Withdrawal from Iraq is predetermined. American soldiers will lose their lives there for some time to come, but eventually the country will become the world's number one center of terrorism - without any control over the local processes. Those who knew a recipe against terrorism in Iraq have been sentenced to death (whether justifiably or not is another matter). Those who had the stamina to tramp this anthill for three years, feigning the impression that victory was not far off, are about to leave it. The ants will spread out - there are no other options.
The new Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, has always been in favor of dialogue with Iran, and in this context there is a chance for the resolution of the Iranian problem. There is one more contributing factor, which was engendered by the elections - the resignation of John Bolton, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN. The Security Council resolution is becoming less and less aggressive, and the number of excuses for punishing Tehran is diminishing. Although the Iranian regime has warned in advance that it will ignore any Security Council sanctions, it is not in its interests to rock the boat, all the more so now that the moderate Republicans have strengthened, albeit slightly, their positions in U.S. foreign policy.
Washington is bound to change its policy on the Palestinian-Israeli problem, a key issue for the Middle East, all the more so if the weakening influence of the Jewish lobby is accompanied by the President's greater attention to his father's advice. The symptoms have been described above.
Zigzags are not likely to occur in other directions. Washington will continue limiting Russia's influence in the Caucasus by involving Georgia into NATO. It may even become more active if the Democrats strengthen their positions. Hence, the situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia will continue to be unstable.
But Washington's interests in the post-Soviet space are not limited to the Caucasus. It is also closely watching developments in Ukraine, Belarus, and Central Asia. Turkmenbashi's death will instantly invigorate U.S. policy in the Caspian area. As distinct from the pragmatic Republican Administration, the Democrats are indiscriminately trying to establish democracy wherever they can. This will encourage the White House to resolute action in a country with rich energy resources, which is bordering on U.S. obvious rivals in Central Asia - Russia and China.
Relations with China will become politicized once again, although the need to remove the North Korean nuclear threat, and economic mutual dependence will make Washington think twice before going for a serious quarrel with Beijing.
No positive changes are expected in relations with Russia. Stronger criticism in the sphere of human rights will be the most noticeable consequence of political change in the U.S. All strategic agreements have been either signed or severed, and nobody is talking about new ones. Meetings between the presidents take place without the usual pomp, and the need to look back to the Democratic Congress will cool Bush off a little more. The protocol on Russia's WTO entry may run into the Congress-created obstacles.
But today it is not the level of dialogue with Russia that worries the U.S. President. His main headache is what strategy to choose in order to save the Republicans during the presidential elections. In 2008, the election campaign will take place in the military period, and for this reason foreign policy or rather the war will determine its outcome. Having flopped in Iraq, the White House has failed in the election campaign.
There is a long list of what Bush has lost. But this does not mean that America is losing its power, renouncing its global ambitions, or ceases to be the only superpower. The system is restoring itself. It simply needs to get rid of the team which has fallen down on the job. The elections have shown that the system-fault duty is on - a change in the majority has taken place on the Capitol Hill.
The system is running, but the myth is being destroyed. Paradoxically, the Democratic victory has revealed the destruction of the myth about the American democracy. George W. Bush has done much to this end. It is enough to recall the tapping of telephone conversations without court sanctions, secret prisons, and tortures. Is this the kind of democracy he wanted to build in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Iran? His allies are not likely to have followed him, if he had declared his intentions in the fall of 2001, spring of 2003, or winter of 2006. Why should he need all this, if he has no problem building such a democracy in a much more important country - the U.S.?
The Americans do not think too much about things that would have shocked many just a decade ago. Today, they are ready to forego any rights and freedoms, if they hear the words "in the interests of security" from a uniformed official, or see them in an airport notice. Leaving his position, Kofi Annan, who was considered all but the most pro-American UN Secretary-General, said that having launched the war on terror, the U.S. has forgotten about democracy.
Willy-nilly, the Americans themselves expressed their mistrust of the myth about genuine U.S. democracy (in which people in Asia, Latin America, and Europe hardly ever believed). As devout patriots, they are not ready to be responsible for the government's blunders. Even an economic and military superpower may lose the right to moral leadership. This is what has happened to America. Apparently, this is the main consequence of the 2006 U.S. elections for world politics.