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Is The Iraq War To Blame For Iraq’s Current Crisis?

3-no-iraq-war

Not surprisingly, the ongoing crisis in Iraq has led to a resurrection of the old political debates on the Iraq War that, for the most part, had faded away after President Obama took office and oversaw the final withdrawal of American troops from the country.  Those who supported the Iraq War have argued, as Vice-President Cheney and his daughter Liz do in an Op-Ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, that the advances of ISIS/ISIL are due largely to President Obama’s own failures, such as failing to keep a residual military force in Iraq after December 2011. I’ve already discussed how utterly absurd this argument is, but it’s one that has gained quick traction on the right, in no small part because it tends to push back on the argument that many on the  other side of this issue are making, namely that it was the Iraq War itself, and the manner in which the Bush Administration conducted it, that set in motion the events that have led to the present situation on the ground in Iraq, a situation that seems unlikely to end well regardless of whether or not ISIS/ISIL is ultimately successful militarily.

Gordon Adams summarizes the basic argument of the Iraq War opponents:

The story of Iraq is a microcosm of American experience intruding in the security affairs of other countries and being humbled. It started more than 100 years ago, when we invaded the Philippines, spent years there, and left behind a country that remains insecure to this day. In the 1930s and beyond, we provided security and armed and trained a Nicaraguan military that became a dictatorship and remains troubled to this day. From early in the last century to the 1990s, U.S. forces imposed order in Haiti, which remains a basket case.

(…)

The Iraq tale is important. First, the Bush administration invaded the country and threw out its existing government. Bad mistake. Good or evil, it was their government, and an ugly form of order prevailed. The Coalition Provisional Authority, Bush’s steward for Iraq, compounded the error by disbanding the Iraqi military without a proper demobilization and cantonment of their arms. And then the CPA disbanded a substantial portion of the government, chasing the Baathists out of their bureaucratic posts. Then the insurgency and the Sunni-Shiite sectarian war — two prospects no one in the administration seemed to have anticipated — took over and gave the Americans a run for their money.

The Bush administration had not anticipated the need for an assistance program — either for security, the economy, or the Iraqi government. So we didn’t have one in place. We ran around for several years stitching one together. Initially, it had a lot of economic, infrastructure, or social development components, but as the insurgency grew, we re-jiggered the program to focus on security. And because we were “at war,” we gave the lion’s share of the assistance money and responsibility to the U.S. military.

The U.S. military worked the security issue hard. They spent those $25 billion, and doubtless more, training, exercising, and equipping an Iraqi military we had to rebuild virtually from scratch. That was clearly not a success: Despite their expensive training, four divisions disappeared from northern Iraq in the face of, at the most, a couple of thousand insurgents. Kind of like the South Vietnamese military we had heavily trained, exercised, and equipped. Now the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is ending up with the ammo, Humvees, trucks, front-end loaders, and guns that we so generously — and expensively — left behind.

What wasn’t left behind was the kind of regime that could reverse this failure. This is the hard part. What really matters in security is not the strength of the troops, but political leadership and effective governance. A corrupt, inefficient, ineffective, divisive, unresponsive regime cannot credibly provide security, except by cruel dictatorship, as Saddam Hussein showed.

But we lack the wisdom and capacity to build a different kind of regime. And we certainly blew it in Iraq by leaving Nouri al-Maliki, a would-be sectarian strongman, in charge. We bought some quietus by paying off Sunnis in the “surge,” but once Maliki was in charge, that subsidy stopped, as could have been predicted, opening up the door to renewed insurgency.

At least on the surface, Adams makes a persuasive argument. Had the United States not invaded in 2003 it is likely that Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party would likely still be in control of Iraq, and the ethnic divisions that are tearing the country apart, and which tore it apart in the years after the invasion, would have remain repressed. Additionally, no Iraq War means no al Qaeda sympathizers in Iraq given the fact that those groups were drawn to the country after the invasion for the primary purpose of fomenting chaos and attacking Americans. No Iraq War may also have meant that there would not have been an Arab Spring in 2011, or at least that it would have unfolded very differently. It’s possible, of course, that protests like the ones we saw throughout the Arab world would have erupted even without the downfall of Saddam — although it’s worth noting that, at the time, many conservatives claimed that it was Bush’s war that ‘lit the fires of democracy’ across the Arab world – but that’s an alternate history that we can really only guess at. At the very least, though, it seems quite likely that, without an Iraq War, the Iraq of 2011 would have been stronger and more stable than the regime of Nouri al-Maliki and that the threat posted by ISIS/ISIL and its terrorist allies would not exist.

America would certainly be a far different place had the Iraq War not taken place. Most immediately, of course, we would have avoided the loss of nearly 4,500 soldiers, the injury of tens of thousands of others, and the by some estimates trillions of dollars spent to overthrow a regime that, in hindsight, was no threat to the United States and then stabilize the nation we had thrown into chaos by doing so. Politically, the lack of a strong anti-war movement in the Democratic Party very well would have undercut the efforts of Barack Obama and other Democrats to blunt the rise of Hillary Clinton to the White House and Republicans in 2008 would have likely turned to someone such as Mitt Romney as their nominee rather than a war veteran, and strong supporter of the Iraq War such as John McCain. On the foreign front, we would have been able to spend more time concentrating our resources on the fight against al Qaeda, and we would have been aided in that effort by the fact that our international reputation would not have been utterly destroyed in the manner that the Bush Administration managed to do with the Iraq War. As with the future of the Middle East, it’s not easy to weave an alternative history for the United States, but one can hardly argue with much credibility that we would have been worse off if we had not invaded Iraq in 2003 than we are today.

Given all of that, I think it’s not only perfectly fair, but perfectly appropriate to note the relationship between the current situation in Iraq and the actions that we took more than a decade ago. Ignoring the relationship, as many on the right seem to be eager to do, is obviously nothing more than political expediency since there is obviously some relationship between the two. Indeed, it seems apparent to me that conservatives who are pushing back on this linkage argument have already conceded the point that the Iraq War is at least partly responsible for what’s going on today by the fact that they are trying to discredit it by pointing not to the policies that President Bush implemented, but to the policies that his successor implemented. However, if you’re arguing that something President Obama did or didn’t do is playing a role in what’s happening today, then it seems axiomatic that the massive war that we conducted in Iraq must also have some connection as well. In fact, its apparent that if there is any single event that could be said to be most responsible for the political instability that ISIS/ISIL is exploiting today, it is the Iraq War.

Of course, blaming one single event for what’s happening today would be just as mistaken as claiming that something as major as a war that toppled a dictator who had ruled for decades has no connection at all to current events. Obviously, there are a number of other factors at play here at role from the policies that have been implemented by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to the role that the Syrian Civil War, and the Iraqi governments decision to side with Iran and the Assad regime in that conflict. And, yes, American policies have also contributed to the current state of affairs as well. However, if there is one event that can be said to be the equivalent of the butterfly flapping its wings, it is the war itself, which set in motion a course of events that has brought us to the present day.  As Adams notes in the linked article, we’ve seen this happen before in Vietnam so we shouldn’t be surprised to see it happen again. Hopefully, this time we’ll learn the lesson that interventionism and nation building are, more often than not, the road to failure and a far more complicated world than the one that existed beforehand.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. anjin-san says:

    his daughter Liz

    I can see an argument that Dick Cheney might have something relevant to say about Iraq. WFT anyone on the face of the planet would care what Liz Cheney, fresh off of her humiliating Senate run fiasco would have to say eludes me.

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  2. Cletus says:

    @anjin-san:

    This Liz Cheney is uniquely off putting. You would think she might have a little humility after being trounced in her “home state” before dropping out of the primary

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  3. C. Clavin says:

    Here’s Cheney in the WSJ:

    When Mr. Obama and his team came into office in 2009, al Qaeda in Iraq had been largely defeated, thanks primarily to the heroic efforts of U.S. armed forces during the surge.

    Mr. Cheney would like us all to forget that Al-Qaeda was for all intents and purposes non-existent in Iraq before the invasion and occupation. Mr. Cheney would like you to ignore that Al-Qaeda in Iraq is a problem solely of his making.

    Mr. Obama had only to negotiate an agreement to leave behind some residual American forces, training and intelligence capabilities to help secure the peace.

    Mr. Cheney would like us to forget that his administration negotiated the Status of Forces agreement that ended the war. So Mr. Cheney is saying that it’s Obama’s fault for not re-negotiating his negotiation. In addition Mr. Cheney wishes you to ignore that the Iraqi Parliament wanted no part of American forces in their country.

    Instead, he abandoned Iraq and we are watching American defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

    The Jaws of Victory…what hooey. The Iraq war was never won, was never winnable. It is unquestionably the greatest foreign policy blunder of our history. And Mr. Cheney would like to join Jenos in asking you to forget that and just blame Obama. After all…Cheney’s legacy depends upon it. And Jenos….he is simply a dupe.

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  4. Scott says:

    Another outcome of the Iraq War is the strengthening of Iran. Whereas we had Iran on our side after 9/11 and we were cooperating together, mainly because they were wary of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, we totally blew that. Bush got up, opened his mouth, and called them out as part of the “Axis of Evil”. Another blunder on his part.

    After invasion of Iraq, why wouldn’t Iran be afraid. There were two armies on either side of it.

    Now, we hear the neo-con drumbeat that we had to remove Saddam because he would have nuclear weapons by now. On the face of it that is total nonsense. Even Iran, a far more technologically advanced economy, has not accomplished that yet.

    They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind. The they is us.

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  5. wr says:

    Following Doug’s reasoning, I say it’s easy to blame the way we move from day into night and back again on the fact that the earth revolves over a 24-hour period, but obviously there are a number of other factors, like the weather, and who will win the world cup. Really, the earth’s revolving on its axis is just the flapping of butterfly wings…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

  6. J-Dub says:

    Dick Cheney is right! At least he was in 1994 when he said this:

    “Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in its place? That’s a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off: part of it, the Syrians would like to have to the west, part of it – eastern Iraq – the Iranians would like to claim, they fought over it for eight years. In the north you’ve got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey. It’s a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq. The other thing was casualties. Everyone was impressed with the fact we were able to do our job with as few casualties as we had. But for the 146 Americans killed in action, and for their families – it wasn’t a cheap war. And the question for the president, in terms of whether or not we went on to Baghdad, took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam Hussein, was how many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth? Our judgment was, not very many, and I think we got it right”

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  7. @wr:

    I think you’re missing my point.

    Yes, as I said, the war is the main factor that set in motion the chain of events we see playing out today. but you simply can’t say that its the only factor that has played a role.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 9

  8. Ron Beasley says:

    The first of the blame goes to Sir Mark Sykes who sat down with François George-Picot and sketched out the Sykes-Picot line in the middle east secular, ethnic, tribal or religious considerations. next comes the neocons and there Bush puppet who started the war. Paul Bremmer’s total incompetence certainly was a big contributing factor.

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  9. Mikey says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Yes, as I said, the war is the main factor that set in motion the chain of events we see playing out today. but you simply can’t say that its the only factor that has played a role.

    I think we wouldn’t be seeing any of this absent the 2003 invasion and screwed-up-beyond-comprehension aftermath. Would the other factors currently playing a role still exist? Probably, but they wouldn’t be exercised as they are now. It’s like how oxygen and gasoline play roles in setting something on fire, but without a spark, nothing burns.

    In Iraq, the 2003 invasion was the beginning of the spark.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  10. C. Clavin says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    Sure…coulda, shoulda, woulda…but no cheerleader of the initial invasion and occupation should say one single friggin’ word about where we are today…especially Dick Cheney and the rest of the PNAC.
    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article5527.htm
    They f’ed up in a colossal way and they should pay a price for the abomination they wrought.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  11. al-Ameda says:

    Is The Iraq War To Blame For Iraq’s Current Crisis?

    Yes, yes it is.

    This is one of those “It’s a Wonderful Life” situations. Here we know what Iraq was like both before and after the unnecessary war. Unfortunately it’s not a dream, there are no do-overs, and the execrable Cheneys cannot blame away their culpability in America’s biggest foreign policy mishap since Vietnam (excluding “Benghazi” of course.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  12. beth says:


    Mr. Obama had only to negotiate an agreement to leave behind some residual American forces, training and intelligence capabilities to help secure the peace.


    If this was so blatantly obvious, why the heck didn’t Bush negotiate this? Cheney’s asking us to believe that they knew the agreement Bush signed would lead to what happened today so why did they sign it? Even now he shows no shred of self-awareness.

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  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @J-Dub:

    And the question for the president, in terms of whether or not we went on to Baghdad, took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam Hussein, was how many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth? Our judgment was, not very many, and I think we got it right”

    Near as I can figure, they decided Saddam was worth about 5,000 dead Americans. I guess that’s “not very many”. Oooooppps, my bad. Wrong decade, wrong Bush, wrong Iraq War… It’s soooooo hard to keep them straight.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  14. C. Clavin says:

    @al-Ameda:

    America’s biggest foreign policy mishap since Vietnam

    It’s bigger than Vietnam…because of what’s happening today, because of Iran, because of what didn’t happen in Afghanistan. The very reasons for the invasion and occupation…WMD’s and Al-Qaeda….were imaginary.
    Without question Iraq outclasses Vietnam as a blunder.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2

  15. legion says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    but you simply can’t say that its the only factor that has played a role.

    You also can’t say that any other factor would actually exist today without the war.

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  16. Donald Sensing says:

    Interestingly, I explored this very question on my own blog; the post went online at 7 this morning although I finished it last night.

    I used mathematical calculations to apportion the blame between Bush and Obama, thus:

    Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) commenced on March 19, 2003. From that date until January 20, 2009, whatever happened in Iraq was squarely on Bush’s plate. That’s 2,134 days.

    Obama took office on Jan. 20, 2009. On that day, whatever happened in Iraq landed squarely on his plate. From then until now has been 1,974 days, 160 days fewer than Bush.

    That means that the crisis in Iraq is computationally 48 percent Obama’s fault and 52 percent Bush’s fault.

    But wait! A decision (or lack of one) made by a president yesterday is far more influential than one made years before. So we have to find a meaningful way to weight the decisions of each president appropriately. I call it the Recency Weighting Factor, or RWF.

    Let’s see . . . I’ve got it!

    You’ll have to click on over to read the solution at “Iraq crisis: Bush’s fault or Obama’s? A mathematical answer.”

    And just before your head explodes please note that its category includes SATIRE.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  17. mantis says:

    Shorter Cheney:

    We did everything right. Anything bad that has happened is due to Obama’s failure to do things we deemed impossible when it was our responsibility.

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  18. C. Clavin says:

    @beth:
    No… He’s aware…and he’s running a con to protect his name and his legacy. And he’s counting on dupes…Jenos and the like…to go forth and mindlessly spread the manure.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  19. @Ron Beasley: If we’re going to blame Sykes-Picot, why not just blame the Ottoman-Safavid War of 1623–1639?

    @Doug Mataconis: Doug, the war is the sine qua non, which most people would consider more than the “main factor”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  20. Donald Sensing says:

    “Had the United States not invaded in 2003 it is likely that Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party would likely still be in control of Iraq … .”

    Or not. Saddam was known then to be in poor health and it is just as likely that he would have died on his own by now. And the aftermath of him dying while still in power may reasonably be said to have been just as sectarian violent as they are now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  21. mantis says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    Interestingly…

    Not really.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @C. Clavin:

    It’s bigger than Vietnam…

    You’re gonna have to unpack that a little more. Consider American Dead in Vietnam 55,000 +. Vietnamese dead I don’t remember how many but it’s more. You also have to consider the ancillary effects in SE Asia, namely Laos and the biggie, Cambodia (how many did the Khmer Rouge kill? 2 million?) It can be argued none of that would have happened with out the US.

    For my money, Vietnam was still worse, much worse. But hey, Dickie? Rummy? Shrub? You’re catching up!

    Ps: Oil is an added factor in Iraq, as well as the repercussions that may yet*** echo throughout the ME, but so far I don’t think they get there.

    *** those who try to connect a Tunisian vendor self immolating and the ensuing “Arab Spring” to the 2003 Iraq war are really reaching.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  23. CB says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    Eh, I always felt that Uday would have stepped right in and business would have gone on as usual, fairly seamlessly. And the Arab Spring? The Baathists wouldn’t have tolerated that for a hot minute, Saddam or no Saddam.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  24. C. Clavin says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    Vietnam wins on body count.
    Iraq wins on cash…$2T and counting.
    Call it a wash.
    The ripple effects of Iraq are a 2 story tall tsunami…Vietnam…Easterly swell, 2-4′, and glassy.
    And you could at least justify Vietnam…if barely. Iraq was based totally on imaginary things. A handful of fools hi-jacked the military and took it for a joy-ride. Like most joy-rides it didn’t/won’t end well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  25. C. Clavin says:
  26. Scott O says:

    Go to Iraq and fix things Dick. You’ll be greeted as a liberator, trust me. I’ll pay your airfare. And Liz’s.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  27. wr says:

    @Doug Mataconis: And I confess to a surfeit of snark, but the fact is that none of these other factors would exist — or would exist in a way meaningful enough to create a crisis like this — absent our invasion of Iraq.

    It’s like an arson fire that takes down an entire neighborhood — you can point to the wind, or building too closely, or wooden roofs, all of which contribute to the conflagration. But if that arsonist hadn’t set the fire, none of that would have come into play.

    This is not WW1, where we search for an actual cause, and they are too diverse to narrow them down. (The assassination of the archduke was merely the catalyst — I don’t think anyone argues that absent that the war wouldn’t have started… just not on the same day.) And if you were making your argument about Egypt or Syria or Libya, I would be in complete agreement with you.

    But the reason Iraq is in chaos is because we invaded, tore down the government, and installed an incompetent and partisan puppet in office, and then failed to replace or control him when it was clear he wasn’t up to the job. It’s all about the invasion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  28. Nick says:

    I’m not sure whose minds the Cheneys think they’re going to change. I do sometimes wonder who is telling them to get out there, when all it does is remind people who screwed up in the first place.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  29. JohnMcC says:

    @Nick: I think the Cheneys’ real target was Sen Rand Paul. By capturing the media narrative (Our Gracious Host is a gossamer thread in any media breeze so here we are) the former VP and his apparently favored daughter are making sure that the official Repub response to the ISIS offensive is the NeoCon one. He’s drowning out the Paulite alternative.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  30. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Vietnam wins on body count.
    Iraq wins on cash…$2T and counting.

    Uhhh we need to adjust for inflation. I bet Nam’ wins hands down. Consider: We dropped more tonnage on N Vietnam than all of WW II. Iraq??? Nah, civilians die in that sh!t.

    Call it a wash.

    It’s not.

    The ripple effects of Iraq are a 2 story tall tsunami… Vietnam…Easterly swell, 2-4′, and glassy.

    If you are a grasshopper. I say again, that may come about, but so far? Iraq is not a pimple on Nam’s a$$. Really, I have to ask, how old are you? In all sincerity. Because I can not believe any body who was around for ‘Nam, (and I missed it by a year or 2 but saw enough to tally it up) could think Iraq was worse.

    And you could at least justify Vietnam…if barely.

    You actually think the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution justified ‘Nam in any way shape or form? Never read the Pentagon Papers, did you?

    Iraq was based totally on imaginary things. A handful of fools hi-jacked the military and took it for a joy-ride. Like most joy-rides it didn’t/won’t end well.

    You really need to read the Pentagon Papers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  31. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @C. Clavin: Also, I’m not real big on the Bible, but it does have some great quotes.

    Ecclesiastes 1:9,

    What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  32. James in Silverdale, WA says:

    Whither GWB? Unlike Cheney, perhaps he believes keeping his trap shut will spare him a failed legacy and if there is one shred of justice left in the universe, a grand jury seated to probe matters of war crimes.

    Another factor of GWB’s legacy, of which Iraq is only a part, miserable as it is, is how it has utterly robbed conservatives of any cogent argument that can earn majority support, to say nothing of any governing achievements arising therefrom. The years 2000 – 2008 cannot be discussed, will not be discussed, or even thought about at length. The “victory” of 2010 has been squandered. The AHCAA is here to stay, for example.

    Neocons will regret stirring this hornet’s nest. People remember torture. It’s not just going to “go away,” mostly because it’s so bleeding obvious.

    This would be hobbling enough, but then we examine the coming electoral college wall, and one really must ask how the party survives.

    It will require a speedy divorce from GWB, followed by calling the police. It’s curtains otherwise, I’m afraid.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  33. rudderpedals says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Now I have to put on some Kansas

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  34. george says:

    The problem with “main factor” is that people want to start reckoning at different points. The GOP wants to start after 2009. The Democrats want to start at 2003.

    For my part, I think Ron Beasley’s line (1916) is better than either, though a good case could be made for going back even earlier. The world really doesn’t revolve around the actions of America; most places have their own histories, and their events are more subject to that than to our policies.

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  35. Tyrell says:

    Colonel Lawrence – please contact General Patrick Dempsey. He wants to talk to you.

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  36. Dave D says:

    many conservatives claimed that it was Bush’s war that ‘lit the fires of democracy’ across the Arab world

    Right but for all the wrong reasons. Bush is at least in part responsible. Had he not almost completely destroyed the world economy, the economic conditions for the millions of poor, young and educated people across the islamic world would have been better. And they likely would have been content to live under repressive regimes as long as they had work. The economic crash took that away from many people. People are less likely to light themselves on fire in crowded markets or pick up a gun to fight the invaders when they have stable incomes and normal lives.

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  37. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @rudderpedals: “Dust in the Wind” seems particularly appropriate.

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  38. gVOR08 says:

    I suppose I can’t be sure that absent our invasion, Iraq wouldn’t have devolved into chaos and sectarian violence. But I can be absolutely sure that absent the invasion it wouldn’t have been our frigging fault.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  39. gVOR08 says:

    I suppose I can’t be sure that absent our invasion, Iraq wouldn’t have devolved into chaos and sectarian violence anyway. But I can be absolutely certain that absent the invasion it wouldn’t have been our frigging fault.

    The Arab Spring is a different story. Something like it would likely have happened absent the invasion. The Middle Eastern economies were mostly falling apart before 2003. However, as @Dave D: points out, it might well have been different had the US and the West not collapsed the world’s financial system.

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  40. C. Clavin says:

    At least one person on Fox News didn’t get the memo:
    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/megyn-kelly-dick-cheney-wrong-iraq

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  41. JWH says:

    Yes, the butterfly was invading Iraq. But for today’s troubles, I think the Maliki government is the immediate cause.

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  42. wr says:

    @JWH: “Yes, the butterfly was invading Iraq. But for today’s troubles, I think the Maliki government is the immediate cause.”

    That would be the Maliki government that was elected in a fair election after Saddam willingly stepped aside?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  43. gVOR08 says:

    @JWH: You remind me, the idea of the chaos theory butterfly wing is that in some circumstances a tiny event can trigger a major impact on unrelated events far away – a butterfly flap in Brazil eventually leads to a tornado in Kansas. The invasion was not far away, tiny, or unrelated to Iraq. A baseball bat would seem a more apt metaphor.As in – It’s not our fault. If we hadn’t bashed his skull in with a baseball bat, his heart condition might have killed him anyway.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  44. C. Clavin says:

    @gVOR08:
    Actually more like…

    “We just crushed his skull with a bat…it’s not our fault he died of brain hemorrhaging”.

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  45. JWH says:

    The baseball bat is not an apt metaphor. It is not sentient or capable of making decisions. Maliki is. And he has had ample time over the past several years to give the Sunni Arabs a place in his government. He has chosen not to do so … which is why ISIS has found so much support among Sunni Arabs today. Maliki also had an opportunity to keep a US presence in his country, but he didn’t care to sign a status of forces agreement. Both of these — failure to incorporate Sunnis into his government and failure to sign a status of forces agreement — were his choices. And I, for one, do not wish to spend American blood or treasure to rescue a second-rate corrupt, incompetent autocrat from his own folly. I also don’t want the United States to become a proxy for one side or the other in a Sunni-Shia sectarian war.

    To be brutally honest, I don’t care about the rationale for the Iraq war at this point. Blame Bush, blame Cheney, blame a potted plant in the Rose Garden for all I care. The pressing question is not “Did Bush cause this with the invasion?” or “Did Obama cause this by being weak on defense?” Rather, the pressing questions are “What are the United States’ obligations here?’ and “What course is in America’s best interest?”

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  46. C. Clavin says:

    @JWH:
    You are correct about Maliki…who was installed by Bush…but never mind.
    Either he has to form a Government with shared representation…or he has to go and be replaced with someone who will. There is a lot of discussion about this right now in DC.
    And remember what Cheney said just days before his war of choice:

    “If you look at the opposition, they’ve come together, I think, very effectively, with representatives from Shia, Sunni and Kurdish elements in the population. They understand the importance of preserving and building on an Iraqi national identity. They don’t like to have the U.S., for example, come in and insist on dealing with people sort of on a hyphenated basis — the Iraqi-Shia, Iraqi-Sunni — but rather to focus on Iraq as a nation and all that it can accomplish as a nation, and we try to be sensitive to those concerns. I think the prospects of being able to achieve this kind of success, if you will, from a political standpoint, are probably better than they would be for virtually any other country and under similar circumstances in that part of the world.”

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  47. Barry says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “Yes, as I said, the war is the main factor that set in motion the chain of events we see playing out today. but you simply can’t say that its the only factor that has played a role. ”

    It’s true that I shot him with both barrels of double-ought buckshot in the stomach, but on the other hand he did hit his head on the pavement, so the buckshot wasn’t the only factor.

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  48. Barry says:

    @C. Clavin: Cheney: “Mr. Obama had only to negotiate an agreement to leave behind some residual American forces, training and intelligence capabilities to help secure the peace.”

    Anybody who uses the phrase ‘residual force’ is a f-ing liar (of course, in Cheney’s case this was known). Any force left would be involved in the fighting, unless it hunkered down in deep tunnels and never came out.

    And, of course, George Dubya Bush didn’t seem to get this done, to help wrap up the war he botched.

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  49. Barry says:

    @legion: @Doug Mataconis: ” but you simply can’t say that its the only factor that has played a role.”

    legion: “You also can’t say that any other factor would actually exist today without the war. ”

    Seconding this. Doug, you’re being very dishonest on this. You’re a lawyer, you can’t plead ignorance of causality.

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  50. Barry says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: “Vietnamese dead I don’t remember how many but it’s more. ”

    2 million, vs. 400K for Iraq (not counting all of the other sh*t).

    And as you said, Pol Pot was nothing until US bombing trashed Cambodia, so that’s 1-2 million more.

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  51. Barry says:

    @JWH: “Yes, the butterfly was invading Iraq. But for today’s troubles, I think the Maliki government is the immediate cause. ”

    The US deposed the government, and then made sure that a very large number of Sunnis were locked out of any new government. While smashing whatever governments the Iraqi people tried to form. And because of that directly US-caused chaos, the worst elements prospered, while the nicer ones withered. The US government trashed the place until it was a hellhole, and then cut deals with people who were dominant in that hellhole.

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  52. Tyrell says:

    @Barry: What we have learned in the last 100 years or so: if you go in, go in to win. Have an exit strategy: leave with honor, no “bugging out”.
    “No terms except unconditional surrender” (General Grant)
    “Fighting soldiers from the skies…these are men, America’s best” (“The Ballad of the Green Berets”, Sgt. Sadler)

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  53. Dave D says:

    @Tyrell: So what exit strategy does that leave the US with in Iraq? Kill them all until no one complains? Who surrenders to the US army in Iraq because the government and Iraqi military did quite quickly, you may remember Bush landing a plane on an aircraft carrier saying mission accomplished after their unconditional surrender. So mission accomplished a few months in we did it and should’ve “honorably” left right after? Nothing you ever post makes any sense or adds any value except showing the rest of us how simple it was for white men to succeed in the 50’s.

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  54. Barry says:

    @Tyrell: “What we have learned in the last 100 years or so: if you go in, go in to win. Have an exit strategy: leave with honor, no “bugging out”.”

    First, ‘going in to win’ would have meant activating every NG and reservist back in ’02, and training them for a multi-year occupation. The American people wouldn’t have supported the war then.

    Second, the Bush administration didn’t go in to win – it’s an open question of what they actually thought that they were doing.

    Third, the Bush administration didn’t have a clue – well, through the entire war.

    Fourth, the ‘bug out’ was a treaty negotiated by the mother-f*cking Bush administration.

    Get your history right. Patriotic songs are no substitute.

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