-- When President George W. Bush ordered the U.S.
invasion of Iraq 15 months ago, he portrayed it
as a bold move not just to oust its president,
Saddam Hussein, but to begin transforming the
would be repelled, Arab autocrats would accept
reform and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would
become more solvable.
the United States prepares to return sovereignty
to Iraq on Wednesday, some U.S. officials and
experts say that plan has gone drastically, even
invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the way they
were handled, have led to record-high rage at
the United States across the Muslim world and
beyond, these officials and experts say. The Al
Qaeda terrorist network's recruitment has been
stoked and would-be reformers drowned out, pointing
to a perilous, not safer, future.
forces and policies are completing the radicalization
of the Islamic world, something Osama bin Laden
has been trying to do with substantial but incomplete
success since the early 1990s," a senior CIA official,
who tracked the terrorist leader for years, wrote
in a soon-to-be-released book, "Imperial Hubris."
is nothing bin Laden could have hoped for more
than the American invasion and occupation of Iraq,"
wrote the official, who authored the book anonymously
because he still works for U.S. intelligence.
new Georgetown University report reaches similar
conclusions, adding that the United States "is
now vulnerable to strategic reversal in the region."
policies are in deep trouble" on critical issues
such as the so-called road map for Palestinian-Israeli
peace, democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, and
stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons, says
the report by the university's Institute for the
Study of Diplomacy. "The gap between Washington's
official rhetoric and on-the-ground performance
with polls showing weakening public confidence
in Bush's handling of the terrorism issue, the
president and his aides staunchly defend the Iraq
invasion and its outcome.
wonder whether we'll succeed, I know that," Bush
told cheering soldiers at Ft. Lewis, Wash., on
June 18. "But I'm here to tell you these are essential
tasks for our security and for peace of the world.
By helping the rise of democracy in Iraq and throughout
the world, you are giving people an alternative
to bitterness and hatred."
Bush appears to have lowered his sights in Iraq
and the broader Middle East as the U.S. occupation
has foundered, beset by a persistent and violent
United States is struggling to stabilize Iraq
and guide it toward elections next year. Some
see the Wednesday handover and the weeks following
as Bush's last chance to make good on his promises
of democracy in Iraq and a better future for the
a big gap between the lofty goals we articulated
before the war and what we're talking about now
in the trenches of Baghdad," said Sandy Berger,
President Bill Clinton's national security adviser
and now a consultant to Sen. John Kerry's Democratic
a stable and prosperous Iraq "is the bottom-line"
goal now, Berger said. "We can't go below that."
Schmitt, the executive director of the Project
for the New American Century, a neoconservative
research group that backed the invasion, said
the lofty goals Bush set were meant as a long-term
vision, not near-term reality. "These things are
always overstated," he said.
still possible that Iraq will become peaceful
and democratic, and that will influence political
changes in neighboring Arab nations, Schmitt said.
Still, he conceded: "Does it have" an immediate
"domino impact? No."
Iraq and beyond, Bush and his foreign-policy team
misjudged the ability of U.S. military power to
change the world, critics say.
polls show deep anger at the United States, even
in allied countries in Europe and Asia.
the United States, "most people think we've lost
our minds" and are worried that U.S. actions will
endanger them as well, said John Mearsheimer,
a University of Chicago political science professor
and prominent war critic.
cast the Iraq war as part of his war on terrorism,
claiming that Hussein's regime had ties with Al
that claim has been increasingly challenged, and
the threat from terrorists shows no signs of abating.
Department counterterrorism coordinator Cofer
Black said the invasion of Iraq has not set back
the fight against terrorism.
think when you reduce the areas at which terrorists
can be trained, from which they can be facilitated
and sent against targets, this is a good thing,"
Black said. The arguments now made by critics
were used in the past to oppose U.S. action against
Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, he said.
the staff of the commission investigating the
Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks found recently
that there was no "collaborative relationship"
between Hussein's regime and Al Qaeda.
the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
seems as intractable as ever, stirring up passions
of the Iraq war "argued that the road to Jerusalem
was through Baghdad," Mearsheimer said. "It does
not look like the Arab-Israeli conflict is being
the Arab world, some leaders, such as Saudi Arabia's
Crown Prince Abdullah, are cautiously pursuing
economic and political liberalization.
very clear there's a lot of political and economic
ferment going on in the region," said Schmitt
of the Project for the New American Century. But
whether it bears fruit depends on the experiment
in Iraq, he said.
in Saudi Arabia, Syria and elsewhere say reformers
have been undercut by U.S. policies, including
Bush's unwillingness to more aggressively mediate
the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
Posted: July 13, 2004