If you have taken the trouble to inform yourself on the Middle East, you'll no doubt recall that long before the war protesters turned on the television in 2003, American and British soldiers were were stationed in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Our pilots regularly sustained Iraqi fire as they executed a mission of containment - a situation that was not sustainable over the long term.
In their campaign against President Bush, our media ceased to present the context of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Munich-based historian and journalist Heinrich Maetzke, in his op-ed in the Jerusalem Post, reminds us of that context:
Here is a politically incorrect assessment: Today President George W. Bush will hand over to his successor a Middle Eastern foreign policy outlook far brighter than the one he inherited from Bill Clinton. The 44th US president will have in the Gulf area and beyond what No. 43 so desperately missed: freedom of action to react to upcoming crises.He also reminds us that, "For eight long years president Clinton had not known what to do about Iraq and had opted for the easiest way out: doing nothing." We now know what a mistake that was. What isn't widely known is the extraordinary improvement in the position of the West as it relates to the Middle East - because Bush did not postpone the inevitable to protect his own political standing.
To anybody who looks at a map of the greater Middle East and who remembers what it looked like eight years ago, it is obvious. When President Bush took over the Oval Office, he found Washington's Middle Eastern policy locked in an unsustainable position: double containment of Iraq and Iran, with Islamic radicalism in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere festering in the background. The situation in Iraq was unfinished and untenable. Neither the no-fly zones in the Kurdish north and the Shi'ite south of the country nor the UN-imposed sanctions could be upheld much longer. Large contingents of US troops were tied up in neighboring Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Washington found itself in a fix: Those troops could not stay forever, but withdrawing them would be tantamount to handing triumph to Saddam Hussein on a silver platter.
The facts Maetzke presents in the balance of the article will probably be unfamiliar to many Americans - we haven't had real information from American news outlets for a very long time. But as coming events will no doubt remind us - facts are stubborn things. Do yourself a favor - read the whole thing.
And again, thank you, President Bush.