Monday, November 13, 2006

Yet more unreal realism

UPDATE: The realists' influence on Bush is growing, even as their views increasingly disconnect from reality. Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post explains why, with the Middle East, there's no going back to old illusions and policies.
The real source of the Bush administration's coming policy changes in Iraq and elsewhere is not the new Democratic Congress, but the Baker commission. Baker in some ways is already a shadow Secretary of State. Bush is falling back on Daddy and Daddy's friends to bail him out of a tight spot.

Baker and Bush Sr. are supposed to be "realists," yet they demonstrate the same sort of delusional thinking that realists exhibited at the time of the Persian Gulf War or the Suez Crisis. Now we hear that Baker wants to involve Iran and Syria in patching up Iraq and drawing down the US presence there. Remember the Pentagon's original plan was five years, entry in 2003, exit in 2008. We're sixteen months away from March 2008, and that's the (rough) deadline. But involving Iran and Syria will only guarantee a generation of civil war in Iraq and turn that country in a larger version of Lebanon. The Shiites will fall into orbit around Iran. The Sunni "insurgency," supposedly "just like Vietnam," will actually lose - badly - to the Shiites. America's Sunni allies (Jordan, Saudi Arabia, etc.) are now in a panic. Many Iraqi Sunnis will be begging the US to stay, not to leave, once they "get it" - that is, get what's going to happen to them.

Don't expect Nancy Pelosi to understand any of this, of course. Sunnis and Shiites are not liberal pressure groups that donate to the Democratic party, so she's not interested. The Democrats in Congress are incompetently led and will be badly divided in any case, on any number of fracture lines, so their effect will be: not much. There's little the congressional party can do, except inflict a McCarthyite moment on the rest of us: bogus hearings, "I have a list" demagoguery, and tiresome conspiracy theories.

The Democrats do have an historic opportunity, with their new "blue dogs," to change the orientation of their party. But keeping Pelosipalooza in charge will just remind everyone of why they've been voting Republican for the last 25+ years in the first place. If the Democrats don't take heed, they will be rudely reminded again in 2008 by another voter rebellion. Signature liberal positions on gay marriage, gun control, and eminent domain continue to be pummeled. And remember what happened to Clinton in 1994: a serious misreading of a volatile, populist-leaning electorate by a liberal president and establishment media.

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