If only we could have seen this coming

The history of American intervention in the Middle East is largely a history of unintended consequences. Backing the Shah of Iran set into motion a sequence of events which led more or less directly to 9/11. And, well, once again it looks as if things may not work out as well as the strategists and visionaries might have hoped:

When the Bush administration decided to invade Iraq two years ago, it envisioned a quick handover to handpicked allies in a secular government that would be the antithesis of Iran’s theocracy — potentially even a foil to Tehran’s regional ambitions.

But, in one of the greatest ironies of the U.S. intervention, Iraqis instead went to the polls and elected a government with a strong religious base — and very close ties to the Islamic republic next door. It is the last thing the administration expected from its costly Iraq policy — $300 billion and counting, U.S. and regional analysts say.