Monday, January 31

One millimeter at a time

Pundita has been asked to comment on the "win" that the relatively smooth Iraq election represents for Bush policy on Iraq. Any comment we could make is gilding the lily. Of course the election is a milestone for the Bush policy and the war on terror, and it's great triumph for the Coalition of the Willing and the Iraqis who voted. We are somewhat suspicious of the relative calm that marked the balloting day. Yet even if the Iraqi Interim government cut a last-minute deal with the Tehran government to keep terrorist attacks to a dull roar, the biggest loser in Iraq's election was Tehran.

About a million Iranians registered to vote in the Iraq election but porous borders being what they are influence works two ways. The Tehran tyrants will come to rue the day they meddled in post-Saddam Iraq. However, Pundita looks for Tehran to prod Europe to press Bush to quickly define an exit strategy in Iraq, with the American wing of the EU adding to the chorus.

Speaking of Iran, supporters of the Bush Doctrine might wish to look through Eric Miller's Iran Next? . Pundita has faithfully read Miller's weekly essays for more than two years. Miller is skilled at pulling together the prevailing views on an issue and deftly summarizing them. This doesn't mean we agree with his conclusions about foreign policy matters; often we take serious issue. However, Mr. Miller's way of looking at things bears consideration because it reflects the thinking of the Wise Old Men of American Capitalism.

The WOMs don't strive to be terribly right in their views, they seek to avoid being terribly wrong. Thus, they are cautious, suspicious of radical change, full of experience with weathering decades of economic cycles and shakeouts in the financial markets, keenly aware of public perceptions of things, and always looking for The Big Picture.

The views Miller summarizes strike a caution for Americans who support the Pentagon's triumph over DOS-CIA in executing defense policy. From Miller's conclusion, it's clear that the badgering Dr. Rice received during her confirmation hearing is just a taste of things to come. Many factions from within and without this country will escalate their challenge to the US Commander-in-Chief's right to run a war and direct US defense policy.

President Bush's hardest job in his second term, as it has been since he announced the invasion of Iraq, reminds me of a comment Joyce Carol Oates made. She observed that writing a first draft of a novel is akin to pushing a peanut across a sawdust floor with one's nose. By any which way does Bush nudge the American people, and the major governments of the world, into the 21st Century.

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