The False Iraq War Gotcha Narrative

Roundup
tags: Iraq War, Jeb Bush



Max Boot is a leading military historian and foreign-policy analyst. The Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, he is the author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller "Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present." 

Jeb Bush caused a kerfuffle with his answer to a question on Fox News Channel about the Iraq War. Megyn Kelly asked him: “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?” He answered:  “I would have. And so would Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. So would have everybody that was confronted by the intelligence they got.” They would have if they had the intelligence. That’s not saying everybody would now. News flash to the world, if they’re trying to find places where there’s big space between me and my brother, this might not be one of those.”

Various commentators on left and right have pounced on this answer even though it was pretty obvious that, as he later clarified, Bush misheard—he was clearly saying he supported the invasion based on “knowing what we knew then,” rather than “knowing what we know now.” Bush subsequently said it was a “hypothetical” question that he couldn’t answer. The other Republican candidates, on the other hand, are all generally saying they wouldn’t have supported the war in hindsight.

No one’s asking me, but I would like to try and answer anyway. It’s not an easy question but it’s one I’ve pondered, having been one of many who supported the war effort. I can’t tell the candidates what to say but I can tell you what my own thinking is.

If I had known exactly how the war would turn out—with American troops being pulled out prematurely, leaving Iraq to the tender mercies of Iranian militias and ISIS—I would not have supported the invasion. It’s a close call but Saddam Hussein’s regime, bad as it was, was probably preferable to the current situation in Iraq as long as sanctions remained in place. At least Saddam was a bulwark against Iranian expansion.

And I would never have supported military action against Saddam in the first place if I didn’t believe, in common with the leaders of the United States and all of our allies and even Saddam’s own generals, that he had weapons of mass destruction. Saddam was an evil ruler but the U.S. can’t simply go around using its military power to knock off every dictator on the planet—there has to be a specific threat to U.S. national security to justify military action and absent the WMD (and the lack of any verifiable links between Saddam and al Qaeda) such a threat was absent. ...




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