Egypt: Vindication for George W. Bush?

10/08/2018 Posted by admin

by Rosa Hwang

I posed a question in the newsroom this past week that prompted a collective guffaw among some of my Global National colleagues: Does the current uprising in the Arab world make George W. Bush look like a genius?

No other American leader has been accused of doing more to stoke the fires anti-American sentiment abroad, but in conservative circles, the former U.S. president is credited with sparking the current revolutionary wave that’s spread like wildfire – first in Tunisia and now, Egypt.

They trace the roots of that rising revolution to a speech Bush delivered in 2003, laying out his “freedom agenda” — justifying the Iraq invasion as a necessary springboard to democratic change in the Middle East. It’s a concept that’s come to define U.S. foreign policy in the past decade.

“Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe, because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty,” Bush said, “As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment and violence ready for export.”

The Arab world was ready for democracy, he proclaimed back then, selling it as America’s calling to expedite and nurture that democracy — even at gunpoint. If his supporters are to be believed, George W. Bush is a visionary who rightly predicted a future the rest of us were too scared or narrow-minded to see.

Of course, communism didn’t fall in a day either, but eight years after Bush promised his freedom agenda would lead to real change, the results are at best, mixed. At worst, the freedom agenda has been a colossal foreign policy failure.

George W. Bush: freedom agenda genius? Photo by Tom Pennington, Getty Images.

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The invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan have triggered a bloodletting far worse than anyone had predicted. The eventual stability Bush dangled like a carrot in the face of mounting military and civilian deaths hasn’t come to fruition either. Iraq’s U.S.-backed regime has a fragile hold on the country – a government constantly on the verge of collapse. Afghan President Hamid Karzai hasn’t been the reformist he once promised to be. Already tainted by allegations of corruption and electoral fraud, Karzai delayed the opening of the Afghan Parliament in recent months – putting the country on the brink of constitutional crisis in a cynical attempt to hold on to power, according to his critics.

Unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, where weapons were used to overthrow governments, information has been the source of empowerment in Egypt and Tunisia – particularly, social media and the Internet. The people protesting on the streets of Cairo and Tunis never really bought into the American model of reform, so can Bush claim credit for any of it?

The legacy of the controversial president is at a crossroads in history — just like the Middle East itself.

Rosa is Global National’s senior producer, based in Vancouver. Follow her on Twitter: @RosaHwangTV.

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