From the side it looks like an anxiety attack at the end of his term in office: A moment before he enters the annals of history as a limping knight of needless wars, President Bush decided, for the first time during his tenure, to see the Mideast from up close – and particularly to be seen there.
For seven years, the US president adhered to the doctrine that the world is divided into Sons of Light and Sons of Darkness, and that the “good guys” must win. When the Twin Towers collapsed he gave the signal: Replace dictatorial regimes, eliminate terrorism, spread democracy – even through the sword – and mostly, capture Bin Laden.
Bush promised the world screaming and sweet revenge. He marked the axis-of-evil states and waived an unholy sword in their direction. He formulated an American foreign policy that was the opposite of what his predecessors did: No longer an influential superpower with the ability to offer fair mediation in international crises; no longer a global spotlight that could illuminate dark corners. Bush wanted a quick and shining victor that would prove him right.
Yet in his very own America, the one that speaks highly of liberty, freedom, and human rights, we saw the emergence of torture chambers at Guantanamo; his very own America started to conduct itself like the worst of Third World countries.
Bush turned America from a country that offers solutions to the world into the world’s main problem. The results of Bush’s wars are written in blood in the streets of Baghdad, in the mountains of Afghanistan, and mostly in the homes of the thousands of American families who got their sons back draped in a flag inside a coffin.
A moment before the curtain falls, just like a high school student attempting to improve his grades, Bush embarked on a tour of Jerusalem, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, for the final battle to improve his image: Should he fail to do something, he would leave the White House not only as a president of war, but also as a president who left two burning issues on the table – the absence of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, and a nuclearizing Iran.
Bush repeatedly declares that “all options are on the table,” that is, prepare for yet another war, although even in Riyadh they are telling him to simply sit and talk to Iran. However, Bush continues to reject these suggestions: There is no talking with the enemy. The only wisdom he knows is the smart bombs in his arsenal.
In his frantic journey through our region this week, Bush seeks a quick corrective experience. He aspires to achieve two fundamental things: Understandings that would enable the signing of some kind of agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, and a coalition with moderate Arab states to jointly neutralize the Iranian problem. Along the way, he may finalize a few more arms deals with Gulf states.
Had he bothered to embark on this introductory journey at the beginning of his term in office, perhaps his hosts would explain to him that haste is from the devil. Bush will not be achieving in one trip what he failed to do in seven years.