Thursday, December 07, 2006

Samaha: America still dangerous, despite all the recent rhetoric

Joseph Samaha, writing in Al-Akhbar, lays out the skeptical view of all the recent "changes" in the American political scene: replacement of Rumsfeld by Gates, who said there can't be "victory in Iraq"; the Baker report talking about "withdrawal"; and all of the vast rhetoric that has surrounded this.

He says probably what it all comes down to is "a restructuring of the occupation, and a revision of the relationship with the surrounding countries." He develops the idea as follows:
Iraq destroyed the American presumptions, but at the same time Iraq itself is in conflagration, and the priority now is to control the flames, knowing that there are those at work trying to stir the embers in Lebanon. The American imperial enterprise in Iraq, dressed up in the robes of the Archbishop [talking about the rhetoric about democracy], has been blocked, but that doesn't imply development of any critical or radical approach involving of examination American foreign policy with respect to its traditional and secure basis; or examining the position of America the shining beacon to all nations; or even any examination of war itself. What has happened is that there has developed an attitude of opposition to failure, opposition to the expense, opposition to the bearing of responsibility... This is precisely what the Americans gave voice to in the recent mid-term elections. It is no longer possible for George Bush to continue with his reckless ignorance; it has become necessary to make an accomodation with reality. But whether [you look at] the president's talking about tactical changes, or any of the other limited detours of strategy, what is clear is that nothing will change. There have been many lead-ins to change, for instance the Baker-Hamilton report with its appropriate PR and media fanfare worthy of Hollywood....

In fact we could say that the dismissal of Rumsfeld was the first of a series of preventive measures aimed at warding off criticism, and starting the search for ways of controlling the flames, and of finding an exit from this scene of crimes with the least possible losses. It is an expression of the fact that American power and the defence of its strategic interests are no longer consistent with "victory in Iraq" much less with its spread to elsewhere in the region. Rather, [American power] is consistent [only] with a restructuring of the occupation, and a revision of the relationship with the surrounding [countries]
Samaha has specific doubts about any idea that Robert Gates in particular (the new Defence Secretary) represents anything but damage-control. His Lebanese readers will probably have understood the Lebanese sub-text of this from the beginning, but for the rest of us, Samaha has this to say at the end:
The question remains open, whether Bush will conduct any real re-examination, or whether Condoleeza Rice will permit any revision in her calculations respecting the transfer of the Iraq experience to Lebanon, where she has seen [during the war with Israel] "the birth-pangs of a New Middle East".
Which is Samaha's way of saying he isn't sure whether Washington will continue its policy of fomenting division and polarization. He concludes:
It isn't clear whether Gates will be "influential", but what we do know is that he is the "designated" person. [A play on words in Arabic that loses a lot in the translation. The gist of it is we can't be sure whether there will be policy-change or not]. What this means is that it would be advisable for the government to take another look at its reliance on its "friendly relations" with Washington; but it would also be advisable for Hizbullah not to wager on any fundamental change in American policy either.


Blogger NonArab-Arab said...

Thanks, this is an important piece, you perform a great service making it available to English speakers.

4:18 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home