The fact that things are going badly in Iraq would not normally be news in the United States. In a fundamental sense, it is not news regardless. The Shiite and the Sunnis are fighting? That’s not surprising. And this is a reality that knowledgeable observers warned about when we decided to invade the country 11 years ago. But the civil war that seems to be starting in Iraq is news because it is an opportunity for the neocons who got us into the war to say, “See! We were right!”
How this does not cause the entire nation to howl with laughter, I do not know. The argument is something like, “This wouldn’t be happening if Bush were still president!” That might even be true. But a far stronger argument is, “This would be happening if Bush had never been president!” It sickens me to even think about. Yesterday, Paul Wolfowitz of all people was on Meet the Press. Paul Wolfowitz!
Jamelle Bouie sums up my feeling exactly, Fool Me Once:
Of course, Wolfowitz isn’t the only one. They are crawling out of the woodwork. Apparently, being disastrously wrong about something makes you an expert on it. Asking people like Wolfowitz, writes Bouie, “is like asking Michael Brown, the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, for advice on disaster preparation.”
Matt Yglesias, the nerdy economics and finance writer at Vox, laid out the situation in Iraq in the most clear way that I’ve read, The Mess in Iraq Proves Obama Was Right to Leave. Basically, he says that as soon as we invaded, this was all to be expected. But he made a really good analogy to (What else?!) the world of finance:
That is essentially what we were doing in Iraq for the past ten years.
That’s right. The Bush administration had planned to defeat Iraq, set up a government, and leave. But instead, it found itself in a world of trouble with a country that was in chaos. And we stayed, year after year, hoping that something good would happen. We were hoping that we would “strike it lucky and end up back in the black.” But whether that happened or not was not going to be because we had 200,000 troops on the ground.
But now we have all the fools that got us into that war in the first place back on television telling us that Obama was wrong to end the war. He wasn’t. But I would be in favor of a limited engagement. Let’s put Paul Wolfowitz through boot camp, give him a gun and drop him into Tal Afar. Maybe he’d have better luck this time.