Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Guard Against Post-Election Over-Optimism About Iraq?

Here are some excerpts from Seymour Hersh's latest New Yorker piece, The Next Act:
“Iraq is the disaster we have to get rid of, and Iran is the disaster we have to avoid,” Joseph Cirincione, the vice-president for national security at the liberal Center for American Progress, said. “Gates will be in favor of talking to Iran and listening to the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but the neoconservatives are still there”—in the White House—“and still believe that chaos would be a small price for getting rid of the threat. The danger is that Gates could be the new Colin Powell—the one who opposes the policy but ends up briefing the Congress and publicly supporting it".... [A] former senior intelligence official said[:] “Cheney knew this was coming. Dropping Rummy after the election looked like a conciliatory move—‘You’re right, Democrats. We got a new guy and we’re looking at all the options. Nothing is ruled out.’ ” But the conciliatory gesture would not be accompanied by a significant change in policy; instead, the White House saw Gates as someone who would have the credibility to help it stay the course on Iran and Iraq. Gates would also be an asset before Congress. If the Administration needed to make the case that Iran’s weapons program posed an imminent threat, Gates would be a better advocate than someone who had been associated with the flawed intelligence about Iraq. The former official said, “He’s not the guy who told us there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and he’ll be taken seriously by Congress.”
Hersh reminds us that it would be dangerously naive to assume that Gates' replacement of Rumsfeld and the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group will get us out of Iraq or devise a better solution to Iran's nuclear ambitions (whatever those are) than a U.S. military attack on Iran. Hersh also correctly notes that Israeli hawks are pushing hard to get us to either attack Iran or give them the go ahead to attack. Our Middle East policy continues to hurtle toward the abyss; instead of trying to minimize Muslim hatred toward the U.S. and Israel we are engaging in policies that will make our terrorism problem worse. This is one of the most remarkable ironies of the Bush administration: while trumpeting their concern to fight terrorism and protect the American people they are increasing terrorism and making us less safe.

Bush not only exacerbates our problems with Iraq, Iran and Syria, but his "malign neglect" worsens the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Pulitzer prize winner Bill Gallagher is correct: "More than any other measure, more than 10 million airport-security officers, more than walls and sealed borders, a resolution to the Palestine issue will do more to stem terrorism, help pacify the region and protect U.S. security than anything else."

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