Telling The Truth About Iraq

Jeremy Lott hopes GOP presidential hopefuls will face reality:

Any Republican seeking nomination for the 2016 presidential election should at a minimum be willing to admit Iraq was a mistake.  It was an error that cost us upwards of $1.5 trillion, thousands of U.S. lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi dead, while seriously hindering our efforts to track down the real culprits of September 11. (The war, incidentally, helped pave the way for a Nancy Pelosi-controlled House and a Barack Obama-controlled White House, as well.)

Larison sees this as improbable:

There are some obstacles to what Lott proposes. Chief among them is the difficulty that many hawks in the party still truly don’t accept that the Iraq war was a mistake. Despite the fact that by virtually any measurable standard the Iraq war was a senseless waste of lives and resources, they don’t consider this to be the truth, so they won’t greet it with relief. At best, many hawks will agree that the there were flaws in the execution, but they remain convinced that the original idea was sound.

Readers know how terrible a mistake this was and is, in my judgment. Listening to what passes for “debate” about the continued sectarian warfare in Iraq – which never ended, and was never resolved by the surge, and is the core reason why Iraq as a country remains a democratic impossibility – has been a sobering moment. Men like John McCain have obviously not internalized for a millisecond the awful error they made. Their response has been either utter denialism or silence – which was roughly their position throughout the entire, horrifying experience.

And that helps explain a little the total bafflement of these old warriors at the possibility of a rapprochement with Iran. Because they haven’t yet absorbed the uselessness of military force to advance our interests in the region – indeed, its capacity to make our position measurably worse – they still see warfare as the natural response to a country now so crushed by sanctions it has allowed a relative moderate to take control. They cannot even see that the only real option to advance some kind of peace in Iraq is through Tehran, a natural ally against Sunni extremists in that “country”. And they cannot see that further polarization between the Muslim world (especially its most pro-American population in Iran) and the West does nothing but hurt us, and our standing in the world at large.

Meanwhile, Crowley wonders whether Clinton’s support of the Iraq War will become an issue in 2016:

If Clinton runs for president in 2016, she’s likely to emphasize the more dovish aspects of her record—including her public diplomacy to repair America’s international image, her focus on building ties in Asia, and her attention to women’s rights and development issues.

But at a time when fewer Americans support an active U.S. role in foreign affairs, Clinton’s comfort with the harder side of American power could be a vulnerability. A liberal primary challenger might well reprise Barack Obama’s 2007 line that Hillary’s record amounts to “Bush-Cheney lite.” One potential contender, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, has already been zinging her over her 2002 Iraq vote. “When George Bush got a bunch of [Democrats] to vote for that war, I was just shaking my head in Montana,” he said recently. Whether such attacks will hold even a fraction of the valence they did at the Iraq war’s peak remains to be seen.

Friedersdorf adds:

There is next to no chance I’d vote for a Republican who thought the Iraq War was prudent, or showed an eagerness for more military interventions. But neither is it enough for a Democratic candidate to claim that the problem with the Iraq was the way that the Bush Administration executed it. Habitual hawks like Clinton have to clear a particularly high hurdle. And no one should be elected president without showing, beyond any doubt, that they understand why the war was a mistake and how to avoid like mistakes in the future.

I’m with Conor on this one, unreservedly. Clinton gets no pass. I want to know how she understands her own responsibility for the fiasco. And how she accounts for it.