America has spent a trillion dollars and thousands of lives trying to nation-build in the Muslim world in the last decade. The optimistic Bush view that all Arabs needed was to be freed from tyrants looks ever less realistic.
On the campaign trail Mitt Romney has been clobbering Barack Obama for being too keen on the Arab awakening. Many conservative Americans associate it with hostile Islamists, like the Muslim Brothers and their friends who now run Egypt and Tunisia, and see it as a threat to America’s ally, Israel. Americans of all sorts are nervous about being dragged into Syria and worried about Iran getting the bomb. They are fed up with being described as anti-Islam when their country is in fact far more welcoming to Shia Muslims than, say, Sunni Saudi Arabia is. With their troops now mercifully out of Iraq, their efforts to push the Israeli-Palestinian peace process going nowhere and shale gas reducing their dependence on Arab oil, surely it is time for them to leave the world’s least grateful people to make a mess of their lives by themselves?This is a seductive narrative—and no doubt it will play even better on the campaign trail after Mr Stevens’s death (see Lexington). But it is deeply wrong in both its analysis and its conclusions. Many parts of the Arab world are in fact heading in the right direction. And in the parts that are not, notably Syria, the United States is more needed than ever.
It is insane to imagine America getting involved in Syria, at least on any terms of engagement "international opinion" would accept which would entail US troops being allowed to adequately defend themselves.
America needs to disengage or destroy, not nation-build for those who do not want it. And the US is rarely if ever cruel enough to destroy, like Tokyo or Berlin in the Second World War. So that logically leaves disengagement.