Tigerhawk quotes an interesting assessment by Stratfor of the emerging alignment of powers in the Middle East and President Bush's goals there.
The president’s primary goal in 2008 is simple: reaching an arrangement with Iran. Ideally, this would be a mutually agreed upon deal that splits influence in Iraq, but we have already moved past the point where that is critical. Al Qaeda, the reason for being involved in the region in the first place, is essentially dead. The various Sunni Arab powers that made al Qaeda possible have lined up behind Washington. Iran and the United States may still wish to quibble over details, but the strategic picture is clearing: a U.S.-led coalition is going to shape the Middle East, and it is up to Iran whether it wants to play the role of that coalition’s spear or its target. And the Bush administration has the full power of the United States — and one long year — to drive that point home.
This is a fascinating perspective. What seems to be emerging in West Asia is something similar to what the US constructed in Europe in the 1940's -- a defensive strategic alliance (NATO), led by the United States, that ensured American dominance in the region for decades to come.
We should also note that the Bush administration has also been forging similar strategic alliances in East Asia. There the United States, Australia, India, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have established a series of agreements on military, environmental, and economic affairs aimed at creating a "strategic partnership" to counter China's growing influence. [here] and [here]
Finally, we should note the resurgence of NATO. Responding to Russian and Iranian provocations several senior European military officials have proposed a radical reorganization of the alliance. Wretchard at the Belmont Club explains:
The gist of the proposal is that the West should stand ready to conduct a pre-emptive nuclear strike against "key threats" like "political fanaticism and religious fundamentalism" and "international terrorism, organised crime" which are on the brink of acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
But that is not all they propose.
[T]he generals call for an overhaul of Nato decision-taking methods, a new "directorate" of US, European and Nato leaders to respond rapidly to crises, and an end to EU "obstruction" of and rivalry with Nato. Among the most radical changes demanded are:
A shift from consensus decision-taking in Nato bodies to majority voting, meaning faster action through an end to national vetoes.
The abolition of national caveats in Nato operations of the kind that plague the Afghan campaign.
Read the report here.
Essentially this would decouple NATO's decision-making apparatus from the EU's political leadership and integrate it far more closely into the American strategic complex. It is interesting that the authors of the report cite Bush's Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates' criticism of the EU and its constraints on effective action. [Gates comments and the reaction to them are discussed here]
What Bush is attempting to build is a globe-spanning set of mutual security arrangements, not unlike those of the Cold War, aimed at containing the major anti-western powers of Russia, China, and Iran as well as preventing the spread of nuclear technology. He is attempting to establish a framework for future American global involvement that will serve as an alternative to the largely dysfunctional UN and the EU. It is a bold vision, as are most of his initiatives, and it guarantees US global involvement for some time to come, regardless of who occupies the Oval Office.
Victoria Nuland, US Ambassador to NATO, discusses some of the changes that are taking place in the treaty organization here.
The alliance that never fired a shot in the Cold War is learning on the job. Just as the Iraq war forced adaptation in American military and development tactics and strategy, the Afghanistan mission is forcing changes in NATO. With each passing month, Canadians, Germans, Poles, Spaniards, Latvians and our other allies learn more about what it takes to wage a 21st-century counterinsurgency -- a combined civil-military effort that puts warriors side by side with development workers, diplomats and police trainers. Whether flying helicopters across the desert, embedding trainers with the Afghans, conducting tribal shuras with village elders or running joint civilian-military Provincial Reconstruction Teams, most of our allies are reinventing the way they do business.Indeed they are!