (the cradle of tyrannical civilization).
In contrast, the more pragmatic Democrats seem to have come to the conclusion that “East will be East”. Why raise a million-man army and spend a trillion dollars on building a house of cards on the Middle Eastern sand? If Democracy could or can flourish there, it would have, or will, on its own. Our job is just to support that process … cautiously and from a distance.
For practical reasons, and not just as a cynical view, the US policy swing between the Republican and Democrat presidents can be summed up as: “let’s go and fight them” versus “let them fight each other”. The only constant seems to be the “fighting”, which has been going on forever in the Middle East.
G.W. Bush thought that he could go to Iraq, kill all the “bad guys” and then let the “good” guys establish their own democracy ... like a 21st century John Wayne! On the contrary, President Obama seems to believe that the Middle East is made of fundamentally different type of people and culture, who may or may not be able or, even willing to establish Western style, open societies.
Indeed, it has proven to be the best (for the West and for the Middle East too) to limit our engagements; especially on the war front. It has certainly served the United States best (during the Clinton and Obama years) to watch the Middle East wars from a distance; only help a little here and a there; and always be wary of the Muslim “friends” and “foes” alike.
Winning the war on terror (nowadays Islamism) has proven impossible through direct and brutal Western action. This is not a war that can be won and finished in short years. This is a war of civilizations and cultures, which has been going on at least since the Arab invasion and burning of Alexandria some 1,400 years ago. This is not a short sprint that can be won by the likes of Bush and Netanyahu. This is truly a Marathon, which can even be traced back to the Persian invasion and burning of Athens.