The current situation in the Middle East did not appear like a genie popping out of a bottle. The factors that prompted the current turmoil began during the Bush era and were a combination of several elements that came together to create the perfect storm. Whatever economic and social issues that were churning, the Al-Qaeda attack on 9-11 lit a fuse that eventually blew up in Bin Laden’s face. However, the terrorist attack created a ripple effect that has not stopped. At the same time, from the American side of the table, the Bush era created an Iraq war setting off the bomb that undermined any stability that had been created between Sunni and Shi’ite, Jew and Arab, elite and commoners. Latent unrest blew up like a torment volcano coming to life. The reverberations in Afghanistan and Iran became shock waves that continue to signal instability and hostility. Today, much of that debris is still settling on Egypt.
Another major effect during the Bush administration was the economic disaster that detonated with full force in 2008. The secretary of the treasury thought the world of Wall Street had come to an apocalyptic conclusion. (And it nearly did!) If one can push away the political charges and counter-charges in order to get to the bottom line, I believe we can now see clearly that there were never weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the gross expenditures to support an unpaid for war in Iraq and Afghanistan set up America for a financial disaster.
Obviously, we rolled over Iraq like boys turning over outhouses on Halloween, but Afghanistan turned out to be a genuine mud hole. Bush’s assurances of victory in Iraq only exacerbated the religious and social forces America could not control and the proclamation of victory turned out to be an ironic proclamation of disaster. We now know that we poured millions of dollars into the pockets of Hamid Karzai and it bought almost nothing except a little time.
While many make the charge that Bush was inept, I believe he was a decent man who wanted the best for the country. Unfortunately, his jokes about not going to the library turned out to be a comment on himself. He lacked the breadth and the depth to handle incredibly important issues that have now come back to haunt the world. Certainly, Rumsfeld and Chaney only threw more logs on the fire.
Another commentator could paint a different picture of how these factors came together, but no one can deny the costly effect these decisions had on world order. In the Middle East, we are faced with issues of serious distrust. The Egyptians need our money, but don’t trust us. When Syria falls, we will once again be on the outside looking in on people who despise us. Bush claimed we were bringing democracy to Iraq. Not only has that not been the chase, the real winner may turn out to be Iran.
And so the kettle boils and the fire burns. The American role in the Middle East has been diminished and the consequences are not good for millions of people. Think about it because we need the best thoughts we can find.