Few weeks ago, in response to a question about Iraq, George Bush said: “Absolutely yes, we are winning!”
Two days ago, in response to a question about Iraq, George Bush said: “We’re not winning but we’re not losing!”
The president that does not change his opinion is changing his opinion. He can, with respect to Iraq, retreat from the decisive clarity to ambiguity and confusion. It so happened that, in the time period separating the two answers, Bush, for sure, lost in…the United States.
“We’re not winning but we’re not losing!” is the headline of the present moment in the American Policy towards Iraq, a characterization expressing the onset of the feeling of the quandary, even though he accompanied that [statement] with an obstinacy that rejects the acknowledgment.
But the problem is that the situation is deteriorating. It is not feasible that the President was not briefed on the official reports speaking about approximately one hundred and fifty daily military attack operations in Iraq, most of which are against the American forces, although the most bloody ones are against Iraqis.
If we assumed that the President read the Baker-Hamilton Report, then the conclusion, that he passed over the lines stating that the calculation method of the number of operations is not accurate because it does not record all what happens, would be due to us.
The report cited an example about a day during which less than one hundred operations were reported to have been carried out, while the truth is, more than one thousand operations were carried out [during that same day].
With simple arithmetic, and building on comparisons with previous reports, it is possible to say that a military operation is carried out in Iraq every minute or two and that the pattern is to increase.
“We’re not winning but we’re not losing!” is a strategy at which steadfastness is difficult. Clearly Bush wants the application of rotting breaks to curtail the deterioration. He requests supplementary budgets to go around the Congress. He is inclined toward the proposal of increasing the fighting forces in Baghdad contrary to opinions of field commanders whose assessments he previously vowed to respect. These remedies are no longer sufficient and weeks will not pass before the white house is forced to make up its mind. It is axiomatic to point out that Bush had been trusting that he will win in Iraq. And what is worse than that is that he built a regional and an international strategy [based] on that hypothesis.
Yes, he established a tight linkage between Iraq and all the crises of the region, not only that, but also between winning in Iraq and the restructuring the “Big Middle East,” and more than that, between the “Aspired for Iraqi Model” and Americas position at the heart of the international relations. Bush imagined a hypothetical Iraq that enabled him to restructure Iran, Syria, Saudi, Egypt, the Palestinian Issue, Lebanon and the Islamic World…He built a high rise building whose strong foundation is the winning in Iraq.
During this Ideological euphoria, Bush made political and diplomatic decisions that were transformed into tangible actions towards adversaries. And when he partially adjusted by moving from the duality of Democracy-Dictatorship to the priority of the new duality of Moderation-Terrorism, he tried to maintain, where possible, as in Lebanon, elements of the first equation.
But the policies that were being pursued, and, to a large extent, are still being pursued, become futile if “We are not absolutely winning in Iraq.” Not only that, but [these policies] could come back to haunt those who pursue them and increase the predicaments facing them.
The Baker-Hamilton Report came to touch this point specifically. It states that the policy that ought to be followed regionally, if we were not winning in Iraq, can not be the same policy that we follow as if we were winning in Iraq. Thus, instead of Baghdad being a starting point for change in Tehran, Damascus, Riyadh, Cairo, Ramallah and Jerusalem, these capitals are now invited, to each play its role, for to help in changing the American policy in Iraq, and secure a graceful exit for it.
It is not a secret that the Baker-Hamilton Report rests on an introduction that conclusively resolved that the American victory in Iraq is out of reach. Broad American elite agrees with this evaluation which seems to be convincing even to even circles in the Republican Party. The report issued few days ago by the “International Crisis Group” takes the same approach, even though it calls for more fundamental remedies whether in Iraq or the dealings with the whole regional milieu.
If “We are winning in Iraq” could lead to a particular regional policy (complete restructuring [of the region]). And if “We are loosing in Iraq” could lead to another regional policy (The search for stability through settlements). But the question being raised today with persistence is about the regional policy if “We’re not winning but we’re not losing!”
The current [Bush] administration has no clear answer. More than that, the implemented answer and that remains most probable is: We are continuing in our regional policy regardless whether we are winning or loosing. This answer has
no dividend except aggravation of the crises. And this is what we are seeing, with decisive clarity, these days in Lebanon and Palestine.
In front of this dilemma, the [Bush] administration is receiving support from American right-wing circles, known for putting Israel in the central position of the United States policy in the region. This support stands on the formulation of a new theory the essence of which is that there is no latitude for any linkage of any kind between what is happening in Iraq and other regional issues.
What is the relationship between Al Anbar and Darfur for example? These circles ask. These circles may be partially correct in this example; except that they go on to claim that the “Domino Theory” is fundamentally false because there is no relationship between Iraq and Palestine, neither between Iraq and Syria or Iran!!! “National disasters do not transform to regional disasters” (Robert Satloff). Therefore, [according to this theory], the Baker-Hamilton committee’s “sages” are, in truth, imbeciles who are ignoring the last quarter century that confirmed the “Strength of the National State!” and abolished any border crossing!
These are the same circles that provided the theoretical foundation for the complete change originating from Baghdad the guidepost! That was during the days of marketing the war and wagering on its outcomes. But today, their tendency is to avoid bearing the responsibility of the ultimate results after the failure of the initial stages.
What these circles reject is not the linkage between the region’s crises (The positive domino from their perspective) but the proposed new orientation for this linkage (The negative domino from the same perspective).
The Lebanese Authority tied it dynamism with the confident “Absolutely, we are winning!” Bush. What is to be done (As Ziad el Rahbani asks) now that Bush moved the stage of “We’re not winning but we’re not losing!”? And what is to be done, really this time, if Bush is loosing?
*Sources: al- Akhbar daily newspaper, Beyrouth, Lebanon.