OPINION

Iraq and what it sowed

The US midterm elections do not quite mark the end of an era, but they are still a turning point. Most analysts agree that Iraq was the decisive factor. The result was a resounding rejection of the Bush administration strategy. In that sense, it was more a defeat for the Republicans than a victory for the Democrats. Most importantly, Washington will no longer be able to display the unilateralism of the previous years. Its imperial vision has suffered a heavy blow, which was reflected domestically on the election outcome. The facts shattered the political belief that Iraq would share the fate of postwar Germany or Japan. The real war began when everyone in the White House thought it was over. Maintaining basic control over the country has proved bloodier than the actual war itself. Even after the rude awakening, the people in Washington still believed the Iraqi government would, at some point, manage to bring the country under control, a situation that would allow them to pull the strings without shouldering the cost of occupation. Again, facts defeated expectations. The US is caught up in a minefield. Sacrificing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was an attempt to ease the pressure on the White House. But it was also a confession of failure. Bush is moving away from the Neocon messianic mode toward old-style Republican pragmatism that marked the foreign policy of his father. It won’t be an easy task. Americans are deadlocked. If they exit Iraq, their image and credibility will be left in tatters. If they stay, they won’t be able to withstand the cost for much longer. The scenario of dividing Iraq into three separate states seems more likely than ever. But such an exit strategy will demand certain alliances which in turn presuppose a different policy toward Iran and Syria.