What Journalists Are Getting Wrong About Jeb Bush And The Decision To Invade Iraq
This week, Americans have watched Jeb Bush careen wildly through a series of answers to a simple question: If he had been President in 2003, knowing what we know now, would he have invaded Iraq.
First, Jeb Bush said proudly that yes, he would invade Iraq all over again, just like his brother George W. did. Then, he said he didn’t really know if he would. Then, he said that the question was irrelevant. Then, he said that he wouldn’t engage in hypotheticals, and that journalists ought to be ashamed of themselves for insulting American soldiers by asking questions about the Iraq War.
Finally, yesterday, Jeb Bush arrived at the following answer to the question: “If we’re all supposed to answer hypothetical questions, knowing what we know now, what would you have done,” he said, “I would have not engaged. I would not have gone into Iraq.”
This is supposed to be his final answer, the one that the entire nation can get behind. The Jeb Bush for President campaign-that-is-not-officially-yet-a-campaign has calculated that Americans will all shrug, and say, “Oh, okay. Well, we all know now the Iraq War was a disaster, but who could have predicted that things would have gone so badly?”
What this response to Jeb Bush’s newest version of his ever-shifting foreign policy pose is missing, and what American journalists seem to be missing as well, is the acknowledgement that presidents of the United States do not make decisions about past wars based on information they gather after the wars are complete. They make decisions about whether to make war in the present, based on a combination of present knowledge and hypothetical futures.
We all already knew what Jeb Bush’s position on the Iraq War was. He made it back in 2003.
Jeb Bush was 100 percent in favor of the sloppy invasion of Iraq. That’s all we really need to know.
If Jeb Bush had been in the Oval Office in 2003, he would have made the same stupid mistake that his brother made. If he wins the presidential election in 2016, he will be likely to make similar stupid decisions, and bring our country into further troubles.
Jeb Bush didn’t just mildly and meekly acquiesce to the apparent inevitability of war against Iraq. He loudly and proudly applauded it. He urged the country to get behind the rushed invasion plan.
Many Americans didn’t do what Jeb Bush did. The debate shouldn’t be about what anyone would have done, given what we know now. It should be about what politicians did, given what they knew in 2003. There were many Americans who spoke up loudly in opposition to the war. There was a long debate in Congress. There were protests in the streets. So, it’s not as if people can only see now that the invasion of Iraq was an idiotic idea. Many people had the wisdom to perceive the problems with the war as it was being planed.
Jeb Bush did not display that wisdom.
It’s not just a problem with Jeb Bush, of course. All of the Republican presidential candidates – with the possible exception of Rand Paul – supported the invasion of Iraq in 2002. They were cheerleaders for the idiotic war, and they continued to defend it vigorously long after the war was shown to be based on falsehoods. They made the same mistake that George W. Bush made, and would make similar mistakes in the future, if elected President in 2016.
To be fair, it’s a problem for Hillary Clinton, too. I was a constituent of Clinton when she was a United States Senator. Like many fellow New Yorkers, I sent messages to her office pleading for a vote against the resolution approving war against Iraq.
Hillary Clinton didn’t listen. She made the same stupid mistake that Jeb Bush made – and for ten years, she didn’t even admit that it was a mistake. Clinton marched our nation off to war, in lock step with the Bushes.
Jeb Bush doesn’t come out of this week looking like a competent leader. Neither does Clinton.
For our next President, we need a leader who, in 2003, given what was known then, was brave enough to say no to war.