Iraq: It was right then, and it’s still right today

By Scott St. Clair | The Save Jersey Blog

Media hindsight is always 20-20, especially when they go after Republicans running for president on whether they would have gone into Iraq. My question is, if these guys are so smart with their told-you-so predictions and knew-it-all-along insights, why haven’t they made themselves enormous fortunes playing the lottery and where were they back in 2003?

It’s tres chic these days to dump on former President George W. Bush’s decision to invade. The tag line that prefaces hypothetical meanderings on whether the invasion was appropriate– “if we knew then what we know now” – begs one and one only proper response – “of course not” – and woe be unto anyone, especially his brother, Jeb,  who boffs it with a wrong answer.

Announced and probable GOP candidates Carson, FiorinaRubioCruz, Paul, Christie and Walker all toed the conventional wisdom’s line to the best of their “of course not” ability. How convenient, and how pandering.

A Ukrainian armored personnel carrier engaged in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
A Ukrainian armored personnel carrier engaged in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

To his credit, Mike Huckabee refused to swing at the Iraq-invasion tar baby by declining to speculate. Score one for Huck.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton takes whatever position on Iraq, and all other issues for that matter, that her pollsters tell her to – invade good, invade bad, withdrawal good, withdrawal bad. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see how she’d respond to a poll suggesting that a majority of American voters thought it might be fun to invade and conquer Canada?

For the record, I believed then that going into Iraq was the right decision, and I continue to hold to that position, all polls aside. Of course, there were tactical mistakes, including the absence of an endgame strategy, not anticipating the insurgency and not being more proactive and hands-on in keeping a tight lid on things. But no second thoughts or regrets about going in – none at all.

One thing we should have done is to install a major domo to run and reform Iraq like Gen. Douglas MacArthur who was the sole and unquestioned ruler of Japan from late 1945 until Harry Truman fired him in 1951 for being too candid about what was needed in Korea. Instead, the U.S. allowed Iranian BFF Nouri al-Maliki to become Iraqi prime minister and run the show by playing both ends against the middle as he lined his own pockets.

And where was a post-Saddam-toppling version of the Marshall Plan? Nowhere that anyone could see.

It’s not like there wasn’t recent historical precedent in what happened in Afghanistan after the Soviet Union was defeated by a the mujahedeen armed with U.S.-supplied Stinger missiles when we lost interest in putting the pieces back together again, which is a story well told in the book and movieCharlie Wilson’s War.”

The bigger issue, however, is the stupidity of “what if” questions except as set ups for those looking to play gotcha politics. And what message do those who answer “of course not” send to those who served and to the families of those who died fighting in Iraq, and, by extension, Afghanistan?

There’s a strong case to be made that it irritates them to no end (voters too). One Iraq veteran was quoted saying:

“It’s disrespectful, because you are saying that my brothers in arms died for nothing? Or for something that was wrong? It’s easy now to say we shouldn’t have gone in because the reason why turned out to be not true. But really if the military would have been given the tools, the right plan and course of action, and a clear ROE (rules of engagement) then it wouldn’t have turned into the mess that it did.

It’s not black and white.”

But do the pundits and politicians in their grabs for audience market share or votes get that? Doesn’t look like it.

Given the 2.5 million men and women in uniform who’ve been there, done that, it’s an awful lot of disrespect to throw down:

“As of last year nearly 37,000 Americans had been deployed more than five times, among them 10,000 members of guard or Reserve units. Records also show that 400,000 service members have done three or more deployments.”

My own personal military consultant to whom I’m related by blood – he’s one of the 37,000 – told me recently that the mistake that was made was going in but not going all the way. He was partly facetious when he said the ground rules should have been “kill ‘em all,” but there’s both Biblical and historical precedent for it.

When the Israelites conquered the Promised Land, Deuteronomy tells us that God instructed them to wipe out everyone that moved. Sounds harsh but He had His purposes in that He knew they were bound to be corrupted by the influences of those who lived there if they didn’t. Sure enough, they disobeyed, and they were so corrupted.

Screw your courage to the sticking place and do it! Lincoln did. FDR did. Those who didn’t – LBJ, Nixon, George W. Bush — found themselves bogged down. Those who were confounded by it all – Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama – found themselves with enormous self-inflicted headaches later on that they either passed on to their successor or bungled through without a clue with a net, net, net that they made things far worse and never better.

Abraham LincolnDuring the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln went through generals like some people go through socks looking for ones who would wage total war until the South saw the error of its rebellious ways and gave up the fight.

Franklin Roosevelt waged war against Germany and Japan with one goal in mind: their unconditional surrender. No half-measures, no holding back and using every weapon and resource at his disposal.

If you’re going to go in, go in all the way, obliterate the enemy’s ability to wage war, stamp out whatever evil it is that made him wage it in the first place, settle things down and then and only then do wage peace and leave. Vietnam taught us that limited wars mean unlimited casualties with no end in sight.

After 9/11 there could be no more messing around, no more giving any real or perceived adversary the benefit of any doubt since too much had just been lost and even more was now at risk. You raise an eyebrow or make one wrong move and we’re on you like a hammer on a nail no matter who you are.

When you have a brood of vipers living close to you (these days, anywhere in the world is “close to you”), you don’t ignore them – you do something about them. So when Saddam Hussein pulled his stunts, the handwriting was on the wall. There was invasion justification aplenty.

FallujahAnd because nothing happens in a vacuum other vipers or wannabe-vipers — Cf., Qaddafi, Col. Muammar and Libya – watch, take note and are persuaded to alter their viper-like behavior lest they be next on the hit parade.

I no more believe Bush lied about Iraq, a favorite meme of progressives, than I believe Franklin Roosevelt lied about knowing Japan was about to bomb Pearl Harbor. Both are conspiracy theory constructs of minds that either can’t cope with reality or want to remake it to fit their own prejudices.

But quit with the second guessing and Monday morning quarterbacking on decisions made and actions taken, making those who engage in it look feckless and shifty. On Iraq, playing “what if” changes nothing, resolves nothing, fixes nothing. The public’s hunger is for decisive leadership, not abstract pontificating and gamesmanship. GOP candidates should know better, especially when the media doesn’t.


4 thoughts on “Iraq: It was right then, and it’s still right today

  1. exactly. We will never know what would have happened had Sadaam stayed in power and consolidated his position. we can only speculate. things could have turned out worse. We had basically won the war until Obama pre maturely withdrew. That is the real issue. The question these pundits should be asking is “would you have withdrawn the forces? ” but I never hear that question.

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