Friday, August 11, 2006

Is it winning?

Last year, around April, I ordered a famous roast beef sandwich from one of those restaurants with the words “Famous Roast Beef” appended to the establishment’s name.

The sandwich had lots of sauce. My hands got sticky. A homemade condiment of the barbecue variety trickled down my arm like a flashflood’s ad hoc streams of rain.

“I think my sandwich is winning,” I said to my companion.

We laughed. My friend tried to change the subject. I didn’t want to listen. I couldn’t. I was too busy. This war I was waging against my roast beef sandwich demanded all my mental resources. A quest to conquer a sandwich became my singular purpose.

After spending a few minutes employing futile countermeasures, I stopped eating. Sense coaxed me to set down the enemy, and, despite my best efforts and seemingly superior resources, a messy sandwich, half-eaten and in horrible shape, nevertheless declared victory.

My thoughts turned to the Bush Administration, Iraq, the War on Terror, nutjobs like Iran's Ahmadinejad, other nutjobs like the friendly neighborhood neoconservative, and childhood excursions with my grandfather. I told my friend a story.

During summer visits, Grandpa used to take me on trips to the ice cream shop. He loved to order one scoop of vanilla on a sugar cone. My cone typically had two scoops of my favorite flavor, coffee.

The ice cream, without fail, would cover my hands and arms in a gluey sheen, and my grandpa would ask, “Is it winning?” This was his running joke, the harmless kind that children never understand but adults do. I never made a dent in these treats. My ice cream melted every time. My grandpa knew my cone with its two scoops had a way of getting the best of me.

Are Iraq, Iran, Syria, and just about everyone else in the Middle East getting the best of us? Are we winning the War on Terror? The answers depend on who’s answering, and even the Bush Administration’s many players can’t seem to reach any consensus beyond "stay the course."

Meanwhile, this is no joke, and the questions remain.

The Administration's lot these days is like melting ice cream streaming down their hands and arms. No matter how hard Bush and his team try, they can’t quite lick the problem. What’s worse, they ignore the American people, whose ideas may help. As it tackles a military and diplomatic quagmire that melts ever faster and demands more and more mental resources, this Administration is too busy to listen.