Violence in Iraq in 2013 was worse than at any time since 2008 – when Iraq was still in the throes of its all-out civil war that had led to over 100,000 deaths. And Iraq’s problems are getting worse, not better. Although there are many differences, the situation in Iraq today reminds me in some ways of where we were in Syria two years ago: we knew the situation was bad, we knew the situation was getting worse, and we were unable to devise a coherent policy response. We all know the results. I worry that in 2015 we’ll be looking at Iraq as we do Syria today, wondering how to manage a strategic and humanitarian disaster and lamenting the opportunities we missed before the conflict was completely out of control. The latest reports in the New York Times that Al Qaeda in Iraq have at least temporarilycaptured large swathes of territory in Anbar and threaten major cities are particularly alarming
Although I do not exonerate President Obama for his own policy failures in the last 5 years, the ultimate blame must go to President Bush. Many years ago I wrote an op-ed entitled Bush 43 has been a disaster for conservatives, in which I argued that:
As for Bush’s war of choice in Iraq, it is clear that the administration lacked a plan for succeeding with the occupation. We still don’t have a handle on the security problems in Iraq. Our feckless handling of the country looks likely to breed another generation of jihadists, and there is no sign that Bush has a viable exit plan. Worse yet, he created an American gulag: Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, secret renditions, the use of water-boarding and other coercive interrogation techniques that are little short of torture.
As conservative icon Russell Kirk observed of George H.W. Bush’s Middle East policy, "devastating Iraq (and the rescued Kuwait) is an uncompromising way of opening an era of sweetness and light. Peoples so rescued from tyrants might cry, as did the boy whom Don Quixote de la Mancha had saved from beating by the muleteers but who was thrashed by them not long later, nevertheless — ‘In the name of God, Don Jorge de la Casablanca, don’t rescue me again!’ "
The question now is whether the neoconservatives and other chickenhawks who got us into Iraq will admit that their war would make an admirable case study for an historian updating Barbara Tuchman's classic The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam?