The explosion of bloodshed in Iraq has created the temptation for many to revisit their support for or opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and to ascribe blame for the recent surge in violence to their preferred boogieman.
Not all have succumbed to the enticing lure of nostalgia. Not even consistent Iraq War and George W. Bush critic Fareed Zakaria allowed himself himself to take a swipe at the former commander-in-chief for looming over the present crisis.
Appearing on CNN on Thursday, Zakaria blamed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for undoing what he said was the good accomplished by Gen. David Petraeus following the 2007 Iraq surge. The CNN analyst said that, in the wake of U.S withdrawal, the Iraqi prime minister fostered the resentments among average Iraqis which have created the conditions in which a surge can flourish.
That’s significant for a number of reasons. Zakaria opposed the surge in 2007 for the same reasons he opposed Barack Obama’s surge into Afghanistan – it was a military operation when it should have been a political and economic one. Today, however, Zakaria appears to have moderated his position on the Iraq War in light of the last seven years.
Zakaria is owed some credit. Not everyone can shed a once favored but clearly defunct political narrative as gracefully as he has. Take, for instance, MSNBC host Joy Reid who educated her audience on the origins of the ISIS threat on Thursday.
“And now to the events in Iraq, which actually began with the invasion of Iraq,” she said. “The dissolution of its army later in 2003, a subsequent civil war, a surge that was supposed to give Iraq time to form a stable government and become a modern state, and the internecine political process that resulted instead.”
“Now, it’s this unpleasant recent history that helped set the stage for the bloody events that we’re seeing in Iraq right now,” Reid said. The MSNBC host conveniently forgot to include the fact that the ISIS rebellion was incubated in Syria – a civil war characterized by the use of chemical weapons on civilians and which the United States world failed to do anything about. The very name of the organization rampaging across Iraq today pays homage to its origins in that Mediterranean state.
Instead, Reid prefers to go back in history to the very roots of the modern Democratic Party, forged in opposition to the Iraq War. She might as well have gone back to the British Mandate of Mesopotamia or Iraq’s 1958 coup to “set the stage” for present events.
But even Reid did not go so far as to blame Bush by name for crisis in Iraq. No, that dubious distinction must be awarded to Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democratic governor of Rhode Island, Lincoln Chafee.
Seeing a moment of political opportunism, Chafee jumped at the chance to remind his state’s liberal voters that he opposed the Iraq Ware while serving in the U.S. Senate.
“I never understood the original push for war in Iraq, never understood the logic of regime change,” Chafee said. “These neocons [neo-conservatives] all through the ’90s were talking the importance of regime change in Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein, the strongman. I just didn’t understand stirring up the hornets’ nest that is the Middle East. It just never made any sense to me, and now we’re seeing some of the ramifications of having deviated from our Cold War containment strategy.”
Channeling George Kennan, Chafee insisted that the United States could have and should have contained Iraq 11 years ago. “It worked in Russia,” he said. “It worked in China.” Maybe he forgets that the West functionally abandoned containment in the 1950s in favor of a policy advocating the “rollback” of the Communist world. That shift in tactics eventually resulted in the liberation of Eastern Europe.
But, anyway, back to Chafee’s melancholy romp through events in the distant past:
“I always thought our Cold War strategy depended on strong alliances,” the Ocean State’s governor said, vividly recounting the heated cable news segments of 2002. “Those have been fractured through this misadventure.”
*Obviously, it’s happening in Syria. I just believe in multinational approaches that are respectful of everybody’s positions. We deviated from that respect. We’ve got to try rebuilding those alliances with the Saudis, the Turks, the Jordanians — that’s going to be the key.”
Credit where credit is due; more than a handful of political commentators have been able to take into account that Barack Obama has been president for nearly six years while commenting on the renewed violence in Iraq. For some, though, it will always be those heady 22 months leading up to the Iraq War.