The year 2010 was a depressing one in the foreign-policy world; the decline and fall of a world empire, no matter how well-deserved its fate, should be seen only as a tragedy.  The sheer scale of its fatal gigantism portends a Stentorian scream as it falls into the abyss—and we heard the first painful groans this year.

Afghanistan: Here on the central front of our endless “War on Terror,” the Taliban is fighting us to a standstill.  There’s only one way out, and that’s defining “victory” down and promising an eventual withdrawal.  Neither party in Washington has any use for the nation-building counterinsurgency strategy championed by Gen. David Petraeus, and as Republicans increasingly question this decade-long pursuit of Bin Laden’s ghost, the so-called COIN-dinistas are on the defensive in Washington—where the real battle over Afghanistan will take place.

Iraq: The laboratory of the COIN-dinistas, Gen. Petraeus’s Gaul, where the “surge” supposedly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, is coming undone.  The general’s reputation as the best strategist since Julius Caesar is based on the great “success” of the Iraq war, which, in spite of it all, was “won”—thanks to the politico-military principle of “clear, hold, and build,” as encoded in the Pentagon’s official counterinsurgency manual, authored by Petraeus and his COIN-dinistas.  Think of it as the contemporary equivalent of Caesar’s Commentaries.  By splitting the Sunni, and arming the anti-Qaeda militias of the “Awakening” movement, Petraeus is credited with bringing the country under control.  The problem with this heroic narrative is that it has nothing in common with the reality of a reawakened “Awakening” among the Sunni, with a sharp increase in Sunni-Shiite intercommunal violence.  To cap off the fraud of our Iraqi Potemkin village, President Obama’s much-vaunted announcement of a “mission change,” the slow-motion “withdrawal” of troops is more than compensated for by the influx of mercenaries.

Pakistan and Central Asia: Here we surpass the dreams of Alexander, as we chase after the Islamist Pimpernel and begin to launch much more than mere drone attacks.  Pakistan is the real objective of the War Party, and U.S. troops are already reportedly crossing the border and striking deep into Pakistani territory.  The weak and corrupt regime in Islamabad can barely hold onto power, let alone hold the country together, and continued U.S. incursions are sure to bring it down.  Although the alleged threat of an Islamist takeover is the deus ex machina of the interventionist morality play, a more likely scenario is a military coup and the return of a Musharraf figure—perhaps the old general himself.  An interesting sidelight: The emerging Indo-American alliance was announced just as the WikiLeaks cables confirmed reports that India’s occupation of Kashmir employs torture and summary execution, with many thousands murdered, maimed, or made homeless.

Yemen: The Saudi peninsula has always been the primary bastion of American power and influence in the region, but that power and influence has been in retreat since the abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops from the kingdom in 2003.  Since then we have been confined to the Gulf fringes, Oman and Qatar, but Yemen is a stronghold of Al Qaeda and the historic seat of the Bin Laden clan, where a half-century-old civil war has reignited with a vengeance.  WikiLeaks informs us that U.S. air strikes, disguised as the work of the Yemeni air force, are targeting alleged Al Qaeda bases whence the Underwear Bomber was dispatched.  The FedEx’d bombs timed to go off in midair over London were sent from Yemen, and this is yet another rationale for deepening U.S. involvement.  U.S. aircraft are already in the skies: It’s just a matter of time before American boots are on the ground.

Israel-Palestine: The complete humiliation of the Obama administration at Israel’s hands, dramatized by the openly insulting treatment given Vice President Joe Biden on his ill-fated trip, is a pitiful sight to behold.  Even more pathetic is the utter prostration of the President in the face of Netanyahu’s contemptuous indifference to reasonable U.S. requests to rein in the Likudniks’ worst impulses.

On the home front, we endure humiliating airport pat-downs and a gauntlet of scanners and bullying TSA thugs, all on account of some would-be mad bomber who couldn’t even ignite the primitive device secreted in his underclothing.  A fusillade of FedEx packages shuts down several airports, and Big Sis Napolitano exhorts us in every Walmart, “If You See Something, Say Something.”

Once the inner rot makes its way to the surface, what is there left to say?  The empire can survive a Taliban suicide attack, or even another September 11.  Surviving bankruptcy is another matter altogether.