“Knowing What We Know Now”

 

Much is being made of Jeb Bush’s mishearing of Megyn Kelly’s question on Fox News whether “knowing what we know now” would he have invaded Iraq? Brit Hume’s analysis (IMO) is just right: Bush had a particular point he wanted to make about the intelligence failures (and Hillary’s support for the war) and was looking for an opportunity to make it. He just picked the wrong question to use for that point.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtYNHEMG628

But all of this begs the question of what his response should have been. Were I in Jeb’s position, I would have said something more like:

When you say ‘knowing what we know now’ what is it that we now know? That the WMD threat was not as great as thought, or that having actually eliminated Saddam Hussein and brought relative stability to Iraq Obama would throw it all away? If it is the latter, the answer is clearly ‘no’. And, I think my brother would agree with me.

But if the question is the former, we have to recall that the WMDs — although the focus of the critics of the war — were not the sole reason for the war. When you look at a two-decade arc of what was going on in the region from the 1980s to the 2000s Hussein was a terror, an evil, and a destabilizing force. His removal and our military involvement represented an opportunity for stability that was subsequently abandoned. Events such as the ‘Arab Spring’ have demonstrated that American retreat in the world leads to more harm than good. Viewed in this context, the answer to your question is that I would have invaded, done a better job of standing up a stable government in Iraq, and secured a presence to maintain stability rather than abandoning Iraq to the malign embrace of ISIS and Iran.

What do you think?

Published in Foreign Policy, Politics
Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 59 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @

    Great answers on your part. Perhaps he’s a bit rusty. Maybe he hasn’t thought it out much. I have to say it seems there’s a lot he hasn’t thought out.

    One of his problems that lurks behind the dynasty issue is, no matter how different he would like to be from W, he’s going to end up with the family network and has to be careful in what he says. There’s a whole other layer he will have to deal with that other candidates don’t, other than Rand Paul (somewhat) and Hillary Clinton.

    • #1
  2. user_309277 Member
    user_309277
    @AdamKoslin

    …having actually eliminated Saddam Hussein and brought relative stability to Iraq…

    Hussein was a…destabilizing force.

    The problem is that these aren’t true.  The Iraqi federal government after Saddam was always pretty useless – we were never able to really get the Shi’ites and Sunnis to get along, while the Kurds just went off and did their own thing in the North.  And for all that Saddam was an evil dude, he was the one keeping the lid on all of the ISIS/Iranian proxy wars.  He kept the lid on with mass murder and repression, but he kept the lid on.

    • #2
  3. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    …having actually eliminated Saddam Hussein and brought relative stability to Iraq…

    Hussein was a…destabilizing force.

    The problem is that these aren’t true.  The Iraqi federal government after Saddam was always pretty useless – we were never able to really get the Shi’ites and Sunnis to get along, while the Kurds just went off and did their own thing in the North.  And for all that Saddam was an evil dude, he was the one keeping the lid on all of the ISIS/Iranian proxy wars.  He kept the lid on with mass murder and repression, but he kept the lid on.

    On your first point, “relative” stability is just that. It is a process that was abandoned by Obama. On the second point, Hussein was a destabilizing force in the broader Middles East even as he was a tyrant within Iraq.

    • #3
  4. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    Well, he (his team) did come back later to clarify, and Bush himself clarified it. Jeb said it wasn’t so clear what he would have done.

    And that is an important point in this discussion. The whole Iraqi history wasn’t one decision made at one time. It was a series of decisions, each one shaping and changing what followed. How can you isolate one decision from the others?

    For example, leftists may have opposed the invasion in the first place. Fine. But it is highly likely that the invasion could have been a success … if they went in heavy instead of a light footprint, or if they chose someone other than Paul Bremer, or if they had brought in Petraeus early on, or if they had a different post-occupation strategy, etc., etc., etc.

    The fact that you took a wrong step halfway through and got lost doesn’t prove that the first step was wrong.

    • #4
  5. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Ah well.

    • #5
  6. user_309277 Member
    user_309277
    @AdamKoslin

    KC Mulville:Well, he (his team) did come back later to clarify, and Bush himself clarified it. Jeb said it wasn’t so clear what he would have done.

    And that is an important point in this discussion. The whole Iraqi history wasn’t one decision made at one time. It was a series of decisions, each one shaping and changing what followed. How can you isolate one decision from the others?

    For example, leftists may have opposed the invasion in the first place. Fine. But it is highly likely that the invasion could have been a success … if they went in heavy instead of a light footprint, or if they chose someone other than Paul Bremer, or if they had brought in Petraeus early on, or if they had a different post-occupation strategy, etc., etc., etc.

    The fact that you took a wrong step halfway through and got lost doesn’t prove that the first step was wrong.

    Fair enough, but we also shouldn’t miss the forest for the trees.  Iraq was a national construct that doesn’t make much sense from ethnic or religious perspectives.  The only thing holding it together as a single entity was a brutal dictator, who also happened to be the one major check against the expansion of Iranian influence.  By removing the brutal dictator, we became responsible for controlling the sectarian chaos and checking the Iranians.  That’s a colonial mission, not “we will be greeted as liberators.”

    • #6
  7. user_309277 Member
    user_309277
    @AdamKoslin

    Zafar:Ah well.

    Story of my life, man.

    • #7
  8. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @

    To all political candidates and those in power: Don’t answer hypotheticals, and this is a type of hypothetical.  Jeb doesn’t know this?

    Here’s a hypothetical as long as he’s answering. If your dad and brother weren’t already elected President, do you think you’d have an easier chance getting elected or a harder one?

    • #8
  9. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I would like to point out that at no time did GW ever say we were going to war with Iraq because he believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

    • #9
  10. user_309277 Member
    user_309277
    @AdamKoslin

    MarciN:I would like to point out that at no time did GW ever say we were going to war with Iraq because he believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

    ….seriously?  He may well not have said those exact words, but the entire case against Iraq was built on the ideas that a) Saddam had something to do with 9/11 or other terrorists, b) Saddam had the capacity to hand them nuclear weapons.  “We won’t let the smoking gun be a mushroom cloud.”  Nigerian yellowcake.  Colin Powell’s presentation at the U.N.  Don’t be disingenuous.

    • #10
  11. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    This is from the text of GW’s speech to the UN concerning Iraq:

    This demand goes ignored. Last year, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights found that Iraq continues to commit “extremely grave violations” of human rights and that the regime’s repression is “all pervasive.” Tens of thousands of political opponents and ordinary citizens have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, summary execution, and torture by beating, burning, electric shock, starvation, mutilation, and rape. Wives are tortured in front of their husbands; children in the presence of their parents — all of these horrors concealed from the world by the apparatus of a totalitarian state.

    • #11
  12. user_309277 Member
    user_309277
    @AdamKoslin

    MarciN:This is from the text of GW’s speech to the UN concerning Iraq:

    [deleted by poster: jumped the gun]

    • #12
  13. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    In that same speech, this is what he said with regard to WMDs–which were the concern of the United Nations, not the United States alone:

    In 1991, the Iraqi regime agreed to destroy and stop developing all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles, and to prove to the world it has done so by complying with rigorous inspections. Iraq has broken every aspect of this fundamental pledge.

    From 1991 to 1995, the Iraqi regime said it had no biological weapons. After a senior official in its weapons program defected and exposed this lie, the regime admitted to producing tens of thousands of liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents for use with Scud warheads, aerial bombs, and aircraft spray tanks. U.N. inspectors believe Iraq has produced two to four times the amount of biological agents it declared, and has failed to account for more than three metric tons of material that could be used to produce biological weapons.

    Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.United Nations inspections also reveal that Iraq likely maintains stockpiles of VX, mustard, and other chemical agents, and that the regime is rebuilding and expanding facilities capable of producing chemical weapons.

    [continued to next comment]

    • #13
  14. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    [continued from comment 13 above]

    And in 1995 — after four years of deception — Iraq finally admitted it had a crash nuclear weapons program prior to the Gulf War. We know now, were it not for that war, the regime in Iraq would likely have possessed a nuclear weapon no later than 1993.

    Today, Iraq continues to withhold important information about its unclear program — weapons design, procurement logs, experiment data, an accounting of nuclear materials, and documentation of foreign assistance. Iraq employs capable nuclear scientists and technicians. It retains physical infrastructure needed to build a nuclear weapon. Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Should Iraq acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year. And Iraq’s state-controlled media has reported numerous meetings between Saddam Hussein and his nuclear scientists, leaving little doubt about his continued appetite for these weapons.

    • #14
  15. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    [continued from comment 14 above]

    Iraq also possesses a force of Scud-type missiles with ranges beyond the 150 kilometers permitted by the U.N. Work at testing and production facilities shows that Iraq is building more long-range missiles that could inflict mass death throughout the region.

    In 1990, after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the world imposed economic sanctions on Iraq. Those sanctions were maintained after the war to compel the regime’s compliance with Security Council resolutions. In time, Iraq was allowed to use oil revenues to buy food. Saddam Hussein has subverted this program, working around the sanctions to buy missile technology and military materials. He blames the suffering of Iraq’s people on the United Nations, even as he uses his oil wealth to build lavish palaces for himself, and arms his country. By refusing to comply with his own agreements, he bears full guilt for the hunger and misery of innocent Iraqi citizens.

    • #15
  16. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    This is me talking now:

    The case against Saddam Hussein was more complicated than the press made it out to be.

    We had never entered into a peace agreement with Saddam Hussein. In fact, Bill Clinton was flying reconnaissance flights over Iraq several times a day during his presidency. Hillary voted to go to Iraq probably because she knew better than anyone that this invasion was how this story was going to end.

    Anyone who followed Claudia Rosett’s columns in the Wall Street Journal about what Saddam Hussein was doing with the Oil for Food program money, funds that were intended to feed hungry and sick kids, could have predicted how this story would end.

    And then of course Saddam Hussein was paying families of suicide bombers $25,000 each to bomb Israel every single day. Israel is our ally.

    Naturally Iraq was pretty angry with us, because Saddam Hussein blamed us.

    We went to war to prevent their attacking our U.S. interests either directly or by proxy through the terrorists.

    There is no question that we stirred up a hornets’ nest in Afghanistan. One need only look at a map to see that the most likely place for those hornets to build a new nest would be in the loving arms of the Ba’athists in Iraq.

    This is another excellent speech GW gave on the rationale for going to war against Saddam Hussein.

    • #16
  17. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    All rationale aside, the war was a mistake.  We should never enter another one with BS rules of engagement, ever.

    If you’re going to go kill, go kill everything in sight like a good killer.  Otherwise we get trillions lost in dollars, the world hates us, and my buddy has no legs.

    • #17
  18. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Let me put it this way concerning not how we waged the war but why we went into it vis-a-vis the WMDs:

    Rush Limbaugh one day in the run-up to the Iraq invasion read on his show an editorial written by the editors and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The doctor who wrote it said that enough anthrax to wipe out a small city could be contained in a 10-inch envelope. There was and is still no way to say for sure that such an envelope was nowhere present in Iraq.

    Saddam Hussein had the will, the means (his oil income), and the opportunity to wage a war of mass destruction in the Middle East. All he needed was the excuse. Well, the UN sanctions were providing that excuse. While Saddam Hussein was taking the Oil for Food money from the UN, children were dying of preventable diseases. That fact was all Saddam Hussein needed to drum up the excuse to go to war with other countries (Israel) in the Middle East and the United States.

    • #18
  19. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @Martel

    There were innumerable smaller mistakes on Iraq, but before going to war primarily three:

    1.  Yes, Bush mentioned plenty of reasons for going aside from WMD’s, but that was the largely how it was sold.  This was the most understandable of the mistakes (the intelligence led him to believe this wouldn’t be a problem).

    2.  Underestimating the inherent difficulties that would come with pacifying Iraq itself.  “Small footprint theory” turned out to be a disaster.

    3.  Underestimating his domestic opposition, that Democrats would never consent to allowing a Republican president to be seen as a successful wartime president.  In Iraq itself the Surge eventually rectified 2; he never rectified this one.  Democrats and the media hit him over the head repeatedly and effectively, and “the architect’s” counter-strategies were so woefully ineffective that by the time he left office, Bush was seen as a joke.

    I understand that he was a nice guy that didn’t want to dirty his hands with the ridiculous accusations the Dems were throwing at him, but he failed to recognize that as Commander in Chief his reputation and standing with the American people weren’t just his problems, they were the problems of his troops.  Fighting the PR was at home was every bit as important as the war abroad.  On the latter he eventually turned things around.  Regarding the former he failed so spectacularly as to almost ensure an idiot like Obama would follow him, making things worse than ever.

    • #19
  20. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Martel:There were innumerable smaller mistakes on Iraq, but before going to war primarily three:

    1. Yes, Bush mentioned plenty of reasons for going aside from WMD’s, but that was the largely how it was sold. This was the most understandable of the mistakes (the intelligence led him to believe this wouldn’t be a problem).

    2. Underestimating the inherent difficulties that would come with pacifying Iraq itself. “Small footprint theory” turned out to be a disaster.

    3. Underestimating his domestic opposition, that Democrats would never consent to allowing a Republican president to be seen as a successful wartime president. In Iraq itself the Surge eventually rectified 2; he never rectified this one.

    I understand that he was a nice guy that didn’t want to dirty his hands with the ridiculous accusations the Dems were throwing at him, but he failed to recognize that as Commander in Chief his reputation and standing with the American people weren’t just his problems, they were the problems of his troops. Fighting the PR was at home was every bit as important as the war abroad. On the latter he eventually turned things around. Regarding the former he failed so spectacularly as to almost ensure an idiot like Obama would follow him, making things worse than ever.

    Jeb will get us in to a war as well and his successor will be twice the Socialist Obama is.

    • #20
  21. user_82762 Inactive
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Rodin,

    But all of this begs the question of what his response should have been. I think it should have been: “When you say ‘knowing what we know now’ what is it that we know now — that the WMD threat was not as great as thought, or that having actually eliminated Saddam Hussein and brought relative stability to Iraq Obama would throw it all away? If it is the latter, the answer is clearly ‘no’. And, I think my brother would agree with me. But if the question is the former, we have to recall that the WMDs — although the focus of the critics of the war — were not the sole reason for the war. When you look at a two decade arc of what was going on in the region from the 1980s to the 2000s Hussein was a terror, an evil, and a destabilizing force. His removal and our military involvement represented an opportunity for stability that was subsequently abandoned. Events such as the ‘Arab Spring’ have demonstrated that American retreat in the world leads to more harm than good.

    So very very well said. I think we have yet more proof that Jeb is not the nominee for 2016. He appears to have been solely listening to his financial advisers. They are telling him all he needs is x amount of dollars and he can just finesse all those tough policy questions.

    Somewhere Rinos are laughing, somewhere Rinos shout.

    But there is no joy in Rino Land mighty Jeb has struck out.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #21
  22. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @Martel

    DocJay:Jeb will get us in to a war as well and his successor will be twice the Socialist Obama is.

    I suspect that war is coming our way even if we elect Cindy Sheehan.  Things don’t get this chaotic without people wanting to knock the big boys down a few notches.

    Not every war happens on our timing, and I’m not sure we can keep war off our own shores forever.

    • #22
  23. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Martel:

    DocJay:Jeb will get us in to a war as well and his successor will be twice the Socialist Obama is.

    I suspect that war is coming our way even if we elect Cindy Sheehan. Things don’t get this chaotic without people wanting to knock the big boys down a few notches.

    Not every war happens on our timing, and I’m not sure we can keep war off our own shores forever.

    I think it’s coming too.  I wish whoever runs it cares exactly zero about the politics too.

    • #23
  24. Yeah...ok. Inactive
    Yeah...ok.
    @Yeahok

    Knowing what we think we know now…

    Would you have supported JFK allowing public sectors to unionize?
    Voted for Medicare?
    Support the Federal Dept of Education?
    Sold that Enron stock sooner?
    Gotten that abortion?

    • #24
  25. Mark Coolidge
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    Ted Cruz has jumped in saying that based on what we know now he would not have supported the Iraq War.

    • #25
  26. FloppyDisk90 Member
    FloppyDisk90
    @FloppyDisk90

    Mark:Ted Cruz has jumped in saying that based on what we know now he would not have supported the Iraq War.

    Ted Cruz, establishment RINO squish.

    And this:

    It is not the job of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines to transform foreign nations into democratic utopias.”

    I suppose this puts him in the same league as that wild eyed utopian, Rand Paul.

    • #26
  27. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Yeah…ok.

    Knowing what we think we know now…

    Would you have supported JFK allowing public sectors to unionize?Voted for Medicare?Support the Federal Dept of Education?Sold that Enron stock sooner?Gotten that abortion?

    Just so. It is important to demonstrate that you are willing to take questions, defend your beliefs and actions, that you have studied the relevant problems and formulated principles for action if not specific strategies or tactics. But it is also important to make sure you are answering questions that should be answered. You don’t need to go “Rand Paul” on a reporter/interviewer, but you should not be afraid to explain what is wrong with a question and either decline or restate it in a way that makes it a question more relevant to your target audience. Jeb did not do that here.

    Probably because Megyn Kelly was not expected to be a confrontational interview Jeb relaxed a little too much. In general he performed well and Megyn gave him the opportunity to make his case. But as “Yeah..Ok” comment above illustrates, this question never gets asked about something that everyone sees as a good outcome, and whenever the question is asked and someone says “yes” you know that person has drunk whatever Kool-Aid they have been given by their cult leader.

    • #27
  28. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @EustaceCScrubb

    Please, just get off the stage, Jeb. It’s crowded with good folks.

    • #28
  29. Jim Kearney Contributor
    Jim Kearney
    @JimKearney

    What we know now is that Barack Obama left Iraq defenseless against ISIS.

    “Those of us who have seen American Sniper also know that in Iraq our brave soldiers fought against AQI — Al Qaeda in Iraq. In 2006, for example, we eliminated Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a leader who was on his way to becoming the next Bin Laden.

    “I’m proud of our victories in Iraq under Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush. I hold Barack Obama responsible not consolidating our victory over Al Qaeda in Iraq, and for allowing that organization to reconstitute itself as ISIS, and take back cities and towns which had been liberated by the courage and sacrifice of American heroes.”

    • #29
  30. liberal jim Inactive
    liberal jim
    @liberaljim

    Why is it always assumed that the only military option available was a massive invasion?  Arming the Kurds and a aggressive air campaign would have kept S in a box and if it did not the invasion option would have still been available.  Nation building GWB screwed up.  His intelligence people were wrong, he is responsible.  As for the withdrawal of all troops, once again it was GWB who negotiate and signed in 2008 the SOFA under which they were withdrawn.  If GWB thought it so important, why did he not negotiate a longer SOFA, one that lasted 20 years or more that called for a residual force?  GWB created a mess, then partially cleaned it up and left it to his successor to deal with.  Not a great leader in my book!

    • #30
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.