Alliance of moderation
21 December 2006
BRITISH Prime Minister Tony Blair has wrapped up his Middle East tour by implying, quite rightly, that the world is confronted with an ideological battle of no small proportions. This is a battle in which forces of extremism and moderation are at each other's throats and nothing less than elimination of the enemy will do for either side.
To meet this confrontation's rising demands, he has called for an "alliance of moderation". For all intents and purposes, such an alliance should be as potent a weapon as any to counter extremism's unrelenting forces. But considering the out-of-control volatility in Iraq and that the proposed alliance is meant to focus more on Iran's growing regional influence, the call raises important questions that need to be addressed sooner than later.
While Iraq continues to burn, all eyes are on the White House in anticipation of the direction of President Bush's much awaited "new strategy". Of course, the policy change is largely a result of the findings of the Iraq Study Group report. Among other things, the Baker-Hamilton panel recommended that American troops be gradually withdrawn from the region and Washington engage in negotiations with both Iran and Syria, something contrary to the Bush administration's policy so far.
But there are clear signs suggesting that the administration is seriously considering short-term force-expansion. New defence secretary Robert Gates was in Iraq yesterday to 'assess the idea'. That, coupled with Blair's suggestion of further isolating the country with unquestionably the greatest on-ground influence in Iraq suggests that the war-on-terror proponents are more comfortable pursuing their own original course of action.
It is important to note that fighting the new ideological war with weapons and strategies of what has effectively become the old system is proving disastrous. Both Iraq and Afghanistan have become text book cases of the limits of military might in the face of an elusive enemy.
Bush's new strategy will mark the last ditch attempt on the part of forces of moderation to prevent total-loss in this stage of the ideological battle. Should it fail to turn things around, the whole world, especially the Middle East, will become much more unstable. Therefore, it is advised that diplomatic engagement rather than isolation be given more weight in the coming days.