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Post-Iraq War Lessons for the GOP
National Review ^ | 03/29/2013 | Jonah Goldberg

Posted on 03/29/2013 6:56:16 AM PDT by bassmaner

Is the Iraq War to blame for the mess we are in?

Now, I should qualify that question by explaining “mess” and “we.” By “mess,” I mean the dawn of Barack Obama’s second term, the predictably catastrophic rollout of Obamacare, the exploding debt and deficit, the stimulus boondoggles, etc. By “we,” I mean conservatives (particularly those, like me, who supported the war), but also anyone else who doesn’t think Obama has done a bang-up job.

There seems to be a growing consensus that the answer to that question is “yes.” In a recent column, the Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein writes, “It’s hard to see how Obamacare would have become law if Bush had never invaded Iraq.” New York Times columnist Ross Douthat says the war is “responsible for liberalism’s current political and cultural ascendance.” In the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan laments that the war “muddied up the meaning of conservatism and bloodied up its reputation.” She even goes so far as to assert that the war “ended the Republican political ascendance that had begun in 1980.”

Quibbles aside, their most basic claim seems irrefutable. Whatever defenses there may be for the Iraq War, it was a staggering political disaster for the Republican party. Is that fair? Maybe — or maybe not. As a matter of analysis, fair doesn’t have much to do with it.

That the war became an albatross for the GOP — particularly after so many pro-war Dems (like Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Joe Biden) ran for the hills — is undeniable.

The backlash against the war emboldened liberals and opened their minds and hearts to a vast new sense of what was possible. During George W. Bush’s second term, liberals seemed to have lost the taste for cannibalism that had made the Democratic party such a great spectator sport. Gone were the obsessions with factionalism and the hand-wringing squabbles about appealing to the center.

Younger liberals in particular had shed their disdain for the label “Democrat.” Heck yeah, we’re Democrats. We’re “fighting Democrats,” as the left-wing bloggers liked to say. And that was before the “historic” candidacy of Barack Obama, pitted first against the pro-war dinosaurs of the Democratic party (again: Clinton, Biden), then against Senator John McCain, an energetic elder statesman who was actually more pro-war than Bush himself.

Obviously, none of this means that if there had been no Iraq War, Republicans would be sitting pretty. As Douthat notes, we might be in the middle of a second Hillary Clinton term. But a Hillary Clinton administration, minus the legacy of the Iraq War, might have been a far sight more conservative — and successful — than the spectacle of the Obama years.

The more interesting question is: “What do you do about it?”

One answer is for the GOP to do what it’s been doing. Fight, squabble, debate, and, ultimately, grope its way out of the ditch. The Republican National Committee’s recent “autopsy” had many flaws, but the impulse for introspection was not one of them.

Some didn’t even need a committee report. Whatever the merits of his positions, one has to admire the swiftness and alacrity of Senator Rand Paul’s positioning as a different kind of Republican.

Another (in no way exclusive) answer is to take a page from the Democrats.

If the Obama agenda has pulled the country leftward — and I think it has — that creates new opportunities for the GOP.

Obamacare, the stimulus, and the various green-energy boondoggles are in no literal way like the Iraq War. But as a matter of politics, Obama’s overreach is real. For instance, every promise the White House made about the Affordable Care Act has turned out to be untrue, overblown, or misleading. It borrows vast sums to make the health-care system more onerous, complicated, and expensive while still leaving 30 million uninsured.

The press coverage of this unfolding train wreck remains timid in a way that coverage of the war wasn’t. The moment the mainstream media could get away with calling Iraq a “quagmire” it did. With Obamacare, much of the press is like Kevin Bacon trying to be a traffic cop in Animal House. It shouts “All is well!” even as it’s being trampled by the crowd.

Sad as it may be to say so, the failure of Obamacare touches more people’s lives directly than the war did, meaning the media filter matters less.

Politics is about moments and personalities. Just ask Obama. By all means the GOP should keep working out its own problems as best it can, but its practical salvation in the near term may just have to depend on the right candidate taking advantage of the right moment, which President Obama may just be kind enough to provide.

TOPICS: Military/Veterans
KEYWORDS: democrattraitors; surrendermonkeys
Sorry - I simply cannot agree with the navel-gazers that question the necessity of the Iraq War 10 years on. Let's stop trying to re-write history: it was a necessity at the time in order to finish some unfinished business, and to provide an effective counterweight to Iran in the overall scheme of things in the Middle East.

IMO, the biggest mistake made by the GWB Administration was to allow the ankle-biters in the 'Rat party and their media cohorts to undermine the war effort. I'm sorry, but Michael Moore and others of his ilk that were working tirelessly to repeat the Vietnam experience should have been SILENCED (like Lincoln did to the Copperheads) while our troops were in harm's way. The second biggest mistake was failing to provide a large enough occupying force, and the third was turning over sovereignty to the Iraqis way too soon.

If there is any major lesson learned from Iraq, it's this: Never fight a war again unless TOTAL VICTORY is the ultimate goal.

1 posted on 03/29/2013 6:56:16 AM PDT by bassmaner
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To: bassmaner
If there is any major lesson learned from Iraq, it's this: Never fight a war again unless TOTAL VICTORY is the ultimate goal.

On that I agree. But, other than a freer Kurdistan, I don't see the benefits of post-Saddam Iraq, which is now little more than a vassal state of Iran. For all his evil, Saddam was a deterrent to Iranian expansionism.

2 posted on 03/29/2013 7:02:55 AM PDT by ScottinVA (Gun control: Steady firm grip, target within sights, squeeze the trigger slowly...)
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To: bassmaner

Whether you agree or not with the Iraq war, I do believe that it pretty much helped to kill the GOP brand, with the help of the media.

3 posted on 03/29/2013 7:05:07 AM PDT by dfwgator
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To: ScottinVA

If anything we should have made Iraq our permanent base in the Middle East, so that we could finally tell the Saudis to take a flying leap.

4 posted on 03/29/2013 7:06:50 AM PDT by dfwgator
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To: bassmaner

>>> Post-Iraq War Lessons for the GOP

That we should never let talking heads in the media daily frame and phrase everything.

And Rove is the Turd.

5 posted on 03/29/2013 7:10:56 AM PDT by Sir Napsalot (Pravda + Useful Idiots = CCCP; JournOList + Useful Idiots = DopeyChangey!)
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To: bassmaner
' Let's stop trying to re-write history: it was a necessity at the time in order to finish some unfinished business, and to provide an effective counterweight to Iran in the overall scheme of things in the Middle East.'

Those are merely assumptions.

One could argue that Saddam was a fine counterweight against Iran.

The clear winner from our 'unfinished business' is China. While we were bombing, they were investing and saving.

One cannot take a administration serious our even continue to support their pov when they fire their navel-gazers who questioned the costs and spending of the War.

The great lesson should be don't trust your Gov't; they do not always have the best interest of the nation at hand. They fact that people carried the water for the so called 'right' is telling.

6 posted on 03/29/2013 7:32:49 AM PDT by Theoria
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To: bassmaner

Like you I refuse to rewrite takes place all too often even among conservatives. No, Bush did not lie and there was no choice at the time. The Iraq war was a success... Bush succeeded in thwarting other major terror attacks on our soil which was something just about everyone believed at the time was not possible. it was a major effort on his part and he yet has not received the credit he deserves. The liberals could not thwart him there so they attacked his weak flank...domestic policy and his legacy. But the result (including the liberals’ temporary ascendancy now) is still far better than the fate we would have suffered in the US had Bush not been successful in his primary mission. That fate would have been increasing terror here and for our allies across the globe (which might very well have included a much worse economy than we have now) something that cannot hardly be imagined today because Bush succeeded so well in his mission.

7 posted on 03/29/2013 7:34:42 AM PDT by what's up
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To: bassmaner

Saddam was tied in to the WTC attacks (like Iran)
and had WMD (now in Syria’s Bekka).

So the lessons are:




8 posted on 03/29/2013 7:41:00 AM PDT by Diogenesis (De Oppresso Liber)
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To: bassmaner

I had no problem with going in and defeating Saddam, but I was far less keen on the nation-building that endlessly followed.

Although I think my primary aggravation over things is that while we expended all that we did over in the Middle-East, our eyes were off the ball for so long, it opened the door for Obama and it has allowed America to degrade so fast and so far into a deranged, socialist cesspool.

Any new foreign entanglement will be a much, much bigger sell for me, as I’m even getting to the point as to question whether this ‘new’ degenerate homo America is even worth fighting for. If another 9/11 happens, will I even care? Amazing that I even find myself in the position of asking that question, but that’s where I now am.

9 posted on 03/29/2013 7:45:10 AM PDT by greene66
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To: ScottinVA

One of the benefits is that we do not have a Saddam with WMD which both KAy and duelfer said he ultimately was after and that he and his disgusting sons may very well have had by now . Another benefit was the thousands of Al queda operatives.who were drawn to Iraq and killed. Yet another is the cooperation between us and our allies which allowed systems to be put into place which still thwart attacks today.

10 posted on 03/29/2013 7:47:46 AM PDT by what's up
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To: bassmaner

>never fight a war unless total victory is the goal.

Wasn’t that the problem?

Instead of simply defeating Saddam and the Taliban, we decided to re-construct Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the case of Iraq, we miscalculated how costly this would be. Although, in real time, I was right that it would be too costly, I don’t blame the other side (the neo-cons) much for their miscalculation.

In the case of Afghanistan, come on. This was such a bad miscalculation that anybody who claims to be an expert in geopolitics is revealed to be naive by thinking re-constructing Afghanistan would meet a cost-benefit test.

Obviously, in the case of Afghanistan, we should have never become decisively engaged. Just kicked ass and get out of there. The Northern Alliance (our term, their term is the Islamic Front), with our aid, defeated the Talliban and their Pakistani army, and could have secured Kabul and the north of the country. But, no, we had to “unify” and “democratize” the country.

With the benefit of hindsight, in the case of Iraq, we should have, following the first Persian Gulf War, enabled the Shi’ites of the south to form a regional government, akin to Kurdish Iraq in the north. If not immediately after the war, then at some point in conjunction with the tightening of sanctions.

If we had done this, it is possible the Sunnis (and Christians) of Iraq would have eventually turned to us, to secure their place in Iraq, so we might have avoided the need to overthrow Saddam by military invasion. As it is, we wound up on the short side with both the Sunni and Shi’ite Iraqis.

While the overthrow of Saddam and the reconstruction of Iraq was very costly, we did succeed. A great many social and economic indicators show that Iraq is recovering from the turmoil of the anarchic conditions and war.

In addition, Iraq has a democratic government. Even though it is a young democratic government, the government features multiple viable parties. Hopefully, it will not fall into the trap of a one-party state as often happens. it is possible Iraq will make quicker progress to a mature democracy than, say, South Korea or Taiwan made. Whether this will happen, I don’t know. It will depend on the people of that country. All we could ever do for them is give them the opportunity.

11 posted on 03/29/2013 7:48:58 AM PDT by Redmen4ever
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To: bassmaner

Was it worth it?? 4500 of our best young men and women, tens of thousands injured mentally and physically, trillions of dollars in costs?? And for what? An Iraqi government tilted toward Iran, that awards its major oil and procurement contracts to the French and Chinese, that ran the Christians out of the country, etc. With the exception of Kurdistan, little positive came out of this misadventure in my view, and it probably ruined the Republican Party for a generation.

12 posted on 03/29/2013 8:01:32 AM PDT by laconic
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To: laconic

Well said. GOP lies come back to haunt them and for punishment they get McCain, Romney and a same sex marriage supreme court.

13 posted on 03/29/2013 8:54:31 AM PDT by ex-snook (God is Love)
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