Like the proverbial bull in a china shop, why is it the U.S. keeps blundering into tribal, ethnic or sectarian strife leaving behind devastation and hatred not just between factions but also of us?

In Afghanistan, we used the minority Northern Alliance of Tajiks and their friends to topple the universally disliked Taleban; fellow Pashtuns were relieved at their departure.  Instead of capitalizing on their goodwill, we chose to hand over the reins to the Tajiks.  The result now is the "Afghan" army has less than 3 percent Pashtuns – the largest ethnic group.  How can such an army be considered national, constitute security, or contemplate stability?

Efforts to win over the civilian population are hobbled increasingly by the growing lists and tales of atrocities — a not unlikely consequence of the constant harrowing pressure of guerrilla warfare.  Winter is near ending, and attacks are on the rise.  Meanwhile, anticipating the likely course of events , local politicians and leaders have begun to hedge their bets.

In Iraq, huge bombings leaving scores dead are increasing in frequency.  The Shia government has not been able to include or mollify the Sunni elite who had always ruled the country.  Irony of ironies, the government is particularly close to Iran.  So, after years of championing Saddam Hussein as a counterweight to the regime in Iran — including shamefully, real-time targeting data for his chemical weapons — we turned against him instead of reining him in.  The end result:  a devastated Iraq, trillions wasted, and Iran with a surer foothold.

We are now in Libya.  In our defense, it was Mr. Sarkozy who initiated the effort joined by Mr. Cameron of the U.K., both hugely unpopular, and the former recently hammered in local elections.  Angela Merkel stayed away from the party wisely — although more likely also influenced by elections.  What has been achieved?  Nothing much, other than prolonging a civil war that was almost over.  Now the killing continues, and the fragile structure of Libya's petroleum industry is being destroyed.

Money and lives wasted endlessly as ideology, imperial ambitions, oil security, or whatever conquer common sense.

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