But what makes the right’s attack on Jeb intriguing is that his position isn’t novel. Most of the war’s key architects have said the same thing: that even with the benefit of hindsight, the war was a good idea. George W. Bush declared that, “we’re much safer without Saddam. And I would argue that the people of Iraq have a better shot at living in a peaceful—a peaceful state.” According to Dick Cheney, invading Iraq “was the right thing to do, and if we had to do it again, we would do exactly the same thing.” Condoleezza Rice told CNN’s Piers Morgan in 2011 that, “I don’t regret that we went to war against him, because we could be sitting here today, Piers, having a discussion about the race for nuclear weapons between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Ahmadinejad’s Iran.”
So why are conservatives furious at Jeb? Because they realize that to win in 2016, they must nominate a candidate who can publicly keep his distance from Iraq. They must be the party of foreign-policy amnesia.
With the economy strengthening and public perceptions of Obamacare improving, Republican candidates have made foreign affairs central to their 2016 sales pitch. With the partial exception of Rand Paul, they all depict a world spiraling into chaos and savagery because the United States refuses to exercise its power. Ask them why Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya face civil war, why ISIS is beheading people, why the Saudi king won’t visit Washington and why Iran is wielding power across the Middle East and they’ll say it’s because the Obama administration has appeased America’s enemies and betrayed its friends. The implication, unstated but crucial, is that everything was peachy before 2009.