Writing in National Review, Jordan Hirsch bravely takes on a taboo subject in elite GOP circles: the failure of Iraq. A taste:
If the GOP primaries taught us anything about policy, it’s that the Republican party has an Iraq problem. That’s a message that a plurality of voters sent as they dismissed one candidate after another in favor of Donald Trump.
To move beyond the Iraq War, Republican foreign-policy elites must begin by overcoming their decade-long discomfort with it. Learning from the war should not mean re-litigating it or indulging in breast-beating self-flagellation that cheapens the sacrifices of thousands who deserve our gratitude. But they should accept what the war looks like to most Americans.
In a word, it looks like a disaster. The war, by any measure, proved extraordinarily costly in blood and treasure. The 2007 troop surge rescued hope for political reconciliation in Baghdad, only for sectarianism to return and the Obama administration to squander what gains remained. By 2014, ISIS had stormed forth. Surveying the wreckage, most Americans have consistently considered Iraq a failure.
The Iraq War clearly damaged Hillary Clinton, costing her the nomination in 2008 and handing Bernie Sanders ready-made attack lines in 2016. Obama’s election was in part a consequence of the failures of Iraq. So is Trump’s, as WRM noted in his WSJ op-ed on Saturday:
After Pearl Harbor, Jacksonian America roused to fight the Nazis and Japan. After 9/11, Jacksonians were eager to do the same in the Middle East, particularly after they were told that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. When Iraq turned out not to be such a threat, Jacksonians felt betrayed.
Many of them voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 out of disillusion with the neoconservative agenda of war and democracy activism. Mr. Trump’s criticisms of the Iraq war and President George W. Bush struck a chord in Jacksonian America.
It’s well past time that Republican elites admitted the hard lessons of the Iraq War. Kudos to Hirsch for kick-starting a necessary conversation. You should go read the whole thing.