However, this change has been a progressive process and largely set on economic premises and cooperation between the Saudi state and western ones. Nonetheless, it represents an important example of progress in the Middle East.
At the moment the opinions regarding the current situation in the Middle East are rather mixed. On the one hand, there are those who see the Iranian case as being eloquent for the despise and opposing attitude of the majority in the Middle East; on the other hand, there are those who take Saudi Arabia as reference point for the possible success of future strategies concerning the democratization process and the way in which a totally Muslim country can change and improve its standards. From this point-of-view, the situation in Saudi Arabia, the progress it made in areas such as social activities, political participation, education, and other levels at which the population can express itself have been remarkable especially if one takes into account the fact that Saudi Arabia represents one of the most religious states in the world and the heart of the Muslim faith.
Another element of the Middle East American policy is related to the Middle East peace process. In this sense, the Annapolis summit pointed out the commitment of the American presidency for the resolution of the conflict between the Israel and the Palestinians. In this sense, President Bush's view on the situation is optimistic "I'm going to work hard to the finish... I'm going to sprint to the finish line" showing his determination and that of his administration to find the best solution for the situation on the ground (McKeeby, 2007).
The United States and its stated objectives
It is rather hard to determine the degree in which the United States managed to be successful in their fight for democracy in the Middle East. This assessment can be made solely on subjective sources which take into account either official sources or academic ones.
According to official opinions, the goals of the American intervention in the country are close to being reached. For instance, in order to ensure a proper security environment for the Iraqi population following the fall of the Hussein regime and to avoid a civil war between the rival factions of the society, the American side engaged in the process of training the Iraqi security forces to be able in the future to ensure the peace and stability in the country. Despite the hardships the international force has endured, it appears that progress has been made in this sense. Thus, there are numerous examples that would point out the change in attitude and mentality at the level of the army. For example, "one hundred and eighty-nine smiling Iraqi jundi (soldiers) received certificates for successfully completing a rigorous 10-week mechanics course December 30, 2007, knowing they will now play an integral role as engines for change powering their army" (Fisher-Thompson, 2008). Therefore, the opinion of the officials is that in fact the situation on the ground, although encountered several issues, is on the right path.
The different side of the story is presented by analysts and the media who argue that the number of casualties from the American side is relevant to point out the fact that the American policy in the Middle East cannot meet the challenges the situation on the ground impose. In this sense, according to some sources, there are almost 4000 U.S. soldiers who died in combat since the war began (Griffis, 2008). From this point-of-view, in the conditions in which the success of a war is seen through the causalities each of the sides suffer, it can be said that the price in human casualties is rather high for the American side.
Assessment of the policy towards Iraq
The policy towards Iraq revolved around the issue of the 2003 intervention. Considering the forces that were engaged at the time, it can be said that the military efforts are considered to be inferior to previous military endeavors. Thus, "U.S. forces were able to go all the way to Baghdad using only half the number of troops deployed in 1991 and only one-seventh as many (but far more precise) air-launched munitions, and without a 38-day bombing campaign (as in the first Gulf War)" (Tellis, 2004). However, the proper assessment of the war in Iraq and whether this has been a successful endeavor cannot be seen from the perspective of comparative studies, nor from the numerical quantities of the armies sent in battle. One of the most important aspects of this process is the practical view on the actual effects on the ground.
The American diplomacy has tried to use its entire means to promote the successful story of the war in Iraq; according to the official in Iraq, Ambassador Crocker pointed out that "much progress has been made, particularly in building an institutional framework where there was none before. But rather than being a period in which old animosities and suspicions were overcome, the past 18 months in particular have further strained Iraqi society" (U.S. Policy, 2007). Therefore at the level of the administrative framework, improvements have been made in the sense in which a social infrastructure has been achieved.
However, one must also take into account the fact that after the fall of the Saddam regime, the tensions between the rival groups of the Sunni and the *****s have led the country on the brick of civil war. This issue is considered however to be improving as "leaders from all communities openly acknowledge that a focus on sectarian gains has led to poor governance and served Iraqis badly. And many claim to be ready to make the sacrifices that will be needed to put government performance ahead of sectarian and ethnic concerns. Such ideas are no longer controversial, although their application will be" (U.S. Policy, 2007).
Considering the economic aspects of the situation regarding the Iraqi state, there are wide concerns related to the actual capacity of the state to recover from the decades of dictatorship and from years of sectarian conflicts and distress. However, the American administration considers that the change in regime has led to the automatic improvement in the economic environment. Despite the fact that the period of the war and the conflict situations that continue to affect the security environment in the state cannot be fully seen as a perfect working environment, from the point-of-view of the Administration, the influx of democratic practices and principles can only help the state to become a proper economic environment. Thus, "Iraq is starting to make some gains in the economy. Improving security is stimulating revival of markets, with the active participation of local communities. War damage is being cleared and buildings repaired, roads and sewers built and commerce energized" (U.S. Policy, 2007).
The prospects for the country are, from the point-of-view of the officials, are rather encouraging. The latest developments on the ground have made the U.S. To become confident in the chances for a possible withdrawal plan. This would surely be a desire of the American population who are more and more eager to find a way out of the war in Iraq. 2008 is considered to be a determining year for the way in which the situation in Iraq will escalate or not. According to official American sources from Bagdad, the views concerning the evolution of the situation are rather optimistic. In this sense, the American side "will continue the efforts to assist Iraqis in the pursuit of national reconciliation, while recognizing that progress on this front may come in many forms and must ultimately be done by Iraqis themselves. We will seek additional ways to neutralize regional interference and enhance regional and international support. And we will help Iraqis consolidate the positive developments at local levels and connect them with the national government. Finally, I expect we will invest much effort in developing the strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq, which is an investment in the future of both countries" (U.S. Policy, 2007).
Costs and benefits
In order to see the potential for such an optimistic view, it is important to consider the costs and the benefits of the entire operation. However, the situation requires a thorough analysis of the elements involved, from the military operations to the actual results on the ground and on the international scene.
The costs can fist be measured in terms of the victims on the ground. In this sense, the American victims are considered to be more than expected, especially taking into account previous U.S. experiences such as the Vietnam War, the Granada affair, and others. Aside from the deaths in Iraq, there were also almost 30,000 wounded (Griffis, 2008). From this point-of-view, the costs have been practically unbearable. Also, in terms of financial expenses, "the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated the cost of "prosecuting" a war against…