“No one has any idea what the Middle East will look like next year, much less in five years — especially the revolutionary players themselves.
There are not even the old familiar fault lines this revolutionary time around. Are the Sunni Gulf kingdoms eager to support revolutionaries in Syria and North Africa? Perhaps and perhaps not — given that the fall of strongmen like Mubarak, bin Ali, Qaddafi, and Assad may lead to Muslim Brotherhood–inspired Islamist governments, which would like to see the oil-rich monarchies become less Western and more theocratic. Or — though this is less likely — if pro-Western reformist movements were to prevail, such governments would like to democratize and secularize the Gulf. Who are our best allies in breaking up the dangerous Iran-Hezbollah-Syria axis? Islamist extremists who want to kill the hated Assad slightly more than they do us — at least for now?
Who can sort out Lebanon? Are Christians and Shiites there sympathetic to the tottering Assad dictatorship for protecting religious minorities and, in the case of the Shiites, helping to arm Hezbollah? Or do non-Sunnis also favor reform movements that seek the ouster of a despised police state, one that has a long history of killing Lebanese? Does a grateful Iraq feel that Syria has been more sympathetic to its Shiite government than its Sunni neighbors have been, or is it experiencing schadenfreude that its terrorists are now doing to Syria what Syria’s used to do to Iraq?
Will new Arab Islamist governments seek solidarity with the anti-Western Persian theocracy, or will they fall back into their religious and ethnic fears of Iranian Shiites? No one has ever quite fathomed whether Shiite and Sunni extremists hate Westerners more or less than they do each other. Does the supposed Arab Street desire to be free, especially in the age of globalized instant communications, and given its general repugnance for the sheer corruption of the moribund Arab dictatorships? Or will the Muslim Brotherhood simply tap that popular anger to abort the delivery of constitutional government — whether overtly, as in the case of the Iranian revolution and the one-vote-once Hamas takeover of Gaza; or more insidiously, as in the current Turkish government’s war against freedom of the press and independent opposition movements, or in the Karzai-Maliki paradigm of constitutional kleptocracy?
Amid this chaos there are a handful of constants that can guide U.S. foreign policy.”