Among the many triumphs President Barack Obama’s supporters credited themselves with in the wake of the freshman Illinois senator’s historic primary and presidential victories in 2008 was that they had demonstrated that any support for military intervention in Iraq was a political career killer. The return of catastrophic violence to Iraq, after that violence spilled over the Syrian border, has proven especially vexing for Obama’s backers. This crisis has revealed that George W. Bush’s pro-interventionist allies not only failed to exile themselves following Obama’s ascension to the White House, but they remain unrepentant. And that’s driving the left mad.
Iraq War opponents have fumed in recent days, not because of the sacking of Iraqi cities by Islamic jihadists who are going about systematically executing Shiites and imposing Sharia Law on the survivors, but over the fact that a variety of prominent Iraq War supporters are back in the news.
“NBC and ABC’s Sunday news shows turned to discredited architects of the Iraq War to opine on the appropriate U.S. response to growing violence in Iraq, without acknowledging their history of deceit and faulty predictions,” Media Matters’ Emily Arrowood opined, citing specifically the return to the airwaves of former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and The Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol (who never really disappeared from the talk show circuit in the first place).
“If you were asked to identify a single moment that best captures the failure of elite media outlets to act as agents of accountability, you could do worse than David Gregory asking Paul Wolfowitz on “Meet the Press” this weekend what we should do, “as a policy matter,” to deal with the deteriorating situation in Iraq,” Salon’s Simon Maloy vented.
Maloy goes on to rend garments over the gall of The Wall Street Journal daring to provide former head of the Iraqi occupation authority L. Paul Bremmer space in the opinion pages to weigh in on the crisis.
“Their argument for taking them seriously is to ignore everything they’ve said up to this point,” the Salon columnist continued. Finally, Maloy questions why American society has not whisked these and other prominent figures of the Bush-era off to the Leper Caves.
There are no consequences for being so wrong all the time. Kristol and Wolfowitz and all the other people responsible for dragging us into Iraq should be pariahs who labor under the expectation of doing some measure of atonement for their stubborn and wrongheaded pursuit of a disastrous policy. Instead they get invited on to Sunday shows to discuss what we should do next in Iraq.
“[P]eople who both supported the invasion, and believe further military involvement is the right course now,” The New Republic’s Brian Beutler wrote, crafting a slightly more thoughtful version of the Maloy’s take. “They should be regarded with incredible skepticism, and not simply because of the magnitude of their initial mistake.”
[I]t’s crucial for everyone to recognize that double-down interventionists have much more on the line than a desire to provide accurate, dispassionate risk assessments, and to price that into their arguments. We should set the bar for those arguments very high. Unfortunately, the substantive dispute about Iraq still lies on a largely partisan axis, and because the country elected and re-elected a president who was right in the first instance, the “opposition” is now composed of people who blew it over a decade ago. And so they’re the ones getting calls from reporters and network news producers looking for a fresh take today.
At least Beutler took a stab at informing his readers as to why they should be skeptical of the pronouncements of the Iraq War’s architects, but that is not the same as a case for their self-censorship.
These and others who populate social media with similar self-assured sermons denouncing the Iraq War architects’ self-assuredness are so utterly convinced that Bush allies should disappear in disgrace that they often fail to assert why.
“Why?” they bristle. There is no need to even dignify such an impertinent question with a response. History itself has repudiated the Iraq War’s supporters, they claim. Majority opinion in virtually every major institution in American – from government, to entertainment, to media, to academia – all are quite convinced that the Iraq War was folly from beginning to end, and cutting America’s losses was the only option available to Obama.
In fact, this consensus among America’s influencer caste has dulled the arguments of those whose very political identities were shaped amid the debate over Iraq. The Iraq War’s architects were self-evidently wrong, the closed circle assures itself. That fact alone should relegate them to the black list.
And the Iraq War architects issued many a faulty prediction, but wrongness alone on the complex issue of post-war Iraqi security is not really a disqualifier for this crowd. Obama, too, crafted and applied a demonstrably failed post-war model for Iraq.
As Mary Katharine Ham observed on Monday evening, Obama’s December, 2011 speech at Fort Bragg announcing the completion of the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq is riddled with “mission accomplished” moments.
“We’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people,” Obama insisted. He contradicted himself just last week when he scolded Nouri al-Maliki’s administration for excluding the country’s Sunni minority from enjoying full representation.
“And around the globe, as we draw down in Iraq, we have gone after al Qaeda so that terrorists who threaten America will have no safe haven, and Osama bin Laden will never again walk the face of this Earth,” Obama added. According to Obama’s former acting CIA director Mike Morell, among ISIS’s goals is the formation of a state-like entity secure enough to facilitate the planning and execution of attacks on Americans in the United States.
On Sunday, the president informed Congress that he was sending nearly 300 combat-ready American troops back to Iraq to provide security for American embassy staff. They are considering additional measures which include airstrikes and an insertion of special forces to provide Iraqi troops with training. While the mission is circumspect, the promise Obama made to the American people to extricate them from Iraq’s domestic affairs is a failed one by any objective measure.
True, Obama might not have been drawn back into Iraq if the 2003 invasion had never occurred, though we are so removed from that event that any number of other factors could have intervened in the interim. History alone suggests that it unlikely that Obama would have been the first president since Reagan to avoid military conflict with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. But it’s just as true that, had the president executed strikes on Syria in 2013 to pursue his stated aim of containing that conflict, Obama’s current predicament in Mesopotamia may also have been avoided.
Obama’s obviously failed approach to Iraq does not lead Obama’s supporters to demand his exile. The demand that people like Kristol and Wolfowitz disappear is not based in a noble regard for realist foreign policy. It is an expression of the increasingly desperate effort to hold on to a formative weltanschauung, one which was forged in Iraq and is now dying there.