With the 10th anniversary of "Shock and Awe" — the relentless bombing attack that signaled the beginning of the end of Saddam Hussein's evil regime in Iraq —came the predictable recriminations against the Pentagon, the covert services and, naturally, George W. Bush.
"It was not worth it, to put it mildly," observed The Hartford Courant last week. The New York Times was even tougher: "The Iraq war was unnecessary, costly and damaging on every level. It was based on faulty intelligence manipulated for ideological reasons. The terrible human and economic costs over the past 10 years show why that must never happen again."
One point the war's critics, as well as those who belatedly have turned on what Democrats once called the "good war" — Afghanistan — persistently have missed is that the Middle East and South Asia have been a grave problem on a global scale for many years. Open warfare is just one of many Western tactics that have been tried and found wanting.
Sixty-five years ago, the West installed a democratic Jewish state in the Middle East, hoping its influence would spread. In 1953, the United States covertly placed Iran under the tender mercies of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. When he was forced into exile in 1979 by Islamist theocrats and the Iranian public, the United States let it happen.
Much the same strategy — do nothing, and hope for positive change — has characterized the U.S. reaction to the 2009-10 Green Revolution in Iran and the Arab Spring movement that has swept the Middle East and North Africa since late 2010.
A third strategy — the formation of an alliance to wage war on a regime deemed dangerous to regional and global security — was tried against Iraq by George H.W. Bush in 1990 and 1991, and his son, George W. Bush, in 2002 and 2003.
Can any American leader, dating back to the 1940s, declare any of these to be success stories? Well, no — and yes.
It's true that through all these varied covert schemes, wars, diplomatic initiatives and outreach attempts, America has not won the respect and admiration of these nations and peoples. Nor has it engendered a durable peace, stability, or widespread recognition of human rights in the region.
But the central purpose of each of these enterprises has been to sustain sufficient social stability and rule of law in the oil-rich region, to protect the flow of efficient, low-cost energy to the developed world.
Despite everything that has gone wrong; despite the enormous costs in human life and money, tankers laden with oil, gasoline and compressed natural gas are pulling out of Persian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea ports today, as they have almost without a break for decades.
So none of the U.S. strategies, up to and including the Iraq War, truly can be said to have failed.
And to the extent they have not brought peace and plenty to the region and have carried a high price in flesh, blood and money, the need for introspection lies mainly with those who rule and inhabit the region, and exploit its bounty.
— The Republican American of Waterbury (Conn.)