This is … unexpected. ISIS has overrun Ramadi, Shiite militias are headed to Anbar, and the White House is preparing to set up new bases in Iraq for what sure looks like an open-ended military commitment. You would think the public, which has been sour on the war for years, would reach new levels of exasperation and disgust at the past 12 years reading those headlines.
Instead, they’re less inclined to ask for a do-over now than they’ve been since the middle of Bush’s second term.
“Actually,” you say, “it makes sense that those numbers would drop. With a presidential election looming, Republicans and their candidates are coming home to their hawkish base. Just look at how stubborn Marco Rubio was when asked if it was a mistake to invade Iraq in 2003.” A fine theory. But it turns out it’s not Republicans who are feeling less buyer’s remorse these days. It’s Democrats.
Anyone want to try explaining that? The anti-war party, which regained Congress and then the White House by howling that Iraq was the biggest foreign policy blunder since Vietnam, now feels less opposed than it used to as we’re on the verge of being sucked back into it. That doesn’t compute. But then, maybe this is beyond logic. Maybe some Democrats are treating this as a proxy question for whether they support Obama in waging war against ISIS. There’s nothing inconsistent about backing O in crushing the jihadis while also believing that Bush never should have moved to oust Saddam in the first place; on the contrary, one of Rand Paul’s favorite foreign-policy points is that GOP hawks who launched the war ended up creating the power vacuum in Iraq that ISIS eventually filled. Could be, though, that that chain of causation is too elaborate for some low-information voters, or it could even be that some know so little about Iraq that they think ISIS was one of the targets of the original invasion. Either way, the more they read about ISIS rampaging across the country, the more they may conclude, “Bush was right that we need troops on the ground to deal with these people.” Although, in that case, we should be seeing some movement in favor of the war among low-information voters on the GOP side too. We don’t. How come?
One more theory: Maybe it’s not low-information voters at all who are driving this. Maybe it’s high-information voters, the sort of partisans who know full well that their nominee-in-waiting is alone among the 2016 field in having voted to authorize the war. Some Democrats may be tilting pro-invasion in hindsight simply because Hillary needs political cover on that point. But … wouldn’t they also know that she disowned her pro-war vote long ago and will spend most of the campaign attacking the GOP nominee as too hawkish to lead? If there’s any Hillary factor to these numbers, I think it’s more along the lines of what Byron York wrote about today. Democrats realize that she going to spend a good chunk of her presidency trying to clean up the ISIS mess in Iraq and that reality, for whatever reason, is leading some of them to conclude that the original invasion was more justified than they used to think. That’s the best I can do theory-wise. Anyone else?