President Bush disappoints his country's experts

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Marianna Belenkaya) -

Ryan C. Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, and General David H. Petraeus, commander of the Multinational Force in Iraq, will report to Congress on the situation in that country in mid-September.

Crocker recently expressed pessimism about progress in Iraq, just three weeks before facing the house. President George W. Bush, in turn, promptly came down on Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

The Iraqi situation is not at all what Washington expected, and it will hardly inspire voters as the election campaign unfolds. In fact, the United States' entire Middle Eastern policy leaves great political minds disappointed, as shown by a recent opinion poll of 108 leading experts in key government offices, including the Department of State, the Pentagon, and the presidential administration itself.

The Bush administration presented the Afghan and Iraqi campaigns as part of a "war on terror," waged to ensure the safety of Americans at home and abroad. Security was impossible without democratic change in the Greater Middle East, and to this end Iraq and Afghanistan were to serve as the models that would set a shining example to the entire region.

Six years have elapsed since the start of the Afghan campaign, and four and a half since the invasion of Iraq. How far, in that time, has the U.S. come towards achieving its aims? Are Americans safer now then they were five or six years ago? If this poll is anything to go by, recent American foreign policy has not only failed - it's been a disaster. Over 90% of respondents say the world has become a much more dangerous place for Americans-10% more than in a similar poll last February.

Nearly 84% think the United States is losing its war on terror (up 9% on February). Slightly more than 80% expect a terrorist attack on their country comparable in scale to the horror of September 11 within the next 10 years.

Over 53% (+22%) disapprove of President Bush's intention to reinforce U.S. forces in Iraq. Nearly 68% deem it necessary to pull the GIs out within 18 months, while a mere 3% still hope that Iraq will eventually turn into a paradigm of Middle Eastern democracy.

Skepticism is as great about other fields of U.S. policy in the Middle East. One question concerned countries that might harbor Al-Qaeda terrorists. Pakistan-one of the countries the White House pins its hopes on-leads the list with 35%, Iraq coming next with 22%. Somalia follows with 11%, Sudan 8% and Afghanistan 7%.

Another question was about countries that could offer terrorists access to nukes within the next three or five years. Pakistan again leads the list with 74%, North Korea following with 42%, Russia 38%, and Iran 31%. The United States brings up the rear with 5%.

Whatever we might think about the expert poll, it shows Washington's growing disillusionment with its own policy. In Iraq and Pakistan it has certainly failed. Policy towards Iran is vague, and suspense is building up around it. A majority insists on diplomacy and sanctions as the only weapons to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions. In short, experts want a complete revision of U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Not that they say it outright-the conclusion follows from their assessments of specific points of policy. A majority of the respondents think the U.S. ought to contact, to varying degrees, the groups it classifies as terrorists when they have public support in their countries, like Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon-which means a U-turn in Middle Eastern policy.

The poll shows America's foreign policy elite is at a loss. They know their current strategies are proving inefficient, yet nothing has been invented to replace them. This gives rise to an unfortunate penchant to mistake friend for foe, and vice versa.

There was a question about which of America's allies has done the most to undermine its interests. Russia came first with 34%, followed by Pakistan with 22%, Saudi Arabia with 17%, Israel 14%, and Mexico and Egypt 5% each.

Why has Russia won such ill repute? Hardly because it objects to the United States deploying ABM in Europe, which caused the loudest of recent clashes between them and gave rise to talk of a revival of the Cold War. Nor do alleged encroachments on democracy in Russia account for it, however harshly the White House might rebuke the Kremlin. The true reason for Washington's apprehension of Moscow lies in Russia's disapproval of the Iraq war and U.S. global leadership. Nor would Russia put up with the toughest of anti-Iranian sanctions.

But then, a majority of Americans, to say nothing of expert respondents, also say the Iraqi campaign is a blunder. As for the Iranian nuclear threat, Russia mainly opposes settling the problem by force of arms, while sanctions are mere tactics, not strategies. No embargo could ever prevent Iran maintaining links with Hamas and Hezbollah. Mind you, certain American experts think it would be shrewd to start such contacts of their own. But all this is a mere detail of problematic relations between Washington and Tehran. What has Moscow to do with it?

It isn't, then, Russia who is arguing the United States' global leadership. Hard facts prove that the concept of a unipolar world is collapsing. The results of the expert poll articulate this no less eloquently.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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