President Bush is in Egypt today to meet with President Hosni Mubarak. It is Bush’s last day of a week-long adventure into the Middle East, where he met with the leaders of Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian Authority, Afghanistan, and Egypt. It is probably Bush’s last formal chance to pretend that he’s going to broker a peace between Israel and the rest of the Arab world and secure a legacy that leads to the Nobel Prize. He must be thinking that if Jimmy Carter could do it between Israel and Egypt, it must be time for a neo-con war-mongering Republican to get a few accolades.
So far, the trip of the “war president,” as he often calls himself, has produced no significant results, and a huge embarrassment. In Israel, speaking to the Knesset and pandering to the sensitivity of the victims and descendants of the holocaust, he unsuccessfully tried to link his strong stand against terrorism to the weak stand of appeasement to the Nazis by Britain’s prime minister Neville Chamberlain in the months leading up to World War II. The President’s comments were a not-so-subtle veiled attack upon Barack Obama who had said that as president he would meet with leaders of countries that were hostile to the United States, or were even leaders of terrorist countries. Diplomacy before war is Obama’s belief; they certainly aren’t Bush’s.
And speaking of terrorist leaders, after schmoozing with the Israelis, he met with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, a long-time family friend. President Bush could have talked with the king about many issues. He could have talked about Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, that are providing a refuge for terrorists. But he didn’t. He could have talked about the oppressive, sexist, racist regime in Saudi Arabia, and suggested that the region’s largest country could become more democratic, not unlike what the United States has proposed for Iraq. But he didn’t. He could have talked about Saudi Arabia’s oppressive laws that restrict free association and free speech. He didn’t do that, either.
What was on Bush’s mind was oil and arms. Specifically, President Bush succeeded in getting Saudi Arabia to agree to treaties to protect its oil industry against terrorists. He didn’t get the billionaire friend-king to increase oil production, which would lower the price of gas.