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6/2/15

Middle East: Yes, Bush helped create ISIS — and set up the Middle East for a generation of chaos - by Zack Beauchamp

Remember May 2003, in the heady days just after the US toppled Saddam Hussein? President Bush, standing on an aircraft carrier draped with that fateful "Mission Accomplished" banner, declared that "major combat operations in Iraq had ended."

"In the images of celebrating Iraqis, we have also seen the ageless appeal of human freedom," the president said. "The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror."

Today, his whole speech reads like a terrible exercise in grim irony. Those Iraqi celebrations gave way to a civil war and, eventually, the rise of ISIS across about a third of the country. "Human freedom" is being stomped out by crucifixions and beheadings. Terrorism has flourished in Iraq. And it's all part of a region-wide rolling disaster in places like Syria that the United States seems incapable of stopping.

To understand why the Middle East is in chaos today, and why the Obama administration seems to lack a playbook for how to respond, you need to understand the failed US strategy behind Bush's "mission accomplished" speech. It was emblematic of a huge shift in US strategy in the Middle East — one that had disastrous results.

Bush wanted to remake the Middle East: replace the region's autocracies with democracies, and solve America's terrorism problem in the process. But the plan failed. Iraq became embroiled in a vicious civil war. Iran grew in strength, kicking off an increasingly sectarian fight with Saudi Arabia that has fueled conflict throughout the region.

Read more: Yes, Bush helped create ISIS — and set up the Middle East for a generation of chaos - Vox

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