Haass: The mid-term election is a signal of widespread popular dissatisfaction with the course of the Iraq war. But it should not be read as a signal of support for a particular alternative. Nor will it lead most Democrats in Congress to call for a quick and complete withdrawal of US forces. Instead, it will reinforce the likelihood that American policy will be adjusted. We can anticipate force reductions and redeployments and possibly a greater emphasis on diplomacy, both within Iraq and with Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria.
SPIEGEL: Meaning that the Bush Era has come to an end?
Haass: There is something to what you say, in that Iraq was a war of choice that proved to be much more difficult and expensive than Americans bargained for. As a result, the public is pushing back. However, it is not just premature but wrong to say the Bush era is over. The president will be president for another 800 days. He will be able to take initiatives, especially in foreign policy given that our system favors executive leadership. He also may have a better chance to fashion a consensus on immigration reform. And unanticipated crises almost always provide a president with the opportunity to do dramatic things.
SPIEGEL: Can you remember a time when US foreign policy was confronted with so many challenges and difficulties?
Haass: The short answer is: No. During the Cold War, the United States faced a single challenge that was greater than any we face now. But I can't think of a time when the United States has faced so many difficult challenges at once. What makes it worse is we are facing them at a time when we are increasingly stretched militarily. We are divided politically. We are stretched also economically, and there is a good deal of anti-Americanism in the world. It's a very bad combination.
SPIEGEL: Almost five years ago Bush grouped Iraq, North Korea and Iran together in the now-notorious "Axis of Evil." Now the US is faced with considerable crises in
all three countries. What to do?
Haass: We have allowed ourselves to get into three very difficult situations. As the United States has learned to its great cost in Iraq, military force is no panacea. Any option that would be heavily reliant on the Army is not a realistic option, because the only Army we have is busy right now.
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