In every vital area, from Afghanistan to Egypt, his policies have made the situation worse than it was before
Timothy Garton Ash
Thursday December 14, 2006
What an amazing bloody catastrophe. The Bush administration's policy towards the Middle East over the five years since 9/11 is culminating in a multiple train crash. Never in the field of human conflict was so little achieved by so great a country at such vast expense. In every vital area of the wider Middle East, American policy over the last five years has taken a bad situation and made it worse.
If the consequences were not so serious, one would have to laugh at a failure of such heroic proportions - rather in the spirit of Zorba the Greek who, contemplating the splintered ruins of his great project, memorably exclaimed: "Did you ever see a more splendiferous crash?" But the reckless incompetence of Zorba the Bush has resulted in the death, maiming, uprooting or impoverishment of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children - mainly Muslim Arabs but also Christian Lebanese, Israelis and American and British soldiers. By contributing to a broader alienation of Muslims it has also helped to make a world in which, as we walk the streets of London, Madrid, Jerusalem, New York or Sydney, we are all, each and every one of us, less safe. Laugh if you dare.
In the beginning, there were the 9/11 attacks. It's important to stress that no one can fairly blame George Bush for them. The invasion of Afghanistan was a justified response to those attacks, which were initiated by al-Qaida from its bases in a rogue state under the tyranny of the Taliban. But if Afghanistan had to be done, it had to be done properly. It wasn't. Creating a half-way civilised order in one of the most rugged, inhospitable and tribally recalcitrant places on the planet was always going to be a huge challenge. If the available resources of the world's democracies, including those of a new, enlarged Nato, had been dedicated to that task over the last five years, we might at least have one partial success to report today.