Throughout history there are countless times when a leader’s decision is not supported and is looked at as an evil action, but there are also many times that this evil action is simply the lesser of two evils. To truly understand a leaders motives it is key to understand this parallel and be able to discern between evil and mandatory evils.
There’s not much debate over whether or not United States President George Bush made a huge mistake when he sent military into the Middle East. This allocation of force, to essentially police the world, has yielded nothing but senseless bloodshed on both sides of the fight, soaring public debt and lack of international confidence in American leadership. It’s because of these decisions that Bush’s presidency will undoubtedly be labeled as one of the biggest failures and set-backs that the U.S. has ever seen.
On September 11, 2001, one of the worst tragedies in United States history befell the citizens of New York City. As the twin World Trade Center towers fell, Americans were galvanized into a unified force of justice. Never before had the country been brought so easily to its knees or made to feel so humble in its lack of safety. 2,726 American citizens lost their lives that day, and no conversation at the time was more popular than revenge (Deaths). In the following weeks, all eyes were on President Bush’s plans for action against those who so coldly murdered our families, friends and fellow Americans.
On October 7, 2001, American plans for vengeance finally hit foreign soil. The threat and cause of 9-11 was quickly recognized, and military was immediately sent out in force to nullify this source of evil. It was on this day that people across the country could begin to heal. It was on this day that the United States’ “War on Terror” began.
This proud assertion of United States military power was the crowning moment of Bush’s career, but it was not to last. Within three months of beginning the assault on the Taliban in Afghanistan, the civilian death toll accredited to U.S. bombs dwarfed the 2,726 Americans lost in the towers. With over 3,000 innocent men, women and civilian children dead, the, “War on Terror,” quickly started to be viewed of a, “War of Terror,” by people all over the world (Herold). As the collateral damage death toll began to climb it became quite evident that this war was no longer about bringing people to justice; it was about making a statement about the United States’ defense strategy.
At this point, the people of the U.S. were blinded by anger against the realities of war in the Middle East, and the power of suggestion made an assault on Iraq easy for Bush to make reality. Rumors of weapons of mass destruction and an infamous tyrant, Saddam Hussein, were too big a temptation to the blood thirst of the president, so on March 20, 2003, the full force of the American military broke upon the shores of Iraq. Quickly the air force attained air superiority and the ground forces moved through crushing all opposition. Like the falling of the towers though this fight had sever costs paid in American lives. 4,390 U.S. soldiers lost their lives between 2003 and 2010 for Bush’s fight, and it cost a projected $900 billion in the same time frame to keep military presence in Iraq (White).
It’s at this point that people may begin to think following such a war monger of a president into these wars wasn’t such a great idea. The war in Iraq certainly cost America dearly, but it’s the numbers hidden behind the scenes that should turn even the most militant of citizens in to peace loving humans. 4,390 United States soldiers is a huge price to pay, but like in Afghanistan, this number is made to appear small compared to the collateral damage. Approximately 100,000 innocent humans lost their lives in Iraq due directly to U.S. presence (Iraq).
Surely with this information in hand, it has become evident that the United States does not possess the proper means to fight wars without causing unacceptable loss of life and damaging the economy by overspending on defensive budgetary needs. At what point should Bush’s actions be considered too abrupt? Ignorant predictions about the collateral damage that would be sustained certainly can’t be used as an excuse for his actions. Statistics show that with every decade the ratio of civilian deaths to military deaths rises dramatically. During World War I, there was one civilian death for every eight military deaths. During World War II, that number increased to two civilians for every military member dead. In the 1990’s, the numbers balloon even further out of control hitting 9 civilians for every 10 military deaths (Danziger 347). As we’ve seen in the first wars of the 21st century even those terrible numbers have been far surpassed.
Clearly projecting American ideals into the Middle East was the worst idea of Bush’s term as president, and most tax payers would agree that he did a terrible job for the country and the world. According to numerous polls, between 60 and 75 percent of Americans disapproved of his job rating (Bush), and in 2003 approximately two thirds of the world’s population agrees that Bush was wrong for invading the Middle East (BBC).
This is obviously a widely accepted household view of America’s fight against the Middle East, but unfortunately for those who subscribe to this viewpoint, they have been mislead. As Arthur Herman observed, “According to an April 2008, poll in U.S. News & World Report, fully 61 percent of American historians agree that George W. Bush is the worst President in our history. Some of these scholars cite the President’s position on the environment, or on taxes, or on the economy. For most, though, the chief qualification for obloquy lies in Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq.” Unfortunately, it can be found with some further research that this villainization of George Bush truly is a perfect example of American arrogance at work.
When considering an area that has been war torn for centuries, like the Middle East, it is truly impossible to believe that anything can be as black and white as simply blaming one man. Surely if persistent logic is used, Bush being the cause of every problem in the area cannot be the conclusion that is drawn. It should be quite obvious to the astute dialectical thinker that there are more clues locked away in the history of the region.
To explain why Bush reacted in the way that he did, we must first discover why the Middle East feels the way they feel and why they have acted upon the U.S. in the ways that they have. This knowledge can be attained only through the history of the region and the history of the U.S.’s involvement.
To explore this further and discover the real truth, the point when U.S. involvement in the area must first be found. The true origins of these conflicts are, in truth, far from the Middle East and begin 60 years ago. They lie within the U.S. itself and within its Cold War rival the Soviet Union. The cold war was a time of great fear for both the U.S. and Russia. The dawn of the nuclear age spawned a new and frightening type of war that was based upon the balance of power. Nuclear deterrence was the only insurance and maintaining a perfect balance against the enemy the only means of survival.
As both countries struggled for control of strategic positions all over the world, the fight was inevitably brought to the Middle East. Russia’s support for Palestinian nations in the area gave enough reason for U.S. concern so that on May 25, 1950, the United States stepped into the area hoping to limit Soviet influence. With France and England by their side, the U.S. issued the Tripartite Declaration which opposes any changes of boundaries by force and agrees to supply both Israel and the Arab nations with weapons for defense. This assertion into the area naturally didn’t go over well with the Soviets, and a persistent struggle ensued over the next 30 years. During this period, a strict new polarization of the forces in the region emerged with the U.S. forces taking the side of Israel and the Soviets taking the side of Arab nations. Both sides of this fight acted as well supplied puppets to their cold war rival puppet masters, and both sides accrued equally terrible casualties (Cold).
It is through this support that the region forged opinions about the U.S. Years of war supplies flooding the area and being used to kill combatants and civilians alike created sever anger towards both the entities using the weapons and the ones supplying the weapons. If Afghanistan can be used as an example of this effect, the Taliban was supplied by the Afghanistan government which allowed them to carry out the attacks of 9/11. The anger of Americans towards the Afghanistan government following these attacks should be a sure indication of the anger felt by Arab nations that have been opposed to American support for over 50 years. Not only have we aided in the taking of their lives, but we have also stepped into a religious war that can’t possibly be understood from an outside viewpoint.
The assault on Afghanistan however can hardly be refuted as a mistake within the citizens of the U.S. this was clearly a war that was championed by the desires of all, and is rarely regarded as one of Bush’s mistakes, but many still believe the all out war against the Middle East is stepping to far.
With this amount of Middle Eastern anger towards America in mind, it is hard to see how conflict could have possibly been avoided. Now Bush’s side begins to come clear. Given the history of leaders in the area, what other response would have worked? With the history and information available, entering the Middle East with goals of peace were not a choice; they were a mandatory move that only Bush had the guts to act on.
Many people will claim that no president saw need to invade Iraq other than Bush, so it wasn’t necessary. This claim is clearly refuted by Bill Clinton’s words while in office, “Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas, or biological weapons. . . . Other countries possess weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. With Saddam, there is one big difference: he has used them. Not once, but repeatedly. . . . I have no doubt today that, left un-checked, Saddam Hussein will use these terrible weapons again.” Clinton was not alone in this opinion when his act authorizing the liberation of Iraq was passed unanimously in the senate and by a margin of 360 to 38 in the house (Herman). This willingness to use weapons of mass destruction by Saddam is a well known fact and is not refuted, so clearly it was acceptable then and should have also been for Bush.
The opportunity was given for the liberation of Iraq during Clinton’s presidency, but was avoided due to the belief that it would not have been supported by the tax payers. Bush simply acted on the common need of the country when it was acceptable to do so, and should therefore be looked at as a visionary who knew how to properly time the allegiance of the public.
It is with the true knowledge of the situation that the U.S. faced in 2003 that it is easy to say, Bush was not the worst president in history. He was the exact president we needed at the time, but he was faced with a time that could not have built support for his actions. It is often the heroes of history that are looked at as the biggest villains, but there is no denying that without him future wars may have been plagued with weapons of mass destruction and never before seen fatalities.
“BBC NEWS | Americas | Poll Suggests World Hostile to US.” BBC NEWS | News Front Page. 16 June 2003. Web. 21 Apr. 2010.
“Bush: Job Ratings.” PollingReport.com. Web. 21 Apr. 2010.
“Cold War.” Boston College. Web. 21 Apr. 2010.
Danziger, James N. “Political Violence.” Understanding the Political World: a Comparative Introduction to Political Science. New York: Pearson Longman, 2009. Print.
“Deaths in World Trade Center Terrorist Attacks — New York City, 2001.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web. 20 Apr. 2010.
Herman, Arthur. “Why Iraq Was Inevitable.” Commentary. Web. 21 Apr. 2010.
Herold, Marc W. “Civilian Victims of United States’ Aerial Bombing of Afghanistan.” Cursor.org – Table of Contents Page. Web. 21 Apr. 2010.
Iraq Body Count. Web. 21 Apr. 2010.
White, Deborah. “Iraq War Facts, Statistics at March 29, 2010 – Iraq War Casualties, Spending, Iraqi Quality of Life.” Liberal & Progressive Politics & Perspectives. 12 Apr. 2010. Web. 21 Apr. 2010.