To prepare for an excursion into the real-world workings of strategic triangles, this harshly illuminating conversation between David P. Goldman (‘Spengler’) and the ghost of Cardinal Richelieu is worth recalling:
“We are a bit confused about Syria,” I began. “Its leader, Bashar al-Assad, is slaughtering his own people to suppress an uprising. And he is allied to Iran, which wants to acquire nuclear weapons and dominate the region. If we overthrow Assad, Sunni radicals will replace him, and take revenge on the Syrian minorities. And a radical Sunni government in Syria would ally itself with the Sunni minority next door in Iraq and make civil war more likely.”
“I don’t understand the question,” Richelieu replied.
“Everyone is killing each other in Syria and some other places in the region, and the conflict might spread. What should we do about it?”
“How much does this cost you?”
“Nothing at all,” I answered.
“Then let them kill each other as long as possible, which is to say for 30 years or so. Do you know,” the ghastly Cardinal continued, “why really interesting wars last for 30 years? That has been true from the Peloponnesian War to my own century. First you kill the fathers, then you kill their sons. There aren’t usually enough men left for a third iteration.”
“We can’t go around saying that,” I remonstrated.
ADDED: DrewM at AoS channels Richelieu from the id: “Personally, I’m happy to let [the Syrians] fight it out amongst themselves for a good long time. Hell, let’s arm both sides.”