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CPAC 2013 Tries To Escape Shadows Of Iraq War

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NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Ten years after the war in Iraq began, the Conservative Political Action Conference held a panel Thursday called "Too Many American Wars? Should We Fight Anywhere And Can We Afford It?" The discussion, held at the annual conservative confab, was meant to ask whether the U.S. can afford military operations like the war in the Middle East.

"That's not a very good title," said the first speaker, Dr. Angelo Codevilla, professor of international relations at Boston University "All human action, wars included, is to be judged by what is achieved, not by what goes into it."

The debate over the accuracy of the title underscored the uncomfortable fact that the Iraq War, as Ross Douthat wrote, has for many undone the Republican Party's credibility on foreign policy from the Cold War.

The Bush administration's push for the Iraq War was in another, almost forgotten, political era. However, the effects of that decision and the mishandling of the occupation remain hurdles to Republicans winning back the foreign policy issue -- and therefore, having a convincing commander-in-chief.

Most of the panelists saw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as efforts that went awry, and not necessarily the results of poor decision-making.

The panelists, from hawks like Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) to more war-weary academics, all agreed that nation-building fares poorly. "There is nothing that is more completely nonsensical [than the idea] that we can build other nations," said Codevilla. "If you haven't won the peace, you ought not to engage in war. If you do engage in war, you'd better have an idea of how you want to end it."

Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), an Iraq and Afghanistan War vet, said that at times his unit didn't have running water or food, but had the Claremont Review of Books, an intellectually rigorous publication of a Straussian bent.

He made a case for continuing to fight Islamic radicalism, a conventional Republican refrain. "Are we fighting too many wars? I would say no. We're fighting one war, and it's against radical Islamic jihad," he said. "Wars are not movies, they do not end. They are won or lost."

Cotton received an academic rebuke from the next speaker, Dr. Ivan Eland -- the most dovish of the participants on Thursday. "I don't think we should be fighting radical Islam ... we should fight radical Islamists fighting the U.S.," he said.

Eland then said war was responsible for much of the growth of the "welfare state" -- an idea that is anathema to conservatives. He laid the blame not on Franklin Roosevelt, but on Woodrow Wilson. "The roots of the New Deal were in the government takeover of the economy in World War I," Eland said.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who moderated the panel, said that Eland's speech made him rethink whether it was a good idea for the U.S. to get into World War I.

In a brief interview with The Huffington Post, King said that he wasn't rethinking the decision to invade Iraq. "There were a number of things I said I was going to rethink after I listened to that panel, and that was not one of them," he said.

"I would like to go back and redo some of the war in Iraq," he said, adding that President Barack Obama "pulled everything" out of Iraq.

Bill Lawrence, a retired Marine and schoolteacher from Albany, N.Y., listened to the speakers and said he had "mixed feelings" about invading Iraq. Lawrence laid the blame on President George H. W. Bush for creating the problem by not overthrowing Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War. "We had to do what we had to do," he said.

"We didn't understand the politics of Iraq," said Joe DiBello, who is retired and lives across the river in Alexandria, Va. "The same thing happened in Afghanistan," he said. "Bush went in and had an astounding victory, but unfortunately, al Qaeda went to Pakistan."

"The invasion was based on WMD -- which everyone in the world thought Iraq had," DiBello said. "When they found out different, people said, 'Wait a minute.'"

In his 13-hour filibuster on March 7, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) tapped into a latent Republican desire to challenge Obama on foreign policy. Paul continued the theme at the panel on Thursday. On the debate over drones, he said, "To those who would dismiss this debate as frivolous, I say tell that to the heroic men and women who sacrificed their limbs and lives. Tell that to the 6,000 parents of kids who died as American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan -- tell them the Bill of Rights is no big deal."

One Paul fan, Christian Miele, a 32-year-old law student at Emory University, said he agreed that the war was a mistake "retrospectively."

"Hindsight is 20/20 ... I guess I've really bought into the non-interventionist approach," he said. "Peace should be our message, not war."

Below, a liveblog of the latest updates from CPAC:

live blog

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) came out on top of this year's CPAC straw poll. Click here to read more.

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From HuffPost's Paige Lavender:

Orly Taitz, commonly known as the "Birther Queen," was rebuked by blogger Pamela Geller during a Saturday panel on Islam and national security at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference.

Click here to read more.

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HuffPost's Jason Linkins reports:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker took the stage Saturday at CPAC, praising the assemblage for its support during the fraught Wisconsin recall fight, which Walker won, allowing him to stay in power. His speech was themed around the idea that the states are the laboratories of policy -- "Real reform does not happen in Washington, it happens in the statehouses throughout this country," he said -- and that he, in particular, was leading the way to end "government dependency."

If future GOP presidential runs depend on silver-tongues articulation of dorm-room "makers vs. takers" arguments, then Walker's future is pretty bright.

Click here to read more.

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sarah palin cpac 2013

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santorum cpac 2013

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@ elisefoley : RT @EvanMcSan: Steve King calls them "undocumented Democrats" #Immigration #CPAC2013

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michele bachmann cpac 2013

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@ achorowitz : Phyllis Schlafly just asked if we would please follow her on Twitter. What.

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@ Bencjacobs : Phyllis Schafly says immigrants will all vote Democratic, I don't think Marco Rubio agrees #cpac

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@ jmartpolitico : Phyllis Schlafly: "comprehensive is a synonym for amnesty"

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newt gingrich candle cpac 2013

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@ elisefoley : Palin exits to Shania Twain's "She's Not Just a Pretty Face." Sample lyric: "She's a geologist--a romance novelist"

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@ elisefoley : Palin's referenced Big Gulps, guns annnnnnd, of course, White Hours tours, literally world's most important topic.

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@ politicoroger : Palin: White House "has power to use drones without accountability, but not enough to open WH to kids for spring break."#cpac2013

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@ politicoroger : Palin: "These experts keep making millions by losing elections." #cpac2013

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@ politicoroger : Palin: "If you don't have a lobbyist in DC, you are not at the table, you are on the menu."

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@ jonward11 : "It's time to stop preaching to the choir," Palin tells choir.

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@ HotlineJosh : RT @AaronBlakeWP: Palin pauses her speech to take a sip from a Big Gulp. Crowd goes wild. "Bloomberg's not around. Don't worry." #CPAC

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@ joshgreenman : (Wouldn't have been banned.) MT @elisefoley: Palin drinking a Big Gulp on stage at CPAC. http://t.co/y2FlBCXKyk

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@ achorowitz : "You gotta be thinking Sam Adams, not drinking Sam Adams." -Palin to college Republicans, adding "it was a joke."

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@ lgabriellel : "He's got the rifle, I've got the rack." --Sarah Palin on Christmas gifts she and her husband bought each other. #CPAC2013

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@ elisefoley : Palin says Obama should "step away from the teleprompter and do [his] job." Is she using one?

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@ AaronBlakeWP : Palin: “Barack Obama promised the most transparent administration ever. Barack Obama: You lie.” #CPAC

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@ mpoindc : After nodding to Obama's win in '12, Palin: "He's considered a good politician — which is like saying Bernie Madoff was a good salesman."

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@ achorowitz : "Came in second... out of 2!" -Palin, on 2012

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@ AaronBlakeWP : Palin: "More background checks? Dandy idea Mr. President. Shoulda started with yours.” #CPAC

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@ AaronBlakeWP : Palin on Cruz: “He chews barbed wire, he spits out rust.” #CPAC

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@ AaronBlakeWP : Ted Cruz: "I would not be in the United States Senate today if it were not for Gov. Palin." #CPAC

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@ jonward11 : Cruz says Palin "drives the mainstream media bat crap crazy."

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@ jonward11 : "The mainstream media wants us to shut up ... to accept defeat ... to be timid and hide in the corner." - Ted Cruz

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@ achorowitz : "I am not remotely cool enough to be Sarah Palin" -Ted Cruz

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@ jonward11 : despite his efforts, this crowd still seems a little skeptical of Artur

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@ jonward11 : in first #CPAC speech, Artur Davis tries to win over activists who might be skeptical of him, & sets up critique of party, by bashing media

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@ ariannahuff : Jeb Bush at #cpac2013: "If you're fortunate enough to count yourself among the privileged, the rest of the nation is drowning."

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@ sanuzis : Huge line for Dr. Carson's book signing at #cpac2013 http://t.co/ipFcQ3OoBh

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@ CraigCaplan : .@SenTedCruz served as introductory speaker at #CPAC 2011. Tonight he's #CPAC2013 last keynote speaker of the day. http://t.co/Z3paWaRWgv

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@ LOLGOP : The thesis statement of every speech at #CPAC2013: Read my book.

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@ daveweigel : Betting on a Ben Carson/Tim Scott 2016 GOP ticket

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@ samsteinhp : Dr Carson is a grt, thought provoking speaker but i don't get this line: "Nobody's starving on the streets, we've always taken care of them"

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@ daveweigel : RT @igorvolsky: Wow, Fox News is carrying Dr. Ben Carson's speech live. Newt or Bachmann didn't even get this kind of treatment...

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@ daveweigel : Carson: "Many people don't know this, but socialism started as a reaction to America." It did?

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@ achorowitz : Bachmann argues for more funding for cancer, Alzheimer's research. Great, but, the Ryan budget cut funding for medical research.

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@ UrquhartMP : Speaker says the "2nd amendment is under siege. Especially in our schools." #CPAC2013

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@ CPACnews : @RealBenCarson up next at #CPAC2013

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@ RightWingWatch : According to Bachmann at #CPAC2013, conservatism is "the movement of love, the movement of care."

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@ vdare : Bachmann's speech is surprisingly unfocused. Jumping from one issue to another. It's like a campaign speech. #CPAC

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@ daveweigel : Bachmann spending a lot of time hitting WH for wasteful spending on personnel. Okay, then. http://t.co/isCrAMPbFf

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@ AaronBlakeWP : Bachmann on two full-time projectionists in White House: “I don’t mean to be petty here, but can’t they just push the play button.” #CPAC

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@ ACUConservative : @TeamBachmann on what Obama should say to UN: "The future does not belong to the low-life murderers who kill innocent Americans." #CPAC2013

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@ KatrinaTrinko : Bachmann slamming Obama for going to Vegas after Benghazi consulate attack to meet with Jay-Z and Beyonce #cpac2013

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