TIME – MIDDLE EAST BLOG
Bush Legacy in Gaza
The shoe throwing episode in Baghdad almost quaintly summed up the disaster the Bush administration leaves in its wake in Iraq--thousands dead in an ill-conceived and ill-planned invasion, thousands more dead in the explosion of sectarian and factional violence unleashed by the power vacuum, the strategic gains handed to Iran on a silver platter, the moral abomination of Abu Ghraib, and on and on. The "democracy" Bush created is one where Iraqi journalists exercise their rights of free expression by hurling potentially deadly objects at people they are quizzing at press conferences--in this case, the president of the United States, no less. It's hardly sufficient to say that that disgraceful gesture is a sign of Iraq's progress-- "things are better than they were under Saddam Hussein" is hardly the standard by which we should judge our performance in Iraq.
But the more tragic wreckage Bush leaves behind is in Israel-Palestine, as evidenced by the latest spasm of violence including the latest and ultimately futile Israeli blitz on Gaza against Hamas with the inevitable victims of "collateral damage." After too many Israeli invasions and incursions and bombing raids to count over the last six decades, somehow it's hard to be optimistic that the latest one will finally silence the Palestinian bombers and rocketers so Israelis can live in peace. The Bush administration's inexcusable neglect is partly responsible for the carnage we're seeing in Gaza today-- Katrina-like botch-ups are the legacy of this administration in the Middle East, too. Bringing peace to the Middle East is no easy task but it's a pathetic testimony if you don't even try.
The U.S. has the indispensable role to play in ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But after spending most of its two terms walking away from negotiations and aimlessly supporting unilateral moves by Israeli hard-liners, the huge death tolls and continuing bloodshed are not the only results of the mismanagement of America's role. Israeli and Palestinian politics have become more severely fragmented, making it more difficult to find leaders who can make necessary and courageous decisions and make them stick for peace. The latest unspeakable round of killing is as much about the factional jockeying for power as it is about anything else--it's surely not about liberating Palestine or winning the war on terrorism, is it?
If there's anything good to come out of it, perhaps it's that the fighting on the eve of Barack Obama's inauguration as the next American president will further concentrate his mind on the need to get serious about U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East. A year ago, Bush convened the Annapolis peace conference in a clumsy, last-ditch effort to correct the mistake he made by abandoning U.S. mediation for nearly seven years. He optimistically predicted the parties would reach some kind of an agreement before he left office in January 2009. What happened instead? His legacy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the scene of dead and wounded on the streets of Gaza.