Was the Iraq War a Mistake? This Answer May Surprise You…

|

Via Best of the Web comes this Reuters piece with what was, to me anyhoo, surprising news given that deaths in Iraq hit record highs this summer:

For the first time since December 2005, a majority of people polled did not say the war in Iraq was a mistake. The respondents were evenly split at 49 percent to 49 percent, the report said.

That said, 60 percent believe President Bush "has no plan" for dealing with Iraq and 75 percent say that country is in civil war.

But then there's this, which should warm the cockles of GOP hearts: Bush's approval rating is at a recent high of 44 percent, up from 39 percent last month, "largely on the strength of Republicans coming back to the fold with 86 percent saying they support him now, compared to 70 percent in May."

All this is based on a USA Today/Gallup Poll. More details here.

NEXT: Landslide Wynn

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Why is Bush’s approval rating going up recently? Is it because he’s for torture? I just don’t get it. The American people frighten me.

  2. Humm 75% say it’s civil war and only 49% thinks it was a mistake.

    Does that mean 26% thought we intended to start a civil war in Iraq? Polls are fun.

  3. Bush’s approval rating is inversely correlated with gas prices.

    Gas prices were up, Bush was down. Gas prices are down, Bush is up.

  4. U-S-A! U-S-A!

  5. I’m happy with the war on drugs, IF gas gets back down to $1.24. Makes perfect sense to me:)

  6. Bush’s approval rating is inversely correlated with gas prices.

    Gas prices were up, Bush was down. Gas prices are down, Bush is up.

    Too true. Fucking idiots.

  7. Everybody’s back from summer vacation. Here’s Dubya saying we need to do this and we need to do that. These items have been carefully focus group tested for simplicity, common sense, etc.
    The largest swing group among voters is the group that will give a “leader” the benefit of the doubt whenever the leader seems to really want to do something. The appropriateness and rationale for the something are irrelevant.
    This swing group I’m describing is the one believing government is the Earthly agent of God… Dubya’s base.
    The swing group is really really big in places like Iran. Our mission here at H&R is to keep chipping away at this group.

  8. Gas prices were up, Bush was down. Gas prices are down, Bush is up.

    It’s funny that Democrats, who claim to be for environmental protection, need to bash Bush for high gas prices and promise voters relief at the pump. If they really cared a bit about global warming, they would complain about how gas prices are far too low in this country.

  9. Hmmm,
    Surely you don’t mean to insinuate DemocRATS speak with forked tongue?
    How long has this been going on?
    We need to DO something!

  10. A political party that has orgasms over its leader “zooming” to a 44% approval rating and a dead-even split with its opposition (a feat unrecorded in any one of seven other opinion polls taken that same week)is a party that stinks of desperation.

    Opinion polls taken two months before an election mean absolutely nothing – let’s see what happens once the hedge funds finish shorting commodities and square their option positions at the end of the quarter.

  11. If they really cared a bit about global warming,[Democrats, who claim to be for environmental protection,] would complain about how gas prices are far too low in this country.

    I tend to vote Democrat (fork tounged bastards that they are), and I do believe that gasoline should be more expensive to account for its externality costs. Not the least of which is the cost of foreign military engagements in countries that yearn to be free and, incidentally, have lots of oil.

  12. I think people identify with political parties these days the way some still identify with religious denominations, etc. The old car commercial used to go, “Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet”. I myself sometimes talk about loyalty to my family, my dog and my football team as unique for not being based on performance. I think a lot of people would add political party to that list of things they’re unwaiveringly loyal to these days. …people on both sides of the aisle.

    I suspect those on the right are presently a little more susceptible to becoming cultural identity Republicans–but I also suspect that’s just a function of occupying the White House. People get sucked back into the orbits of their parties as elections approach. Isn’t your parent’s affiliation supposed to be a big factor in predicting your affiliation? Come November, especially considering the way the President’s connected himself personally to the war, we should expect culturally conditioned Republicans to respond to questions about the war this way.

  13. By the way, I’m still skeptical about the American people seeing the economy as a function of prices at the pump. My understanding is that unemployment is a much bigger factor–and if you pull out structural unemployment…

    I was at a conference listening to this economist today–he suggested that our unemployment picture minus structural is close to or better than it was during the Vietnam War, which is to say remarkably excellent.

  14. The Iraq war was predicated on a mistake: weapons of mass destruction did not exist, at least not to the extent believed. This was a mistake shared by all. All of our NATO allies, everybody believed this; nobody stood up and pounded the table and said, “there are no WMD”.

    Iraq could have demonstrated that they had no WMD. In fact, Iraq was under a UN mandate to do exactly that, and instead Saddam played hide the salami with the inspectors. Saddam screwed up, and now he is paying for it. Too bad.

    There are really only two questions of interest in this whole matter: What should America have done instead? What should America do now?

    The first question is interesting because it exposes the hypocracy of many, and the second question is interesting because its answer is our great challenge this decade.

  15. ‘nobody stood up and pounded the table and said, “there are no WMD”.’

    Howard Dean? Hans Blix? Former members of the UN Inspection Team?

  16. “What should America have done instead?” Allowed the inspection teams – the ones reporting back that they weren’t finding WMDs – to complete their mission, while continuing and improving the sanctions.

    “What should America do now?” Announce that we are going to withdraw, in a very public manner, and engage in negotiations with the Iraqi government about the how and when that will occur. These negotiations to occur alongside negotiations between the government, various insurgent groups, and various Sunni political groups. Then, pull back troops to Kuwaite, Qatar, Diego Garcia, Europe, the Kurdish areas, and our aircraft carriers, and hope for the best.

  17. Joe,

    The UN inspectors were thwarted at every turn. Hans Blix might have had the opinion that there were no WMD in Iraq, but it was not based on any evidence. Hans Blix had no credibility because of that. Howard Dean? The same screeching insane democrat presidential candidate Howard Dean? What would Howard Dean base his opinion upon, his extensive travels throughout Iowa?

    Our European allies had the opportunity to object to the WMD talk. They did not. Nobody did. The Iraqi leadership had the opportunity to defuse the situation and they did not do so. They obviously believed that no harm would come to them and they were wrong.

    Personally, I did not think the threat was grate enough to America to warrant war. I did think the Iraqis were producing bio-weapons and they probably were, but not to a large extent.

    “Then, pull back troops to Kuwaite, Qatar, Diego Garcia, Europe, the Kurdish areas, and our aircraft carriers, and hope for the best.”

    This is the “fix your own problems” school of thought, and frankly I think there is much to recommend it. If we pull out now though, Iraq will be in the hands of a dictator again in a few years. That might be the correct thing to do, but it will be sad. On the other hand, we can’t fix the world.

  18. “””Iraq could have demonstrated that they had no WMD. In fact, Iraq was under a UN mandate to do exactly that, and instead Saddam played hide the salami with the inspectors. Saddam screwed up, and now he is paying for it. Too bad.”””

    If the WMD card didn’t stick, they would kept toss out ideas till one did. Some in the Pentagon was hell bent on going to war. It truly was a war waiting for an excuse. Some of the same guys was trying to get Clinton to invade Iraq.

    “””There are really only two questions of interest in this whole matter: What should America have done instead? What should America do now?””””

    Iraq was not important at the time. America should have invested as much forces as possible in Afghanistan and Pakistan to get Bin Laden. We had bigger fish to fry than Saddam.

    Every year around 9/11, Arellano gallery has a photo exhibit of 300 NY press photos. Link is here http://bolivararellanogallery.com/exhibit.htm

    I walked by it the other day, stopped and looked, and while looking at the pictures of the jumpers I had to ask myself, why is the guy that made this happen still at large when Saddam is not. What kind of person would think their is someone more important to capture than the man behind this?

    You get results where you put your efforts.

    The short answser is I would have done nothing about Saddam and I would have moved heaven and earth to get OBL.

    What should we do now? Is a much tougher question. A long list of mistakes and lack of foresight has put us in a pickle.

    The definiton of victory keeps changing so I’m not sure what to do. You have to define victory first. Defeating the insurgency was once the goal. Win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis was another. Now victory is reduced to training semi-interested Iraqis to fight a war that we started and can not finish. We have not been able to secure the capitol in almost 4 years.

    I would define victory once and stick to it. If it takes 300,000 troops and the draft to accomplish the mission, so be it.

    As much as I dislike Bush, I agree with him about the importance of the outcome in Iraq. It’s one thing to bragg to the world you can kick everyone’s ass. It’s another to prove to the world you can’t. Unless we figure it out, the later will prevail.

    Of course, how foolish is it to bet the existance (as Bush says), at least the reputation, of this country on whether two mid-East tribes (Sunni, Shia), that have been fighting for centruies, will make peace with each other?

    I was never fully a supporter of the Iraq war from the start. I’m not anti-war but we had the luxury of picking the time to go after Saddam, I did not feel the same way about OBL. As a resident of Manhattan, the target is and has always been OBL. To send more troops after a different target makes no sense to me. We could have delt with Saddam after we took care of OBL.

    Go to link of the Arellano gallery and look at those pictures, come back and tell me why we don’t have the entire weight of the military going after the guy behind it. It’s simply unexcusable.

  19. “Announce that we are going to withdraw, in a very public manner, and engage in negotiations with the Iraqi government about the how and when that will occur. These negotiations to occur alongside negotiations between the government, various insurgent groups, and various Sunni political groups. Then, pull back troops to Kuwaite, Qatar, Diego Garcia, Europe, the Kurdish areas, and our aircraft carriers, and hope for the best.” – joe

    See also, the Vietnamization of Iraq, since that’s exactly the same plan that worked so spectacularly badly when we pulled out of Vietnam and left our former allies to the mass murders conducted by the Viet Cong and N. Vietnamese forces throughout the country:

    “Thousands of supporters of the South Vietnamese government were rounded up and sent to ‘re-education’ camps. The new regime considered these supporters to be American ‘collaborators’ and ‘traitors’.”

    And then what happened? Oh yeah, the Vietnamese all lived happily ever after with the other natinos in the region, and “They had flowery meadows and rainbow skies, and rivers made of chocolate, where the children danced and laughed and played with gumdrop smiles.”

    Oh, wait second, that’s not quite right. What really happened was “North Vietnam followed up its victory by first conquering Laos and, then Cambodia…”

    (Granted, in Cambodia kicking the snot of the Khmer Rouge was probably a blessing in disguise…)

    But what happens when Syria and Iran divide Iraq and follow it up with the extermination of the Kurds and anyone considered to have worked with the Americans? Then roll through through Kuwait and Bahrain and Qatar for seconds?

    Yeah, joe, that question is for you.

  20. wayne,

    “The UN inspectors were thwarted at every turn. Hans Blix might have had the opinion that there were no WMD in Iraq, but it was not based on any evidence.” Funny, because the UN inspectors didn’t say that. They reported that, despite the lack of cooperation from the Iraqis, they were able to do their job.

    “Hans Blix had no credibility because of that.” Hans Blix was right, and it would be a good idea to stop insisting that people who figured out the truth years before you did were going about it wrong.

    “Howard Dean? The same screeching insane democrat presidential candidate Howard Dean?” It’s too bad you’re still basing your assessments of reality on partisanship. Howard Dean (Right About WMDs in Iraq – Vermont)

    “If we pull out now though, Iraq will be in the hands of a dictator again in a few years.” If we stay, Iraq will be in the hands of a dictator in a few years. It is only if we leave that there will be any possiblity of the different factions working together enough to create a functional republican political order. If you believe that there are any Iraqis whose opposition to the central govenrment are based on its relationship with the occupiers, then withdrawing is the only way to split the insurgency, the way Blair’s work in Northern Ireland split the IRA.

    rob,

    There were negotiations going on between the South Vietnamese government, the North Vietnamese government, and the VC about ending the war and unifying the country when we began to withdraw? Oh, wait, no there weren’t.

    Vietnamization was a policy of continuing the war between the North (and its VC allies) and the South, without us. I’m proposing an effort to end the war, which is somewhat different.

    The question for you is why you would continue to insist that this war continue to be fought among the existing parties, when it’s clear that is impossible for us to achieve a victory?

  21. Also, rob, your Vietnam analogy falls apart here:

    “But what happens when Syria and Iran divide Iraq and follow it up with the extermination of the Kurds and anyone considered to have worked with the Americans? Then roll through through Kuwait and Bahrain and Qatar for seconds?”

    I wrote, “Then, pull back troops to Kuwaite, Qatar, Diego Garcia, Europe, the Kurdish areas, and our aircraft carriers, and hope for the best.” I don’t imagine Iran and Syria would have much luck “rolling through” areas with a substantial American military presence in them.

    This is exactly the opposite of our experience in Vietnam, when we left the region entirely, and refused to provide support for the South Vietnamese.

    If you want to avoid an outcome comparable to that in Vietnam, then we need to withdraw on our terms, not wait until we’re helicoptering off the embassy roof. Nixon was just as determined to “stay the course” as you are, rob. And we’ve all seen how that ends.

  22. There were probably many who “figured out there were no WMD in Iraq years before we invaded”, based on all kinds of methods: stirring through chicken entrails, or smoking ganja, or whatever. But that is not how you make decisions about going to war.

    But the fact remains that everybody believed that Iraq had, or was on the verge of having WMD. It pains me to come across as a Bush supporter because I don’t particularly like him, but to claim that he “lied to get us into a war” is itself a lie. He was wrong to be sure, but so was everybody else. Saddam could have prevented this war, but he was too tied up in his own megalomania to do so. Too bad for him, and too bad for us.

    I am still baffled by your Howard Dean references. I had never heard of Howard Dean before he tried for the democrat nomination but lost to Kerry. Did Dean have something to say about WMD before the war? What were his sources?

  23. wayne,

    When you catch the car salesman in his third or fourth lie about the car, you walk away.

    It’s not a cream puff that an old lady used to drive her cat to the vet. It’s a lemon. If it wasn’t a lemon, he wouldn’t be lying to you so much.

    “But the fact remains that everybody believed that Iraq had, or was on the verge of having WMD.” Uh, no. Everybody understood that the Iraqi government was acting shifty, and that there might be some kind of WMD programs going on, but the CIA reports never said they knew there were WMDs or ongoing programs, and every time they presented the evidence that there were, they included significant qualifications and warnings about incomplete and unreliable information. That’s why the “Office of Special Plans” was formed to put out more definitive statements – because the actual professionals weren’t saying the things necessary for justify a war.

    Hence, a plurality of the public in March 03 believed that war with Iraq might prove to be necessary, but was not necessary at the time.

    “Did Dean have something to say about WMD before the war?” Yes, he was quite vocal about the fact that Bush had not made the case for war, and that the evidence presented did not justify the assertions the administration was making.

    He said this all over the country; in the east, south, west, and north somewhat.

  24. Joe,

    I obviously did not follow Dean. Frankly, he sort of turned my stomach so I could hardly look at him. Gore sort of had the same effect on me. Lest you think it was their party that I disliked, Bush was almost as dislikable, although not quite. Did Dean make his case before the war, or was he just trying to drag Bush through the mud?

    One more point. I did not support going to war in Iraq. I was not completely convinced of the WMD claims and I figured that even if the WMD claims were true there were others (middle east and Europe) who were more directly threatened, hence it was mostly their problem to solve. It is a mess now and I don’t know how we are going to get out of it.

  25. wayne,

    I wouldn’t say that Dean “made his case” so much as punching holes in Bush’s case, by pointing out how weak his evidence and logic were.

    Which is good enough for me. The responsibility to prove the case falls on the guy who wants to start a war on the other side of the planet.

  26. “If we stay, Iraq will be in the hands of a dictator in a few years.” – joe

    Says joe, AKA Nostradamus 2.0: Now with up-to-date partisan filter!

    “It is only if we leave that there will be any possiblity of the different factions working together enough to create a functional republican political order” – joe

    I guess being a Democrat means you can also predict the future, despite historical examples to the contrary. In other words, what evidence is there that this is what will happen beyond your prognostication? None. Because NO ONE knows what the future holds or can be absolutely certain of the ramifications of their actions. Something you like to take the current administration to task for all the time.

    “There were negotiations going on between the South Vietnamese government, the North Vietnamese government, and the VC about ending the war and unifying the country when we began to withdraw? Oh, wait, no there weren’t.”

    You’ve got a point somewhere, I’m sure, but you still haven’t spit it out.

    “Vietnamization was a policy of continuing the war between the North (and its VC allies) and the South, without us.” – joe

    That’s essentially the plan in Iraq as well. To stand up a stable Iraqi gov’t, and equip and train Iraqi police and military forces to be able to effectively combat the insurgents and those who want to topple the Iraqi gov’t. Thanks for bolstering my example.

    The problem is that currently, without direct U.S. support until the situation is stable enough and sufficient Iraqi forces to maintain that stability on their own, U.S. presence is still necessary. S. Vietnam fell because the U.S. failed to ensure that the SVA could actually repel the North if necessary and failed to provide the air support necessary to repel the NVA & VC.

    “I’m proposing an effort to end the war, which is somewhat different.” – joe

    Yeah, you propose the same results – dead “collaborators” and Kurds this time – just a slightly different methodology. (Very slightly!) But it still reeks of abandoning the folks in Iraq who are trying to do the right thing by their nation and who are still reliant on U.S. military support for the precious stability they barely enjoy as it is.

    “The question for you is why you would continue to insist that this war continue to be fought among the existing parties, when it’s clear that is impossible for us to achieve a victory?” – joe

    Dude, this is your “Carlos Mencia, dee-dee-dee” moment. Just because YOU say it’s impossible to achieve the stated goals doesn’t mean it actually IS impossible. Put the Kool-Aid glass down. It might even help to approach a history text without the partisan blinders. Sheesh.

  27. “I don’t imagine Iran and Syria would have much luck ‘rolling through’ areas with a substantial American military presence in them. This is exactly the opposite of our experience in Vietnam, when we left the region entirely, and refused to provide support for the South Vietnamese.” – joe

    So your plan boils down to “US out of Iraq, into every neighboring nation?” This is a better plan HOW? Other than that it draws suicide bombers and jihadists to neighboring nations rather than Iraq, I fail to see how this is better.

    “If you want to avoid an outcome comparable to that in Vietnam, then we need to withdraw on our terms, not wait until we’re helicoptering off the embassy roof. Nixon was just as determined to ‘stay the course’ as you are, rob. And we’ve all seen how that ends.” – joe

    Uh, Nixon’s the guy who took the U.S. OUT of Vietnam, along the lines you’re advocating. “Peace with Honor,” remember? (Here’s a re-cap: http://www.watergate.info/nixon/73-01-23_vietnam.shtml)

    Nixon’s whole point was that we were leaving “on our terms.” It was your Democrats (JFK and LBJ) who escalated U.S. involvement. The thing is, JFK and LBJ were doing the right thing, for the most part. Then the Dems war became the left’s anti-war rallying cry against the Republicans.

  28. “””There were probably many who “figured out there were no WMD in Iraq years before we invaded”, based on all kinds of methods: stirring through chicken entrails, or smoking ganja, or whatever. But that is not how you make decisions about going to war.

    But the fact remains that everybody believed that Iraq had, or was on the verge of having WMD.”””

    I’m curious Wayne are you quoting someone in the first paragraph and you didn’t put the quotes on?

    Either everybody believed it or they did not. You can’t claim both.

    It fact is, not everyone did believe it, there was dissent on every point in the NIE, in the NIE its self.

    “””I don’t particularly like him, but to claim that he “lied to get us into a war” is itself a lie.”””

    Define lie? I use the extreme definition myself. If you tell someone something that you know not to be true at the time you tell them, you are lying.

    Bush might not have known what he was saying was false, at the time he said it, though I have a hard time believing that. I can’t prove other wise so I say Bush did not lie. (dishonest, yes)
    On the same tolken, the people that say Bush DID lie, do not know for a fact that he DID NOT lie. You can’t really know what Bush knows. Therefore, they are not lying either. You seem to judge those critical of Bush on tougher parameters than Bush himself.

  29. “Define lie? I use the extreme definition myself. If you tell someone something that you know not to be true at the time you tell them, you are lying.”

    Kind of Clintonesque, aren’t you?

    “On the same tolken, the people that say Bush DID lie, do not know for a fact that he DID NOT lie. You can’t really know what Bush knows. Therefore, they are not lying either. You seem to judge those critical of Bush on tougher parameters than Bush himself.”

    Kind of a, “have you stopped beating your wife” question, isn’t it?

  30. I have never been a big fan of Vietnam comparisions to the Iraq war.

    My reasons:

    – The military forces opposing the US-backed regime in South Vietnam were pretty much united strategically and ideologically. This is not the case with the Iraqi insurgency, which seems to consist of many small factions with little in common besides an opposition to the presence of the US and its allies’ forces.

    – The Viet Cong had direct material support from the North Vietnamese government which in turn recieved support from the USSR and China. The Iraqi insurgency doesn’t get nearly as much (and perhaps not any) state assistance.

    My suggeston for the Iraq war is:

    – Set a timetable or have some kind of concrete statement about when coalition will leave. Coordinate this with US allies and the Iraqi government. Disavow any plans to establish permanent bases in Iraq against the will of a majority of the population. (Although one could argue that the kurdish areas should be exempted from this statement and the establishment of military bases there should be between the US and the people in those provinces)

    – Attempt to open negotiations with non-terrorist elements of the insurgency and communities that support them and/or rely on them for security. Point out that the US has made a clear statement about when the occupation will end (and that fighting them will not make them leave any sooner), and that the interests of Iraq are best served if US forces can weaken Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in the mean time.

    – As for the terms of ceasing hostilities with non-terrorist insurgent groups, I am imagining something like this:

    “All high ranking officers in this militia must undergo house arrest in a NATO country not bordering Iraq. You can switch countries but you must be in the custody of authorities at all times during your travel. You agree not to return to Iraq unless the Iraqi congress votes to allow you, but in no event sooner than 2015. The rest of the militia can continue to provide security if the people in that area vote to allow it , but they must cooperate with international forces and be under the supervision of the Iraqi government.”

    I don’t know whether or not it is the policy of Sadr’s militia, or those of other aspiring Ayahtollahs(sp?), to target civilians. He is such a big fish however, that if we could strike that kind of deal with him it would seem like the pragmatic thing to do in any case. Of course the people holding him would probably have to screen/reword his press releases to ensure that no coded messages are sent enabling the resumption of hostilities.

    – Then hopefully coalition forces could use the remainder of there time in Iraq to really concentrate on doing damage to Al Qaeda (perhaps with the help of some who would otherwise have collaborated with or tolerated them), and training Iraqi security forces to take over.

    – The issue of a majority of kurds wanting independence would also need to be addressed.

    PS: I am not an expert on this stuff, just throwing some ideas out there. Someone might come along with a really glaring reason why these proposals won’t work.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.