Skip to comments.Post–Iraq War Lessons for the GOP
Posted on 03/29/2013 1:53:59 PM PDT by neverdem
The unpopular war hurt Republicans, but Obamas failures could help.
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.
— Jonah Goldberg is the author of the new book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can write to him at JonahsColumn@aol.com, or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc.
War is the health of The State.
D.C. seems pretty healthy compared to the rest of the country these days and DHS has plenty of ammo.
” One answer is for the GOP to do what its been doing. Fight..”
Win by destroying your enemy as fast and as furiously as possible.
The locals can do their rebuilding.
The dollar cost of the Iraq war was roughly equal to the cost of the “Stimulus.” Which of these expenditures created the most jobs?
Oh, and by the way ..... key advice that persuaded Saddam not to flee the country entirely, but to stay and fight a guerrilla war, was offered by uniformed PLA officers from the attache' staff of the PRC embassy.
I read that at the time, but in LSMspeak ..... "it doesn't resonate" .... with the b.s. narrative they started pushing the minute we got to Baghdad.
The belief is that the MSM decides what opinions are acceptable and what issues are worthy of consideration. Even if they occasionally allow a conservative to present his point of view it is just to announce that this is an important issue, but that we should still all be on the liberal side of it.
Unfortunately as the MSM fades into oblivion it is being replaced by blogs and news aggregation sites on the web, i.e. FreeRepublic. These are basically polarized places where people go to have their biases reinforced.
The liberals who flock to the liberal versions of these sites won't even get the occasional token conservative response.
Going forward opinions will be cemented into place, and as a larger and larger percentage of the populous become net consumers of government (read taxpayers) largesse the Democrat majority will continue to surge.
I have long said that the disastrous results for the Republican Party in 2006 and 2008 can be directly traced to the opposition -- or at least disinterest -- of conservative voters who simply had enough of the idiocy that became glaringly obvious across America at the time. A lot of these voters got sick of seeing media reports of funerals (for the deceased) and fundraisers (for the wounded) for military personnel coming home from Iraq in all kinds of distress, while driving past hordes of illegal immigrants hanging around outside the local convenience stores ... while the Republican Party was hell-bent on granting them "amnesty."
I suspect many of these voters simply said to themselves: "What the f#%& has this country come to?"
And they stayed home. And they simply don't give a sh!t anymore.
If the Iranian government were in charge of the U.S. Department of Defense and orchestrated the U.S. military action in Iraq from 2003 onward, would they have done anything differently than the U.S. did ourselves?
You should have been America's 5-star General - because your post is exactly what should have happened.
Instead of war, we got suckered into "nation building" for a millions of Muslims - but we refused to attempt to change their destructive culture. In fact, we ourselves would not allow it to be discussed.
The first time I was approached by Afghan war vets who told me of the behavior of the Aghan leadership (officers, police, politicians, etc) - I could not believe my ears.
Adult make rape of male boys was so prevalent it was epidemic. Afghan treatment of women was murderous and criminal. Sadistic and cruel treatment of helpless animals (especially dogs) was rampant.
It was almost as if we had allied ourselves with a Satanic cult.
The Republican abandonment of the US military since the 2012 elections has me thinking the same thing about them.
No, the Pentagon was not "crying wolf." The GOP knew that as well. The GOP did a 180 and sacrificed the military on the political altar.
They definitely stayed home in the last two presidential elections. And it will take a candidate that speaks to them on levels beyond mere words to win them back.
Right now the best thing Democrats have going isn't Obama. It's the piss-poor state of the GOP.
Agree. However, the GOP "strategy" seems to be:
- tick off the military
- tick off veterans
- embrace illegals
That's a winner!