Iraq Still Haunts Our Politics

Even in the GOP


"If I knew then what I know now, I would have answered your question differently."
Gage Skidmore

Remember when the Republican foreign policy debate was supposed to consist entirely of hawkish candidates chasing hawkish voters by out-hawking each other? Megyn Kelly shattered that little illusion on Monday when she asked Jeb Bush whether he'd have invaded Iraq in 2003 if he knew then what we know now. Bush said he would, and ever since then rival candidates have been using him for target practice.

It's no surprise that Rand Paul, the closest the Republican field has to a dove, would chide Bush over this, declaring the war a mistake "even at the time." But Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, and John Kasich all said they regretted the war too, even if they weren't willing to take their critique as far as Paul did. Marco Rubio—who was defending the Iraq war as recently as March—now says that not only would he have rejected the war knowing what he knows now, but he's pretty sure George W. Bush would have done the same. Yesterday it all came full circle: Jeb Bush, who claimed on Tuesday that he had misunderstood Kelly's question, announced that with hindsight he "would not have gone into Iraq."

He seemed a little pissy when he said it. This clearly isn't a subject he wants to talk about.

Needless to say, this does not make Cruz or Christie or Rubio, let alone either Bush, a born-again peacenik. The general aim of the candidates' comments isn't to reject the idea of the U.S. as a global policeman; it's to refine it, to say they're willing to use force but will avoid a rerun of the Iraq disaster. At their worst, they sound a bit like Dana Carvey channeling George H.W. Bush on the eve of the first Gulf War:

What's significant is that they're facing the question in the first place—and that they've been pushed to do it not by some famously liberal interviewer but by a host at Fox News.

I grew up in the days of the so-called Vietnam syndrome, when foreign-policy elites fretted that the Indochinese experience had made Americans unwilling to go to war. As late as 1991, the first President Bush—the real one, not Carvey—felt compelled to promise Americans he wasn't leading them into "another Vietnam" as he sent U.S. troops into Iraq. The public's fear of a Saigon rerun certainly didn't keep Washington from intervening around the world. But for the faction that felt the U.S. was insufficiently active abroad—and even in the Reagan years, you could find such people—that fear was still an intolerable imposition. Here they were with exciting new crusades to embark upon, and people kept bringing up the problems with the last one.

So it is today, with Baghdad in the Saigon role. Bush and Rubio would rather be rattling their swords at ISIS or Moscow or somesuch, but the ghosts of the last war keep coming back at inopportune moments. Lurking. Haunting. As though they might have something to tell us.

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  1. I'm starting to think the best answer is to have everyone running for the office announce their principles governing the use of military force.

    Either that or just settle it with trial by combat.

    1. I choose Prince Obyern Martel!

      1. That's dumb. Fool doesn't know when to seize victory.

  2. No Jesse. According to the Peanut Gallery here Libya was worse than Iraq and is the cause of all the Middle East turmoil today.

    1. Um no. The Iraq War was a big turd and Libya was a little(er) turd.

      But they're still turds nonetheless.

      1. GWB is simply stupid, whereas Obama is downright evil.

        Bush was foolishly hoping that he could help Jeffersonian democracy take root in the Arab world (which hopefully everyone with a brain now understands is never going to happen).

        Obama by contrast is trying to help radical Islamists take over the entire region, for whatever sick, twisted reasons he has.

        I say the latter is far worse.

        1. Obama by contrast is trying to help radical Islamists take over the entire region, for whatever sick, twisted reasons he has.

          Did you read that on wingnut.com or BratBitch?


        2. Stupid, evil, a distinction without a difference. Both voluntarily suck military-industrial cock, because in their hearts they want to.

    2. Bush started a brush fire in Iraq. Obama poured gasoline on it and roasted the Constitution over it with Libya and Syria.

      1. So Iraq was just a brush fire. That is great. I will use that.

        You TEAM RED! sycophants just keep giving me great material.

        1. Hmmm, you do know 75% of all U.S. Casualties in Afghanistan occurred under Obama. How is that working out ?

          1. Not that well.

            But Obama actually ran on escalating that war as a 2008 candidate. He didn't go around saying he was opposed to "nation building" like Dumbya did.

            (although he hasn't done any nation building - just droning and bombing)

            1. Palin's Buttplug|5.15.15 @ 10:50AM|#
              Mmmmmmmmmmm, that Obo ass!

            2. That's no excuse. Obama also campaigned on ending the war in Iraq--which W had already negotiated--but is now restarting it. So Obama has kept us at war despite his anti-war rhetoric.

              Bottom line is: you're always for Team Blue and always against Team Red no matter the facts. You have no libertarian integrity.

              1. The only people obligated not to support a Team are the natives here who insist that they are Teamless on principle. Excusing Bush for his role in these wars (starting them, failing to achieve anything good from them) is to be on Team Red, period.

                1. The only people obligated not to support a Team are the natives here who insist that they are Teamless on principle.

                  Teamlessness is principle, Tony. To support a team no matter what, is to be unprincipled.

                  Excusing Bush for his role in these wars...

                  Another Tony strawman. Nobody is excusing Bush. It's your unprincipled support of Team Blue that leaves you assuming that those who don't share your assessment are Team Red players--oh you of no political nuance.

                2. Just own that your guy wanted to leave the troops there and is itching to go back.

                  Own. It.

                  (Oh, and since you are functionally retarded, this is not an endorsement of Bush or Iraq War 2: Electric Bugaloo.)

              2. Bottom line is: you're always for Team Blue and always against Team Red no matter the facts. You have no libertarian integrity.

                This is his job; he's a JournoList. He's doing what he gets paid to do.


        2. Did Mr. Bush get Congressional authorization for Iraq?

          Did Mr. Obama do so for Libya? Syria?

          1. Even better, Bush got authorization from the presumptive Democrat frontrunner.


    3. I don't ever remember reading anyone make such a claim here.

      1. That claim was made on this very thread!

        Holy shit. The derp is deep here.

        1. Palin's Buttplug|5.15.15 @ 10:57AM|#
          "That claim was made on this very thread!"

          No, turd, you just can't read.


        3. Mmmmm, how's that cock taste, demfag?

    4. Beat that strawman, Buttplug!!


  3. I hear shrieking. It's 8% worse than before.


    1. Which one?!

      1. That band from England. That one.

  4. The problem with government is that it not only allows politicians to enact their temporary urges, it also makes them loathe to lose face by backtracking on those urges.

    We all have temporary flashes of stupidity and anger, we say someone ought to be shot, or go fuck themselves, or any number of things, but we don't have the power to do that, and we'd be horrified if we did. Or we take pity on some bum and wish we could give them $100, but even if we have it in our pocket, we don't.

    One thing that has taken a long time to learn is how important principles really are. Every time I have had momentary fantasies about war or more individual mayhem, hindsight always shows that sticking to basic NAP and individualist principles has been the right choice, whether for me or for any politician.

    The problem is systemic: having a monopolistic coercive government run by self-selected elites. It simply cannot be reformed. That is the problem all statists have never learned.

  5. "The problem is systemic: having a monopolistic coercive government run by self-selected elites. It simply cannot be reformed."

    You know what Thomas Jefferson (now dubbed T.J.) said...

  6. People always say, no no no, we can't resort to violence/revolution. But revolution is one of the most romantic ideas (in the classical sense of the word). It is literally the choice between living free (or dying in the attempt) or not living free. What is more romantic than that? The problem is that revolutions tend to get out of hand, e.g. the French Revolution, and the next generation(s) slide back to statism/totalitarianism because they didn't have to fight tooth and nail for their freedom.

    Also, what is the line that has to be crossed in order for revolution to be justified?

    1. "One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes a revolution in order to establish a dictatorship."

      -George Orwell

  7. Those who do not learn from history...

    1. don't get a very high score on their final exams in APUSH?

      1. Only because their prof failed to accommodate them.

    2. ... Still feel the need to plan everyone else's life.

      1. *applause*

  8. What the lurking ghosts of Vietnam tell us is that we are willing to start a war, fight it in a half-assed manner, and get tired of it and quit before we attain our objective, if we ever had one.

    1. The ghosts are lurking from the Koran War, but the point is the same: The military-industrial complex profits more from half-assery than from victory.

        1. Fuck.

          1. ANTI-ISLAMITE!

    2. Not exactly, but also not far off.

      What the ghosts of Vietnam should tell us is either stick to a non-interventionist policy, or restrict your military interventions to conditions that fit either the Weinberger or Powell doctrines.

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  10. Seems as if this country forgets everything, while it learns nothing, a very sad set of circumstances to view.

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