[EDITORIALS]With perfect hindsightAfter tenaciously ignoring an international consensus and evading legal procedures to declare war on Iraq, U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have, for the first time, acknowledged their errors regarding the war.
In a joint press conference last week at the White House, President Bush said that “not everything since liberation has turned out the way we had expected or hoped,” and counted the “‘bring-them-on’ kind of tough talk” and the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison as the mistakes he most regretted. Prime Minister Blair also said that they “could have done the de-Baathification in a more differentiated way” than they did, and that they should have been prepared to see the fall of Saddam Hussein not result in the rise of a democratic Iraq.
The two leaders are not renouncing their decision to go to war, however, as is evident in President Bush’s statement, “Despite setbacks and missteps, I strongly believe we did and are doing the right thing.” Even so, the press conference was a significant event, the first time since the start of the war in March 2003 that the two leaders publicly conceded their mistakes. It appears that they have finally realized how difficult it will be to continue dealing with domestic and international disapproval of the Iraq war.
The first democratically elected government since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime was launched last week, but Iraq is still in the midst of the turmoil of sectarian violence, with dozens of people dying each day. The failure to find weapons of mass destruction has rendered the original justification for the war useless, and the replacement, “to spread democratic values,” has yielded miserable results in comparison to the enormous price that has been paid. Small wonder that as a result the approval ratings of the two leaders have fallen to record lows in the 30-percent range.
President Bush and Prime Minister Blair must learn from their mistakes in the Iraq war and exercise sound leadership for the next major international matter, the Iranian nuclear program.
Giving into the temptation of unilateral action by ignoring international procedures and protocol is bad enough, but passive indifference could be even worse. Maintaining a close and cooperative relationship with international society and actively seeking out direct communications with the Iranian government are both crucial. Admitting one’s mistakes only has significance when those mistakes are not repeated.