If you want to understand the futility of america's current situation in Iraq, last week provided a vivid microcosm. On Thursday, just hours before a series of car bombs killed more than 200 people in the Shia stronghold of Sadr City, Sunni militants attacked the Ministry of Health, which is run by one of Moqtada al-Sadr's followers.
Imagine that it is January 2000, and you are asked to look into a crystal ball and predict the course of the global economy over the next six years. The misty glass gives you some hints: the coming stock-market collapse, followed by suicide airliner attacks on the Twin Towers and two protracted wars, all leading to a quadrupling in the price of oil.
A fierce debate over military tribunals has erupted in Washington. This is great news. The American constitutional system is finally working. The idea that the war on terror should be fought unilaterally by the executive branch--a theory the Bush administration promulgated for its entire first term--has died.
I'm glad George W. Bush is using the bully pulpit to clarify the war on terror. Many of Bush's basic ideas--such as the need for reform in the Arab world--are sensible; it's their simplistic and botched execution, coupled with a mindless unilateralism, that have derailed his foreign policy.
The Bush administration must wonder these days if it has a Rodney Dangerfield problem. No matter what it does, it can't seem to get any respect. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has engineered a broad shift in American diplomacy over the last year, moving policy toward greater multilateralism, cooperation and common sense on Iran, North Korea and Iraq, and several other issues.And yet it hasn't produced a change in attitudes toward the United States.
Seven years ago, when I was visiting Germany, I met with an official who explained to me that the country had a fool-proof solution to its economic woes. Watching the U.S. economy soar during the'90s, the Germans had decided that they, too, needed to go the high-technology route.
There has been remarkably little discussion in the United States of what is perhaps the major strategic initiative of the Bush second term. The administration is pursuing an objective, which, if successful, could bear some similarities to Nixon's opening to China in 1973: a proposed nuclear agreement with India.