Recently I have indicated a number of areas of foreign and defense policy in which the legacy of the administration of George W. Bush continues to thrive, despite the campaign promises of Barack Obama to roll back much of it. One of the best examples is in Iraq, where we have been presented with the curious notion of his Vice President proclaiming that Iraq is destined to be “one of the great achievements of this administration”, a comment requiring a level of gall that is outlandish even by Joe Biden standards.
Further evidence of the success of the bold decision by Bush to pursue the final surge in Iraq will be validated by the elections there this month, which will provide additional confirmation of the pathway to a truly representative Middle Eastern government beholden to no single tyrant or ruling tribe, an astonishing thought only three years ago.
There is, of course, a way that the Obama administration can fumble this historic opportunity left him by Bush’s Freedom Agenda, as Francis Fukuyama has so well cautioned: he can revert to accommodation and reliance on the region’s dictatorial strongmen in places like Eqypt, Jordan, and Morocco. And I would add a second way: not to actively support the democratic forces of regime change in Iran, which is very long overdue.
However faulty the articulation of the Freedom Agenda, it was and is the correct strategy, but we have now allowed it to be co-opted by the fear initiated by the Hamas uprising in the Gaza elections in 2006. This fear has been seized upon by the self-serving authoritarians in the region, who caution us to “be careful what we ask for” and who present themselves as the only bulwark against radicalism. Is there risk here? Sure, but the risk of a radicalized democratic outcome is outweighed by the risks in continuation of the status quo in pursuit of elusive “stability”. Thanks to George Bush, Iraq is the winning model; let’s encourage and support its export.