David Frum Makes Several Good Points While Arguing Against War in Iraq. I Know, Right?


David Frum, the man whose War on Terror resume includes coining the phrase "Axis of Evil," writing a book about George W. Bush entitled The Right Man, and trying to drum "unpatriotic conservatives" out of the GOP big tent, became last year one of only prominent tub-thumpers for the Iraq War to issue anything like a public mea culpa (sample line: "Those of us who were involved—in whatever way—bear the responsibility").

So it's not totally surprising that Frum would throw some pre-emptive cold water on President Barack Obama's plan to renew U.S. war in Iraq and start a new one in Syria, but the effect is still jarring. At a time when POTUS's policy looks only moderately distinguishable from that of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky)—with the notable exception of seeking congressional authorization, which Obama almost certainly will not—it's strange to read a Bush speechwriter arguing forcefully that "This campaign against ISIS is an emotional reaction without purpose."

Excerpts I found persuasive included this bit on congressional authorization:

It seems like only last year that this president was asking Congress for authority to bomb Assad. Twelve months later, he will bomb Assad's enemies. Why does bombing one side of a war require congressional permission, while bombing the other side does not? The administration doesn't answer, because nobody is asking. Something must be done! This is something! Let's do this!

… and evil bedfellows:

The war against ISIS is a war that will be fought in alliance with Iran in support of Iranian client states: the Assad regime in Damascus and the sectarian Shiite government in Baghdad. Obama forced Iran's special friend Nouri al-Maliki to resign as Iraqi prime minister. That prettied up the Baghdad government's image, but the real power in Iraq remains the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). If U.S. airpower weakens ISIS, it's the IRGC that will command the advancing Iraqi forces—and IRGC cadres who will stiffen the demoralized Iraqi army. In Syria, that same job will be done by Hezbollah.

… and unplanned conseqeuences:

This summer, Obama told Thomas Friedman of The New York Times that his greatest foreign-policy regret was not following up on his Libya intervention to ensure a stable transition to a new government. As admissions go, this one was a flabbergaster. Over four years, first in the U.S. Senate, then as a candidate for president, Barack Obama powerfully upbraided the Bush administration for the defects of its plan to stabilize Iraq after overthrowing Saddam. If he hit that point once, he hit that point a thousand times. Yet when it became his turn to overthrow a dictatorial regime, he dismissed his own top critique of his predecessor. He went to war in Libya without any clear idea of what was to come after, or how that was to be achieved. But more incredibly yet, Obama is now preparing another intervention—this one vastly more important—in Syria and Iraq with no clearer idea of what he hopes to achieve than he had in Libya.

Whole thing here. I'll be co-hosting a special edition of The Independents live at 11 p.m. ET reacting to the president's speech with a cast of interesting characters, including ex-Reasoner Michael C. Moynihan.