Home/Daniel Larison/Romney Didn’t Renounce the Iraq War

Romney Didn’t Renounce the Iraq War

E.J. Dionne misinterprets something important from the foreign policy debate:

Romney’s most revealing line: “We don’t want another Iraq.” Thus did he bury without ceremony the great Bush-Cheney project. He renounced a war he had once supported with vehemence and enthusiasm.

That isn’t correct. Romney’s statement that “we don’t want another Iraq, we don’t want another Afghanistan” was definitely not a renunciation of either war. It was intended as a signal that voters shouldn’t fear that Romney will lead the U.S. into prolonged wars of occupation, but that’s hardly the same thing as rejecting those wars. If there is any confusion on this point, consider Romney’s remarks in his VMI speech:

In Iraq the costly gains made by our troops are being eroded by rising violence, a resurgent al-Qaida, the weakening of democracy in Baghdad and the rising influence of Iran. And yet America’s ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence. The president’s tried, he tried, but he also failed to secure a responsible and gradual drawdown that would have better secured our gains.

These are not the words of someone who has renounced the Iraq war as a failure or a debacle. These are the things that someone says when he wants to convey continued support for the war and to express dissatisfaction with the fact that more U.S. forces are not still present in Iraq. As far as Romney is concerned, taking three years to withdraw from Iraq is not “responsible and gradual,” which implies that he would rather that a large U.S. military presence had continued in Iraq until now.

He thinks voters should punish Obama because he was not able to find a way to keep more Americans in Iraq even longer. That’s not the view of someone eager to distance himself from the war. That’s the way that a pro-war dead-ender talks. So it’s not much consolation that Romney doesn’t want another Iraq war when he is on record as favoring the continuation of the most recent one. Romney hasn’t renounced the Iraq war, and based on what he has said about it during the campaign there is no reason to think that he believes the war to have been a mistake.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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