The Roman Emperor, Nero, allegedly fiddled while Rome burned:

Bush looks now to be totally obsessed with Iraq while Pakistan (with nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them) teeters on the verge of chaos, Iran licks its lips at the prospect of consolidating Shia power in its region, Syria is held in a standoff position, Lebanon threatens return to a Muslim/Christian Civil War, rockets are fired back and forth between Israel and Gaza, Afghanistan (where we were once welcomed) looks to be reverting to the Taliban, militias multiply on all sides in Iraq, Saudi Arabia faces internal scandals and manifestly is cooling towards alliance with the U.S., Egypt is conflicted with Mubarak versus the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic radicals flourish in a dozen odd countries in the Middle East and elsewhere.

It may be too soon to suggest that the Middle East is going up in flames, but not that our president is an emperor sweating it out with rapidly deteriorating cover.  My own view of Bush is that he is none too bright, has blown most of the careers that he has undertaken, including the U.S. presidency, and is now locked into vindicating what all the world sees as the most disastrous move of his presidency — the war on Iraq.  How sad to see him photo oping yet again with our military — in the lonely deserts of the Anbar far away from Baghdad, the center of Iraq which looks to be coming unglued with its corruption, internal hostilities, and threats from without — the Turks to the north irritated by the discovery of American weapons sold off by the Iraqis to rebel Kurds on their turf, the division between the two Kurdish factions vying to establish a separate Kurdish state (over the dead bodies of the Turks), the tribal chiefs of Anbar (Sunnis cut off from the oil sources to the north and south), the al Mahdi militia taking over Basra, (the port of entry to Iraq for our military supplies) from the departing Brits who have had it serving as targets for the several competing Shia militias down there.

The various arcane security reports do not look to be encouraging for our future in Iraq.  We cannot bring the country together just playing  one side off against the the other as we are doing now (particularly the Anbar move to support Sunnis against the Shia central government of al Maliki — such as it is).  One expects that we will hear earnestly qualified ‘success’ reports’ from our politicized generals over there in the near future.  What should one expect from them — confessions that they have blown it?

Maybe we can get Bush to take up an appropriate musical instrument and let wiser heads run things during his next 16 months in office — the ‘decider’ who does not take seriously either our politicians or polls of the American public which show that only 32% still support him.

We are still formally a democracy at least and let us hope that we can get it together before either our military or our economy collapses.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent  212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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