The Great Game Ain't So Great Anymore
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No, this isn't about the Super Bowl.
Charles Krauthammer waxes strategic in the Washington Post:
Which is why the fate of the Assad regime [in Syria] is geopolitically crucial. ... But strategic opportunity compounds the urgency. With its archipelago of clients anchored by Syria, Iran is today the greatest regional threat — to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states terrified of Iranian nuclear hegemony; to traditional regimes menaced by Iranian jihadist subversion; to Israel, which the Islamic Republic has pledged to annihilate; to America and the West, whom the mullahs have vowed to drive from the region. 
No surprise that the Arab League, many of whose members are no tenderhearted humanitarians, is pressing hard for Assad’s departure. His fall would deprive Iran of an intra-Arab staging area and sever its corridor to the Mediterranean. Syria would return to the Sunni fold. Hezbollah, Tehran’s agent in Lebanon, could be next, withering on the vine without Syrian support and Iranian materiel. And Hamas would revert to Egyptian patronage. 
At the end of this causal chain, Iran, shorn of key allies and already reeling from economic sanctions over its nuclear program, would be thrown back on its heels. ... It’s not just the Sunni Arabs lining up against Assad. Turkey, after a recent flirtation with a Syrian-Iranian-Turkish entente, has turned firmly against Assad, seeing an opportunity to extend its influence, as in Ottoman days, as protector/master of the Sunni Arabs. The alignment of forces suggests a unique opportunity for the West to help finish the job. ... Force the issue. Draw bright lines. Make clear American solidarity with the Arab League against a hegemonic Iran and its tottering Syrian client.

Krauthammer would make an outstanding television color announcer in case anybody ever forms the National Risk League and broadcasts that old board game where you try to conquer the world. He'd get really worked up over how holding Australia and South America are the keys to the early game and make the whole thing sound kind of exciting.

In the real world, more and more decisionmakers are just kind of checking out of this whole Great Game thing. Consider Iran. In Krauthammer's fevered imagination, Iran is a dynamic hegemon, but according to the CIA World Factbook, Iran is 62nd in the world in terms of military spending as percentage of GDP at 2.50 percent as of 2006.

What are they today, you ask? I dunno. The CIA has barely updated its entire list in about a half of a decade. For example, according to the CIA's listing, the United States is 23rd in the world at 4.06 percent for "2005 est."

Presumably, somebody at Langley has a number for the U.S. that's less than seven years old (I hope), but there just doesn't seem to be much demand from the public or the press for fresher figures. 

There are, as far as I can tell, no military spending moneyballers poring over this table to discover crucial trends. Fewer and fewer people care about the Great Game. Of those who do, an ever-increasing fraction live within the home delivery circulation zone of the Washington Post.

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