While listening to Bill Bennett’s radio program the other morning, a caller, respectfully, yet passionately, expressed his incredulity over the fact that anyone continues to take the Bill Kristols and Max Boots (and, by implication, the Bill Bennetts) of the world seriously when it comes to issues pertaining to American foreign policy vis-à-vis the Middle East, particularly Iraq.
The caller noted that the neoconservatives who advocated on behalf of the invasion of Iraq back in 2003 have been spectacularly, almost unbelievably, wrong from beginning to end. In contrast, he contended, “traditional” or “real” conservatives, like Pat Buchanan, have been right to the point of being prescient.
Bennett, to his credit, was responsive, yet he disagreed with the caller’s assertion that Iraq had been a total debacle. “The surge,” he insisted, was a success. Moreover, Iraq had been “won”—until we began withdrawing the troops.
Some comments are in order.
First, the so-called “surge” occurred five years after the Iraq War got under way. That is, Bennett’s appeal to “the surge”—that there even had to be a “surge”—actually underscores the caller’s point that, at the very least, an exercise in military adventurism that was supposed to have been a “cakewalk” but which went nowhere after sucking up five years worth of exorbitant sums of human blood and treasure could scarcely be billed as a “success.”
Second, Bennett, like many of the war’s supporters, has taken to saying of Iraq that it had been “won.” But, thinking minds want to know, what exactly was won?
Surely, no remotely astute political thinker could claim with a straight face that it is “democracy” that we achieved in Iraq. Readers may recall that during its tumultuous or pre-surge days, the war’s apologists spared no occasion to remind Americans that our “democracy” has been many centuries in the making. Thus, they concluded, we shouldn’t expect for Iraq to become a “democracy” over night.
That the constitution of a people and the government appropriate to it are indeed the fruits of “generations and of ages,” to paraphrase conservatism’s “patron saint,” the great Edmund Burke, is something of which no student of politics needs to be told. But, now, polemicists for the Iraq War are whistling a different tune: they would actually have us think that what took the West millennia to develop took the West, namely America, only a handful of (post-surge) years in an Islamic country—until, of course, our troop withdrawal undid all of America’s work.
Hopefully, no one really believes any of this.
Third, when Bennett’s caller began discussing the Iraq War that paved the way for the mess that is ISIS, the host—as the war’s defenders invariably do—implored his interlocutor to resist the impulse to “rehearse history.” The caller, however, calmly explained that it is intellectually and morally irresponsible to neglect past decisions when those decisions have lead to present dilemmas. History is our guide to the future.
And he couldn’t have been more correct.
The truth of the matter is that Pat Buchanan wasn’t alone in sounding the alarm against invading Iraq. There were others, including some observers who, unlike the Buchanans and Ron Pauls, say, opposed American intervention in Iraq (and elsewhere) while refusing to endorse the notion—preposterous on its face—that Islamic terrorism can be explained solely in terms of some “blowback” theory or other.
One such writer whose counsel must now strike the ear of the unprejudiced spectator as prophetic is Ilana Mercer, a Jew whose formative years were spent living in both South Africa and Israel. The author of the hard hitting (but, scandalously, little known) book, Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa, as well as countless other incorrigibly politically incorrect essays from her long-standing perch at World Net Daily, Mercer can always be counted upon to defy the conventional wisdom—even when—maybe especially when—it is potentially dangerous to do so.
In September 2002, in the article, “Why So Many Americans Don’t Support Attacking Iraq,” Mercer noted the readiness with which George W. Bush shifted between entirely distinct rationales for toppling Bagdad.
When Saddam Hussein agreed to “the unconditional return of weapons inspectors” to Iraq, Bush ignored the gesture and, instead, sought “approval from the United Nations, a body entirely unrepresentative of—even hostile to—the American people” (emphases mine). Mercer remarked that Bush’s “swirl of rhetoric before the UN was not even tangentially related to the original indictment against Iraq: that it had a hand in Sept. 11 and directly supported Islamic fundamentalist terrorism.”
She continued: “Iraq is a secular dictatorship profoundly at odds with Islamic fundamentalism.” To support this verdict—which is obvious to everyone today—Mercer alluded to Vincent Cannistraro, “the former head of the CIA’s counterterrorism office” who “stated categorically that there was no evidence of Iraq’s links to al-Qaeda.”
The President then charged Hussein with reacquiring “weapons of mass destruction.” To this, Mercer’s response was swift: “Essentially, Iraq is being convicted based on a rehash of its record during—and prior to—the war in the Persian Gulf, not based on the current threat she poses to the United States and the region.”
Mercer puts the lie to the current line that, prior to the invasion of Iraq, everyone believed that Hussein had WMD’s. She refers to Republican Scott Ritter, a long-time Marine, war veteran, and a former UN weapons inspector who had “spent seven years inspecting and turning Iraq inside out [.]” His verdict was unambiguous: Iraq had been “95-per-cent disarmed and has no weapons of mass destruction [.]” She added that this verdict had been confirmed by numerous “experts in strategic studies.”
For her efforts in cautioning Americans against being bamboozled into supporting a Gargantuan Government exercise in the “social engineering” of a foreign land, Mercer, like Buchanan and other opponents of the war whose arguments have proven to be sagely, was derided and ostracized.
And for our refusal to listen then, 11 years, many thousands of casualties, and trillions of dollars spent later, we are still mired Iraq—only now we have ISIS with which to reckon.
It is this history, and not some utopian ideology, on which Americans must base their decisions on how to deal with Islamic terrorists in the future.