Robert Novak

-- Afghanistan: Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a conservative Republican from California who was a Reagan White House speechwriter, went on the House floor May 6 to accuse the State Department of squandering the fruits of military victory in Afghanistan. An old Afghan hand, Rohrabacher complained that the anti-Taliban fighters who collaborated in the military victory are being cut out of the governing process. U.S. officials "are pushing the wrong way in Afghanistan," he declared.

Rohrabacher's warnings are dismissed by State Department officials, who contend that no foreign power has ever managed to control Afghanistan beyond the gates of Kabul and accuse the congressman of angling for a piece of the action. Nevertheless, more and more Republicans in Congress believe the Afghan policy has gone awry.

-- Israel-Palestine: "Realistically, I would say that the roadmap appears to be dead," a senior State Department official told me after Secretary of State Colin Powell's failed Middle East mission. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon guaranteed failure when he announced his visit to Bush in Washington to undercut Powell. If Bush does not counter Sharon's intransigence, the message sent throughout the Middle East will worry those Republicans who see the need for a Palestinian state.

-- Saudi Arabia: CIA briefers last week said the new terrorist bombings signified not lack of will by Crown Prince Abdullah but a lack of means. Nevertheless, the barrage of U.S. criticism directed against the Saudi government threatens destabilization of another Arab country. How, ask some thoughtful Republicans, can the U.S. take on this added burden?

That burden is a quasi-imperial one. The president's avowed aim of bringing democracy to a region that has never known it faces massive problems -- beginning with Iraq. The dispatch of 15,000 more U.S. troops for occupation duty may be only the down payment. The heartiest celebration over the fall of Baghdad clearly is in the past.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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