By claiming that the United States was right to invade Iraq given what its leaders thought they knew at the time, Rubio and his fellow GOP candidates are making George W. Bush’s radical departure from past American practice the new normal. They are enshrining the idea that the correct response to potential nuclear (and perhaps even chemical and biological) proliferation is preventive war. And, not coincidentally, they are doing so while trying to scuttle President Obama’s efforts to strike a diplomatic agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.
The chances of another Bush winning the presidency may be going down. But in foreign-policy terms, it hardly matters. The toxic spirit of the last Bush presidency still thoroughly infects today’s GOP.
As many others have observed, the idea that the U.S. was somehow forced by the evidence to launch the invasion of Iraq is a shameful lie. The truth is that the administration chose to start the war in 2003, and it had decided to start that war months before it began. It used the shoddy evidence regarding WMDs to push the case for invasion, but the main argument for invading was based in a delusion that an Iraqi “threat” that the U.S. had lived with for years was now suddenly intolerable and had to be eliminated immediately. The madness driving the argument for “preventive” war was the belief that if the U.S. did not strike at Iraq first that Iraq would sooner or later strike the U.S. This was a truly crazy and unfounded thing to believe, but most of our elected representatives claimed to believe it.
The lie that it was not their choice was one that the Bush administration told as it worked to sell the war. I suppose no one likes to admit to starting an unnecessary war, and so Bush made it seem as if the decision to go to war was being forced upon him by Iraqi “non-compliance.” The important point here is that many governments–allied and non-allied alike–agreed with the U.S. that Iraq still retained some of its weapons programs, but they nonetheless refused to endorse the illegal, unjustified, and indefensible invasion that was to follow. War supporters would very much like the political decision that they own to be turned into a technical problem for which they bear no responsibility. If the intelligence was “bad,” they think this offers them an excuse for plunging ahead with an outrageous and criminal attack on another country, but it changes nothing. While the war was undoubtedly a grave error, the Iraq war was far worse than a mistake. It was a strategic blunder of the highest order, an unjust war, and an egregious violation of international law. Anyone that can’t at least acknowledge that the U.S. was wrong to attack Iraq shouldn’t be taken seriously as a presidential candidate, and frankly shouldn’t be heeded on any important foreign policy issue.