They say Western civilization has a culture of confession. Having ruled the world for two centuries, the contemporary representatives of Western civilization have countless things to take responsibility for.
The most recent confession came from Britain in the form of an official report. After seven years of hard work, the Chilcot report was published earlier this month to inform the public how the government of then Prime Minister Tony Blair got involved in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It was ironic that the inquiry's publication coincided with a deadly DAESH attack in Iraq in which more than 200 people lost their lives.
The 12-volume report basically reaffirms what the world knew all along, that the invasion of Iraq was an illegitimate and unlawful result of false intelligence. In truth, there was no threat posed by weapons of mass destruction in the country. The Chilcot report, noting that Saddam Hussein's regime posed no imminent threat, concluded that the British government had failed to obtain accurate information and exhaust peaceful options prior to engaging in an unnecessary invasion. Moreover, Blair's government had not taken the necessary steps to address foreseeable problems after the invasion.
Following the Chilcot report's publication, Blair effectively told the press that he had made the right decision behind the smokescreen of expressing his regrets. The former prime minister admitted that the intelligence had been false, but nonetheless argued that Hussein was a threat and claimed that the world was better and safer without him. To be clear, Blair apologized to the families of the 179 British troops who were killed in the invasion, and on whom the British media focused as well. It would appear that nobody has to live with the consequences of Blair's commitment to then U.S. President George W. Bush's plans - "I will be with you, whatever" - except the people of Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.
In addition to 1 million deaths, the invasion of Iraq had three negative consequences. First, the Iraqi nation brought together by Saddam Hussein's authoritarian methods broke into pieces. Second, the rise of Shiite sectarianism pushed Sunnis toward radical groups like al-Qaida and DAESH. Finally, it paved the way to Iranian expansionism and fueled sectarian tensions.
The United States and Britain made a mistake by invading Iraq without thinking about the long-term consequences. Their recklessness gave rise to the next generation of terrorism in the form of DAESH, which destabilized yet another country, leaving aside building a more democratic Iraq.
Today, they are doing the same thing to Syria through other means. Drawing the wrong lessons from his predecessor's mistake, U.S. President Barack Obama has been trying to end the Syrian civil war through the proxy of local groups, again with no interest in the region's future. This time around, Sunni Arabs are being crushed under Russia, Bashar Assad, Shiite militias, the PKK and the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG). The Obama administration's Syria policy not only places regional powers at risk but also promotes Kurdish nationalism.
People across the Middle East maintain that Western countries stage interventions in the region with their best interests at heart. A closer look, however, shows that the West consistently acts irresponsibly. At the same time, Western governments have proven extremely unskilled in rebuilding the countries they invade, often at the expense of their own long-term interests.
The global crises of illegal migration and terrorism fueled by turmoil in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria attests to this. It would appear that the world will not need another 13 years to hear Obama's confessions about what went wrong in Syria.
Here is a better idea: Western leaders should stop confessing and try repentance instead. The world would be a better place if they refrained from making mistakes on purpose.
About the author
Burhanettin Duran is General Coordinator of SETA Foundation and a professor at Social Sciences University of Ankara. He is also a member of Turkish Presidency Security and Foreign Policies Council.