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All logic could prove illusory if Iraq's neighbors plunge the region into war. But they, including Iran, desire to avoid the abyss that engulfs their oil production (their only source of funds) and subjects them to internal rebellions. Washington has the diplomatic power to help shape this concern, starting now and including Iran.
To be sure, Arabs don't succumb readily to being herded in one direction, even where common interests dictate. All could bolt for the door, appease the terrorists and just raise oil prices. But we don't know until we try hard.
And we had better try--and soon. Although the last thing Americans want is a defeat in Iraq, events may be sliding in that direction and we need to shrink the fallout. The nightmare scenario could begin now, or in the next two years as troops are withdrawn, or thereafter, abruptly or slowly. To speak of defeat is not to advocate it but to prepare to minimize it.
While the Ford and Carter administrations worked hard to cushion the falling dominoes, the Asian dominoes moved quickly to save themselves by buttressing our power. We can't expect to be as lucky with the denizens of the gulf region. And we certainly wouldn't make our luck by staying the course and hiding behind Bush's fears of Middle East dominoes. We need him to unstrap America's still muscular diplomacy to seed the antiterrorist soil within Iraq, to structure a regional peace among states that cringe from regional war, to blunt the disasters of chaos and defeat--and perhaps even to snatch successes beforehand.