On Fox News’s The O’Reilly Factor last night, former Bush adviser Karl Rove defended the invasion of Iraq five years ago, saying that “if we win,” it “will send a powerful message throughout the Islamic world.” Claiming that “the Muslim world is waiting to see who is going to win the conflict” between “al Qaeda” and “the West,” Rove argued that a continued U.S. presence could create “energy for reform throughout the Middle East.”
“By winning, we will send a powerful message that the momentum is on our side,” said Rove. “And it will rally the Muslim world to us.” Watch it:
Citing Princeton academic Bernard Lewis — who argued before the war that “that regime change in Iraq would provide the jolt needed to modernize the Middle East” — Rove is pushing the “democratic domino” theory that many of the Bush administration neocons pushed before the war.
But he ignores the fact that America’s presence in Iraq has weakened democracy in the Middle East. In September 2007, Brookings Senior Fellow Shibley Telhami wrote that “in every public opinion poll I have conducted since 2003 most Arabs believed that the Middle East had become even less democratic than it was before the Iraq War.”
Additionally, according to a 2007 BBC poll, global opinion of America continues to plummet each day troops remain in Iraq:
Telhami writes that “the very American policy that was said to be aimed at spreading democracy increased the conditions that terrify the public and reduced the attraction of democracy itself.”
O’REILLY: Continuing now with Fox News analyst and former Bush advisor Karl Rove. Five years ago, American forces were achieving a stunning victory in Iraq, overwhelming Saddam’s forces in just 22 days. Since that time, things have gotten a lot tougher. Nearly 4,000 Americans have died in Iraq. More than $400 billion has been spent. The polls say about two thirds of Americans do not feel the war has been worth it, including 27 percent of Republicans. So Mr. Rove, can you persuade people that it has been worth it? Here is what people say to me all the time. We do not understand, for all the blood and treasure spend, how this is making us safer. How exactly our presence in Iraq is making us safer. They do not understand it, even five years after the action. So what say you?
ROVE: Remember, we removed, as you said, Saddam Hussein in 22 days. But then the enemy, the al Qaeda extremists decided to make the central battlefield in the global war on terror. This will be worth that if we win. If we win we will have dealt the enemy a huge blow in a battlefield they chose to confront us on.
And it will send a powerful message throughout the Islamic world. I think Bernard Lewis of Princeton is accurate. That the Muslim world is waiting to see who is going to win the conflict. Is it going to be the West or is it going to be al Qaeda? And by winning, we will send a powerful message that the momentum is on our side. And it will rally the Muslim world to us. It will also create a huge influence in the Middle East. Think about the creation of the democracy in the Middle East with the third-largest oil reserves in the world. If we have a functioning democracy in Iraq, that is an ally in the war on terror, a counterweight to mullahs Iran and to Assad in Syria, this will create a very hopeful center of reform and energy for reform throughout the Middle East.