Iran thinks that the American President is lame because he is in his last days. Likewise, its obedient student, Hezbollah is believes the same thing, as does a worried Syria. Even allies of the United States are suffering from uneasy ideas, thinking that Bush has become a protocol president. They are afraid of the consequences of his impotence. But, remember that his presidency does not end next week, but on 20 January 2009, at l2 o’clock noon Washington time or 6 o’clock Beirut’s Southern Suburb time.
The idea that the authority of the President has ended could be partly responsible for the boldness of Hezbollah in occupying West Beirut and for frightening the moderate Arabs that the President has left Iran to tamper with Palestine and Lebanon, and perhaps also with the Gulf soon.
The danger is that a rumor could be more important than the truth in a region where politicians listen to café house rumors more than to the opinion of political science experts.
The Americans, who say that the president in an election year is not the same president in his first three years in office, might not understand this. Some might ask: what is it to us if the President had become a lame duck or a rotting corpse? Yes, there are dangers in misunderstanding.
A group, like Hezbollah did in occupying West Beirut, could upset the balance and carry out a coup against a regime thinking that the American player is preoccupied with the elections and the President is spending his day drinking tea and packing his bags in preparation for returning to his state, Texas. The second prevailing theory is that the United States has become a weak state like Mauritania, and the time is appropriate today to punish the Americans by serving Iran and advancing on the ground, confident that no one will do anything. In other words, a misunderstanding of the work mechanism in American politics encourages adventures and promotes chaos. This is what happened with former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein when he occupied Kuwait on the morning of 2 August 1990. He thought that he was permitted to fill the vacuum. Such incorrect theories have led to serious tragedies.
Yes, they see the President as a lame duck, but he can be a lame hawk, able to bloody his adversaries. Do you remember when Bush invaded Iraq? It was not in his first year in the White House but in May 2003–that is, one year from the end of his first presidential term. Imagine, he made his decision and carried out the largest military operation in the history of the United States since World War II. He launched a war when former President Saddam Hussein was excluding the possibility of such a war, relying on the views of Arab television analysts. They told him not to worry about the threats and the massing of fleets. They assured him that anti-war demonstrations, public opinion surveys, and the approaching end of the President’s first term would prevent war. How wrong they were!
Most probably, Bush will not undertake another major military adventure in the region, because, among other things, his term ends next year. It is true that the President has only six more months in office, but this is a long period in the history of our region and enough for Bush to commit new foolish acts if the other side goes too far in provoking him.