Cliff May

Gemayel's murder tells the world that Hezbollah, Syria and Iran will not be bound by even the most basic international laws. Who in the so - called international community will contradict them? The Pope has criticized the assassination but how many divisions does he have?

Before long, expect such relatively moderate Muslim nations as Jordan and Bangladesh to make accommodations with those successfully projecting power. And expect them to distance themselves from those who are not.

Iraq is a mess. It has not become, as the President hoped it would, "a country that can sustain itself; a country that can govern itself; a country that can defend itself; and a country that will be an ally in the war against these extremists."

Suicide bombers and explosive devices triggered by garage door openers have turned out to be surprisingly effective weapons: though not decisive in any battle, they have eroded America's will to fight.

But because "victory" as Bush once defined it now seems out of reach, it does not follow that the solution is to cut and run – or even to cut and stroll away, the policy euphemistically called "phased redeployment." More modest but still significant goals can be achieved.

We can continue to fight Saddamist insurgents and al - Qaeda terrorists wherever we find them – and we find them in Iraq. We can accelerate the training of Iraqi forces. We can do what is necessary to stabilize Baghdad -- as we have pledged to do and tried to do but so far have failed to do because sufficient resources have not been devoted to the task.

As for the sectarian violence, our presence is not the cause and our absence would not be the cure. By continuing to play the role of honest broker between the Shia and Sunni communities, we may be able to prevent the conflict from spiraling into all - out civil war.

There are no good options in Iraq. There are only bad options and worse options. Let's hope President Bush and the new Democratic leaders in Congress are wise enough to distinguish between the two.

Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.