Iraq

Republicans and Democrats Are To Blame For the Iraq War Disaster

Both sides seem all-too-capable of repeating the same mistakes again.

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"Sorry" seems to be the hardest word for neoconservatives who championed the Iraq War, but sometimes they manage to squeeze it out.

Here, for instance, is former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen in Wednesday's Washington Post: "Sorry, but this is a mess of President Obama's making."

It's a common refrain among unrepentant hawks. In a piece titled "What Obama Has Wrought in Iraq," Thiessen's American Enterprise Institute colleague Danielle Pletka insists that "when the United States fled Iraq in 2011, the country was stable, reasonably integrated, and on the road to new prosperity and unprecedented freedom."

"We had it won," declares Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Thanks to the 2007 troop surge, President Barack Obama had inherited "a strong Iraq," only to squander it rushing to the exits.

Watching the ongoing collapse of the Iraqi state not three years later, you have to wonder just how "strong" and stable it could have been in the first place. We've spent $25 billion over the last decade building up the Iraqi security forces, only to get an updated version of the old gibe about the South Vietnamese Army: "Want to buy some ISF rifles? Never been fired and only dropped once!"

But Iraq wasn't "lost" in 2011, when Obama failed to broker a deal that would let U.S. troops stay. Iraq was a losing proposition from the start.

In April 2003, as U.S. forces rolled into Baghdad, the Carnegie Endowment's Minxin Pei and Sara Kasper warned that "historically, nation building attempts by outside powers are notable mainly for their bitter disappointments, not their triumphs." Democratization-at-gunpoint is nearly always a fool's errand, and especially foolish in a socially fractured basket case like the Iraq of 2003.

In 14 cases of nation building in underdeveloped societies, Pei and Kaplan noted, the United States achieved its aims only in tiny Panama and Grenada: "a success rate of just 14 percent." Moreover, they cautioned, "ethnically fragmented countries, such as Iraq, pose extraordinary challenges to nation builders because, lacking a common national identity, various ethnic groups … tend to seize the rare opportunity of outsiders' intervention to seek complete independence or gain more power. This can trigger national disintegration or a backlash from other ethnic groups, with the outside powers caught in the middle."

Indeed, "despite what interveners hope," writes George Washington University's Alexander B. Downes, "more than 40 percent of states that experience foreign-imposed regime change have a civil war within the next 10 years."

Obama's great mistake, then, according to the neoconservatives, was that he missed his chance to have U.S. troops stick around, "caught in the middle." The idea was to keep a residual force of perhaps 20,000 Americans there indefinitely, taking fire while waiting for the emergence of the Shiite Nelson Mandela. Not a great plan.

If Iraq was a doomed enterprise from outset, who's to blame? We tend to think of the Iraq War as a neoconservative project, and with good reason. But they weren't alone.

"The underrated villains in this drama," Matt Yglesias observes, "are the leading Democratic Party politicians of the 2002-2003 era." Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Madeline Albright—"the whole crew"—went along. In 2003, center-left opinion on Iraq was dominated by a kettle of "Liberal Hawks" nearly indistinguishable from the neoconservative variety. Brookings scholars proved instrumental as well, playing a key role in getting liberal opinion leaders behind the war.

Many "one semester neoconservatives" renounced their liberal hawkery when they saw the results. But others retain their faith in the healing force of American arms.

"Obama's Favorite Think Tank: We Should Prepare to Bomb Iraq" the Daily Beast reports, citing a new white paper from the Center for American Progress.

The Iraq War was a bipartisan disaster—and one we seem all-too-capable of repeating.

This column originally appeared in The Washington Examiner. 

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  1. Iraq War Was a Bipartisan Disaster

    Think?

    1. Wingnuts are trying to rehab Bush in time for Jeb 2016.

      1. George W. Bush is already more popular than Barack Obama.

        http://www.gallup.com/poll/171…..dents.aspx

        George W. Bush has higher approval ratings than Barack Obama, and Obama has higher disapproval ratings than Dubya, too.

        Maybe not everything you believe is just so. Maybe you’re living in a media induced dream world.

        1. Obama would easily win an election between the two.

          Those ratings reflect progressive dissatisfaction with Obama. Progs see Obama as a Republican – too friendly with corporations, cutting spending, etc.

          1. Those ratings reflect progressive dissatisfaction with Obama.

            OK Weigel, oh 100% passer of the libertarian purity test, everybody agrees with you (the science politics is settled) and Obama’s problems are cause by nothing more than being left wing enough. Gotcha.

            Weigel is as Weigel does.

          2. There is some truth to that, but don’t forget that a big part of W’s low ratings were from conservatives who thought he was too liberal.

            1. Sure. If in fact “growing the size of government” is a measure of leftyness Bush is far to the left of Obama.

              1. Palin’s Buttplug|6.24.14 @ 12:38PM|#
                “Sure. If in fact “growing the size of government” is a measure of leftyness Bush is far to the left of Obama.”

                Lies, lies, lies. Turd does nothing but lie.

                1. bullshit, Weigel.

                  Oddly enough, 2013’s total revenue would fund the 2004 budget, when chaos reigned and anarchy ruled.

          3. Palin’s Buttplug:

            Those ratings reflect progressive dissatisfaction with Obama. Progs see Obama as a Republican – too friendly with corporations, cutting spending, etc.

            Whereas all Republicans and conservatives were completely thrilled with W.

          4. “Those ratings reflect progressive dissatisfaction with Obama. Progs see Obama as a Republican – too friendly with corporations, cutting spending, etc.”

            If you had bothered to look at the poll, you’d know that’s factually incorrect.

            90% of Democrats rate Barack Obama as favorable.

            “Those ratings” reflect independent dissatisfaction with Obama–and that’s the group that wins or loses you elections.

            Only 42% of independents rate Obama as favorable–and if you subtract all of the 1% that have no opinion from Obama’s negative ratings, that means 57% of independents have a negative rating on Obama.

            If 57% of independents vote against the progressive agenda that Obama has championed, then the progressives are going to lose in a landslide. The progressives better start separating themselves from Obama like now. Otherwise, he’ll be an albatross around their necks.

  2. Some of what we’re seeing happen now in Iraq is probably good for the country, long term.

    When you’re an invader, imposing something on someone, the battles that are being fought are mostly the invader’s battles. From the local Iraqi perspective–insurgency? Bombings? Yeah, we hate that stuff–but it’s the United States’ problem to solve, not ours!

    But now, as Iraqis rally around their own cause for their own country, we’re seeing that kind of “not my problem to solve” mentality disappear. Going forward, as Iraqis continue to fight and die against ISIS, the pride in their own new government, new country, and its armed forces increases. Now they’ve got a cause Iraqis have fought and died for–and not as collaborators with a foreign invader.

    The same sort of transformation happened in the U.S. after the Revolutionary War, and it actually really started to coalesce during the French and Indian War. I guess it’s an important way that countries and governments develop legitimacy.

    The worst thing we could now do is get involved–and make it seem like ISIS is America’s problem to solve again.

    1. Ken–

      It will only be good for the country if the correct cause of the failure is blamed: the impracticality AND immorality of using America’s military force for anything other than self-defense. I don’t see any evidence that most policy makers understand this.

      1. Yep, overthrowing their govt and touching off a 3 way civil war is what’s best for them. Top. Men. say so.

    2. We want you to be THIS way. We will invade your country and MAKE you THIS way. We will kill you when you aren’t THIS way. Good job, you are THIS way, keep up the good work, bye.

      Wonder what they’ll do when we leave?

      Fuck, our foreign policy is moronic.

  3. Well, yes and no. Sure, it was a bad idea to go with nation-building as opposed to a punitive expedition, and there were plenty of failures during the Bush administration to fight the insurgency like they meant it (yeah, Iran, I’m looking at you).

    So, Obama got handed a shit sandwich. No question. What President hasn’t? Where Obama failed was in not minimizing the damage, I believe. Was it inevitable when he was inaugurated that Iraq would collapse in a heap, well on its way to becoming an Iranian client state and hosting a permanent Sunni/Shiite civil war? I don’t think so, myself.

    But, if that was inevitable, then a good executive calls it out and has a plan for minimizing the damage to us. Obama never did that.

    So he either (a) made a bad situation worse, or (b) failed to minimize the damage. And that’s all on him.

    1. “Was it inevitable when he was inaugurated that Iraq would collapse in a heap, well on its way to becoming an Iranian client state and hosting a permanent Sunni/Shiite civil war?”

      Yes. But I agree that Obama didn’t know that, didn’t care.

    2. Iraq needs to be placed in the larger context of the complete ME. The Arab so-called Spring, the civil unrest in Iran in 2009, Egypt, Libya, the Syrian civil war, the proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

      ISIS was a bleed over from the Syrian conflict. Within this context, there’s no way Iraq was going to remain stable.

      Obama, like Bush, had a failure of imagination. He simply didn’t see the larger consequences of his actions or, in Obama’s case, his inactions.

      1. Iraq was at a pretty stable point, but Maliki was a tribal idiot for shafting Sunnis, and Obama didn’t want to keep any troops there. If those things had happened, ISIS would not have made the gains they have.

      2. I think you can point to a number of administration failures that have made this worse. Working backwards from the utter mismanagement of Syria (“red lines”, “Assad must go”, arming AQ affiliates, etc.), and on back.

    3. Bush engaged our military go fight for Iraq’s citizens “right” to vote for a dictator as a leader even if that leader was an Islamist that could threaten the US. The morality that guided him was altruism. Obama is an altruist, too, and kept Bush’s policies in place. Then he lost interest because it wasn’t his particular altruist cause.

      On this issue, Bush is more culpable, but on many, many other issues, Obama is continuing the destruction of the country following the altruist morality. It is altruism and the inability of our leaders to identify America’s rightful self-interests that has led to the complete failure in the country’s foreign policy.

  4. This article is bullshit because Dems never signed up for nation-building. That was on Bush/Cheney.

    1. Dems never signed up for nation-building.

      Fine, then accept your limits and stop trying to nation build here, Weigel.

    2. Palin’s Buttplug|6.24.14 @ 12:30PM|#
      “This article is bullshit because Dems never signed up for nation-building”…

      Fuck you, you slimy turd:
      “The Democrats’ Support for Bush’s War”
      […]
      “And it certainly is no longer the case?as apologists for the Democrats claimed when they supported supplemental spending for the war in previous years?that it would be politically difficult to oppose a key initiative of a popular president now that Bush is one of the least popular presidents in history,”…
      http://fpif.org/the_democrats_…..bushs_war/

    3. And there’s this:

      The first Obama’s budget for FY 2010 cranked-up Defense Foreign Economic Aid by 63%, from $24.3 to $40.2 billion. Despite subsequent across-the-board budget cuts and the Sequester, Defense Foreign Economic Aid rose in each of Obama’s five budgets. At the current $51.3 billion, the budget is 108% higher than the last Bush budget.

      That particular budget line item is a pretty good indication of how much we spend on nation-building. Although some of the increase has gone to the fabulously successful fomenting of the Arab Spring.

      http://americanthinker.com/201…..lding.html

  5. Let the UN partition “the nation of Iraq”. If ISISland then causes trouble, we’ll figure out *something*.

    1. Whatever happened to the UN, anyway? You hardly ever hear about it anymore. Is it now officially just an international club for justifying junkets to fun and exciting locales?

      1. Seriously. And whatever happened to the UNcola?

        1. Well, it remains crisp and clean, no caffeine. Never had it, never will. Ah, ha, ha, ha, ha.

          1. Wasn’t that guy also in a James Bond movie? Live and Let Die maybe?

            1. Bingo–Geoffrey Holder. He played Baron Samedi. Love his voice.

        2. I still have an Uncola lamp around the house, somewhere.

      2. UN is focused on more immediate and larger threats like global warming. Geez, the can’t do everything!

        1. I guess the U.S. has totally co-opted the peacekeeper role. Which, to my mind, makes the U.N. practically worthless. More so than it already was, I mean.

      3. Like homelessness, the UN is of note only when the president is a Republican.

        1. Say, what ever happened to the homeless, anyway?

          1. President Obama gifted them with his love and legislations, and by the magic in his heart, the problem was solved.

            1. Until sometime in January 2017, I take it?

  6. Disaster indeed. Iraq’s collapse leaves Iran the dominant player in the neighborhood, and we can’t have that.

    Or can we?

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/…..sales.html

    Wait, never mind. Sure we can.

    In fact, the Reason-funding, heavily-subsidized oil billionaires (along with their ayatollah pals) probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

    1. “In fact, the Reason-funding, heavily-subsidized oil billionaires (along with their ayatollah pals) probably wouldn’t have it any other way.”

      I know I’ve been appreciating the checks I’ve been getting! Those free trips to Tehran are nothing to sneeze at either.

      1. “I know I’ve been appreciating the checks I’ve been getting!”

        Nick? Is that you?

        “Those free trips to Tehran are nothing to sneeze at either.”

        Have they fit you with a leather turban?

    2. “In fact, the Reason-funding, heavily-subsidized oil billionaires (along with their ayatollah pals) probably wouldn’t have it any other way.”

      Isn’t it strange how ignorant lefty assholes always use the same talking points?
      Ypu’d think it was possible to teach even a parrot new words to mimic, but lefty imbeciles? Nope.

      1. I have a cunning plan. GMOs used to produce oil.

      2. “Isn’t it strange how ignorant lefty assholes always use the same talking points?”

        Oh, did I bother you with plain, relevant facts again? Sorry. That must be frustrating.

        Then again, nobody twisted your arm to hang around a clubhouse for mooks bought and paid for with Islamic fundamentalist cash.

        Maybe you could make better choices in the future? Just an idea.

        1. Gosh, you’d think a media outlet beholden to Islamic fundamentalists might occasionally publish something even faintly supportive of Islamic fundamentalism.

          Do point us to the articles, Oren, where Reason is anything other than critical of Islamic fundamentalism, Islamic theocracies, or Islamic dictatorships.

        2. OrelHazard|6.24.14 @ 2:03PM|#
          “Oh, did I bother you with plain, relevant facts again?”
          No, asshole, it’s the same tire lies that get boring.
          ———————
          “Then again, nobody twisted your arm to hang around a clubhouse for mooks bought and paid for with Islamic fundamentalist cash.”
          Uh, I’m sure that must mean something, but you’re on a site that’s primarily English-speaking.
          ————————–
          “Maybe you could make better choices in the future? Just an idea.”
          Naah. Responding o ignorant lefty assholes is enjoyable.

      3. Didn’t you see, Sevo? There was a link to an article about the Koch Brothers. This isn’t the same tired re-hashed talking points.

        THE KOCH BROTHERS!

        I know you probably haven’t heard of them, but people in the know know that there’s this big international conspiracy to perpetrate evil that’s being run by them.

        Please help us get the word out.

        1. So the people who pay for this anti-American, anti-democracy colony of *didn’t* do business with the Iranians? Nor did they fire their own executive for noting that they did business with the Iranians?

          Is that your claim?

          Can I have some of what you’re high on?

          1. I am high on the sweet sweet smoke of burning straw men.

          2. OrelHazard|6.24.14 @ 2:39PM|#
            “So the people who pay for this anti-American, anti-democracy colony of *didn’t* do business with the Iranians? Nor did they fire their own executive for noting that they did business with the Iranians?”

            English language, asshole. Try English.

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