Thursday, June 08, 2006

Every Cow is Driven to Pasture by a Blow

The usual thing to say is that the foreign policy of a national leader becomes less effective as he loses political power at home. In Bush’s case, the reverse may be true. Lacking the strength to mount a military attack on Iran, the Administration is falling back on diplomacy and actually getting somewhere, in part because a manufactured crisis rapidly becomes less threatening when you stop manufacturing it. If the president’s poll numbers continue to decline, his State Department may be compelled to take additional intelligent steps.

This morning’s killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi provides an opportunity for another retreat to rationality. It’s not just that eliminating the principal bogie man allows Bush to declare victory while preparing a strategic withdrawal from Iraq. It gives both the Republicans and the liberal hawks a chance to wean themselves from their dependence on bogie men. So long as the conflict in Mesopotamia is defined as a struggle of radical good against radical evil, cutting deals is impossible even though any semblance of a resolution of the problem in the region will require the cutting of a huge number of deals. Bush could—and may well—replace Zarqawi with another papier-mache monster as Zarqawi once stepped into the shoes of Saddam and Bloefeld succeeded to Dr. No but that won’t help because the supply of candidate terrorists is not the rate-limiting factor in this reaction. Short of literally grinding the contending factions to dust, we’ll eventually have to recognize that our opponents aren’t mindless henchmen directed by Hitler-clones but political, ethnic, and religious groups that regard their own interests as legitimate. So how about singing just one more chorus of “Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead” and then setting up some meetings with the Sunnis?