It is now possible to imagine a victory of sorts in Iraq and pop the question: What next?
In no prearranged order, these are the elements that have improved conditions on the ground in Iraq: the 2007 surge; the capable leadership of General Petraeus, known as General Betray Us by idiot bloggers; the huge number of jihadists killed in the five years since 2003; the increase in size and competence of Iraqi Security Forces; and the understated political acumen of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
As mentioned in this spot before, the new realities on the ground have forced some prior run-for-the-hills opponents of the new strategy adopted by President George Bush to adjust their rhetoric. Almost no one any longer argues for an immediate withdrawal of troops, and talk of impeaching President Bush is now limited to such political losers as U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, twice a failed candidate for president on the Democrat ticket.
Kucinich has not formally retreated from his peace “plan” for Iraq, which includes immediate withdrawal and a guarantee of economic sovereignty for Iraq. Kucinich has not told us what he would do if the economic sovereignty of Iraq failed as a result of the premature withdrawal of American troops. Apparently that problem would be left to the same folk at the United Nations that have failed to guarantee the economic viability of, say, Darfur.
If Iraq achieves stabilization as a democratic friendly, non-aggressive, self sufficient state, several things will happen.
The non-terrorist affiliated states in the Persian Gulf, now that the mercurial Saddam Hussein is out of the picture, will undoubtedly strengthen their ties with Iraq. Rogue states such as North Korea, Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, Cuba and the terrorist pirates in the badlands of northern Pakistan, despite assurances from the anti-war front in the America, do not think that the United States military is “bogged down” in Iraq. They fear the success of the enterprise far more than its failure.
So far in the Middle East, great wealth has produced two kinds of political states: autocracies like Iran and Syria that fund terrorists, and petro-billionaire states that, for the time being, are safe from the theocratic revolution peddled by terrorists.
Iraq so far fits neither paradigm. Unattended, it may degenerate into one of the two models. But at the moment, the future may hold out a different prospect for Iraq, an important point that is entirely lost in the rough and tumble of American politics, which has devolved into a juvenile struggle for political power.
Once the power question is decided in the United States, none of the problems that have bedeviled three administrations, two Republican and one Democrat, will have been settled: Saudi Arabia will continue to peddle its 17th century old noxious brand of Wahhabism; nuclear proliferation, accelerated by Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan’s chief nuclear scientist who was able to pilfer nuclear secrets from a spy network in the United States, will continue; Iran and Syria will continue to finance and support terrorist interventions throughout the Middle East; efforts to destroy Israel will continue; Russia and China will continue to play sinister spoiler roles. A change in administrations will change none of this. None of it will disappear when the nearly universally hated Bush regime backs its bags and leaves the White House.
The “What next” question should take us outside ourselves. The United States is not the center of the political universe. It is only contingently true that a new administration may change any of the problematic situations listed above. At the most, a new administration may, like Iraq, hold out a promise to a besieged world. But the Islamic world will not bow and scrape before American power, resolve or steadfastness. Islam is a ruling force in history, far more organized than Europe and the American Congress.