Bush Administration's "Lethal Mistakes" at the Heart of the Middle East Crisis

| Wed Jul. 26, 2006 3:24 PM EDT

Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian lays the blame for the current "mess" in the Middle East squarely at the feet of the Bush administration.

...It's fashionable to blame the US for all the world's ills, but in this case the sins, both of omission and commission, of the Bush administration genuinely belong at the heart of the trouble.

Diplomacy has had a difficult task from the start, in part because the US is not seen as an honest broker, but as too closely aligned with Israel. Washington has long been pro-Israel, but under President Clinton and the first President Bush there was an effort to be seen as a plausible mediator. Not under George W. Far from keeping lines of communication open with Hizbullah's two key patrons - Syria and Iran - they have been cast into outer darkness, branded as spokes, or satellites, of the axis of evil. As a result there has been no mechanism to restrain Hizbullah. Now, when the US needs Syria's help, it may be too late. Damascus will extract a high price, no doubt demanding the right to re-enter, in some form, Lebanon. The White House can't grant that - not when it considers Syria's ejection from Lebanon in 2005 one of its few foreign-policy successes.

But the record of failure goes deeper than that. It began in the president's first week, when Bush decided he would not repeat what he perceived as his predecessor's mistake by allowing his presidency to be mired in the fruitless search for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Even though Clinton had got tantalisingly close, Bush decided to drop it. While Henry Kissinger once racked up 24,230 miles in just 34 days of shuttle diplomacy, Bush's envoys have been sparing in their visits to the region.

The result is that the core conflict has been allowed to fester. Had it been solved, or even if there had been a serious effort to solve it, the current crisis would have been unimaginable. Instead, Bush's animating idea has been that the peoples of the Middle East can be bombed into democracy and terrorised into moderation. It has proved one of the great lethal mistakes of his abominable presidency - and the peoples of Israel and Lebanon are paying the price.

Read the full article here.