I am constantly amazed at the tendency of some to use the perspective of hindsight to condemn decisions of those who did not possess the supernatural gift of predictive prophecy at the time they made their decisions.
So when a friend asked whether I believe that those who supported George W. Bush's decision to attack Iraq should feel remorse, considering the chaos and genocide occurring there now, I said "no," with some qualifications.
I believe that Bush and his team based their decision to invade Iraq on the best available intelligence (as to weapons of mass destruction) and a reasonable belief that Saddam Hussein fostered and supported terrorism -- not to mention his serial violation of multiple U.N. resolutions -- and thereby represented a threat to the national security interests of the United States and its allies.
Democrats, who initially supported the war for political reasons, later conveniently withdrew their support for political reasons and lied through their teeth about their former support and the facts leading to it. Through their relentless, vicious attacks on Bush, they systematically undermined the public's confidence in the war and our ability to optimally wage it.
Should the Bush team have better anticipated the strength and resilience of the insurgency after our toppling of Saddam? I suppose so, but in this age of terrorism and asymmetrical war, I'd contend that such events are less predictable than they might have been before.
Was team Bush Pollyannaish in its belief that democracy would survive in such an environment? I incline toward thinking so, but I am not sure we can make a firm assessment either way, seeing as the experiment was cut short because of our precipitous and total withdrawal from the country.
Interestingly, I remember hearing toward the end of his term that Bush's goal was to achieve a level of stability in Iraq that even a liberal president could not easily screw up. But in fairness, how could he have foreseen that the United States would elect an extreme leftist as his successor who would not only fail to understand the global scope of the war on terror but also be as wantonly irresponsible in negotiating our withdrawal from Iraq as Barack Obama was?
Nonetheless, in light of the massacre currently underway in Iraq, it's hard for us supporters of the Iraq invasion not to second-guess ourselves and wonder whether this kind of bedlam would have happened but for the vacuum made possible -- albeit indirectly and several steps removed -- by our deposing of Saddam.
But I don't think this power vacuum that gave rise to the Islamic State was inevitable, even if I am not fully on board with "the democracy project." I think a better case can be made that the chaos in Iraq has mostly resulted from Obama's reckless withdrawal and his refusal to lift a finger against the Islamic State when it would have mattered.
His decision to leave so quickly and irreversibly was in turn precipitated by his inability to clearly analyze world events because of his disturbingly skewed worldview, his resulting ignorance about the threat to our national security interests posed by global Islamofascism, and his disgraceful and unswerving practice of placing his personal and political interests above the national interests.
Obama insisted on intervening in Libya based on humanitarian reasons but appears unmoved in a far worse situation in Iraq. Plus, the Libyan situation couldn't conceivably have involved our national security interests to the extent that the mayhem in Iraq now does. Not only do we have a vested interest in Iraq's peace and stability with the lives and treasure expended there but also the Islamic State is well on the way to establishing a regional caliphate -- a terrorist state that poses a dire threat to the region and, inevitably, to the entire world.
Can Obama not see these things? Almost everyone else can. Or is something even more cynical at work here?
I happen to believe that rank politics is at work, as well.
For the reality is that nothing led to the rise in power of the Democratic Party during the Bush years, including even the financial meltdown of 2008, more than the Democrats' and liberal media's calculated, methodical and unremitting assault on Bush's character as the most evil man in history over his decision to attack Iraq.
The moral "wrongness" of the war became an essential article of faith in the leftist religion. They constructed lie after lie to condemn team Bush as bloodthirsty liars who concocted fantastic tales to justify attacking Iraq to satisfy their bloodlust and their rapacious quest for its oil.
This narrative was so central to rallying the leftist base that no Democrat, especially Obama, is about to let go of it without a compelling reason, on steroids. Even the genocide of innocent Christians, even an obvious threat to the very security of the United States, is not sufficient to move Obama even to consider "boots on the ground" in Iraq. He must believe that if he goes back into Iraq in a significant way, he will somehow vindicate Bush by undermining the left's article of faith against intervening in Iraq. I'm not advocating boots on the ground now, but to summarily take options off the table and to telegraph that to the Islamic State is unwise.
How tragically ironic that Obama's blind obsession with extricating us from (and keeping us out of) Iraq to perpetuate the point that team Bush was evil may be the very thing that proves just the opposite. For in the end, Obama may just wind up vindicating Bush and incriminating himself.