Friday, September 26, 2003

Judis on Iraq
Don't miss this terrific piece by the level-headed John B. Judis in the American Prospect, about the failure of Bush's Iraq policy. He claims that on every significant point about this adventure, the war skeptics were right and the optimists were wrong. I would qualify that slightly by pointing out that most skeptics, at least in the mainstream media, thought the street fighting for Baghdad would be a bloodbath, which it wasn't initially.

Judis also maintains that Syria has caved in to U.S. pressure a bit, and has cut, or at least minimized its ties to certain terrorist groups, as well as modified its stance on Lebanon. True enough, while I was in Lebanon this summer, Syrian forces pulled out of a number of Lebanese areas and cities, perhaps a response to the pending Syria Accountability Act in Congress. In an uncharacteristic display of good sense, the Bush administration has refused to endorse the act, which would force an end to certain exports to Syria and even hamper the movement of Syrian diplomats in the U.S. The act, beloved by the fanatics over at the Committee For a Free Lebanon, points to the continued Syrian occupation of Lebanon as one of the primary reasons that Syria should be singled out for condemnation.

This, I'm afraid, will not play well in the Arab world. First, characterizing the Syrian presence in Lebanon as an "occupation" is a serious distortion of a complex situation. More importantly, the continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Syrian land (remember the Golan Heights?) would make the U.S. concern for Lebanese sovereignty a bit comical. Besides, it was a U.S. president, George H.W. Bush, who gave the Syrians the green light to consolidate their de facto control over Lebanon in 1991, after Hafez al-Asad contributed to Operation Desert Storm.

In any case, it is becoming increasingly clear that the neocon project to remake the geostrategic map of the Middle East with this invasion has failed miserably. Syria, despite some cosmetic moves against terror, remains fundamentally undemocratic and hostile. Iran, and possibly Saudi Arabia, are going nuclear. None of the other autocrats in the region appear ready or willing to yield power in a democratic revolution. And Iraq...well, just go read Juan Cole's blog every day for the dismaying scoop.

Not surprisingly, Bush's foreign policy numbers have plummeted. He has no remaining strengths as a president. Will the Democrats capitalize?

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