Listen closely, do you hear that sound? Perhaps it isn’t a “great whooshing sound”, but it is the whisper of a changing policy on Iraq. The Generals in Chief now admit that things may not be going right after all and that the bright new democracy that we created to replace the Evil One may be falling into civil war. Really? Where on earth did they get that notion? Even Tom Friedman, one of the biggest supporters of our misguided policy (if not always its execution) seems finally to be throwing in the towel. Can a last ditch October surprise to help save the Republicans in the coming election be far behind? Perhaps, but don’t count on the forces having been unleashed in a Middle East now torn completely asunder to be cooperative.
They asked both generals if they could have predicted this a year ago. Abizaid quickly said no, Pace noticeably hesitated and then concurred. One wonders what he was thinking – should I lie or should I tell them we were clueless. Donald Rumsfeld took umbrage when Senator Clinton suggested not so subtly that he had screwed up in a major way and should be held accountable – read that fired. Don’t hold your breath. The Decider is unlikely to make that decision. Meanwhile Afghanistan is declining into the narco-feudalism from whence it recently came and Israel, the only real democracy in the area, is facing the first truly threatening threat in a very long time, if ever. Tom Friedman says Iran will not ultimately gain from Iraq’s dismemberment, but the question is whether we have time for long term work outs. We find ourselves at our most vulnerable just at a moment when the world desperately needs some powerful leadership not to mention credible leadership.
A woman from the Gaza “Street” was interviewed by BBC the other day. She said nothing can change until and unless the Israel-Palestinian situation is resolved. That may seem simplistic and formulistic in the face of what’s going on and all its complexities not the least of which is ever growing radicalization across the Moslem world. But I think she is essentially right. Friedman suggests a world conference to settle the Iraq quagmire. I think one may be more urgently needed to get that woman’s problem solved. The fact is that her concern is equally that of ordinary Israeli citizens. They may currently support their government’s overwhelming response to ongoing rocket attacks (and who can blame them) but deep down they know what has to be done. It isn’t only that tourism has been brought to a standstill, if things don’t change a lot of people, especially those with children, may opt to move out of the neighborhood. Perhaps militant Islamists are willing to sacrifice themselves and their families, but for the most part human nature is to survive and everyone has a breaking point.
The partisan in me doesn’t hope that Bush can dig himself out, nor necessarily does it believe that he has either the intention or the capability. The American in me hopes that we can indeed change course and begin crawling out of this deepening hole, sooner rather than later. Our survival may depend on it.