Megyn Kelly’s obtuse question grabs the headline, but Dick Cheney’s rationalism prevails:
Saddam Hussein had a track record that nearly everybody agreed to. We had an overwhelming vote of approval from the Congress. More votes for the action than we’d had in Desert Storm some ten years before. Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, numerous others, spoke to the difficulties of the intelligence that all of us saw with respect to the threat that Saddam Hussein represented.
It would have been irresponsible for us not to act. We did do the right thing, and I think the troops performed magnificently, and now we’re in a situation where what Liz and I posted in our op-ed this morning is it’s not just Iraq, but it’s a whole pattern of behavior over the last six years that has refused to recognize that there is a War on Terror, that we’ve got to move very aggressively to be able to deal with that, and this administration has repeatedly demonstrated that they don’t believe it.
Barack Obama has stated repeatedly that the terrorist threat is gone, we’ve got bin Laden. That’s clearly not the truth. And in fact, we have a situation tonight where terrorism is potentially in charge of a larger part of the Middle East than ever before in our history.
The consequences of invasion are on Bush. The consequences of retreat are on Obama.
Charles Krauthammer hangs Iraq around President Obama’s neck:
David Petraeus had won the war. Obama’s one task was to conclude a status-of-forces agreement (SOFA) to solidify the gains. By Obama’s own admission — in the case he’s now making for a status-of-forces agreement with Afghanistan — such agreements are necessary “because after all the sacrifices we’ve made, we want to preserve the gains” achieved by war.
Which is what made his failure to do so in Iraq so disastrous. His excuse was his inability to get immunity for U.S. soldiers. Nonsense. Bush had worked out a compromise in his 2008 SOFA, as we have done with allies everywhere. The real problem was Obama’s determination to “end the war.” He had three years to negotiate a deal and didn’t even begin talks until a few months before the deadline period.
He offered to leave about 3,000 to 5,000 troops, a ridiculous number. U.S. commanders said they needed nearly 20,000. (We have 28,500 in South Korea and 38,000 in Japan to this day.) Such a minuscule contingent would spend all its time just protecting itself. Iraqis know a nonserious offer when they see one. Why bear the domestic political liability of a continued U.S. presence for a mere token?
Moreover, as historian Max Boot has pointed out, Obama insisted on parliamentary ratification, which the Iraqis explained was not just impossible but unnecessary. So Obama ordered a full withdrawal. And with it disappeared U.S. influence in curbing sectarianism, mediating among factions and providing both intelligence and tactical advice to Iraqi forces now operating on their own.
The result was predictable. And predicted. Overnight, Iran and its promotion of Shiite supremacy became the dominant influence in Iraq. The day after the U.S. departure, Maliki ordered the arrest of the Sunni vice president. He cut off funding for the Sons of Iraq, the Sunnis who had fought with us against al-Qaeda. And subsequently so persecuted and alienated Sunnis that they were ready to welcome back al-Qaeda in Iraq — rebranded in its Syrian refuge as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria — as the lesser of two evils. Hence the stunningly swift ISIS capture of Mosul, Tikrit and so much of Sunni Iraq.
Obama has no problem taking credit for “ending the war,” but then he lays the blame for our withdrawal at President Bush’s feet. I’ve often wondered what Obama’s biggest fault is. It has to be pride.
“I said we’d end that war and we did.” –Obama, September 1, 2012
General Petraeus’ post-Vietnam strategy was never going to produce self-sustaining Arab democracy. But as long as bribe money kept flowing to disaffected Sunni Muslims on the outs with the regime, and a contingent of American troops remained to impede bad guys wherever they popped up, Iraq was won.
Winning in Iraq’s case meant controlling the battle space, keeping the enemy from taking over swaths of the country that would then become terrorist training camps, like Afghanistan in the ’90s. No victory would be final without maintaining more than a token presence in Iraq. In short, we won the Iraq War before we lost it.