The collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1991 was unnerving. Nobody in the USA knew what to think of it. The mortal enemy and (mortal enemy ideology) which had controlled and dictated nearly every aspect of USA actions outside its borders since 1945 no longer existed.
Just think. The entire US defense and state departments, the country's entire non-domestic infrastructure, every textbook and think-tank and top secret report and bulletin, the mission statement for the country's entire military, were all suddenly and crushingly obsolete. All those nukes and no one to aim them at. No dominoes left to fall -- and nobody left to push them.
BushCo. now try to make the "war on terror" into the new Cold War -- but the details do not fit nor does the conceptual model.
Even a cursory reading of 1950s historic material shows the USSR was just as afraid of the USA as the USA was of USSR. It was like a dog barking at itself in the mirror, baring its teeth, and then seeing the dog in the mirror baring its teeth, and then the escalation took off from there. The post-WW II era left these two countries armed to to the teeth with brand new weapons technology, light years more advanced than pre WW II, with nothing to do with it except use it. Coming out of a 5 year war where each country's military was allowed to call all the shots, these military factions were little interested in giving up their place at the head of their respective nation's table. The USA and USSR military each felt compelled to call WW II the "first step" in a "long plan" to achieve this or that objective and to achieve "true security." True security meant rushing in to control virtually every corner of the world the other guy hadn't already gotten to first.
The USA is now, in some respects, like a heroin addict who steals TVs to buy a fix and forgets that if he wasn't a heroin addict he could buy 12 TVs a week or open a whole TV shop. Oil is our heroin. Chasing the mythical goal of total oil control has now cost us $300 billion in Iraq and will likely cost another $200 billion more. $500 billion could've bought a lot of oil. And we don't have a barrel to show for it. Using $500 billion to GET OFF oil might have put us far down the road to getting us off oil. But the USA, in some deep ways, is a profoundly anti-intellectual society. Given spending the same money to (perhaps) develop energy security by spending $500 billion to bomb a country and the same amount of money to wean us off oil, most Americans would choose bombs. Spending money on bombs supports the military, which is always great. Spending money to wean us off oil means paying a bunch of weird scientists, who should just go out and get real jobs instead of sucking off the government tit.
So far in Iraq we've spent $300 billion and have nothing to show for it except dead bodies. The USA is not more secure as a nation. Iraq is in a shambles, we've ripped apart our own Constitution, the mythical "free oil" we sought in Iraq is not flowing, we are far more addicted to Mideast oil than ever before, and we have no money for scientific research to wean ourselves off oil. How is this behavior not unlike a heroin addict?
The USA has no means to stop Syria and Iran from buying arms from the Soviet Union or China or elsewhere and supplying them to a non-state group like Hezbollah. If anything, the July-August 2006 southern Lebanese War has emboldened this strategy because it has worked. So long as arms proliferation continues, and countries and their corporate sponsors earn $$$ by selling them, it is hard to imagine this 2006 war dissuading any small country, or faction within a country, from not becoming emboldened by what has just happened. If Hezbollah can grind Israel to a stalemate even with Israel being supplied with advanced US bombs, this must tell any other group to consider the option of defense rather than the option of giving up.
BushCo should understand well what happens when a conventional force fights an unconventional force on the home turf of the unconventional combatants. It happened in Viet Nam and is happening now in Iraq. The unconventional fighters disappear to come back another day -- the conventional forces march in columns back to their troop carriers and don't come back. The Viet Cong knew the US forces would eventually leave. The Iraqis of whatever contingent know the US will eventually leave. Hezbollah knows the Israelis will leave southern Lebanon since they cannot hold it forever and Hezbollah knows they can set up a new front at the edge of whatever "new" security zone Israel attempts to establish. Hezbollah states that they have studied in detail the Vietnam War for strategy pointers. Has the US? No. Because half of the US still thinks we "won" the Vietnam War or would have won it if traitorous commies like Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. hadn't screwed it all up (at least until they were assassinated, of course). Oh, John McCain screwed it all up too by faking his capture, imprisonment and torture by the Viet Cong all so he could come back home and defeat America.