The Monday-morning quarterbacks have started coming out of the woodwork. With the news earlier this week that ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) insurgent forces in Iraq have taken the northern city of Mosul and are now marching on Baghdad, it's not surprising that there are voices criticizing the Obama administration for having lost Iraq. The "I told you so's" from Republican politicians and media hounds like Senator John McCain of Arizona were predictable, because of course Mr. McCain has been preaching the importance of keeping US military forces in Iraq for years, if not decades.
The decision by President Obama to remove US forces from Iraq in 2011 was viewed as premature by Mr. McCain, and so now the good senator gets to look like someone who had some special insight into the future. Mark my words, the parade of prophets and soothsayers is just getting started.
Mr. McCain has (predictably) already begun making the rounds on TV news shows, and his general argument (again, predictably) is that the US had won the war in Iraq but that Mr. Obama's hasty exit has now reversed that victory. Responding to a question from Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein on the Morning Joe show regarding the assumption that Iraq had been won, Mr. McCain said, "[With the surge,] we basically had the country pacified, we had a stable government in Baghdad, and we had the conflict basically, for all intensive purposes, won." Mr. McCain said that he recognized that the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was weak and that he knew that the US pullout would result in a destabilization of the country, and that he has now been proven right.
But the truth is that just about everyone and his grandmother knew there was a better than even chance Iraq could fall apart and again become embroiled in a civil war after US troops left. This would've been the case even if US forces had remained in Iraq for another few years, or 10, or 100. Let's be clear, pacifying Iraq is not the same as winning the war there. Just like in Vietnam, the US never won anything. We spent more than $2 trillion on Iraq, and hundreds of thousands of people died in the aftermath of our invasion, but we didn't win or solve anything... not after Mr. McCain's beloved "surge," and not after having spent $25 billion propping up al-Maliki's military, as Mr. Stein pointed out to the senator.
So much for that Jeffersonian democracy. So much for God's mission.
In an editorial in today's Wall Street Journal, Jessica Lewis starts off, "We're losing Iraq." That's true, but not in the way Ms. Lewis implies. While there may have been a brief period in 2009-2011 where it seemed like the US experiment in Iraq might work, the reality is that we never really had it won. The US has been losing Iraq since March 19, 2003 -- the day we started bombing Baghdad. That realization is finally starting to fully sink in.
That said, get ready for some more bombing.