Anyone who thinks the U.S. “won” the Iraq war needs his head examined

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As an outspoken advocate for invading Iraq in 2003, Senator John McCain made a lot of assumptions about how that war might go:

When Sunnis and Shias clashed last year, McCain said it only proved the U.S. should have stayed in Iraq longer. When extremist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) made major advances in Iraq last week, the senator, again, said it proved the U.S. should’ve remained there.

McCain also said, astoundingly, that America “won” the Iraq war, but now President Obama had lost it.

Obama did lose the Iraq war. So did George W. Bush, John McCain and every other American. With that intervention, we messed up. Badly.

Many consider Iraq one of the worst foreign policy decisions in U.S. history. Most Americans see it as a mistake including most of the men and women who fought it.

There’s a reason Mitt Romney hardly mentioned the Iraq war during the last election.

McCain keeps saying that the U.S. should have remained in Iraq. Apparently, he forgets that the government we helped install kicked us out. The American Conservative’s (and Rare contributor) Jim Antle asks, “It was the Iraqi government that the United States put in place that wanted American troops to leave… Were we to undertake regime change again to preserve the occupation?”

Antle gives a cost/benefit analysis of what Iraq wrought, “after 4,500 Americans dead, 35,000 wounded, and $1.7 trillion spent, the type of Islamic militants who attacked us on 9/11 now have a greater foothold in Iraq than before we invaded.”

Antle was talking about Fallujah falling under al-Qaeda control in January. We now learn that ISIS, as it takes over Mosul and other cities in Iraq, is too extreme even for al-Qaeda.

The Federalist’s David Harsanyi makes an important observation:

If a decade of nation building brought us this, what could we possible gain by seriously reengaging? Clearly, to make it work the American people would need to be prepared to make a generational commitment – and polls don’t tell us that we’re in the mood for an open-ended conflict in the Middle East.

What did we, “win” again, exactly, Sen. McCain?

In Robert Gates book Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, the former defense secretary wrote:

Wars are a lot easier to get into than out of. Those who ask about exit strategies or question what will happen if assumptions prove wrong are rarely welcome at the conference table when the fire-breathers are demanding that we strike – as they did when advocating invading Iraq…

Virtually every major assumption John McCain made about Iraq—its length, its purpose, its challenges, its cost—proved to be horribly wrong.

Gates wrote in his book, “There are limits to what even the strongest and greatest nation on Earth can do – and not every outrage, act of aggression, oppression or crisis should elicit a U.S. military response.” Speaking at West Point in 2011, Gates said “In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined.”

Anyone who would repeat the debacle in Iraq probably needs to see a doctor, not the inside of the U.S. Senate. If we do not learn from our mistakes we are doomed to repeat them.

America did not “win” the Iraq war. No one did.


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