The New York Times | Diplomatic Bonfires
The New York Times | 0aEditorial
Tuesday 20 May 2003
This is not what the White House wanted as President Bush starts 0apointing toward next year's election campaign. Iraq is in a state of near 0aanarchy. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is escalating again, 0aand Islamic terrorists are on the attack in the Middle East. Just at the moment 0awhen Mr. Bush would like the nation to think of him as a statesman, everything 0aseems to be going the wrong way in one of the world's most combustible regions. 0aMr. Bush has himself to blame in part.
Iraq is a mess because the Bush administration failed to plan 0aadequately for the postwar period. The Pentagon has proved itself great at 0afighting wars but not very good at dealing with their aftermath. Defense 0aSecretary Donald Rumsfeld and his aides seemed to think that Iraq would emerge 0afrom the war as a functioning country that could then be led toward democracy by 0aAmerican officials. Now, more than a month after the fighting subsided, Iraq 0aremains a lawless land without basic services like electricity, fresh water and 0adecent medical care. Instead of serving as a model for enlightened American 0arule, Iraq is turning into a symbol of American maladministration. It is not too 0alate to turn Iraq around, but Mr. Bush will have to be prepared to throw far 0amore resources into the situation, for a much longer time than he originally 0aintended.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has its own destructive dynamic, 0awhich Washington is belatedly trying to break. If Mr. Bush had not neglected the 0aMiddle East crisis in his first year in office, he might not be facing such a 0aseemingly intractable deadlock today. Suspending the cycle of violence may be 0aimpossible at this point, but the best chance depends on strong, sustained 0apressure from Washington.
Yesterday's suicide bombing at a shopping mall in northern Israel 0awas the fifth Palestinian attack in less than 48 hours. All have been claimed by 0aextremist Islamic groups, which are aiming not only at Israel but also at the 0anew government of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian prime minister. Mr. Abbas says 0ahe wants to confront such groups but cannot do so as long as Israel continues 0aits tough military policies. Israelis say they are being blown up, so do not 0atalk of easing conditions. Only a concerted American effort, led by Mr. Bush 0ahimself, can bring Mr. Abbas and Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, to 0atake the steps that are needed to quell the violence and rekindle peace talks.
Most disturbing to many Americans may be the recent terrorist 0abombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, which have demonstrated that the war 0aagainst terrorism is far from over. Much of Al Qaeda's leadership may by 0aarrested or dead, as President Bush has asserted, but the organization and its 0aaffiliates are far from finished off.
The United States must pursue the international teamwork against 0aterrorism that President Bush initiated after Sept. 11. Unfortunately, the 0aAmerican decision to go to war in Iraq decreased the desire of other nations to 0acooperate. Those damaged relations now urgently need to be rebuilt. Saluting 0acheering troops and campaigning for tax cuts may be good politics for Mr. Bush 0aas he runs for a second term, but the president has a lot of work ahead in the 0aMiddle East before he can lay claim to the title of statesman.
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