As I noted before, the MSM is asking the GOP Presidential candidates the question, and the GOP candidates are all blowing it – the most recent entrant in the “Get It Wrong With a Gotcha” is Marco Rubio. I realize that the Iraq War is now the most unpopular thing which ever happened, ever, but that still doesn’t make it a mistake. At least in Rubio’s case, the question was honestly posed by Chris Wallace – it was more of, “granted that Bush believed it was the right thing to do then, do you believe it was the right thing to do now?”. The answer to that is an unequivocal “yes”.
Invading Iraq was the right thing to do in 2003. This doesn’t mean it was the only possible course of action open to us. But something had to be done about Saddam’s regime and we had the power to do it. Sure, you can go back and say we should have started arming rebels and sending Special Forces in to work the overthrow of the Saddam regime. Probably would have worked – but who would we have been arming? The people who now make up ISIS? Good chance we would have. One thing I think we’ve all learned is that arming Muslim rebels very often means arming the next set of problems. We could also have left Saddam alone – and now we’d be worrying about an Iraqi nuke along with an Iranian nuke – along with untold number of other problems a Saddam regime would have stirred up over the past 12 years. Among the possible options, President Bush choose invasion – and he was right to do so. And our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines fought with splendid devotion and courage and secured a victory for the United States, and the world. The victory was thrown away by our current President, but that doesn’t make Bush’s decision wrong, nor the sacrifices of our military in vain.
Winston Churchill in his book about World War One – The World Crisis – asserted that it is unfair to criticize someone for actions taken in the past unless the same substantial criticism was made to the decision-maker prior to the decision being made. Unless you’ve got someone from 2003 saying that the liberation of Iraq would result in a 5 year counter-insurgency operation – and showing how you know it would happen and what forces would be involved – then you’ve got no criticism to make about the decision to go into Iraq. You may use the Iraq war as a reason for, say, not going into Syria in 2015, but you can’t use knowledge gained in 2004 to condemn a decision made in 2003.
In human affairs, there is no “correct” answer in that a decision can be made which will 100% work out correctly all the time. Everything is a judgement – a balance of risks against rewards. A wise man hesitates before making a decision – but once the decision is made, moves with celerity to carry it out. And once made, all one can do is the best he or she can. Criticize and condemn the Iraq war all you wish – but to call it a mistake in the sense of “Bush should have known better in 2003” is to presume to impossible knowledge.