I'm still pleased with the early transfer of power in Iraq, but as I was reading about it over at NRO, it occurred to me that perhaps we are handing things over too early. As Den Beste has pointed out many times, the real key to victory in the War on Terror is reform of the Middle East and the societies that produce terrorism and hatred of the West. So, my concern is, will we maintain enough influence in Iraq to affect the direction of its development? If they turn around and suddenly decide again that women shouldn't be in school and that Sharia is the way to go, will we have the leverage to get them to reverse course? Colin Powell said some time ago that we would have to accept it if they decide that, which is not an answer I like. It took several years for Japan and Germany to be ready, but that might be because those countries were completely destroyed. Something about this feels like the occupation of Cuba after the Spanish-American War, but I don't recall it well enough at the moment. I think I'll take a look at that again this week and perhaps write more about it later. I know we'll have a significant military presence in Iraq for some time to come, but I have to wonder if that's enough. Robert Alt from NRO is optimistic, so I suppose we'll see. Ultimately, I think I'm going to put my trust in the expertise of Rumsfeld and Bremer and hope that political considerations have not made Bush hasty.
I agree with Brian that Bush is certainly no Reagan, but I wouldn't be so harsh on him. Yes, his "triangulation" nonsense is immensely frustrating and his "co-opt rather than confront" policies on things like education and health care are more in the legacy of Clinton than the Gipper. However, I disagree that his policies are going to bankrupt us and vehemently disagree that more or higher taxes are required. First, I'd direct attention to the so-called "Reagan Deficits," which, while certainly the work of Congress are similar to what people are saying about Bush now. It's spending with an important purpose: winning the war. The tax cuts were for the economy, and look how things are turning around; they helped. Is this situation helped by the social spending? Not at all. Should we raise taxes to pay for it? Absolutely not. The social programs should wither on the vine, which, incidentally, is an incentive to get true conservatives into Congress (Toomey > Specter). Of course, this is also a bad time to be cutting the defense budget, since we are at war. Do I like the deficit? Certainly not, but I'm not too worried about it. Deficits/debts are a necessary evil of warfare. Americans pay plenty in taxes and raising them could not possibly help the economy or morale at home. Again, the answer is curb other spending. You can criticize Bush for departing from the Reagan legacy in many areas, but to criticize him for not being like Reagan when it comes to deficits to win a war doesn't make sense.
As far as Saudi Arabia is concerned, we certainly need to keep them more at arm's length, but completely disentangling ourselves from Saudi oil is much easier said than done. ANWR would help, but nowhere near enough (of course that's not a reason NOT to drill there). The key problem is that Saudi Arabia still holds 23% of the world's oil reserves and is still the marginal producer. Together, Iraq and Russia, the two suppliers that look to be able to increase their production significantly in the near future (from what I recall), make up only 16% of the world's reserves. In addition, no one's quite sure what Iraq's new relationship with OPEC will be. Some of the oil we need can be obtained elsewhere, but not much and not enough. For the meantime, we need Saudi oil. Now, this doesn't mean we can't put pressure on them to clean up their act, as they depend on us to consume the oil just as much as we depend on them to produce it. In addition, they were quite dependent on us for defense, but since we've left our bases there, I'm unclear on what exactly our security relationship is. We have some leverage with the Saudis, and we need to use it, but not enough to make major changes there, I'm afraid.