The hubris and self-confidence needed for expeditions into foreign lands have been devastated by the economic meltdown in our midst. Of the good manners and pliability of foreign regimes, we can be less certain. Nature abhors a vacuum, and challengers are sure to step forth. To its surprise, the new administration could yet discover that our adversaries do not wish to see our withdrawal from their midst. The Iranians thrive on the American presence in the Persian Gulf and feed off it. They are the quintessential oppositional force. They are not good at generating policies of their own. Their work consists of subversive attacks on Pax Americana in the region. The call by President Bush's critics for a dialogue with Iran will be exposed for the pathetic fraud it has been all along. The American drama swirling around the rise of Mr. Obama is of no interest to the theocrats in Tehran. For them, it is business as usual in the Persian Gulf.
We have witnessed the gains and the heartbreak of American activism and ambition on foreign shores. Around the corner lurk the risks of caution and reticence, of enemies who could see through, and test, our fatigue. The world is under no obligation to accommodate us.
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