The Neocons’ Very Own Reality

Andrew Sullivan —  Jun 18 2014 @ 3:22pm

Simon Jenkins is aghast at the neocons’ push – even now – for more intervention:

It beggars belief that further military intervention by the west in Iraq is now being considered. Yet the yearning to intervene, to bomb someone even if just to “send a message”, shows how thin is the veneer of sanity cloaking great power aggression. War still has the best tunes. How glorious it must seem to certain politicians to somehow turn 10 years of disaster in Iraq into a final victory.

That is why the causes and effects of 2003 must be nailed to the wall, time and again. Trillions of dollars were spent and tens of thousands of people died, for no good reason then and no good reason now. It was a total disgrace.

Torture champion Marc Thiessen’s latest nonsense is a text-book case of creating a reality that can simply erase the record of catastrophe:

First, [Obama] withdrew all U.S. forces from Iraq — allowing the defeated terrorists to regroup and reconstitute themselves.

Second, he failed to support the moderate, pro-Western opposition in neighboring Syria — creating room for ISIS to fill the security vacuum. ISIS took over large swaths of Syrian territory, established a safe haven, used it to recruit and train thousands of jihadists, and prepared their current offensive in Iraq.

The result: When Obama took office, the terrorists had been driven from their safe havens; now they are on threatening to take control of a nation. Iraq is on the cusp of turning into what Afghanistan was in the 1990s — a safe haven from which to plan attacks on America and its allies.

To respond: first, Bush decided that 2011 was the drop-dead date for ending the occupation, Obama refused to keep any troops there without any immunity from prosecution, and the Iraqi government insisted we leave entirely. Second, there was no way to separate out the “moderate” Sunni elements in Syria without possibly empowering far more extreme groups, like ISIS. Look at how easily ISIS has been able to arm itself with US vehicles and weapons from the surrendering Iraqi army. How much easier if we had just given them to their confreres in Syria instead. Third, while there is a danger of a Islamist haven, ISIS is not al Qaeda, has its hands extremely full, and is focused primarily on its own region, not the US. Ezra points his finger at the real culprits behind the continuing disintegration of the country the neocons broke:

The totality of the Bush administration’s failure in Iraq is stunning. It is not simply that they failed to build the liberal democracy they wanted. It’s that they ended up strengthening theocracies they feared.

And it’s not simply that they failed to find the weapons of mass destruction that they worried could one day be passed onto terrorists. It’s that a terrorist organization now controls a territory about the size of Belgium, raising the possibility that America’s invasion and occupation inadvertently trained the fighters and created the vacuum that will lead to al Qaeda’s successor organization.

And all this cost us trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives.

Meanwhile, Saletan compares GOP rhetoric on welfare and foreign policy. He posits that “the principle of self-reliance extends far beyond welfare”:

Republicans say ISIS is filling the “vacuum” left by Obama’s withdrawal. But the vacuum—which is really just another name for how the world works when we’re not there—affects other parties, too. As ISIS advances on Baghdad, Shiite militias are assembling. Iran is stepping in. Turkey may be next. The conflict could explode into sectarian civil war, though some Shiite leaders are trying to avoid that. But what’s striking is how quickly, in our absence, the threatened elements of Iraqi society and the region are mobilizing to stop ISIS. They’re doing it because they have to. If they don’t, nobody else will.

Yes, ISIS is a threat to us. We’ll be safer if it’s crippled. But are we really the best people to do the job? For nearly a decade, we tried to manage Iraq. What we got was dysfunction. Maybe it’s time to let Iraq learn to manage itself.

Surely this is a contribution the Tea Party could make to the national security debate, if they weren’t consumed with Obama-hatred. Isn’t plying a sectarian government with aid and training a way of making them dependent on us, of encouraging them not to take full responsibility for their own country and their own future? When will the Tea Party right begin to see their incoherence on the question of welfare dependency at home and abroad? I guess we’ll see if Rand Paul can gain traction from this moment against the torturers, invaders and micro-managers of the neocon clique. Or if he’s a lot of talk and very few cattle.