But maybe, just maybe there is one thing that George can accomplish before the movers come to haul away the trash. Maybe he can focus on one of the few places where he's still liked, India, and use that goodwill to prevent open conflict between India and Pakistan.
America has already been somewhat successful in talking New Delhi down after its parliament was attacked in December, 2001 and following last summer's bombing of its embassy in Kabul. It'll be much tougher yet to rein in India after the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, especially given the actions that Washington itself has taken toward Pakistan lately.
From The New York Times:
Officials in New Delhi might also feel less compelled to follow calls for a controlled response from the Bush administration, which has steadily escalated a campaign of airstrikes on Pakistani soil using remotely piloted aircraft. The Pentagon has even sent Special Operations forces into Pakistan to attack suspected militant targets, partly in an attempt to stop the militants from crossing the border into Afghanistan, where they are helping fuel an increasingly robust Taliban insurgency.
The White House has adopted a clear position to justify those attacks: if a country cannot deal with a terrorism problem on its own, the United States reserves the right to act unilaterally.
Should it become clear that the men who rampaged through Mumbai trained in Pakistan, even if the Pakistani government had no hand in the operation, what will stop the Indians from adopting the same position?
The ongoing, low-grade conflict between India and Pakistan is vastly more complex than the century-long struggle Britain had with Irish nationalists. There is a host of geopolitical factors in play in a region that gave birth to the term The Great Game. The scope of these factors and the players involved at various levels stretches from the Middle East to the Black Sea to China itself. An Indian-Pakistani war, even if it didn't go nuclear, would send shockwaves across this entire, enormous region. It will resonate in Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq. It will colour ongoing developments in Georgia and Ukraine.
Events of the past year have left this mess considerably more complicated and potentially more dangerous. America has entered into a nuclear and military co-operation pact with India that is to China of a similar magnitude as Washington establishing anti-missile batteries in Poland and the Czech Republic and trying to march NATO to Russia's doorstep is to Moscow. China has responded, albeit tentatively, by inching Pakistan and Iran toward membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, its own military security alliance. China has also brokered its own nuclear deal with Pakistan although the details are vague at best.
Open conflict between India and Pakistan would destabilize the region and it's not clear that there would be any winners. India could probably defeat Pakistan's military or its conventional forces at least but transforming that into some sort of lasting victory would be nigh impossible. China might be able to exploit the opportunity to bring Pakistan into its geopolitical fold which would cut off India's overland routes except through Burma. In particular it could kill India's hope of pipeline access to Middle East oil and gas.
Washington might have a tough time keeping an Indian-Pakistani war from being depicted as America using a proxy to stage yet another attack on a Muslim state. It's not difficult to see how that would play straight into the hands of al Qaeda and other Islamist groups from Morocco to Iran,Iraq and Afghanistan.
This is not a good time for Washington to find itself entangled in such a predicament. Its armed forces are already strained to the breaking point and it's in an economic battle for survival. Even faltering at this critical moment could have repercussions as far away as the Eastern Europe or the Taiwan Strait.
It's too much to hope that the Bush administration could broker some sort of peace deal between Pakistan and India. That would demand a degree of diplomatic flexibility utterly beyond the Bushies. After all, the past eight years have taught us that George w. doesn't do complex. His mind is pure mono with one tinny speaker.
At best, it is possible that Bush once again could persuade New Delhi to keep its forces in place for at least another couple of months. If he doesn't, if India mobilizes, all bets are off.