As Bush Visits the Middle East, His Legacy is on His Mind

As Bush Visits the Middle East, His Legacy is on His Mind

Much is at stake when President Bush visits the Middle East this week. The problems of the region have haunted this president, who started his term in office determined to focus on domestic issues, but was quickly forced to devote much of his time and energy to fighting the "war on terror." With the campaign for the election of the next president already well under way, George W. Bush has to think about his legacy, and he has just one more year in office to shape it.

There is little doubt that the Bush presidency will be remembered in future history books for the wars that were launched in order to remake the Middle East -- after all, the declared war aims included not just the routing of the regimes and rulers suspected of supporting terrorism, but also the spreading of democracy in the wake of defeat. Whatever the verdict of history will eventually be, few would claim in this last year of the Bush presidency that the wars achieved any goal that might justify their staggering costs.

Late in his term, President Bush is now coming to the Middle East to try a totally different approach: making peace. It may be tempting to dismiss this as a belated and half-hearted attempt at damage control that has little chance to succeed. The peace Bush seeks to broker would end a conflict that began 60 years ago, when the State of Israel was established against the bitter opposition of the Arab League, which refused to accept U.N. resolution 181 that provided for the partition of Palestine and the establishment of two states: one Jewish and one Arab.

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