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The Iraq War Was a Bipartisan Disaster

June 24, 2014 in Economics

By Gene Healy

Gene Healy

“Sorry” seems to be the hardest word for neoconservatives who championed the Iraq War, but sometimes they manage to squeeze it out.

Here, for instance, is former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen in Wednesday’s Washington Post: “Sorry, but this is a mess of President Obama’s making.”

It’s a common refrain among unrepentant hawks. In a piece titled “What Obama Has Wrought in Iraq,” Thiessen’s American Enterprise Institute colleague Danielle Pletka insists that “when the United States fled Iraq in 2011, the country was stable, reasonably integrated, and on the road to new prosperity and unprecedented freedom.”

We tend to think of the Iraq War as a neoconservative project, and with good reason. But they weren’t alone.”

“We had it won,” declares Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Thanks to the 2007 troop surge, Obama had inherited “a strong Iraq,” only to squander it rushing to the exits.

Watching the ongoing collapse of the Iraqi state not three years later, you have to wonder just how “strong” and stable it could have been in the first place. We’ve spent $25 billion over the last decade building up the Iraqi security forces, only to get an updated version of the old gibe about the South Vietnamese Army: “want to buy some ISF rifles? Never been fired and only dropped once!”

But Iraq wasn’t “lost” in 2011, when Obama failed to broker a deal that would let U.S. troops stay. Iraq was a losing proposition from the start.

In April 2003, as U.S. forces rolled into Baghdad, the Carnegie Endowment’s Minxin Pei and Sara Kasper warned that “historically, nation-building attempts by outside powers are notable mainly for their bitter disappointments, not their triumphs.” Democratization-at-gunpoint is nearly always a fool’s errand, and especially foolish in a socially fractured basket case like the Iraq of 2003.

In 14 cases of nation-building in underdeveloped societies, Pei and Kaplan noted, the United States achieved its aims only in tiny Panama and Grenada: “a success rate of just 14 percent.” Moreover, they cautioned, “ethnically fragmented countries, such as Iraq, pose extraordinary challenges to nation builders because, lacking a common national identity, various ethnic groups … tend to seize the rare opportunity of outsiders’ intervention to seek complete independence or gain more power. This can trigger national disintegration or a backlash from other ethnic groups, with the outside powers caught in the middle.”

Indeed, “despite what interveners hope,” writes George Washington University’s Alexander B. …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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