Radio Open Source recently had Juan Cole over to talk about Iraq in 2006:
He doesn't really see much changing in the course of the year and he still believes that bringing in the UN, if it is possible, is the only way out.
But a few other things jumped out at me:
One set of snippets: "Terrorism...not an analytical category, but a tactic...most terrorist attacks would best be handled with good police work...We don't have a war on terror; we have a war on Al Qaida or Al Q-like organizations...The question for me is how are we doing in curbing and damping down that threat...when we have Ayman Al Zawahiri suborning British-born Pakistani youth to blow up the London subway, we're not winning...He is a serial murderer and serial murderers don't change their stripes...He has not been caught. In my view it is something of a national tragedy that we have spent something like a hundred billion dollars...I freely admit that it wouldn't solve the problem; but it certainly wouldn't hurt."
And he points out a couple of other things that are not part of the headlines:
The British were the ones that were the major power in the Gulf till '71; which is an important reminder in an enviroment when a lot of us seem to be discussing one party in one country--which is not Britain--as the source of all our problems in the Middle East. I have wanted to point out that some of the people we look up to and put our hopes in--like being wishful for leaders like Churchill, or just being blindly pro the Democratic Party in the US--should be engaged with in a little more thought-out a way. Afte all, Churchill, as a bureaucrat of the British Empire, first introduced chemical weapons to Iraq in the 20th Century.
And speaking of Iraq in the early 20th Century, Cole points out that the use of air power to control populations in Iraq was also pioneered by the British in the 1920s--and that one of the architects of that bombing went on to become one of the architects of the Dresden firebombing, etc.
So what's my point? My point is that this whole discussion of how we interact with each other across the planet is not as simple as most of us make it out to be. Whether it is the "It is just a fanatic fringe of Muslim world" or the "We need to bring Liberty to the Muslim World" or the "It is a clash of civilizations" or "Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney are evil" or what-have-you; each is an over-simplification. In short if, say, come 2009, we have a Democrat in the White House, it will be an opportunity to make a start fixing the world--but not a guarantee of things getting better. We all still have a lot of work to do.
And we're not even talking about Afghanistan, mind you...