The Campaign Spot

How Should 2016 Republican Candidates Talk About the Iraq War?

From the midweek Morning Jolt:

How Should 2016 Republican Candidates Talk About the Iraq War?

Do you feel differently about the Iraq War now than you did, say, five years ago?

I find myself encountering men with artificial legs or arms with more regularity. I suppose it’s entirely possible their injuries aren’t from military service, or are from Afghanistan.

But the point is there are roughly 32,000 men and women who came back from Iraq injured; 4,487 came back in flag-covered coffins. That is an extremely high price in American blood and far too many empty chairs at the Thanksgiving table. Our men and women fought valiantly and bravely . . . and Iraq, well, Iraq is a mess. It’s not the fault of our troops; they did everything they could. There’s plenty of blame to go around, from the Obama administration’s determination to pull out all combat troops, to Maliki, to the choices of the Iraqi people and the governments of Iraq’s neighbors.

Regardless of how you feel about George W. Bush, the pre-war intelligence, Michael Moore and the anti-war left, or the opportunistic flip-floppers like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, is there anyone who would argue that the price America paid in its battle in Iraq was NOT too high? Does anyone doubt that the electorate largely believes that military intervention in Iraq was an enormous mistake, spending ungodly sums of money and losing far too many fine men and women for a raging land of sectarian ingrates, so eager and willing to fight each other or our people who were trying to help them, but falling apart and running in the face of ISIS? At what point are we allowed to get angry at young men in Iraq, given a chance to live in something better, freer, and more prosperous than the barbaric mad despotism they experienced under Saddam Hussein, who threw it all away to join ISIS?

David Goldman:

Fifty-three percent think Iranian nukes are a “major threat,” and only 37% think they are a “minor threat.” Most Americans, in short, think Iran is a major threat to American security and think that Obama’s nuclear deal is a joke – but they still want Obama in charge of the negotiations, not us.

Maybe NBC made the numbers up. Maybe a proofreader got the numbers reversed. And maybe pigs will sprout wings.

There is a much simpler explanation: Most Americans don’t trust Republicans on matters of war and peace. Not after the nation-building disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan, that is. Why should they trust us? Our leadership has never admitted it made a mistake. Sen. Ted Cruz, to be sure, had the gumption last fall to say that “we got too involved in nation-building” and that “we should not be trying to turn Iraq into Switzerland” – and was excoriated for his trouble by the Bushies. The Republican mainstream is too busy trying to defend the Bush record to address the distrust of American voters.

One gets weary and grows shrill sounding the same note for a decade. I wish the problem would go away. A couple of weeks ago a friend who served in senior defense positions in the Bush administration remonstrated, “Why do we have to worry about what mistakes were made back then?” The American public doesn’t remember a lot, but it does remember the disruption of millions of lives after the deployment of 2.6 million Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan–not to mention 6,000 dead, 52,000 wounded in action, and hundreds of thousands of other injuries

Republicans need a clear and simple policy about the use of force: We will use force only when we and our close allies are under threat. We will use the kind of force that least exposes Americans to harm. We will not sacrifice the time, let alone the lives, of American soldiers to fix the problems of other countries.

Ohio governor John Kasich, appearing with Hugh Hewitt yesterday:

Hugh Hewitt: Now let me ask you about Libya. We broke Libya. And yesterday, 900 people died fleeing that country. Did we owe that country more than a wave goodbye after Hillary’s handoff from Qaddafi to the jihadists?

John Kasich: Well, I mean, what you do mean by that? Should we have been there nation building? I mean, should we have landed troops over there? I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean, I think that you know, the problem has been that we have not been consistent in the Middle East and assertive. And that’s been a problem for us. And when we went out of Iraq and didn’t keep our base and didn’t mind the store and didn’t arm in the early stages the opposition to Assad, all these things have left us in a position of where see things falling apart. And you know, at this point in time, I can’t tell you what I think we should do in Libya. I wouldn’t tell you that I think we need to be putting troops in Libya. I wouldn’t be for that. But you know, it’s a result of some of the big miscalculations, and frankly, I guess you’ve got to start where you are. But I wouldn’t be telling you we should put troops there.

And later:

Kasich: I don’t think we should run out of Afghanistan. But you know, getting in the middle of civil wars, I don’t think is a good idea.

Hewitt: You’re not saying Iraq when you say the first Gulf War and Afghanistan. Did President Bush make a mistake in invading Iraq?

Kasich: I don’t want to go back and redo that. I mean, it was there, and I don’t want to disparage anybody who served our country. I’m just going to reserve my comment on that.

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