Though officials were “careful not to gloat,” the Washington Times reports that the White House was “heartened by the speed with which President Bush’s foreign policy of introducing liberty to the Middle East appears to be bearing fruit.” Conservative pundits took care of the gloating. “Without the Bush Administration, none of this would be happening,” one wrote. And conservatives can’t restrain their rage that the New York Times only attributed a “healthy share of the credit” to the Bush administration for the recent advances in the Middle East.
The actual question at hand — Does the war in Iraq have anything to do with recent regional political developments? — is similar to the false “debate” about whether the world is better off with Saddam Hussein out of power. Considered in a vacuum, everyone answers yes. The actually debatable questions were A) Were our goals in Iraq achieved honestly/ethically/legally/effectively? and B) Were the costs (including opportunity costs) of our strategy as low as they could have been? Regarding Iraq, the answers to all five questions were easy — emphatically, no.
Unfortunately, the same answers likely apply to the links between Iraqand Middle East democracy. Remember, it wasn’t our $200 billion effort in Iraq that infused Arabs with a “favorable view of American freedom and democracy,” or opposition to their own authoritarian governments. Arabs held those sentiments before the Iraq war, particularly in those places where reforms are now taking place, like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria/Lebanon.