Thursday, June 19, 2014

When George Bush Really Is To Blame

President Obama and his supporters have spent much of the last six years blaming George Bush for the failures of the Obama Administration.

As the President mulls over what exactly the United States should do about the recent gains by ISIS in its revolt against the Iraqi government, he finally faces one crisis that he really can blame on Bush.

Bush involved the United States in Iraq as a sideshow following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Bush responded well enough. He rallied the nation and vowed to punish those who were responsible. This led to military operations against Afghanistan. Despite pleas by American special forces for more boots on the ground, Bush decided to follow the advice of Donald Rumsfeld to leave only a "small footprint" in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, in order to stomp someone's ass, it requires a big footprint. Instead of deploying the necessary forces to capture Osama bin Laden and destroy his one thousand plus fighters in Tora Bora, the Bush Administration elected to aid the Northern Alliance in its war against the Taliban and depend upon Pakistan to seal the border and help capture bin Laden. While the Northern Alliance did oust the Taliban, bin Laden slipped across the border with Pakistan, where he remained hidden for a decade.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, the administration and its supporters began beating the drums for war with Iraq--a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

Conservatives traditionally warn about the unintended consequences of government action in both domestic and foreign affairs. Not so this crowd.  A speech by Dick Cheney in 2002, with the drumbeats of war in the background, reveals the astonishing miscalculation of the Bush Administration about war with Iraq:

"Another argument holds that opposing Saddam Hussein would cause even greater troubles in that part of the world, and interfere with the larger war against terror. I believe the opposite is true.

Regime change in Iraq would bring about a number of benefits to the region. When the gravest of threats are eliminated, the freedom-loving peoples of the region will have a chance to promote the values that can bring lasting peace.

As for the reaction of the Arab "street," the Middle East expert Professor Fouad Ajami predicts that after liberation, the streets in Basra and Baghdad are "sure to erupt in joy in the same way the throngs in Kabul greeted the Americans." Extremists in the region would have to rethink their strategy of Jihad. Moderates throughout the region would take heart. And our ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be enhanced, just as it was following the liberation of Kuwait in 1991." 

The removal of Sadaam Hussein, as tyrannical as he was, failed to enhance the prospects of "freedom loving peoples" create conditions that would enhance their peace and happiness. Instead, Iraq has descended into a sectarian civil war between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Meanwhile, Iraq's Christian community has suffered horrendous treatment from both Sunnis and Shiites. In 2003. Iraqi Christians number over one million. Now there are less than 400,000. Iraq seems to be experiencing the "greater troubles" that Cheney so cavalierly disregarded.

Today the Shiite government of Iraq has lost control of some major cities in northern Iraq to the ISIS. It is only a matter of time before an assault begins on Baghdad. President Obama has some difficult decisions ahead. And as he considers those decisions, he can thank one person--George Bush.


CW said...

I just wrote on this subject myself, V.L.

I don’t think anyone can argue that Bush and Cheney were wrong in their predictions on how Iraq would respond to the removal of Saddam Hussein, but as I said in my piece I think there were potentially grave risks involved with every option if you believed the reasons cited in the original case for war were true. Those reasons did not include any connection to 9/11 as I recall.

While I greatly respect your take on things I will say that I think it’s a bit unfair to lay the blame for the sectarian civil war in Iraq on Bush. I think the “nation building” that Bush was highly criticized for was under taken in the hopes of preventing that very scenario, but ultimately the Iraqis (with incitement from outsiders) wanted to fight it out just as we fought our own revolution and civil war. It was an inevitability that had only been temporarily stayed by the strong-arm tactics of Saddam Hussein. Still, it looked for a while there like it might work, and some think it would have if U.S. forces had remained to keep the peace.

Who knows? I don’t think Bush was a good president but I think he at least did what he thought was in this country’s best interests. I don’t think Obama considers anyone’s interests besides his own.

RightDetour said...

Hey CW!

Bush is by no means the sole cause for the current crisis in Iraq. After all, no one is compelling Sunnis and Shiites to murder each other. Now that the infidel is gone, there is nothing stopping them from cooperating and shaping their regime however they want. Unfortunately, force, rather than consent, drives politics in the world of Islam. That is something that Team Bush should have considered. Our democracy or republic rests on cultural habits hundreds of years in the making. Republican government cannot be easily transplanted to cultures than cannot support it. Just because we put democratic processes in place, that does not mean it will yield a thriving democracy.

RightDetour said...

As to the actual decision to invade, I cannot find justification for it. The charge was that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. (Whatever that means; the 9/11 hijackers demonstrated the civilian airliners can be used as weapons of mass destruction.) The change turned out to be untrue, but even if it was true, that does not justify invasion when there was no imminent threat. Syria, Iran,Pakistan, NK, Russia, China all have weapons of mass destruction. So what.

I think Bush just wanted to tie up loose ends from the first Gulf War. Again, in that war, we failed to have a clean ending. Instead of disengaging after we cleared Iraq from Kuwait, we imposed sanctions (that killed thousands of Iraqi civilians) and no fly zones that kept us in the region under quasi-war conditions. My guess is that Team Bush thought an attack would finally bring everything to a tidy ending. But there's that "law of unintended consequences. . . "


CW said...

Syria, Iran, Pakistan, NK, Russia and China were not under the jurisdiction of a ceasefire agreement that required them to relinquish WMD and to prove it. As you know, in addition to having support from congress and much of the American public Bush was also able to get some 34 countries on board to remove Saddam. So while Bush certainly deserves blame for whatever failures transpired he was not alone in believing that the evidence made a case for removal of Saddam, and I don’t think the others in the coalition had any interest in tying up loose ends from the Gulf War.

Again I don’t think your arguments are unreasonable but I’m not seeing a satisfactory answer to the question of how you would deal with potentially dangerous dictators who refuse to comply with the terms of a ceasefire agreement, other than to simply leave him alone. Presumably there were reasons for putting the terms out there in the first place, namely to keep Iraq from being a menace. This was a man who made an attempt on the life of a U.S. president, and quite frankly that alone would have been all the justification I needed to take him out if I thought it wouldn’t involve us in a costly, protracted war. But also there are broader consequences for the us as a nation when we agree to a ceasefire and then take no action when the terms are flagrantly violated.

RightDetour said...

I always appreciate your thoughtful viewpoints---they always force a reexamination of my own!

Iraq was under UN sanctions as you note, but I believe that same UN Security Council behind those sanctions also refused to support the US plans for invasion.

The fact that Bush secured the support that he did is a tribute to his administration's diplomatic skill as well as evidence that many other nations perceived Iraq was a serious threat. And with all the Democrats who lined up behind the war, perhaps Bush should not carry the "blame" alone. But he was the one who rounded up the diplomatic support abroad and the political support at home.

Your last paragraph, insightful as always, illustrates (like my last paragraph in my previous comment) both the fun and the futility sometimes of these history exchanges. For now we have traced the "roots" of the current crisis not only to 2003, but way back to 1990. Perhaps of things had ended differently back then . . .

CW said...

"I always appreciate your thoughtful viewpoints---they always force a reexamination of my own!"

Ditto, Victor!