Wednesday, July 18, 2007

On to Jamaica

I did another little stint on Jamaican radio today. Years ago, before the Iraq war, I did a two-part piece for the Register on the history of Iraq, outlining the religious and ethnic divisions and forecasting some of the difficulties an invading army was likely to face. It got a little circulation on the Internet, and some people at the radio station in Kingston decided I was some kind of expert on the Middle East so they have had me on the radio -- usually on the "breakfast club" show -- every few months.

Today it was the evening "beyond our shores" show, 15 minutes on the U.S. Senate's failure to get enough votes to force President Bush to change his Iraqi policy. The Jamaican questioners seemed baffled that despite getting a majority in the last election the Democrats had so little real power. I talked about the separation of powers, the natural proponderance any president has when it comes to foreign affairs, the need for a super-majority in the face of a veto, but predicted that as slow and agonizing as the process seems, the U.S. government will almost certainly have to turn around a bit on Iraq. I noted that the courts have started to slap the executive branch on the wrist from time to time, notably in regard to Guantanamo.

I'm not sure I'm as confident as I sounded. Dubya, like many incurious mediocrities, is a remarkably stubborn man and he may really believe he will be revered in the future for standing firm, like Winston Churchill or Harry Truman.

We also discussed how the most recent National Intelligence Estimate, without quite coming out and saying so (at least in the unclassified summary that's been released, shows rather clearly that invading Iraq has almost certainly made the United States less safe than we would have been had we not invaded Iraq -- especially if we had focused more on bin Laden and made it clear that we had no desire to invade or occupy any Muslim country. The NIE identifies al-Qaida in Iraq as the affiliate (whatever the real relationship is) most likely to have the desire and capacity eventually to carry out an attack on American soil. It didn't exist before the invasion, and the occupation has been an invaluable recruiting tool for al-Qaida and other jihadists.

As before, I was impressed with the knowledgeable questions and comments my Jamaican interlocutors came up with. They pay close attention to U.S. politics and to the world at large.

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