Ari Fleischer, the former press secretary from the Bush/Cheney White House, maintains a regrettably high-profile role as a Republican critic of President Obama. Today on Twitter, Fleischer turned his attention to Iraq.
“Regardless of what anyone thinks of going into Iraq in 2002, it’s a tragedy that the successes of the 2007 surge have been lost & abandoned.”
We should note at the outset that the U.S. invasion of Iraq began in 2003, not 2002, and when we’re talking about catastrophic wars of choice, we should at least try to get some of these basic details right.
That said, let’s not dwell on this. Maybe Fleischer just forgot. Or maybe it was a typo. Perhaps he’s referring to the fact that Bush/Cheney decided in 2002 to launch the unnecessary war under false pretenses, even if “shock and awe” didn’t actually begin until 2003.
More interesting is the reminder from Jason Linkins that in 2011, when President Obama announced that all U.S. troops are departing Iraq, Fleisher, a longtime war proponent, endorsed the Democratic administration’s decision.
Obama’s decision on Iraq was the “right one,” Fleisher said at the time (in a tweet that’s still online). The “Iraq war is over,” he said. “It’s time.”
One wonders if Fleisher has also forgotten everything he told the nation about the merits of this war back when it was his job to speak for the president.
And while we’re at it, we should probably also take a moment to talk about the surge.
For a variety of Republicans, including John McCain, the surge policy – vastly increasing the U.S. troop presence in Iraq in early 2007 – was a grand success. In fact, for many of these same Republicans, the surge was so glorious, those who endorsed it should be celebrated as geniuses – no matter how badly they screwed up every other aspect of the debate.
Indeed, these same Republicans tend to argue that critics of the surge are obviously idiots with no credibility – even if they were right about the entire conflict from before the invasion was even launched.
That said, is there a kernel of truth to the rhetorical line about the surge? The answer is a little tricky.
The truth is, security conditions in Iraq did improve after the surge policy was implemented, but what proponents of the idea tend to forget is that there were other factors unfolding in Iraq at that time, including the Sunni Awakening, which pre-dated the surge policy, and the ceasefire announced by Shiite militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, which contributed to the decline in violence.
For many on the right, the debate is effectively a bumper sticker: “Surge = Success.” That’s an overly simplified way to look at what actually happened.
Indeed, the ostensible political benefit of the reduction in violence was supposed to be “breathing room” for officials to reach a more stable, long-term solution to Iraq’s sectarian conflicts. That Iraqi leaders never seized that opportunity is a tragedy, but that’s obviously not the fault of U.S. leaders.
Fareed Zakaria’s column on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki rings true.
The prime minister and his ruling party have behaved like thugs, excluding the Sunnis from power, using the army, police forces and militias to terrorize their opponents. The insurgency the Maliki government faces today was utterly predictable because, in fact, it happened before. From 2003 onward, Iraq faced a Sunni insurgency that was finally tamped down by Gen. David Petraeus, who said explicitly at the time that the core element of his strategy was political, bringing Sunni tribes and militias into the fold. The surge’s success, he often noted, bought time for a real power-sharing deal in Iraq that would bring the Sunnis into the structure of the government.A senior official closely involved with Iraq in the Bush administration told me, “Not only did Maliki not try to do broad power-sharing, he reneged on all the deals that had been made, stopped paying the Sunni tribes and militias, and started persecuting key Sunni officials.”