Within the Republican Party, a substantial faction still refuses to acknowledge and may not even believe that the Iraq War was a historic catastrophe that weakened America. So it is worthy of note when a former secretary of defense who served under Presidents Bush and Obama writes this in his forthcoming memoir:
President Bush always detested the notion, but our later challenges in Afghanistan—especially the return of the Taliban in force by the time I reported for duty—were, I believe, significantly compounded by the invasion of Iraq. Resources and senior-level attention were diverted from Afghanistan. U.S. goals in Afghanistan—a properly sized, competent Afghan national army and police, a working democracy with at least a minimally effective and less corrupt central government—were embarrassingly ambitious and historically naive compared with the meager human and financial resources committed to the task, at least before 2009.
This critique is nothing new. It helped Barack Obama to get elected president in 2008. But perhaps hearing it from Robert Gates will make the point more palatable to Republicans: The Iraq War undermined the most significant anti-terrorism campaign that the United States launched after 9/11, and made us less safe as a country. The GOP and the country would both be better off if anyone who still insists that invading Iraq was prudent never again gets to shape U.S. foreign policy.
That should just be a baseline.
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An excerpt from Gates book in The Wall Street Journal includes a lot more provocative material.
Gates goes on to criticize our current commander in chief, airing their differences in opinion about how best to wage the war in Afghanistan, as well as this:
With Obama ... I joined a new, inexperienced president determined to change course—and equally determined from day one to win re-election. Domestic political considerations would therefore be a factor, though I believe never a decisive one, in virtually every major national security problem we tackled. The White House staff—including Chiefs of Staff Rahm Emanuel and then Bill Daley as well as such core political advisers as Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs —would have a role in national security decision making that I had not previously experienced (but which, I'm sure, had precedents).
This is refreshing.