Victor Davis Hanson

At most, Iraq contributed to 25 percent of that aggregate debt. The vast expansion in the size of the federal government and domestic spending levels not only eroded "respect for Republican economic stewardship" but discredited the Bush tax cuts, which, we seem to have forgotten, resulted in more, not less, aggregate federal revenue.

Noonan thinks Iraq "killed what remained of the Washington Republican establishment." But George W. Bush was always seen more as an evangelical Texas heretic -- his war opposed by most of his father's establishment Cabinet and, eventually, the Colin Powell moderate wing of the party.

Instead, what killed off the blueblood establishment (if it is indeed dead) and spawned the Tea Party was largely disagreement on issues such as federal spending, debt and deficits, the size of government, entitlements, guns, abortion and illegal immigration -- in which grassroots populists argued that Republicans had become not much different from Democrats.

Noonan finishes by stating that when she withdrew her support for the Iraq War in 2005, she was "wronger than some at the start, righter than some at the end."

The now-common confession of always opposing "some" is tantamount to tagging along with the majority who supported the war -- only to flip along with the majority when it did not.

By 2005, when Noonan gave up on Iraq, millions of Iraqis and Kurds were still very much invested in the U.S. effort to replace Saddam Hussein's regime with something better. Tens of thousands of Americans were fighting and dying for that shared goal.

We can perhaps admire either those who were consistently against the war when it was at first unpopular, or those who kept their support when it was even more unpopular. But how does political convenience -- in a war that hinged on the enemy destroying our morale -- translate into courage or wisdom?

Had we given up on the war in 2005, there would not be a viable Kurdistan today or any chance of a stable Iraq government. The reputation of the American military would have been shredded. For a power with global responsibilities, losing an unpopular war is even worse than fighting one.

There were plenty of mistakes made after the impressive three-week removal of Hussein -- the failure to re-employ disbanded Iraqi soldiers, the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the tenure of poor military leaders such as Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. Yet the 2007 surge orchestrated by Gen. David Petraeus to save Iraq was not one of them.

In short, blaming everything on Iraq is just as bad as blaming nothing on it.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.


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