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November 19, 2004, 9:15 A.M.

H.L. Menken, "The Sage of Baltimore," The Evening Sun, July 26, 1920:

"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

If he only knew.

Thanks to Ed Van Dorn and the NHTLA listserve for this one.

November 16, 2004, 6:40 P.M.

Recipe for Disaster: It is hard for me to imagine that the recent shake ups in the Bush cabinet will produce much in the way of change in approach for US foreign policy. In fact, with the President and his folks perceiving the recent election results as some sort of mandate, I expect that sharing the neocon world view will be a prerequisite for cabinet service. Clearly, the nomination of the obliging National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to succeed the moderate Colin Powell as Secretary of State pushes the Bush world view to the political forefront.

There is little doubt that the core power structure of the administration will remain intact. This does not bode well for a speedy resolution of the war in Iraq. Cheney, Wolfowitz, Bush and Rumsfeld wholeheartedly believe that a single, unified, democratic state of Iraq can and will be created behind the shield of American military power. They refuse to recognize the political, religious, cultural and economic barriers to the scheme, even though many former believers in the one state system are beginning to recognize that some other solution might be in order. I see no indication that the administration agrees.

Falluja ought to provide a graphic example of the problems. The Sunnis recognize that, because of their numbers, they will lose power and influence in national elections. Holding on to enclaves like Falluja, Mosul and Baquba will allow them to delay or avoid a national election. The Kurds are also in no real hurry to see elections, and probably wonít respond well to any national elections anyway. The Kurds have enjoyed years of semi-autonomy, since the end of the first Gulf War actually, and will not ever fall in line with a national Iraqi state for the sake of the greater good. They may see some form of national, or better yet, federal government to protect them and their semi-autonomy from Turkish dominance, but itís a game of balance and the Kurds have certainly earned the right to set their own agenda. Unfortunately, the Sunni factions are still drawing most of the attention of the US and provisional governments, and will continue to do so as long as they are able.

The Sunnis will never agree to a state that denies them access to oil. If you look at the geography of Iraq, it is obvious that the predominately Sunni regions, the Sunni triangle, are not the major oil producing, refining or distribution centers. In order for any government to exist that has the buy-in of the Sunni minority, it must envision a method of sharing the wealth.

You canít forget the religious aspects of this thing, either. This aspect of the problem also weighs against the single state model. Unfortunately, the economic, religious and political subtleties of this situation do not fit the Bush model. Itís like they have blinders on and they intend, despite all of the signs to the contrary, to plod along the same path.

There needs to be a fresh vision. A new look at the map. The result might not be a unified, democratic Iraq. But with some vision, there might be a federation or some other confederation of factions that can be agreed upon. Of course, time is against us now because of all of the outside influences being brought to the table. Some factions want nothing more than to resist efforts at normalizing Iraq. Until the majority of Iraqís political factions have a desire to unify in some way, the US will remain mired in Iraqís affairs. What is obvious is that we cannot change Iraq by brute force. We overran Falluja (again) by brute force, but we did not end the Sunni resistance; we simply relocated it.

The President has said that he doesnít do nuance. Iraq is all about nuance and subtlety. Twelve hundred US soldiers have died and tens of thousands more have been injured trying to impose the neocon world vision on Iraq. A change of strategy, and not just a change in people, is warranted in Washington. I just don't see it happening. Staying the course is one thing; staying the wrong course is a recipe for disaster.

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