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In 2003 American forces successfully took Baghdad, but without the benefit of a "day after" civil-military stabilization plan.Yet 13 years of chaos in Iraq, punctuated by other setbacks, seem to have convinced some Americans that the United States simply can do nothing right in the Middle East and should therefore leave.America is not stronger standing alone.Disengagement would probably mean distancing the United States, both militarily and diplomatically, from conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Libya, and from "nation-building" in the sense of intensive advisory efforts accompanied by security and economic assistance. The guiding philosophy might be something on the order of letting conflicts burn themselves out while the United States keeps a safe distance from indigenous actors and their allegedly age-old conflicts. Aspects of American policy toward Syria over the past five years – in particular a decision to offer no protection to Syrian civilians from their own government's policy of mass homicide – constitute a partial trial run for disengagement in this sense of the word. Still: American failures in the Middle East have had specific authors, causes and circumstances.What happens in the Middle East will not stay in the Middle East.
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