THE DIALETICS OF DEFEAT: WHAT THE REPUBLICAN DEBACLE IN THE ELECTION MEANS FOR AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY
The American mid-term elections are now over. And, the results are truly a ‘thumping’, as Mr. Bush, in his colloquial English, put it, for both his party, and, his policies. In particular, the election results were a referendum on the stalemated situation in Iraq. And, not surprisingly, like the American pays legal, the pays reel, has made evident its extreme dissatisfaction with the direction of events in Iraq. Hence, the announcement today by Mr. Bush, that his Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, was resigning, being replaced by ex-CIA Director, ex-Deputy National Security Advisor, Robert Gates. Gates, who filled both of the above roles in the administration of Bush the Elder, and, who it would appear is personally close to the latter, is like his former chief, a member in good standing of the Realpolitik, wing of the Republican foreign policy establishment. What however makes Gates appointment perhaps a potential breakthrough in Bush the Younger’s policies, is that fact, that Gates is a senior member of the Iraq Study Group, lead by another luminary of the regime of Bush the Elder, Mr. James A. Baker III.
Baker, long-time family friend and associate of Bush pere, ex-Secretary of State, Secretary of Treasury, White House Chief of Staff, is perhaps one of Washington’s leading figures in the circles of power. Another member of the Realpolitik school of diplomacy, Baker, has via hints and winks made evident, his lack of confidence in the Bush the Younger’s policies, both in Iraq, and, in the Near East in general. Something that Gates, has also, in the case of Persia, has made evident as well (on Baker’s views, see: Michael Rubin’s overtly hostile article in the, neo-conservative Weekly Standard in: www.weeklystandard.com; on Gates, see: Michael Moran’s article in www.cfr.org.). The fact that Baker and Rumsfeld, have been at daggers drawn, since the Ford Presidency, probably makes, Gates’ replacement of the latter, all the more the case of a partial takeover, if not in fact a total one, of American diplomacy, by the adherents of old-fashioned realism (see an interesting group of short essays in the online version of the excellent, old-school, realpolitk oriented, National Interest, in www.nationalinterest.org).
In terms of the specifics of any change in American policy, based upon the leaks that have emanated, from the Iraq Study Group, it would appear that Baker, et al., will recommend, that the USA, both, scale-down the American military presence in Iraq, and attempt to engage diplomatically, with both Syria and Persia, over Iraq. In the case of the latter, disentangling the Iraq, from the ongoing negotiations over Persia’s nuclear ambitions (for this see: the article in: www.stratfor.com). In essence, if implemented, what these recommendations would mean, is that the Bush regime, has decided to bury, in an unmarked grave, the neo-conservative vision, of regime change, throughout the entire Near East. The fact that this ‘retreat’, if true, will have occurred, on the fiftieth anniversary, of the Anglo-French, capitulation to American pressure during the Suez Crisis, is an irony, which one may either savor, relish, or resent, but, irony, indeed, a historical irony at that, seems to be very much the case here.
Of course, it is too soon, to see, whether this possible (and I repeat at this point, only possible) change in American policy in Iraq, and vis-`a-vis Syria and Persia, will also result in changes in for example, in the current, 'do nothing', ostrich-like, policy towards Israel and the Palestinians. With perhaps, a chance, that American policy, will revert, to the line that Baker, and Bush the Elder, adopted towards the problem, at the time of the Madrid Summit of 1991. And, hopefully, towards more creative and intelligent stances towards the world in general. First thing first however, and, that is need to restore a sense of sanity to American Near Eastern policy, which in the last 18 months, if not in fact since the summer of 2002, bears all the marks of an out of control carriage, in which the alarmed passengers debate among themselves, whether the mad driver, should be subdued, in order to prevent a catastrophe. Based on the events of the last two days, it would appear that in fact, the passengers have finally decided to act before it is too late.