Forgetting to Play to our Strengths

Buried at the end of this LAT article on Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki and the decline of American influence in Iraq is this passage:

At the same time, Iraqi officials complain about the United States’ failure to create a lasting foundation beyond its military presence. Iran has created more than $2 billion in trade with its neighbor, including fuel and electricity exports.

“The Iranians will stay in this place forever till the Judgment Day and the Americans will withdraw,” said Sheik Jalaluddin Saghir, a senior Shiite politician. “The Americans built their status on their military and their political viewpoints. They didn’t try to find shared lines of interest or common ground. . . . The Iranians dealt with this matter in a more positive way.”

This, in a nutshell, explains why we might eventually wind up leaving Iraq with a military draw and a strategic defeat. It also, for that matter, explains why we might eventually set aside our ideological differences with Iran and strike a grand bargain: we’re both trading nations at heart.