Wednesday, May 14, 2008

President Bush's tour of the Middle East is timed to highlight his failures

THE OCCASION of Israel's 60th-anniversary celebrations has drawn President Bush into a Middle East trip he would be better off not taking. Rather than consolidating achievements or clearing a path for his successor, the president's tour of Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia will serve to illustrate how much has gone wrong in the region for the United States on his watch -- and how unlikely he is to reverse the tide in his final months. In Israel, Mr. Bush will face the crumbling Israeli-Palestinian peace process he attempted to launch last year; in Saudi Arabia, he will find a regime that has been deaf to his pleas to help with soaring oil prices or support the Iraqi government. In Egypt, Mr. Bush will meet a ruler, Hosni Mubarak, who not only defied the president's "freedom agenda" but also forced the administration to retreat to its old policy of backing corrupt autocracies.
The 80-year-old Mr. Mubarak, in power for almost 27 years, might at least be embarrassed if the president, while in Egypt, publicly calls for the release of some of Mr. Mubarak's political prisoners, such as the liberal democrat Ayman Nour. But Mr. Bush no longer seems to have the nerve for that.