Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"let not thy left wingers know what thy right wingers doeth."

We discussed earlier whether or not the Democratic party victory in the House and Senate would significantly change U.S. foreign policy, and concluded that it probably would not. That will probably turn out to be a premature decision. Additionally, we did not spend enough time on whether or not there would be changes in the foreign policy of other nations directed towards the United States. That will be a more significant issue.

The good news is that we have an opportunity to use the perception of a shift in U.S. policy to try and get Iran, Syria NK to let down their guard a bit. Tony Blair's announcement on Monday contained severals significant points, among them:

1) There is now the possibility for a new “partnership” with Iran, if they cease supporting terrorism in Iraq and give up their nuclear ambitions. Along with Syria, they have to chose between isolation or cooperation.

2) Military action against Iran, as far as the UK is concerned, is ruled out

3) It is up to the United States to lead a new drive towards peace in the Middle East, entailing peace in Palestine and the Lebanon

What's significant about this is that it comes shortly after the earlier referenced announcement by the head of MI5, announcing the presence of some suspected 1200+ terror groups and 200+ individuals operating inside the UK. Tony Blair is saying this: if the U.S. is serious about defeating Al-Qaeda, they need to be as aggressive diplomatically with Iran and Syria as they are militarily in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now, here's the problem. Blair is, as usual, calling on the U.S. for a sophisticated and intricate combination of military and diplomatic force. Unfortunately, there are doubts as to whether the soon-to-be Democratic majority in the House and Senate will be able to meet this challenge.

Firstly, we have Nancy Pelosi giving serious thought to backing John Murtha over Steny Hoyer for majority leader. He's hardly a good choice for a party who campaigned on changing "business as usual" practices in Washington and a sensible change in foreign policy.

Then we have her preference for Alcee Hastings over Jane Harman to head the House Intelligence Committee. Especially with Bob Gates' nomination for Secretary of Defense and the potential drift within the Pentagon towards the shadow side of the intel world, we need somone serious on the Intelligence Committee. Hastings seems like a very poor choice.

Neither Hastings nor Murtha possess the competence, credibility, or experience needed to meet Blair's call.

Hezbollah in Iran, Al-Qaeda and other Islamist militants are watching the US politics very closely. They've already made it clear that they intend to exploit the domestic transitions within the U.S. They're going to read very heavily into whatever happens, and if Pelosi pushes for Murtha and Hastings, it will send the following message: the U.S. is losing it's will to fight. Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda do not distinguish between "withdrawal", "troop reduction", "negative troop increases" or whatever you want to call pulling out of Iraq.

With two years left for the Bush presidency, the Democratic victories in the House and Senate, the retirement of Rumsfeld followed by the nomination of Bob Gates as Secretary of Defense, and the formation of the bipartisan commission on Iraq headed by James Baker, its obvious that the U.S. has the desire and the opportunity to change the way it conducts the war on terror.

And it's a good time to try a new plan. Rumsfeld's resignation marked the end of a certain phase in Bush's war on terror. Regardless of how many errors have been made, Saddam and the Taliban have both been overthrown, significant flaws in military organization and planning have been exposed, and the U.S. has demonstrated to the world that it can do more than blow up empty aspirin factories. Right now, the next move is ours. Our enemies and allie are waiting to see what we'll do next.

But there is probably a very small time window in which to decide on that new course, before our enemies decide to make the first move of the next round.

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