06/18/2014 04:41 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Bush Doctrine Failed Twice: The Opportunity Costs of Two Gulf Wars

The ISIS debacle in Iraq, which threatens to tear apart the war-fatigued nation, has become a political blood sport of blame and finger pointing. When has any hot subject lately not been politicized? Yet, it appears most of the barbs have been fired at President Obama. Why?

Some it of might be justified, but most of them should be aimed at two of his predecessors: George H. W. Bush and his son George W. Bush -- presidents Nos. 41 and 43.

During the First Gulf War, the elder President Bush had every opportunity and reason to put an end to Saddam Hussein's terrorist rule during the winter of 1991. Sure, he said the objective to the war was to liberate Kuwait and nothing more. But when Saddam unleashed a scorched earth assault on the environment early in the conflict, the dynamics of the war changed.

Photo: Offshore Oil Platform [Credit: Thinkstock, purchased by author.]

Fumbling a Secure Future
For the first time in centuries, a nation should have been punished for the widespread ecological poison it injected into a neighboring country's air, land, and water. Saddam delivered the body blow in a heavy one-two punch of environmental destruction. Yet, George H. W. Bush didn't change course when it was sorely needed.

Two days into the war, Saddam ordered his troops to dump oil into the Persian Gulf. They opened the valves at a marine terminal, as well as emptied the bowels of several tankers in port. In total, Iraq released 15 million barrels of oil, or seven fully laden supertankers. Then, Saddam Hussein ordered his troops to detonate explosives that set fire to more than 750 oil wells in Kuwait and across the neutral zone, with more than 87 percent of them burning months after the war.

Saddam Hussein the Eco-Terrorist
President Bush with the U.S.-led alliance had every right to go after Saddam Hussein, march on Baghdad, capture him, and bring him to justice, putting an end to his brutal regime and dictatorship. But being a soft, "thousand points of light" president, the elder Bush failed to do what he should have done, and that was to bring Saddam to trial for war crimes against humanity and the environment.

As a former director of the CIA, Bush 41 should have seen the light and take Saddam out when he had the chance, and was justified to do so. Instead, he let the opportunity go to waste. And how did that turn out? Not well.

In April 14, 1994, while preparing for a presidential appearance at Kuwait University, George H. W. Bush almost became a victim of his own failure to act during the First Gulf War. Smuggled in from Iraq, a car laden with explosives sped on its way to greet the "Great Satan" and blow up Saddam Hussein's nemesis and his entourage. But with a little luck and a lot of swift action Kuwait bailed him out.

Kuwait intelligence intercepted the car bomb and then proceeded to roll up more than a dozen Iraqi terrorists, uncovering Saddam's devious plot.

Had the story of Saddam Hussein ended there, the world might have been a better, safer place. But the 'Butcher of Baghdad' would come back to haunt America and the world one more time.

9/11 Misdirection
President George W. Bush should have listened to the late General Norman Schwarzkopf, who masterly game-planned the end of the First Gulf War. The general urged Bush 41 to go "the last mile," or in that case, the last 100 miles of open desert with nothing standing in the way for American troops, tanks, and helicopters to sack Baghdad and bring Saddam to trial.

Instead, a decade late and after a week of mourning the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Bush 43 went into Afghanistan War with a weak hand, with a "let's not get our troops bloody" weaker mindset, deciding to execute the hunt for bin Laden and fight with the Taliban from a distance.

What did that accomplish? Nothing more than a long war with no end in sight.

By not taking down the Taliban, Mullah Omar (he's still alive), and capturing or killing Osama bin Laden in 2001, those major mistakes were compounded and pushed forward, like bad Argentine debt. By not deploying enough troops, the war dragged on, the hunt for bin Laden went nowhere, and some 700 Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists shot their way out of a little guarded, fort-turned-prison that November.

Cooking the Evidence of War
Blinded by revenge for the assassination attempt on his father's life, George W. Bush was hell-bent on doing whatever it took to link Saddam Hussein to the "War on Terror" story thread.

With no intel from the CIA on the ground since the U.S. left Iraq in the mid 1990s, and Colin Powell branded as the PR messenger of conviction, the only evidence the former general presented to the United Nations in 2003 were a few aerial reconnaissance photos showing mobile units on flatbed trucks that were not nuclear weapons in transit. Convincing the world to go to war with Iraq -- again -- became a fool's errand, a 'march of folly' that began with a decade-long war, and a second front on the 'War on Terror' that destabilized Iraq, re-ignited the hatred of hardcore Islamic fighters toward the West, and opened old wounds between the Sunni Muslims, the Shiites, and Kurdish factions.

When no weapons of mass destruction were found inside Iraq, the world knew that the second war should never have been waged.

From Syria to Guantanamo
The fallout from the poorly executed war in Afghanistan to the war that shouldn't have taken place ended with a ripple effect across the Mid-East and the United States.

First, why did President Bush leave the hardened prisoners of Guantanamo Bay for the next U.S. president to solve? Sure, it's easy to pick on President Obama for trading five hardened Taliban leaders for an alleged deserter and POW in what looks like an unbalanced exchange. But the fault-lines lie not with the president or the Pentagon, but with the Bush Administration that failed to expedite trials, in either civilian courts or under military law. Again, President Obama is cleaning up the mess of his predecessor.

The Syrian civil war began not recently, but all the way back in 2006. It started as a water war between the cities and towns of Syria and the farmers. It picked up speed in 2008 and erupted this decade. But was the Iraq War a contributing factor to both the Syrian War and the Arab Spring of 2010?

It's hard to not legitimately link them with the Iraq War.

The Cancer of Hate
On a course of action for the shocking, speedy rise of ISIS -- the al Qaeda faction, which has mushroomed in the fissures of Syria's bloodletting -- President Obama is now being blamed for inertia to move and inaction to find a military solution in a region that is about to erupt into a greater conflict.

The real story is the genius of al Qaeda has been in its hydra head, decentralized leadership. Tamped down in one place, it rears its ugly head elsewhere, such as the flare-ups in India and the threat in the oil-rich nation of Nigeria today.

What needs to happen is for the world to understand the threat. ISIS and other al Qaeda-inspired groups are waging war with other moderate Muslims first.

Like President Obama, who told the people of Iraq to rise and defend their country, it's time for other Muslim nations to join in eradicating the cancer of hate that threatens to unseat them.

As for the political paralysis of Washington, it needs to stop. They need to come together as one, with the blame game coming from the likes of Dick Cheney and Senator Lindsay Graham, which are not constructive, to stop or be ignored.

Anything less, and we are inviting the cancer to spread in the West, not tomorrow, but soon.