David Ignatius (Continuación)

At the beginning of Tony Blair's political career, his Tory opponents gave him the nickname "Bambi" because of his fawn-like appearance. Now at the end of his 10 years as prime minister, Blair is mocked in Britain as America's "poodle," a slavishly loyal supporter of George Bush and the Iraq war.

Blair had a bit of both animal instincts, deer and dog, but he also had the brilliant political gifts that might have made him a truly great prime minister and the defining politician of his era. That's what makes his story so sad: This immensely talented politician was devoured by Iraq -- and by his support for an American president he kept thinking, wrongly, he could dissuade from mistakes.…  Seguir leyendo »

What's America's strategy in the Middle East? Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this week sketched a new framework based on what she calls the "realignment" of states that want to contain Iran and its radical Muslim proxies.

In an interview Tuesday, Rice summarized the new strategy that has been coming together over the past several months. Although many of its elements have been previewed in recent weeks by commentators such as Columbia University scholar Gary Sick, Rice's comments were an unusually detailed public explanation of the new American effort to create a de facto alliance between Israel and moderate Arab states against Iranian extremism.…  Seguir leyendo »

It was axiomatic during the Cold War that presidents should not gamble with matters of national security. The stakes were too high. The Bush administration's Iraq policy has long suffered from a lack of that prudence -- and the misplaced gambler's instinct is especially evident in the administration's plan to send more troops to Baghdad.

President Bush's "surge" is a mistake because it is piling more precious chips -- more human lives -- on what so far has been a losing bet. The public sent a clear message in the November election that it wants to take some of those chips off the table.…  Seguir leyendo »

What makes sense in Iraq? The political debate is becoming sharply polarized again, as President Bush campaigns for a new "surge" strategy. But some useful military guideposts can be found in a new field manual of counterinsurgency warfare prepared by the general who is about to take command of U.S. forces in Baghdad.

Lt. Gen. David Petraeus supervised the development of the manual when he ran the Army's training center at Fort Leavenworth, before he had any idea he would be heading back to Baghdad as the top commander. In that sense, the document reflects a senior officer's best judgment about what will work and what won't -- independent of the details of the current "to surge or not to surge" debate.…  Seguir leyendo »

One day in the Gerald Ford presidency that hasn't received much attention in the past week's memorials is April 30, 1975. That was the day the last American helicopter pulled away from the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, leaving behind many thousands of South Vietnamese who had worked with the United States.

Those wrenching final images of the Vietnam War are relevant now as we think about what lies ahead in Iraq. However long the United States stays in Iraq and whatever success it achieves there, we should agree we have a moral responsibility to the Iraqis who risked their lives and families to be America's allies.…  Seguir leyendo »

As the new year approaches, I think of three people who symbolize for me some of the difficulties of the year we have just lived through and also the promise and potential of the one ahead. Each of them reminds me that we are walking into the future balanced on a tightrope.

The first is Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the mayor of Tehran. As an official of the Islamic Republic of Iran, he is part of a regime that posed the biggest strategic challenge to the United States in 2006. But he also embodies Iran's potential to become a great nation -- and perhaps to escape the apocalyptic confrontation with the West that is proclaimed by his political rival, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.…  Seguir leyendo »

Robert Gates, the new secretary of defense, warned this week that an American failure in Iraq would be a "calamity" that would haunt the United States for decades. Unfortunately, he's right. But what is a realistic definition of success? If we "surge" tens of thousands more troops into Iraq and march them up the hill, how will we march them back down?

What is a satisfactory and achievable outcome in Iraq? That's a question we all should have examined more carefully in 2003, and we're back to that same issue now as President Bush reviews a change in strategy. I worry that in this debate Bush will be tempted anew to seek a military victory that is unrealistic -- and might not be desirable even if it were possible.…  Seguir leyendo »

What positions would Syria take if it entered a dialogue with the United States about Iraq and other Middle East issues? I put that question Thursday to Walid Moallem, Syria's foreign minister, and he offered surprisingly strong support for the recommendations made last week in the Baker-Hamilton report.

"We are not against the U.S.," Moallem said. "To the contrary, we want to be part of a regional dialogue that, in our opinion, serves American interests in the region." He described America and the region as being at a "crossroads" and said: "Either we go for stability, or the region will fall, and religious civil wars and the extremists behind them will take over."…  Seguir leyendo »

The Lebanese not so long ago liked to refer to their gaudy capital as "the Paris of the Orient." But on Sunday afternoon, with more than a half-million pro-Hezbollah demonstrators chanting "Death to America!" and "Death to Israel!" in the heart of downtown, the Lebanese capital seemed more like a vision of Tehran.

The very incongruity of this scene, in the most Westernized city in the Arab world, makes me wonder if Hezbollah is overplaying its hand in its campaign to oust the pro-American government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. America isn't very popular here, after its ally Israel bombed the country's infrastructure last summer in reprisal for Hezbollah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Iraq Study Group's report achieved the goal of any blue-ribbon commission: It stated the obvious, emphatically.

"The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating." Of various proposals for fixing Iraq, "all have flaws." A "precipitate" withdrawal would be a mistake, but so would a big increase in U.S. troops. America should set "milestones" for the Iraqi government to control all provinces by next September. The U.S. military should shift to a training and advising mission so that most American troops can leave by early 2008. But there is no "magic formula," and even if this approach fails, the United States "should not make an open-ended commitment to keep large numbers of American troops deployed in Iraq."…  Seguir leyendo »

On the eve of the Baker-Hamilton commission's report, a top Iranian official set a tough condition for his country's help in stabilizing Iraq, saying that Tehran isn't interested in such cooperation unless the Bush administration sets a timetable for withdrawing its troops.

Ali Larijani, Iran's national security adviser, said in an interview that a U.S. plan for removing "occupation forces" from Iraq would be considered "a sign of a change in strategy." In that case, he said, "Iran would definitely extend the hand of assistance and would use its influence to help solve the problem."

The Iranian official made his comments after a speech yesterday to a conference here called the Arab Strategy Forum.…  Seguir leyendo »

"This business about graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all," President Bush said yesterday after meeting with the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. And that's probably the right headline as the administration reviews its options for Iraq: No graceful exit.

That doesn't mean there aren't significant changes ahead in Iraq. The premise of a secret White House policy review conducted over the past two weeks is that current policy isn't working. One of the options that has emerged from this review is a redeployment of U.S. forces over the next year that would focus the American mission on training and advising Iraqi troops.…  Seguir leyendo »

A month ago the idea that Sen. Chuck Hagel would make a serious run for the Republican presidential nomination would have been a non-starter. As an outspoken critic of President Bush on Iraq and other issues, Hagel's way was blocked. His best hope was nomination by a quixotic third party in an online convention.

It's a measure of the step change brought about by the Nov. 7 elections that Hagel is now seriously exploring a GOP presidential bid. The Republican blowout, he says, reflected a "breakdown of confidence and trust in governance" and opened the way for what he believes will be "the most wide-open presidential race since 1952."…  Seguir leyendo »

A disease is eating away at the Middle East. It afflicts the Syrians, the Iraqis, the Lebanese, even the Israelis. It is the idea that the only political determinant in the Arab world is raw force -- the power of physical intimidation. It is politics as assassination.

This week saw another sickening instance of this law of brute force, with the murder of Pierre Gemayel, a Lebanese cabinet minister who had been a strong critic of Syria. Given the brutal history of Syria's involvement in Lebanon, there's an instant temptation to blame Damascus. But in this land of death, there are so many killers and so few means of holding them to account that we can only guess at who pulled the trigger.…  Seguir leyendo »

While the nation debates what to do about the disaster in Iraq, I have been pondering a disaster that hasn't happened -- in Saudi Arabia. There are some lessons in the Saudi story that may help clarify the Bush administration's choices as it nears crunch time in the region.

First, some background: Ten years ago Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States to "expel the infidels from the Arab peninsula." One theme of his Aug. 23, 1996, fatwa was that for all its military power, America was weak. It had fled from terrorist attacks in Beirut and Somalia, and it would flee Saudi Arabia as well.…  Seguir leyendo »

In ancient Roman drama, when the plot got too convoluted to be resolved by mere humans, one of the gods would be hoisted over the stage to dispense wisdom and avert tragedy. The practice was known by a Latin term, deus ex machina, or "god from a machine." In our times, it is called the "Baker-Hamilton commission."

I am all for smoke and mirrors, and gods descending from cranes, if that will help the United States regain some strategic initiative in the Middle East. And already, the Iraq Study Group seems to be having that effect. Before it has said a word, the group is generating a sense of possibility.…  Seguir leyendo »

Senior military officers referred to it as "the 7,000-mile screwdriver." That was their way of describing Donald Rumsfeld's penchant for micromanaging aspects of the Iraq war that interested him. And it's one reason the military has to be happy that Rumsfeld is leaving -- even happier, maybe, than Democrats, who have claimed an early scalp for their election victory.

To the end, even when Rumsfeld must have known that his time in the job was short, he wouldn't give up that option to meddle with his field commanders. When Marine Gen. James Jones, the retiring NATO commander, went to see Rumsfeld a few weeks ago to talk about becoming commander of Centcom, he asked whether the defense secretary intended to continue his direct line of communication with the theater commander, Gen.…  Seguir leyendo »

When Gen. Michael Hayden became CIA director six months ago, his mission was to calm a troubled agency, get it out of the headlines and restore its professionalism. "Back to work, back to basics," is how he sums up his initial goal.

Hayden is now firmly ensconced at the CIA, and he's putting a military man's imprint on the place. He still wears his blue Air Force uniform to work. Behind his desk is a painting of a combat plane, flanked by a poster of his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers and the famous photograph of President Franklin Roosevelt meeting with Saudi King Abdul Aziz to plan joint strategy for the Middle East.…  Seguir leyendo »

A tinny band strikes up "Happy Days Are Here Again" as Sen. Hillary Clinton makes her way to the podium at a campaign rally. And here in Upstate New York, where Democrats not so long ago were an endangered species, it looks like happy days are indeed ahead.

A week before Election Day, the Democrats are in a dominant position across the Empire State. Clinton is leading her Republican challenger, John Spencer, by nearly 30 percentage points. The Democratic candidate for governor, Eliot Spitzer, is up nearly 50 points over his GOP rival, John Faso. Perhaps most important, Democrats Eric Massa and Jack Davis are making strong races in Upstate congressional districts that have been solidly Republican for years.…  Seguir leyendo »