tarnished silver linings, and no umbrella

Tacitus has a lengthy post about some of the perceived beneficial effects of the war on Iraq. But perhaps its my pessimistic nature, I just don't see any of these as having any real meaning. He points to this story for some examples:

Radical regimes in Syria and Iran are suddenly toning down the anti-U.S. rhetoric and urging dialogue. Authoritarian leaders in Egypt and Jordan are talking � with varying degrees of enthusiasm � about democratization....

This is revisionist history to some extent. Syria cooperated in the post-9-11 global hunt for Al-Qaeda. It's somewhat misleading to suggest that Syria's diplomatic relationship with us therefore is a function of the war on Iraq.

And Iran sees the war on Iraq as a major opportunity, to influence by proxy the Shi'a clerics in southern Iraq. Recent articles have focused on the emerging strength of the Iraqi Shi'a clergy as an organized political force. Iran's offers of dialouge are merely cover for their interference. Any suggestion that Iran wants to align itself with our regional interests is, IMHO, naive.

....Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, seems worried too. ....Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy, is also feeling rattled.

Isn't this astonishingly vague? "seems worried" ? "feeling rattled" ? In Hezbollah's case, if we see any change in their activity, then that might be something concrete. And Saudi Arabia has mastered the art of saying "why, we are concerned!" and then doing nothing, secure in the knowledge that their ties to the Bush Administration will shield them from any actual responsibility. 14 of 19, and we bombed Iraq?

Tacitus also points to this NYT story on Syria's supposed new attitude:

....a senior State Department official said that Syria had shut down the offices of three organizations that the United states considers terrorist. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, identified them as Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

This is bogus. An excellent piece on NPR this morning discussed exactly these claims, with the advantage of having a reporter in Damascus who actually went to the offices and asked questions. They are still open. Note that these offices are a purely symbolic gesture even if they were actually closed - their presence or absence in no way affects operations on the ground inside the Green Line against Israeli civilians. But by offerring to close them, and maybe doing so, but maybe not, Syria has successfully projected the issue of "cooperation" onto this axis of little importance. The broader issue of Hezbollah;s regional role and Iranian linkages is unaddressed.

The Syria issue is intricately linked to the Iranian one, and both are enmeshed in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The web of interdependence of these regional concerns is nicely summarized in the article on Hezbollah that I blogged about yesterday and is required reading for any commentator on Middle East politics.

The only positive aspects of this war are 1. that Saddam is gone (which is no guarantee that the new boss will be any better than the old boss. Would you like some Iranians with your Shi'a, ma'am?) and that 2. the Arab News has had a pretty good run of more open articles recently and Tacitus found another one recently. Still, this is a pretty piss-poor harvest and it's hardly solely derived from our military actions.

But vainly looking for unintended positives misses the real point. As Matthew Yglesias, Atrios and Brad DeLong already covered in exhaustive detail, the Tuwaitha nuclear plant was left as unsecured as the National Museum because our troops were assigned to protect the oil. (er, what wasn't this all supposed to be about again?)

There simply isn't anything I can add to Atrios, Matthew, or Brad's discussion of just how serious this matter is. At the very least Runsfeld (and Franks too) should be booted. The fundamental security of America has been severely compromised in the literal sense that was ironically insinuated against Saddam Hussein as a rationale to invade!

I hate to disagree with Tacitus about anything, but I don't see any reason for optimism. Not even a tiny shred. We can all stand admiring the silver lining of that storm cloud, but we're gonna wish we had an umbrella soon.

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