After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 turned into a mess that led to an immense loss of life and years of violent havoc in the Middle East, the war’s backers flippantly declared that “everyone” agreed on the war. The invasion’s evolving justifications – Saddam’s supposed amassing of “weapons of mass destruction” to his alleged ties to Al-Qaeda – were overblown, but if everyone was in agreement then who could possibly second-guess the military effort?
At the Editorial Board of the Orange County Register, we produced one piece after another questioning the war. We even got in a spat with one Fox News personality, who took umbrage at criticism of the war while the fighting was going on. That was somehow unpatriotic. But the United States has been involved in endless conflicts. If Americans held their tongues while bombs are dropping, then when could they ever feel free to air their concerns?
“There is no real threat to the United States, only a theoretical one based on faulty premises,” I opined at the time. “It is unjust, in that it is not a war of last resort.… It will run up tens of billions of dollars in costs, and it will lead to the limiting of civil liberties at home. Furthermore, America will be managing Iraq for years, perhaps decades, and our presence there is more likely to destabilize than democratize the region.”
Those points largely were correct. (This column isn’t about “I told you so,” by the way, but about “look how far we’ve come.”) Even the current GOP president has lamented that war. When Donald Trump recently called off airstrikes on Iran at the last minute, almost everyone expressed relief. It’s a new world ideologically and our long-standing foreign policy consensus is, finally, up for debate again. It’s taken long enough, but better late than never.
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