Iraqi soldiers and volunteers from the Abbas Unit fan out into a field in Jurf al Sakhr, 60 kilometers southwest of Baghdad, on August 10, 2014, after they reportedly pushed back Islamic jihadist fighter from the area.
MOHAMMED SAWAF/Getty

GOP gambles on Iraq posture

Updated
It’s certainly possible that the issues of the day just won’t make much difference in the midterm elections. Republicans, despite their woeful unpopularity, are poised to have a good year based on structural factors, and they probably won’t be able to get in their own way.
 
But from a distance, they almost appear to be trying.
In an interview with ABC News, Joni Ernst, the GOP Senate candidate in Iowa, suggested the U.S. should not have pulled troops out of Iraq when it did, blaming that supposed failure for the current escalation of violence.  […]
 
So this could get interesting, then: The Iowa Democratic Party is holding a conference call [Monday] afternoon to draw attention to Ernst’s remarks. Here is one Senate race where the current events in Iraq – and questions as to whether we should have pulled out or whether we should now escalate – could become issues.
When Greg Sargent asked Ernst’s spokesperson whether the Republican Senate hopeful supports expanded military engagement in Iraq, the spokesperson didn’t want to talk about it.
 
Ernst, incidentally, is the same far-right candidate who inexplicably believes Saddam Hussein may have had secret weapons of mass destruction, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
 
Around the same time, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), a likely presidential candidate, raised the prospect of deploying U.S. ground forces to engage ISIS on the battlefield.
 
All the while, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) took to the airwaves to declare that no matter what President Obama is prepared to do militarily, it’s insufficient.
 
If you’re one of those voters thinking, “What I’d really like is more U.S. military intervention in the Middle East,” Republicans have just the message for you.
 
But therein lies the rub: this election year, the GOP finds itself once again on the wrong side of the American mainstream. What’s more, they seem eager to put this unpopular agenda up front and center.
 
When Obama announced plans last Thursday for a limited mission in Iraq, the president went out of his way to acknowledge the public’s weariness for war. “I know that many of you are rightly concerned about any American military action in Iraq, even limited strikes like these. I understand that,” he said. “I ran for this office in part to end our war in Iraq and welcome our troops home, and that’s what we’ve done. As Commander-in-Chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq.”
 
Republicans, oddly enough, are saying largely the opposite. They’re surely aware of polls showing the limited public appetite for military intervention abroad, but the GOP is nevertheless positioning itself as overeager hawks: the Iraq war never should have ended, a variety of Republicans are now insisting, and it’s time to use even more force in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere.
 
Ed Kilgore added yesterday, “Anyone who makes the ‘shoulda never withdrawn’ argument must believe it, because it’s really dumb politically…. Yes, there are a significant number (although a minority even there) of Republican voters who think we should still be fighting the Iraq War Bush began, just as there are almost certainly a decent number of Republicans of a certain age who think we unnecessarily ‘surrendered’ in Vietnam. But it doesn’t play well in a general election.”
 
The party just can’t seem to help itself. It’s politically dumb for Republicans to take repeated stands against contraception access, but the GOP is doing it anyway. It’s politically dumb for Republicans to talk up presidential impeachment, but the GOP is doing it anyway. It’s politically dumb for Republicans to position themselves as the anti-immigration party, but the GOP is doing it anyway.
 
And it’s politically dumb for Republicans to spend the final months of the election season pushing for more war, but the GOP is doing it anyway.
 

Foreign Policy and Iraq

GOP gambles on Iraq posture

Updated