June 17, 2009
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The messy world George W. Bush left behind - By Dr. Kirmanj Gundi

In the wake of the impractical policies adopted by George W. Bush, the Middle Eastern regions became a vexatious migraine for the world. Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, together have become the black hole in the region.

After America was attacked on that dreadful morning of September 11, 2001, America under President Bush, needed a well planned strategy to create a strong and solidified front consisting of friendly nations including Islamic countries to prevent the plague of radicalism from spreading; instead the immediate response of the former President was condescending, "this is another crusade." Such irresponsible behavior from the President of the United States caused great concern to many friendly Islamic countries because the "Crusade" to which he referred was against all Muslims and not a particular group in the Middle East. This piece of history still has a strong impact on the minds of the greater majority of Muslims; therefore it was a damaging comparison for the US President to use.  Crusaders humiliated Muslims and ruined the Islamic entity.

Bush’s lack of knowledge in history and shallow understanding of global cultures made him to be the most impractical world leader in the 21st century to mount any campaign against, as he put it, the "Evil-doers." His low and narrow perception about the complexity of the world prevented him from acting like a pragmatic statesman and using a more comprehensive approach to lead the civilized world against "common enemies." His personal worldview and beliefs became a hindrance for America, preventing it from maintaining its revered position at the international level. His religious purview which was mixed with his global politics precluded America from working toward finding peaceful solutions to the many problems that confronted the nation.

Leaving the war in Afghanistan unfinished and starting a larger and more costly war in Iraq without a clear strategy was not a smart move. Events that followed the invasion indicated that he did not have enough understanding of the impact of his irresponsible war on the region. This was made especially evident when, less than two months after invading Iraq, he surprised the world by his infamous announcement, “The mission is accomplished."

President Bush toppled the Iraqi regime and dismantled Iraq’s institutions without any plan to reconfigure Iraq’s complex society. As a result, a dire and chaotic situation was created that left hundreds of thousands innocent Iraqis maimed or killed. American forces soon lost control over the situation and fought a defensive war with one of the bloodiest insurgencies in the history of Iraq. American officials (civilian and military alike) had no “exit strategy.” They were waiting for events to unfold and then deal with them as they occurred. This proved to be a blunder of astonishing magnitude. Because, it compelled Americans to open dialogue with former Ba’thists and Al-Qaeda supporters, and eventually led Americans to include them in the post-Saddam Iraqi government in order to minimize hostilities against American forces.

A few months later, in his State of the Union speech, George Bush exalted his Iraq policies; relying on his "cowboy diplomacy," he labeled Iran, North Korea, and Syria as the "Axis of Evil." This reckless attitude was a clear message to the world community that Mr. Bush held a warmongering mentality with no regard for diplomatic means as a way of preventing the “Iraq” war (which, of course, is the American war from Iraq’s perspective) from expanding and bring the conflict to an end. It also was a lucid message to Iran and Syria that -- after Iraq -- their turn would come.

The treatment of the Iraqi prisoners in US custody, who were tortured and raped by US soldiers in Abu-Ghreb prison created an international outcry against America and damaged its reputation. It showed that elements in the US armed forces acted irresponsibly and possessed no regard for human dignity. The behavior toward the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay was a clear reminder to the world that Bush’s government was no different from other uncivilized governments that did not hesitate to use torture against prisoners in their custody. Such behavior created a strong cycle of hate against the US presence in the region and contributed to the rise of radical militant groups that were already visible and striving to destabilize the larger Middle East. Such treatment of prisoners was a grave violation of the Geneva Convention and other international civil treaties.   

President Bush’s irresponsible attitude vis-à-vis North Korea immediately after taking office became evident when he suspended the successful policies of President Clinton with the Koreans (which were supported by Bush’s first Secretary of State, Collin Powel). His hard line approach against the North Korean regime resulted in a drastic deterioration in the fragile US-North Korean relationship and pushed the communist country to extremes where it restarted its nuclear weapons program, and tested medium and long range missiles. This policy contributed more instability to the Korean peninsula, which has created grave concern for nations in the region. Now, as a result of Bush’s policy, North Korea remains defiant more than ever before.   

President Bush premised his world politics on the neo-conservatism ideology and acted as if Almighty God had sent him to the White House to carry out His divine missions. Bush took a very arrogant stance against the Palestinians by ignoring communications with the legitimate Palestinian authorities (not even through a third party) and threw all the US support to the Israelis (although I believe that the Israelis have a right to their nation and can see that their existence must be protected). This unrealistic policy not only alienated many good Muslim friends to the US, but also strengthened radicalism all the way to the Far-East Asia. George Bush weakened American alliance and fortified its enemies. He profoundly damaged US leadership and its relationship at the global level. It might take decades of hard work to regain its vanished effectiveness.

It is not clear whether the chaotic and messy world George W. Bush helped to create can be controlled in the near future. The sectarian violence that snuffs out hundreds of thousands innocent lives in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan has shown unprecedented and indiscriminate atrocities against women, children, and elderly.  The U.S. has been challenged by what appears to be a vigorous antagonistic insurgency supported by the U.S. arch-enemy in the region, Iran—the same country with which the new US President has shown his willingness to have direct dialogue. 

The palliative policies offered by President Barak Obama which began with his trip to Egypt and his speech to the Muslims across the world can be perceived as a practical step toward rebuilding relationship that is based on mutual respect and understanding with Muslims and other alienated nations. However, it might take quite a long time to soothe the wounds that his predecessor left on the psyches of the world politics.

The current ominous circumstance in the Middle East requires serious international commitment that is yet to be forged.  Such a commitment once made might minimize options for the Iranians, Talibans and other undemocratic elements while strengthening the position of democratic forces. 

The century old regional disputes amongst the Middle Eastern peoples that have so disastrously framed the turbulent Middle East must be taken seriously and should be premised on the reality that has formed the region--that the Middle East is a complex web of various ethnicities that are not very friendly to one another. Such a reality has to be considered if the effort is to cement a viable and everlasting solution that is acceptable by all the stakeholders in the region. Therefore, the new approach by the pragmatic new US President to minimize turbulence in the messy world, which George Bush left behind, should be supported by all democratic forces. Only through engagement, dialogue, and understanding can a genuine solution be achieved--only then can a healthy coexistence among all different ethnicities and sectarian groups be developed and human suffering that has marred the region for far too long be stopped.

Kirmanj Gundi is a professor of Educational Administration and Leadership at Tennessee State University.


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