As the army of the Islamic State bangs on the gates of Baghdad, one wonders what liberals are really thinking about saying and doing next.
When the time came to liberate the Iraqi
people and punish Saddam Hussein for violating the treat that ending the First Gulf War, most liberals gamed it out by voting for the invasion. After all, President William J. Clinton signed legislation stating that it was the official policy of the United States government to overthrow Hussein—and everyone in his administration was warning that the Iraqi dictator was developing weapons of mass destruction
Who does not remember the words of our late and lamented senator Edward M. Kennedy Sr.: “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein’s regime is a serious danger, that he is a tyrant, and that his pursuit of lethal weapons of mass destruction cannot be tolerated. He must be disarmed.”
Although labs and materials were found, the truth is that Hussein’s WMD program was a bluff to scare off enemies. It was a gambit that worked on Clinton and Iran, but after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, President George W. Bush approached the problem with a different tolerance for risk.
Liberals twisted this into a narrative that held that Bush lied about Hussein’s WMD program in order to come up with an excuse to invade Iraq.
In the spring of 2004 as American soldiers were packing up to go home, former Baathists and other Sunnis joined Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Iranian-backed Shia militia made spun up a new war. The conflict forced the Americans to stay, but it became another opportunity for liberals to exploit.
The Bush administration, wary of the politics, assured Congress that there was no plan to occupy Iraq.
When Bush decided to stay in Iraq and bring security back to the streets, liberals pounced: Bush had no plan for the occupation.
The conflict sparked in 2004 continued to expand and foment through 2006. Of course, in 2006, when the war in Iraq looked the bleakest, the liberals played a different card. Convinced Bush was ready to pull out of Iraq, liberals proclaimed that the problem in Iraq was that Bush did not have the courage to send in the troops needed to do the job.
Just to tighten the vice on Bush, when word broke that the Americans might negotiate with the insurgents, liberals put the kibosh on the talks, declaring it would be a disgrace to deal with anyone who had killed American servicemen—as if that was not the point of that or any other peace treaty.
With the stage set for Bush to bail out on Iraq, the left confidently calling for more troops they knew he would never send, the Surge must have been a stunner. Instead of beating retreat, Bush doubled down.
Faced with a president seeming to agree with them, liberals attacked the Surge was the worst military mistake in American military history. As the casualties from the Surge mounted throughout 2007, the left gloated that the deaths proved the failure of Bush’s war policy. With a ghoulish delight, they pressed to take pictures of caskets at Dover Air Force Base and tallied the deaths as if they were counting Hank Aaron’s march to top Babe Ruth’s home run record.
As a soldier serving in Iraq from 2009 to 2010, I will tell you it was unnerving to watch the left’s glee as the combat death total reached 4,000.
Of course, what the left did not realize was that in 2006, American generals lost their nerve. Troops billeted in large forward operating bases would drive around on patrol and return to base without seeking or engaging the enemy.
In 2007 through 2008, the casualty rates increased because more troops were engaging the enemy in close combat. Soldiers dismounted from their trucks and Strykers and took on the anti-Iraqi combatants.
By 2009-2010, the firefights were over and the Army shifted counterinsurgency to building civil capacity. After the second successful national election in March 2010, it was clear that Iraq was on the glide path to becoming a robust and stable democracy.
In 2010, the problem for the liberals was that they had so successfully branded the Iraq project as a Bush operation, none of the credit for Iraq’s prosperity would flow to them or President Barack Obama.
The only political move was to get out and damn the consequences. Just as Bush would always get the credit for Iraq’s success, it seemed easy to blame any future problems in Iraq on Bush.
By the end of 2011, all of our troops were out.
More than two years ago, Obama was warned that the Army of the Islamic State was poised to strike. That means that at the same time that Obama administration was running ads touting his wrapping up the war in Iraq, the president was given intelligence analysis telling him the place was about to go off the rails.
Now, it is late 2014 and the Islamic State controls Fallujah, Mosul and is pressing upon Baghdad.
What is the political play for the liberals now?
What would happen if they forgot about gaming the politics and just did the right thing?