AH, yet another delicate, pastel-shaded rendering of the inside of her own eyeballs:
The air has been full of 10th-anniversary Iraq war retrospectives. One that caught my eye was a smart piece by Tom Curry, national affairs writer for NBC News, who wrote of one element of the story, the war's impact on the Republican party: "The conflict not only transformed" the GOP, "but all of American politics."
It has, but it's an unfinished transformation.Yes, in that there's still a Republican party.
Here, offered in a spirit of open debate...
Leave us not neglect the canapés on our way to the roast. "Criticism" of the Republican party (which lov'd not wisely but too well, natch) is offered in "the spirit of open debate", unlike her criticism of Democrats, Liberals, or the Left, assuming there's a distinction, which is offered in the spirit of a shit shower from an Angry God. This must be noted lest Peg's regulars think she's turned traitor. One of those "criticisms" will be that Iraq quashed debate within the Republican party. To the extent, evidently, that now, a decade later, fully-formed adults have to be warned before they run into one.
is what the war did to the GOP:
• It ruined the party's hard-earned reputation for foreign-affairs probity. They started a war and didn't win it. It was longer and costlier by every measure than the Bush administration said it would be. Before Iraq, the GOP's primary calling card was that it was the party you could trust in foreign affairs. For half a century, throughout the Cold War, they were serious about the Soviet Union, its moves, feints and threats. Republicans were not ambivalent about the need for and uses of American power, as the Democrats were in the 1970s and 1980s, but neither were they wild. After Iraq it was the Republicans who seemed at best the party of historical romantics or, alternatively, the worst kind of cynic, which is an incompetent one.+10 for saying "they didn't win". And the usual "-10 to the power of Reagan" for the using the risible PR mantras the GOP's been using for the last sixty-five years and calling it "probity".
A thing is not true just because you are, or pretend to be, serious about it. Especially you. You may believe in the Cold War all you wish, but it was largely manufactured and cynically exploited, fed--on this side of the Big Ditch--by the American habits of xenophobia and talking to ourselves. The historical record is pretty clear on this. There wasn't any International Communist Conspiracy. The Testament of Peter the Great is a fraud. The Red Army was at least a match for the Allied forces at the end of WWII, but technologically it was always behind, and grew more so through the 50s and 60s. They weren't Nice Guys Defending the Honest Working Man, to be sure. But they had every reason to be just as suspicious of us. And that was exploited for domestic political gain, by both major parties, but it was the Right which agitated for Holy War. Lyndon Johnson knew that the Vietnam war was unwinnable--hell, we'd been at it a decade by the time it fell in his lap--but he also knew that being "the guy who lost Vietnam"--like Truman "lost" China--was political death.
Quemoy and Matsu, Peg. Quemoy and Matsu. If that's foreign-affairs probity you and I need to start speaking separate languages. Assuming we aren't already.
Iraq marked a departure in mood and tone from past conservatism.
Flummery. There's a direct line to the Spanish American War, if you can be bothered picking up a pencil. And every minor grievance since, real or imagined. There's certainly a broad highway from the post-Vietnam rewriting of history, which was largely a "conservative" enterprise, to the "we're invincible so long as we try" routine here.
And, by the way, how 'bout y'all just quit hiding once and for all? Particularly behind this notion of "conservatism" as the most principled money-making scheme in human history.
• It muddied up the meaning of conservatism and bloodied up its reputation. No Burkean prudence or respect for reality was evident. Ronald Reagan hated the Soviet occupation of the Warsaw Pact countries—really, hated the oppression and violence. He said it, named it, and forced the Soviets to defend it. He did not, however, invade Eastern Europe to liberate it. He used military power sparingly. He didn't think the right or lucky thing would necessarily happen. His big dream was a nuclear-free world, which he pursued daringly but peacefully.
Burkean prudence. For Pete's sake. Reagan bombed the Soviet Union, may I remind you, in front of a microphone and facetiously, like all his best work.
Yes, Ronald Reagan prudently did not invade Eastern Europe, same as every Cold War President since Truman. But Reagan is to be particularly recognized for not having attempted the suicidally impossible, because his rhetoric was bat-shit crazier'n Nixon's.
• It ended the Republican political ascendance that had begun in 1980. This has had untold consequences, and not only in foreign affairs. And that ascendance was hard-earned. By 2006 Republicans had lost the House, by 2008 the presidency. Curry quotes National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru at a recent debate at the American Enterprise Institute: "You could make the argument that the beginning of the end of Republican dominance in Washington was the Iraq War, at least a stage of the Iraq War, 2005-06." In 2008 a solid majority of voters said they disapproved of the war. Three-quarters of them voted for Barack Obama.
I dunno; I don't think Ramesh Ponnuru is totally wrong enough. I'm waiting until Bill Kristol weighs in.
Here's another place you need to stop hiding Peg: behind the idea that elections equal objective truth, so long as you win them. Also, behind the idea that the clock doesn't start ticking until you recognize--or admit--something.
2005-2006? That's merely the point at which liars like Ponnuru, flacks like David Brooks, or religious ecstatics like yourself could no longer pretend everything was working out just fine.
A lot of the rest of us noticed "Six months, tops" had expired "Sixteen months, minimum" previously.
Let's just take a gander at that timeline, huh? The war began in Basra. Basra was considered to be a sweet, sweet walkover (they're Shi'a! proclaimed the most literate among you, which did not include your then-sainted President, who didn't know the difference). So much so that we let the Brits handle walking in on rose pedals while we prepared for the tough stuff; Basra was a sort of Pacific War of Iraq. It was supposed to be over in a day. I'm not making that up. Took two weeks. In retrospect, it's too bad we couldn't stick to the 14:1 ratio for the rest of the thing.
That first night we also announced that Shock 'n' Awe had, not certainly, but almost positively probably killed Saddam Hussein in his golden bed. A tell like that costs you your pants elsewhere.
Then, for no fucking military reason whatsoever, we managed to outrun our supply lines on Day Two, but, fortunately, PFC Jessica Lynch, the Pat Tillman of Iraq*, single-handedly wiped out a battalion, or something.
Then we took Baghdad, and realized we'd only brought enough MPs to guard the Oil Ministry. Fortunately, Don Rumsfeld was there to explain to us that that's how it goes.
That fall a few dead-enders turned up to flummox the United States military with improvised WWI weapons.
Sadly, after that, things went downhill. Enough so that a couple years later Ramesh Ponnuru noticed.
As to what grand plan Karl Rove had to turn this into the Permanent Republican Majority, well, you're soaking in it.
• It undermined respect for Republican economic stewardship. War is costly. No one quite knows or will probably ever know the exact financial cost of Iraq and Afghanistan, which is interesting in itself. Some estimates put it at $1 trillion, some $2 trillion. Mr. Curry cites a Congressional Budget Office report saying the Iraq operation had cost $767 billion as of January 2012. Whatever the number, it added to deficits and debt, and along with the Bush administration's domestic spending helped erode the Republican Party's reputation for sobriety in fiscal affairs.
Which belonged on a bumpersticker, assuming you could fit it next to "Probity in Foreign Affairs". Unless you mean to give credit to Ronald Reagan for bravely quadrupling the National Debt while being so stalwartly agin' it.
• It quashed debate within the Republican Party. Political parties are political; politics is about a fight. The fight takes place at the polls and in debate. But the high stakes and high drama of the wars—and the sense within the Bush White House that it was fighting for our very life after 9/11—stoked an atmosphere in which doubters and critics were dismissed as weak, unpatriotic, disloyal.
Yeah, unlike nothing we'd ever seen before from you.
A conservative movement that had prided itself, in the 1970s and 1980s, on its intellectualism—"Of a sudden, the Republican Party is the party of ideas," marveled New York's Democratic senator Pat Moynihan in 1979—seemed no longer capable of an honest argument.
Yeah. Right out of th' blue. Sad, sad day.
• It killed what remained of the Washington Republican establishment. This was not entirely a loss, to say the least. But establishments exist for a reason: They're supposed to function as The Elders, and sometimes they're actually wise.
Well, then. No worries.
All this of course is apart from the central tragedy, which is the human one—the lost lives, the wounded, the families that will now not be formed, or that have been left smaller, and damaged.
Oh, and I suppose Colin Powell convinced you that wasn't gonna happen either, right?
* May God bless 'em both.