Power Line notes this morning:

Even with all of the recent talk about foreign policy “realism,” one of the major tenets of leading realists (George F. Kennan and Hans Morgenthau come to mind) has gone largely ignored. Most realists subscribe to the view that any state that seeks to accumulate too much power will almost surely provoke a balancing coalition of other states seeking to check the expansion of its influence.

Many realists would argue that the U.S. has experienced this phenomenon to its detriment in the past few years. Some realists would also maintain that if the U.S. is “checked” in Iraq, the same dynamic will come into play against the emerging power in the region — Iran. Under this scenario a coalition, led most likely by Saudi Arabia, will seek to balance Iranian power. The religious divide between Sunni and Shia will help propel the coalition building.

Diana West (no “realist” to my knowledge) notes that an adviser to the Saudi government, Nawaf Obaid, has said that in the event of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, the Saudi government might try to check the spread of Iranian influence by supporting Iraq’s Sunni fighters and by inducing a drop in oil prices so as to limit Tehran’s ability to subsidize proxy militias. Diana argues that “a Saudi-Iranian rift over Iraq sounds like a win-win situation for the United States,” especially if accompanied by a drop in oil prices. And she contends that such a scenario provides an alternative to “victory” (probably unattainable) or “cataclysm” in Iraq.

Powerline goes on to muse:

I’d be quite surprised if, in the absence of a U.S. presence in Iraq, the Saudis would be able to counter-balance Iran there.

Frankly, so would I.  Saddam wasn’t able to deal with Iran either.  And the Saudis are certainly less militaristic than were the Iraqis under Saddam… Though given the financial situation they would undoubtedly be better equipped.  And, yes, I’m thinking of this and militaristic terms.  Because, frankly, I don’t see it falling out any other way with Iran, do you? 

Now, as for Diana West, and her reporting of Nawaf Obaid’s comments, I read this as a win / win situation for the United States only if we make the assumption that the victor in such a struggle is not going to come after us, afterward.  Given what we’ve seen of religious fanaticism in that part of the world, I am not so sure, particularly given I think Iran …by far the more fanatical… is going to be the victor in that contest.  Is anyone, Diana West included, so naive as to consider that once the smaller target is out of the way the aggressor won’t come looking for fresh meat? 

The same comments would seem to apply to Powerline’s suggesting that such a conflict would not affect the security of the United States. Add to that, the situation of oil and energy being a vital component to the security of the United States, and you’re running a very risky play indeed. Unattractively so. 

I also don’t except their analysis as regards the possibility of victory in Iraq, but then you knew that.

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