Thursday, January 11, 2007

The show must go on

The day after the contents of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group were revealed and it became clear that it carried a pessimistic forecast of the US' chances in Iraq, a cynical friend of mine decided to corner me. He pointed out a graph I had posted here a while ago. "If your graph is true," he said, "does it mean that Kashmir will become unstable again, soon"? Gloom set over my face at the thought and I stumbled away, pretending to be busy.

But I have a big smile on since yesterday, after hearing the American president spell out his strategy for Iraq. Looks like Iraq will continue to keep Kashmir calm, at least in the near future.

Jokes apart, I felt while listening to him talk that the reason for the US staying in Iraq has evolved into something more profound than I would have thought. Why this war started in the first place - to protect Israel from a perceived threat or to control Iraq's oil - can be debated forever, but what America is involved in today seems to be a fundamental struggle for pride and position. Three debacles of far-reaching significance in the past two years - Israel's ineffectual war with Hizbullah, the continued existence of Al-Quaeda (and Bin Laden), and the resurgence of the Taliban - look more like a pattern rather than sporadic failures of foreign and military policy, and America seems to realize that not climbing upwards equals slipping down the slope of history.

"The age of U.S. dominance in the Middle East has ended ...", wrote Richard Haass in World Affairs last month, and maybe he is right. Or maybe not. History might look at America in Iraq and see it as a dying power's feeble and helpless attempts to hold on to its colonies, a la Spain in Mexico and Philippines in the 1800s. Or maybe not. Maybe it takes a finer mind to make sense of such important events and their implications. Me, I just think of the Kashmiris and smile.

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