This weekend, President Bush delivered the commencement address at West Point and declared that his global war on terror is helping to spread freedom in the Middle East:
Decades of excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe. So long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place where terrorists foment resentment and threaten American security. So we are pursuing a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East.
This morning on Meet the Press, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered a strong rebuke of Bush’s assessment of what’s going on in the Middle East:
I think you could make a pretty strong case that things are worse off in the Middle East today than they were three years ago. By measurement of Iraq, by Iran, by the Palestinian-Israeli issue, what’s going on in Egypt. And, I think the United States must use its force of diplomacy to engage Iran.
Hagel isn’t alone in making his argument that the Middle East is worse off since the Iraq invasion. In Newsweek, prominent Arab journalist Rami Khouri writes:
Three years after the assault on Iraq, the country is delicately balanced between a reconfigured democratic polity and an endless slide into hell. More troubling, though, is that events in Iraq are not a freak sideshow. The evidence suggests that Iraq mirrors a wider and troubling trend throughout this region that is being fostered by Bush, Blair and their freedom-loving friends, whether deliberately or inadvertently. Once stable Arab countries are slowly polarizing and fragmenting into smaller units of ethnic, religious and tribal identities, each with its own militia and contacts with Washington, London, Paris and other global power centers. Like it or not, failed states are an increasingly common outcome of Western meddling in the Middle East.
If Bush truly wants to admit mistakes about the Iraq war, he must acknowledge the negative consequences it has had on the region.