BUSH'S MIDDLE EAST HOPES
By Dr. Daniel Pipes
His hallmark has been a readiness to break with long-established bipartisan positions and adopt stunningly new policies, and, by late 2005, he had laid out his novel approach in four major areas.
Radical Islam: Prior to 9/11, American authorities viewed Islamist violence as a narrow criminal problem. Calling for a "war against terror" in September, 2001, Bush broadened the conflict. Specifying the precise force behind terrorism peaked in October, 2005, when he termed it "Islamic radicalism," "militant Jihadism," and "Islamo-Fascism."
Pre-emptive War: Deterrence had long been the policy of choice against the Soviet Union and other threats, but Bush added a second policy in June, 2002 -- pre-emption. U.S. security, he said, "will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives." Nine months later, this new doctrine served as his basis to invade Iraq and eliminate Saddam Hussein before the latter could develop nuclear weapons.
The Arab-Israeli Conflict: Bush avoided the old-style and counterproductive "peace process" diplomacy and tried a new approach in June, 2003, by establishing the goal of "two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side, in peace and security." In addition, he outlined his final-status vision, specified a timetable, and even attempted to sideline a recalcitrant leader (Yasir Arafat) or prop up a forthcoming one (Ehud Olmert).
Representative Democracy: Deriding "Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East" as a policy that "did nothing to make us safe," Bush announced in November, 2003, "a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East," by which he meant pushing regimes to open up to citizen participation.
So much for vision; how about implementation? At the end of his first term, I found that the Bush policies, other than the Arab-Israeli one, stood "a good chance of working." No longer. Today, I perceive failure in all four areas.
George W. Bush and Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, hand in hand.
Bush's once-improved understanding of radical Islam has been reversed, to the point that he uses lengthy and inelegant euphemisms to avoid referring to the problem by name, relying on formulations like "a group of extremists who seek to use religion as a path to power and a means of domination."
Pre-emptive war requires convincing observers that the pre-emption was indeed justified, something the Bush administration failed to do. Only half the American population and many fewer in the Middle East accept the need for invading Iraq, creating domestic divisions and external hostility greater than at any time since the Vietnam War. Among the costs: greater difficulty to take pre-emptive action against the Iranian nuclear program.
Bush's vision of resolving one century of Arab-Israeli conflict by anointing Mahmoud Abbas as leader of a Palestinian state is illusory. A sovereign "Palestine" alongside Israel would drain the anti-Zionist hatred and close down the irredentist war against Israel? No, the mischievous goal of creating "Palestine" will inspire more fervor to eliminate the Jewish state, especially if accompanied by a Palestinian "right of return."
Finally, encouraging democracy is clearly a worthy goal, but when the Middle East's dominant popular force is totalitarian Islam, is it such a great idea to rush head-long ahead? Yet, rushing ahead characterized Washington's initial approach – until the policy's damage to U.S. interests became too apparent to ignore, causing it largely to be abandoned.
At a time when George W. Bush arouses such intense vituperation among his critics, someone who wishes him well, like myself, criticizes reluctantly. But criticize one must; to pretend all is well, or to remain loyal to the person, despite his record, does no one a favor. A frank recognition of shortcomings must precede their repair.
I respect Bush's benign motivation and good intentions, while mourning his having squandered a record-breaking 90 percent job-approval rating following 9/11 and his bequeathing to the next President a polarized electorate, a military reluctant to use force against Iran, Hamas ruling Gaza, an Iraqi disaster-in-waiting, radical Islam on the ascendant, and unprecedented levels of global anti-Americanism.
Conservatives have much work ahead to reconstruct their Middle East policy.
© Daniel Pipes 2008
Originally Published in the Jerusalem Post, January 17, 2008
Republished with the Permission of Daniel Pipes
Reprinted from the Daniel Pipes Mailing List, January 17, 2008
Article URL: http://www.danielpipes.org/article/5386
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Dr. Daniel Pipes, a Ph.D. in Islamic History (Harvard University, 1978), is the Founder and Director of the Middle East Forum, the Founder of Campus Watch, a signatory of the Project for the New American Century, a former board member of the U.S. Institute of Peace, a former adjunct scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a Golden Circle supporter of the U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon, a former member of the U.S. Department of Defense Special Task Force on Terrorism and Technology, and a former lecturer at the U.S. Naval War College, Harvard University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Pipes was the Director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute from 1986 to 1993.
Author or co-author of eighteen books, Dr. Pipes is a regular columnist for Front Page Magazine, the New York Sun, and the Jerusalem Post. His analyses of world trends and of forces and developments in the Middle East have appeared in numerous North American newspapers, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He frequently appears on American network television, as well as at universities and think tanks, to discuss the Middle East, Islam, and the Islamist threat to the U.S.A. and the West. He also has appeared on BBC and Al Jazeera, and has lectured in approximately twenty-five countries.
Dr. Pipes is a Polish-American Jew whose parents fled Poland in 1939, immigrated to the U.S.A., and assimilated well into
American society and culture. His father is Richard Pipes, an American historian specializing in Russian and Soviet history
and serving as Professor of History at Harvard University from 1950 until his retirement in 1996. During the Cold War, the
worldview of Richard Pipes was strongly anti-Soviet and anti-Communist.
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