Bush's Middle East Hopes
by Daniel Pipes, Jerusalem Post, January 17, 2008
Mike Ghouse: Daniel Pipes and the Neocons (thinking in terms of extreme exclusivity, either you or I kind of idelogy) are conditioned to think that solving the problems of the world comes through military might, destruction, force and chaos. If the world leaders listen to them there will be a holocaust of Arabs and Muslims to begin with, and then others. What does not enter their minds is that you cannot have peace when you have created destruction around you. The remnants of the destruction will be hounding you for ever, neither you will be in peace nor the world around you. If they can spend their energy, time and resources instead to build goodwill and working for peace, the results would be far greater at a far less cost and without messing up one's mind for being chaotic.
George W. Bush's policies toward the Middle East and Islam will loom large when historians judge his presidency. On the occasion of his concluding his 8-day, 6-country trip to the Middle East and entering his final year in office, I offer some provisional assessments.
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.
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).
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.
Highlights of Bush's Trip to the Mideast
By The Associated Press – Jan 8, 2008
Highlights of President Bush's upcoming trip to the Middle East, according to the planned schedule as outlined by the White House:
_Arrives in Israel. Meets with Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and president, Shimon Peres.
_Visits the West Bank to meet with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and prime minister, Salam Fayyad, at their headquarters in Ramallah.
_In Israel to meet with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, now a Middle East peace envoy. Lays a wreath at the Israel's official Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem. Travels to Kuwait to meet with the emir, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah.
_In Kuwait to meet with U.S. troops at Camp Arifjan and receive updates on the situation in Iraq from the top U.S. commander, Gen. David Petraeus, and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker. He also meets with Kuwaiti women. Travels to Bahrain to meet with King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.
_Visits the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain. Travels to the United Arab Emirates to meet with the president, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and gives a speech in Abu Dhabi on freedom in the region.
_Visits Dubai and then travels to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Abdullah.
_In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for meetings.
_In Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, to meet with President Hosni Mubarak before returning to Washington.
Bush on September 2001
Statement by the President in His Address to the Nation
View the President's Remarks View the President's Remarks Listen to the President's Remarks
8:30 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were in airplanes, or in their offices; secretaries, businessmen and women, military and federal workers; moms and dads, friends and neighbors. Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror.
The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge structures collapsing, have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger. These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed; our country is strong.
A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.
America was targeted for attack because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining.
Today, our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature. And we responded with the best of America -- with the daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could.
Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government's emergency response plans. Our military is powerful, and it's prepared. Our emergency teams are working in New York City and Washington, D.C. to help with local rescue efforts.
Our first priority is to get help to those who have been injured, and to take every precaution to protect our citizens at home and around the world from further attacks.
The functions of our government continue without interruption. Federal agencies in Washington which had to be evacuated today are reopening for essential personnel tonight, and will be open for business tomorrow. Our financial institutions remain strong, and the American economy will be open for business, as well.
The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts. I've directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.
I appreciate so very much the members of Congress who have joined me in strongly condemning these attacks. And on behalf of the American people, I thank the many world leaders who have called to offer their condolences and assistance.
America and our friends and allies join with all those who want peace and security in the world, and we stand together to win the war against terrorism. Tonight, I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a power greater than any of us, spoken through the ages in Psalm 23: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me."
This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day. Yet, we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.
Thank you. Good night, and God bless America.
President Bush Delivers Graduation Speech at West Point
United States Military Academy
West Point, New York
9:13 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, General Lennox. Mr. Secretary, Governor Pataki, members of the United States Congress, Academy staff and faculty, distinguished guests, proud family members, and graduates: I want to thank you for your welcome. Laura and I are especially honored to visit this great institution in your bicentennial year.
In every corner of America, the words "West Point" command immediate respect. This place where the Hudson River bends is more than a fine institution of learning. The United States Military Academy is the guardian of values that have shaped the soldiers who have shaped the history of the world.
A few of you have followed in the path of the perfect West Point graduate, Robert E. Lee, who never received a single demerit in four years. Some of you followed in the path of the imperfect graduate, Ulysses S. Grant, who had his fair share of demerits, and said the happiest day of his life was "the day I left West Point." (Laughter.) During my college years I guess you could say I was -- (laughter.) During my college years I guess you could say I was a Grant man. (Laughter.)
You walk in the tradition of Eisenhower and MacArthur, Patton and Bradley - the commanders who saved a civilization. And you walk in the tradition of second lieutenants who did the same, by fighting and dying on distant battlefields.
Graduates of this academy have brought creativity and courage to every field of endeavor. West Point produced the chief engineer of the Panama Canal, the mind behind the Manhattan Project, the first American to walk in space. This fine institution gave us the man they say invented baseball, and other young men over the years who perfected the game of football.
You know this, but many in America don't -- George C. Marshall, a VMI graduate, is said to have given this order: "I want an officer for a secret and dangerous mission. I want a West Point football player." (Applause.)
As you leave here today, I know there's one thing you'll never miss about this place: Being a plebe. (Applause.) But even a plebe at West Point is made to feel he or she has some standing in the world. (Laughter.) I'm told that plebes, when asked whom they outrank, are required to answer this: "Sir, the Superintendent's dog -- (laughter) -- the Commandant's cat, and all the admirals in the whole damn Navy." (Applause.) I probably won't be sharing that with the Secretary of the Navy. (Laughter.)
West Point is guided by tradition, and in honor of the "Golden Children of the Corps," -- (applause) -- I will observe one of the traditions you cherish most. As the Commander-in-Chief, I hereby grant amnesty to all cadets who are on restriction for minor conduct offenses. (Applause.) Those of you in the end zone might have cheered a little early. (Laughter.) Because, you see, I'm going to let General Lennox define exactly what "minor" means. (Laughter.)
Every West Point class is commissioned to the Armed Forces. Some West Point classes are also commissioned by history, to take part in a great new calling for their country. Speaking here to the class of 1942 -- six months after Pearl Harbor -- General Marshall said, "We're determined that before the sun sets on this terrible struggle, our flag will be recognized throughout the world as a symbol of freedom on the one hand, and of overwhelming power on the other." (Applause.)
Officers graduating that year helped fulfill that mission, defeating Japan and Germany, and then reconstructing those nations as allies. West Point graduates of the 1940s saw the rise of a deadly new challenge -- the challenge of imperial communism -- and opposed it from Korea to Berlin, to Vietnam, and in the Cold War, from beginning to end. And as the sun set on their struggle, many of those West Point officers lived to see a world transformed.
History has also issued its call to your generation. In your last year, America was attacked by a ruthless and resourceful enemy. You graduate from this Academy in a time of war, taking your place in an American military that is powerful and is honorable. Our war on terror is only begun, but in Afghanistan it was begun well. (Applause.)
I am proud of the men and women who have fought on my orders. America is profoundly grateful for all who serve the cause of freedom, and for all who have given their lives in its defense. This nation respects and trusts our military, and we are confident in your victories to come. (Applause.)
This war will take many turns we cannot predict. Yet I am certain of this: Wherever we carry it, the American flag will stand not only for our power, but for freedom. (Applause.) Our nation's cause has always been larger than our nation's defense. We fight, as we always fight, for a just peace -- a peace that favors human liberty. We will defend the peace against threats from terrorists and tyrants. We will preserve the peace by building good relations among the great powers. And we will extend the peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent.
Building this just peace is America's opportunity, and America's duty. From this day forward, it is your challenge, as well, and we will meet this challenge together. (Applause.) You will wear the uniform of a great and unique country. America has no empire to extend or utopia to establish. We wish for others only what we wish for ourselves -- safety from violence, the rewards of liberty, and the hope for a better life.
In defending the peace, we face a threat with no precedent. Enemies in the past needed great armies and great industrial capabilities to endanger the American people and our nation. The attacks of September the 11th required a few hundred thousand dollars in the hands of a few dozen evil and deluded men. All of the chaos and suffering they caused came at much less than the cost of a single tank. The dangers have not passed. This government and the American people are on watch, we are ready, because we know the terrorists have more money and more men and more plans.
The gravest danger to freedom lies at the perilous crossroads of radicalism and technology. When the spread of chemical and biological and nuclear weapons, along with ballistic missile technology -- when that occurs, even weak states and small groups could attain a catastrophic power to strike great nations. Our enemies have declared this very intention, and have been caught seeking these terrible weapons. They want the capability to blackmail us, or to harm us, or to harm our friends -- and we will oppose them with all our power. (Applause.)
For much of the last century, America's defense relied on the Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment. In some cases, those strategies still apply. But new threats also require new thinking. Deterrence -- the promise of massive retaliation against nations -- means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend. Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies.
We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants, who solemnly sign non-proliferation treaties, and then systemically break them. If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long. (Applause.)
Homeland defense and missile defense are part of stronger security, and they're essential priorities for America. Yet the war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge. (Applause.) In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act. (Applause.)
Our security will require the best intelligence, to reveal threats hidden in caves and growing in laboratories. Our security will require modernizing domestic agencies such as the FBI, so they're prepared to act, and act quickly, against danger. Our security will require transforming the military you will lead -- a military that must be ready to strike at a moment's notice in any dark corner of the world. And our security 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. (Applause.)
The work ahead is difficult. The choices we will face are complex. We must uncover terror cells in 60 or more countries, using every tool of finance, intelligence and law enforcement. Along with our friends and allies, we must oppose proliferation and confront regimes that sponsor terror, as each case requires. Some nations need military training to fight terror, and we'll provide it. Other nations oppose terror, but tolerate the hatred that leads to terror -- and that must change. (Applause.) We will send diplomats where they are needed, and we will send you, our soldiers, where you're needed. (Applause.)
All nations that decide for aggression and terror will pay a price. We will not leave the safety of America and the peace of the planet at the mercy of a few mad terrorists and tyrants. (Applause.) We will lift this dark threat from our country and from the world.
Because the war on terror will require resolve and patience, it will also require firm moral purpose. In this way our struggle is similar to the Cold War. Now, as then, our enemies are totalitarians, holding a creed of power with no place for human dignity. Now, as then, they seek to impose a joyless conformity, to control every life and all of life.
America confronted imperial communism in many different ways -- diplomatic, economic, and military. Yet moral clarity was essential to our victory in the Cold War. When leaders like John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan refused to gloss over the brutality of tyrants, they gave hope to prisoners and dissidents and exiles, and rallied free nations to a great cause.
Some worry that it is somehow undiplomatic or impolite to speak the language of right and wrong. I disagree. (Applause.) Different circumstances require different methods, but not different moralities. (Applause.) Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time, and in every place. Targeting innocent civilians for murder is always and everywhere wrong. (Applause.) Brutality against women is always and everywhere wrong. (Applause.) There can be no neutrality between justice and cruelty, between the innocent and the guilty. We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name. (Applause.) By confronting evil and lawless regimes, we do not create a problem, we reveal a problem. And we will lead the world in opposing it. (Applause.)
As we defend the peace, we also have an historic opportunity to preserve the peace. We have our best chance since the rise of the nation state in the 17th century to build a world where the great powers compete in peace instead of prepare for war. The history of the last century, in particular, was dominated by a series of destructive national rivalries that left battlefields and graveyards across the Earth. Germany fought France, the Axis fought the Allies, and then the East fought the West, in proxy wars and tense standoffs, against a backdrop of nuclear Armageddon.
Competition between great nations is inevitable, but armed conflict in our world is not. More and more, civilized nations find ourselves on the same side -- united by common dangers of terrorist violence and chaos. America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge -- (applause) -- thereby, making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace.
Today the great powers are also increasingly united by common values, instead of divided by conflicting ideologies. The United States, Japan and our Pacific friends, and now all of Europe, share a deep commitment to human freedom, embodied in strong alliances such as NATO. And the tide of liberty is rising in many other nations.
Generations of West Point officers planned and practiced for battles with Soviet Russia. I've just returned from a new Russia, now a country reaching toward democracy, and our partner in the war against terror. (Applause.) Even in China, leaders are discovering that economic freedom is the only lasting source of national wealth. In time, they will find that social and political freedom is the only true source of national greatness. (Applause.)
When the great powers share common values, we are better able to confront serious regional conflicts together, better able to cooperate in preventing the spread of violence or economic chaos. In the past, great power rivals took sides in difficult regional problems, making divisions deeper and more complicated. Today, from the Middle East to South Asia, we are gathering broad international coalitions to increase the pressure for peace. We must build strong and great power relations when times are good; to help manage crisis when times are bad. America needs partners to preserve the peace, and we will work with every nation that shares this noble goal. (Applause.)
And finally, America stands for more than the absence of war. We have a great opportunity to extend a just peace, by replacing poverty, repression, and resentment around the world with hope of a better day. Through most of history, poverty was persistent, inescapable, and almost universal. In the last few decades, we've seen nations from Chile to South Korea build modern economies and freer societies, lifting millions of people out of despair and want. And there's no mystery to this achievement.
The 20th century ended with a single surviving model of human progress, based on non-negotiable demands of human dignity, the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women and private property and free speech and equal justice and religious tolerance. America cannot impose this vision -- yet we can support and reward governments that make the right choices for their own people. In our development aid, in our diplomatic efforts, in our international broadcasting, and in our educational assistance, the United States will promote moderation and tolerance and human rights. And we will defend the peace that makes all progress possible.
When it comes to the common rights and needs of men and women, there is no clash of civilizations. The requirements of freedom apply fully to Africa and Latin America and the entire Islamic world. The peoples of the Islamic nations want and deserve the same freedoms and opportunities as people in every nation. And their governments should listen to their hopes. (Applause.)
A truly strong nation will permit legal avenues of dissent for all groups that pursue their aspirations without violence. An advancing nation will pursue economic reform, to unleash the great entrepreneurial energy of its people. A thriving nation will respect the rights of women, because no society can prosper while denying opportunity to half its citizens. Mothers and fathers and children across the Islamic world, and all the world, share the same fears and aspirations. In poverty, they struggle. In tyranny, they suffer. And as we saw in Afghanistan, in liberation they celebrate. (Applause.)
America has a greater objective than controlling threats and containing resentment. We will work for a just and peaceful world beyond the war on terror.
The bicentennial class of West Point now enters this drama. With all in the United States Army, you will stand between your fellow citizens and grave danger. You will help establish a peace that allows millions around the world to live in liberty and to grow in prosperity. You will face times of calm, and times of crisis. And every test will find you prepared -- because you're the men and women of West Point. (Applause.) You leave here marked by the character of this Academy, carrying with you the highest ideals of our nation.
Toward the end of his life, Dwight Eisenhower recalled the first day he stood on the plain at West Point. "The feeling came over me," he said, "that the expression 'the United States of America' would now and henceforth mean something different than it had ever before. From here on, it would be the nation I would be serving, not myself."
Today, your last day at West Point, you begin a life of service in a career unlike any other. You've answered a calling to hardship and purpose, to risk and honor. At the end of every day you will know that you have faithfully done your duty. May you always bring to that duty the high standards of this great American institution. May you always be worthy of the long gray line that stretches two centuries behind you.
On behalf of the nation, I congratulate each one of you for the commission you've earned and for the credit you bring to the United States of America. May God bless you all. (Applause.)
END 10:05 A.M. EDT
Throwing out the rule book - Daniel Pipes
"Our goal is two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side, in peace and security." So spoke President Bush at a Middle East summit on June 4. Then, despite the jump in violence over the next 10 days, leaving 63 dead, he reiterated on Sunday his belief in "a peaceful Palestinian state, living side by side with the Israelis," though now adding "we've got a lot of work to do."
Bush's goal may appear to be just another diplomatic twist in the half-century search for an Arab-Israeli resolution. But it is much more. Indeed, it could well be the most surprising and daring step of his presidency. Here's why:
It is surprising, first, because he largely stayed away from this issue during his first two years as president. To be sure, he met with Middle East leaders, made speeches and rapped some knuckles - but his general approach was to stand aloof and let Palestinians and Israelis sort out their mess on their own. Then, in recent weeks, Arab-Israeli diplomacy moved very quickly from the periphery to the center, becoming as high a priority as it had ever been under prior administrations, perhaps even higher.
Second, the president in late 2001 surprised observers by adopting the idea that the creation of a Palestinian state would solve the Arab-Israeli conflict, a policy no U.S. government has proposed since 1947, before the State of Israel had come into existence.
Third, this policy did not emerge from the usual process of consensus-building of White House aides brainstorming, State Department proposals, think tank studies and congressional initiatives. Rather, it reflects the president's personal vision.
Fourth, aiming to create a Palestinian state is surprising because it turns the domestic calculus upside-down. The "right and the left have both switched their opinion of Bush," observes Jonathan Tobin in the Philadelphia Exponent. Exactly so: Conservatives who were applauding the president's demand for Palestinian democracy now fret about the impact of a Palestinian state on Israel's security. Conversely, liberals not usually counted among his supporters now enthusiastically endorse the goal of a Palestinian state.
Finally, Bush threw out the rulebook for American mediators in Arab-Israeli diplomacy.
Rules of thumb he is ignoring include:
Don't pre-judge the final status. Presidents usually content themselves with vague intentions, leaving it to the combatants to decide on the specifics; "the time has come to put an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict," for example, was how vaguely George H. W. Bush expressed his plans in 1991.
Don't try to impose a settlement. Not since the failed Vance-Gromyko discussions in 1977 has the U.S. government proposed an internationalized format for resolving the Arab-Israeli dispute. More typical was James Baker's famously irritated statement in 1990; he gave out the White House phone number and told the Israelis, "When you're serious about peace, call us."
Don't tie yourself to a timetable. Negotiators have shied away from calendar-specific goals, noting how often dates slip by with goals unfulfilled.
Don't choose leaders. Until now, American presidents have accepted Arab dictators as a given; the Bush administration (having already deposed the tyrants in Afghanistan and Iraq) undertook to sideline Yasser Arafat and replace him with his deputy Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen).
Don't involve the president until the endgame. Lower-ranking officials typically test the waters and clear the path before the president himself joins the fray. For the president personally to involve himself from the get-go, as is now the case, amounts to high-wire diplomacy without a net.
In all, President Bush has made "a radical break" from past U.S. policies, says the Washington Institute's Robert Satloff, an authority on American diplomacy.
Just as the Arab-Israeli theater has provided some of the peak and trough moments of recent presidencies, it could well leave its marks on this one.
Jimmy Carter's single finest moment was the Camp David agreement between Egypt and Israel in 1978. Ronald Reagan's worst moment was withdrawing American troops from Lebanon in 1984. Bill Clinton enjoyed the triumph of the Oslo accord signing in 1993 and suffered signal failure with the collapse of the Camp David talks in 2000.
The fate of "Israel and Palestine, living side by side, in peace and security," in short, can be expected profoundly to influence the course of George W. Bush's presidency.
Bush the Radical - By Daniel Pipes
"Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe."
This sentence, spoken last week by George W. Bush, is about the most jaw-dropping repudiation of an established bipartisan policy ever made by a US president.
Not only does it break with a policy the US government has pursued since first becoming a major player in the Middle East, but the speech is audacious in ambition, grounded in history, and programmatically specific. It's the sort of challenge to existing ways one expects to hear from a columnist, essayist, or scholar – not from the leader of a great power.
Bush spoke in a candid manner, as heads of state almost never do: "In many Middle Eastern countries, poverty is deep and it is spreading, women lack rights and are denied schooling. Whole societies remain stagnant while the world moves ahead. As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export."
This is not the first time Bush has dispatched decades' worth of policy toward a Middle East problem and declared a radically new approach.
He also did so concerning Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict:
Iraq: He brushed aside the long-standing policy of deterrence, replacing it in June 2002 with an approach of hitting before getting hit. US 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." This new approach provided justification for the war against Saddam Hussein, removing the Iraqi dictator from power before he could attack.
Arab-Israeli conflict: I called Bush's overhaul of the US approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict in June 2003 perhaps "the most surprising and daring step of his presidency." He changed presumptions by presenting a Palestinian state as the solution, imposing this vision on the parties, tying results to a specific timetable, and replacing leaders of whom he disapproved.
And this time:
Democracy: The president renounced a long-accepted policy of "Middle East exceptionalism" – getting along with dictators – and stated US policy would henceforth fit with its global emphasis of making democracy the goal.
He brought this issue home by tying it to American security: "With the spread of weapons that can bring catastrophic harm to our country and to our friends, it would be reckless to accept the status quo." Then, on the premise that "the advance of freedom leads to peace," Bush announced "a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East."
Drawing explicit comparisons with the US success in sponsoring democracy in Europe and Asia, he called on Americans once again for "persistence and energy and idealism" to do the same in the Middle East.
Understanding the rationale behind the old dictator-coddling policy makes clear the radicalism of this new approach. The old way noticed that the populations are usually more anti-American than are the emirs, kings, and presidents. Washington was rightly apprehensive that democracy would bring in more radicalized governments; this is what did happen in Iran in 1979 and nearly happened in Algeria in 1992. It also worried that once the radicals reached power, they would close down the democratic process (what was dubbed "one man, one vote, one time").
Bush's confidence in democracy – that despite the street's history of extremism and conspiracy-mindedness, it can mature and become a force of moderation and stability – is about to be tested. This process did in fact occur in Iran; will it recur elsewhere? The answer will take decades to find out.
However matters develop, this gamble is typical of a president exceptionally willing to take risks to shake up the status quo. And while one speech does not constitute a new foreign policy – which will require programmatic details, financial support, and consistent execution – the shift has to start somewhere. Presidential oratory is the appropriate place to start.
And if the past record of this president in the Middle East is anything by which to judge – toppling regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, promoting a new solution to Arab-Israeli conflict – he will be true to his word here too. Get ready for an interesting ride.
Lenghty Euphimism - Pipes
When Dwight D. Eisenhower dedicated the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C., in June 1957, his 500-word talk effused good will ("Civilization owes to the Islamic world some of its most important tools and achievements") even as the American president embarrassingly bumbled (Muslims in the United States, he declared, have the right to their "own church"). Conspicuously, he included nary a word about policy.
Exactly fifty years later, standing shoeless, George W. Bush rededicated the center last week. His 1,600-word speech also praised medieval Islamic culture ("We come to express our appreciation for a faith that has enriched civilization for centuries"), but he knew a mosque from a church – and he had more on the agenda than flattery.
Most arresting, surely, was his statement that "I have invested the heart of my presidency in helping Muslims fight terrorism, and claim their liberty, and find their own unique paths to prosperity and peace." This cri du coeur signaled how Mr. Bush understands to what extent actions by Muslims will define his legacy.
Should they heed his dream "and find their own unique paths to prosperity and peace," then his presidency, however ravaged it may look at the moment, will be vindicated. As with Harry S Truman, historians will acknowledge that he saw further than his contemporaries. Should Muslims, however, be "left behind in the global movement toward prosperity and freedom," historians will likely judge his two terms as harshly as his fellow Americans do today.
Of course, how Muslims fare depends in large part on the future course of radical Islam, which in turn depends in some part on its understanding by the American president. Over the years, Mr. Bush has generally shown an increased understanding of this topic. He started with platitudinous, apologetic references to Islam as the "religion of peace," using this phrase as late as 2006. He early on even lectured Muslims on the true nature of their religion, a presumptuous ambition that prompted me in 2001 to dub him "Imam Bush."
As his understanding grew, Mr. Bush spoke of the caliphate, "Islamic extremism" and "Islamofacism." What euphemistically he called the "war on terror" in 2001, by 2006 he referred to with the hard-hitting "war with Islamic fascists." Things were looking up. Perhaps official Washington did understand the threat, after all.
But such analyses roused Muslim opposition and, as he approaches his political twilight, Mr. Bush has retreated to safer ground, reverting last week to decayed tropes that tiptoe around any mention of Islam. Instead, he spoke inelegantly of "the great struggle against extremism that is now playing out across the broader Middle East" and vaguely of "a group of extremists who seek to use religion as a path to power and a means of domination."
Worse, the speech drum-rolled the appointment of a U.S. special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, directing this envoy to "listen to and learn from" his Muslim counterparts. But the OIC is a Saudi-sponsored organization promoting the Wahhabi agenda under the trappings of a Muslim-only United Nations. As counterterrorism specialist Steven Emerson has noted, Bush's dismal initiative stands in "complete ignorance of the rampant radicalism, pro-terrorist, and anti-American sentiments routinely found in statements by the OIC and its leaders."
Sitting in the audience at the Islamic Center on June 27, 2007, three senior Bush administration staffers wore makeshift hijabs: Fran Townsend (far left), Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, NSC Senior Director for European Affairs Judy Ansley (left), and Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes (right).
Adding to the event's accommodationist tone, some of the president's top female aides, including Frances Townsend and Karen Hughes, wore makeshift hijabs as they listened to him in the audience.
In brief, it feels like "déjà vu all over again." As columnist Diana West puts it, "Nearly six years after September 11 — nearly six years after first visiting the Islamic Center and proclaiming ‘Islam is peace' — Mr. Bush has learned nothing." But we now harbor fewer hopes than in 2001 that he still can learn, absorb, and reflect an understanding of the enemy's Islamist nature.
Concluding that he basically has failed to engage this central issue, we instead must look to Mr. Bush's potential successors and look for them to return to his occasional robustness, again taking up those difficult concepts of Islamic extremism, Shariah, and the caliphate. Several Republicans – Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and (above all) Fred Thompson – are doing just that. Democratic candidates, unfortunately, prefer to remain almost completely silent on this topic.
Almost thirty years after Islamists first attacked Americans, and on the eve of three major attempted terrorist attacks in Great Britain, the president's speech reveals how confused Washington remains.
Oct. 31, 2007 update: Well, Karen Hughes can discard her makeshift hijab, for she today resigned as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, a job she has been struggling at since September 2005. The self-styled "Mom" from Texas never understood the threat of lawful Islamism and steered the State Department in exactly the wrong direction.
Nov. 19, 2007 update: Fran Townsend can also toss her hijab, having resigned today as the president's top staff adviser on terrorism and homeland security. Like Hughes, she has a too-narrow view of who the enemy is, limiting it to the violent fringe. - those who use "violence to achieve ideological ends."