Did Anyone See the Superpower?

Not a single policy or joint strategy indicates that the U.S. is capable of rescuing and extricating itself from the crises into which it gets.

One can imagine Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, nervously scratching his head on his way back from Amman to hemorrhaging Baghdad, with an expression of great amazement on his face: What, in fact, did he say to me? Are they withdrawing or staying? Am I a good prime minister or a Shi'ite weakling? Are they talking with Iran, or do they want us to stop the dialogue? And, in general, what was so urgent to trouble me to come from Baghdad?

Al-Maliki is not alone. The world's greatest superpower is stuck in the murderous alleys of Baghdad, shooting in all directions and not hitting anything. The U.S. administration's long-term strategy in the region is going to be defined by two pensioners, James Baker and Lee Hamilton, who have become the Urim and Thummim of the administration, which operates the largest intelligence service in the world. The relationship between George W. Bush and the prime minister of Iraq is formulated in a leaked document composed by National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. It relies primarily on the assessment of the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, who detests al-Maliki.

The meeting with al-Maliki in Amman is only a symptom. Who still remembers the previous meeting with Bush in Jordan, with Abu Mazen and Ariel Sharon, in June 2003? What has Washington contributed since then to advancing the decisions made there, to promoting its own policies, which support a solution of two states for two peoples? Where was the superpower in all of the violent dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and what was its contribution to the cease-fire or to bolstering Abu Mazen? What is it doing to strengthen the government of Lebanon? And what is it doing to strengthen the government in Iraq? Or was the slap in the face that al-Maliki received from Washington meant to show affection?

This is not a diagnosis of the great superpower's methods of action, but rather a search for its hiding place. Because despite the enormous power it is deploying in Iraq, and despite the deep crises in Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority, and despite Iran's nuclear threat, the superpower is absent. Apparently there is not a single policy or joint strategy indicating that Washington is capable of not only getting into a deep crisis, but also capable of knowing how to rescue and extricate itself from it.

Washington under Bush is a superpower searching for its tail. It initiates two wars based on an illusion of building a better world, and has not learned to contribute where it really could create a better reality. It regards Syria as a state that supports terrorism, and Iran as an existential threat, but does not enable turning these two states into part of the family of nations. It is satisfied with the long boycott imposed on the Palestinian Authority of Hamas, but is not lifting a finger to advance a diplomatic horizon.

But this complaint is about as valuable as howling at the moon. It seems that the focus needs to return to the internal front and to realize that Washington will fall in line with anything the sides themselves agree upon in Iraq, Lebanon or Palestine. Just as it fell in line with reality and stated it is no longer realistic to return to the 1967 borders, it would also adopt any agreement Israel reaches with Syria or Hamas, and any agreement that al-Maliki reaches in Iraq or Fouad Siniora attains in Lebanon. As James Baker once said: The United States cannot want peace more than the sides themselves. This is the same Baker who left us his phone number in the event that we seek American assistance in advancing negotiations, the same Baker who is now proposing a gradual withdrawal from Iraq and dialogue with Iran and Syria.

Bush is no more to blame than the sides themselves. Ehud Olmert, Siniora, al-Maliki and Hosni Mubarak are more familiar with their problems than he is. When Bush is seeking only to get out of the situations he has landed himself in, any logical solution would be welcomed. America can no longer serve as an excuse. It is absent.