15 Nov 2006
With regards to the war in Iraq, things seem to be changing at a surprising pace. A few months ago, we heard a uniform and familiar tune from the bosses of the participating countries of ‘the coalition of the willing’ in Iraq. Macho statements came from Canberra, London and Washington reaffirming ‘the resolve’, ‘the commitment’ and ‘the determination’ to ‘prevail’ in Iraq. ‘We cannot cut and run before the job is done.’ We were told. The slogan that was used to summarize this thinking was ‘We Will Stay The Course’.
Well, that was before the November Mid-term Congressional elections in the U.S that saw the governing Republican Party losing her majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to the Democratic Party. American public opinion has tilted against the war and that dissatisfaction was largely responsible for the poor showing of the Republicans at the elections. To make matters worse, October 2006 was one of the bloodiest months for the U.S. military in Iraq. The first casualty of that election was the U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld who tendered his resignation. Rumsfeld had become the symbol of everything going wrong in Iraq.
A combination of rising casualties and electoral victory has now forced the Bush administration to make a volte-face, albeit in installments on her Iraqi policy. Decision Makers in Washington have suddenly fallen in love with the word ‘change’. “My attitude is: Don’t do what you’re doing if it’s not working- change”. Said Bush during a press conference. His chief of staff Josh Bolten was also quoted as saying; “We have to tell the Iraqi’s that the open-ended commitment is over”. President Bush even referred to his new Defense Secretary as an “agent of change”.
A few months’ back it was unthinkable that the U.S. and her allies in Iraq will even contemplate holding talks with Syria and Iran on the problems of Iraq. Now, with the changing times, all cards are on the table. Bush now says that he is open to new ideas including the possibility of engaging with Iran and Syria. The British and Australian Prime Ministers are more or less sending the same messages.
At the same time that the policy changes are evident, the U.S is strenuously trying to give the impression that she is still in control of events in Iraq. The practical reality on the ground paints quite a different picture. The seizing of about 100 hostages in broad daylight at a research institute in Bagdad on Tuesday was one glaring example that the grip on Iraq by America and her allies is slippery. The insurgents have become more sophisticated and bolder. Some extremists in their ranks are even touting the Americans not to leave Iraq but should stay and fight them.
It is not more a question whether America and her allies will pull out of Iraq. They are going to do so sooner rather than later. The big question is how they will leave without losing face and at the same time without sacrificing their allies in the Iraqi government to the consuming flames of Islamic insurgency. It is almost a certainty that the change that will come in Iraq will be painful for all the parties involved.
The hope is that the Americans will draw a lesson from this foreign policy blunder that neo-conservative forces have plunged their nation into.
Njei Moses Timah