Third, Bush should answer the question behind the question. Jeb Bush’s views on Iraq aren’t a matter of historical curiosity. They are crucial to predicting the kind of president he’ll be. So answer that. Explain that a Jeb Bush administration will be cautious about the use of force, except in the highest national interest. Make it clear that a Jeb Bush administration won’t succumb to the narrow groupthink that locked out those like General Eric Shinseki who correctly warned that an Iraq war would require many troops and cost a great deal of money. Explain that you differ from your brother not in your values, but in your decision-making style: that you are the exact opposite of a gut player, that you want to hear all sides and reach decisions slowly and carefully—and are ready to revise them if the facts change.
Fourth, don’t get trapped in the past. Those of us who advocated the Iraq war in 2003 over-learned the seeming lessons of the First Gulf War: There’s no making a deal with Saddam. Those who now advocate President Obama’s flawed Iran deal are in their turn over-learning lessons they take from Iraq. They reduce the vast array of choices and instruments at a president’s disposal to just two: war or signing on the other guy’s dotted line. Elections are about the future, and the future of American national security looks grim and threatening after two Obama terms. No wonder that Democrats would prefer to reargue the issues of 2006 than those of 2016. By his artless remarks, Jeb Bush has enabled them to get away with it. His competitors for the Republican nomination may appreciate it. The party as a whole—and the country that party seeks to lead—should not.