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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Lessons of Iraq: Don’t Do It Again

President Obama’s announcement last night that all U.S. combat troops have left Iraq, on schedule, didn’t get much positive commentary. Many Republicans complained he didn’t give credit to the man who once promised to “liberate” Iraq and turn it into a model of democracy, George W. Bush. Many Democrats complained that he didn’t reminisce about the original decision to fight the war, or to stay in Iraq for years after formal military operations had largely ended. All sorts of observers wanted him to talk about Afghanistan, and how and when that conflict might finally end.
One center-left pundit, Mike Miller, seized the occasion to apologize for his own support for the Iraq War.
Personally, the only mea culpa I’m interested in, and the only gesture by the president that has any real value, involves a very simple lesson: don’t make the same mistake again by launching a “war of choice” with no clear justification or any feasible strategy for real victory.. That would apply most particularly to the next war on the agenda of many Middle Eastern warkhawks, the war to prevent a nuclear Iran. We don’t need it, can’t afford it, and certainly haven’t shown we can deal with the shattered country and region we’d soon have to deal with if we actually succeeded,
If the president gets that one right, then I really don’t much care if he succeeds in becoming the definitive score-keeper for Iraq.

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