The present-day Islamic Republic of Iran and the former Imperial State of Iran are organized according to completely different political arrangements. The first is a theocratic regime, based upon the ideals of the Islamic revolution with an all-powerful clerical Supreme Leader. The second, the Imperial State, was a secular, absolute monarchy. The Shah’s Iran was a stable, respected power in a vital region. The Islamic Republic is an international pariah that openly flouts global norms. Yet, the Shah’s Iran and the Islamic Republic of Iran are very similar indeed in terms of aspiration. If we look at the ends and ways to expand or maintain influence, there are more similarities than differences.
The 1991 Persian Gulf War offers a recent, and often misunderstood, example of how a decisive victory resulted not in peaceful disengagement, but rather an ongoing commitment of manageable intensity...Similar to British maintenance of maritime commercial lanes at the height of its imperial influence, America’s subsequent projection of modest ground, naval, and aerial forces throughout the region, and in northern and southern Iraq in particular, throughout the 1990s represent an underappreciated, but largely cost-effective, application of national resources to preserve acceptable levels of economic and political stability.
China is often credited with taking the long view to achieve its strategic goals; however, that luxury may be coming to an end. There is an oft-quoted story about former Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, who, when asked about the effects of the French Revolution on China, demonstrated the Chinese long view by answering, “It is too soon to tell.” U.S. strategists...have watched China slowly grow in power, both militarily and economically, over the last few decades with an arguable long-term goal of displacing the U.S. as the dominant global power...China has remained in the shadows of global security, rarely venturing out to address even regional challenges, hoping their gradual, long term, hegemonic rise would become a fait accompli. That hope may now be at risk.