Conor Friedersdorf explains to the neo-cons who have yet to meet an invasion they didn’t love that the argument that leaving Iraq strengthens Iran’s influence in the region is an argument against intervention in the first place:
On Jennifer Rubin’s page at The Washington Post, the Iraq war supporter wrote a post today that she teased on Twitter by writing, “WHO KNEW Iran would be emboldened and allies freaked on US withdrawal from Iraq? Oh, everyone on the right…” Her item proceeds to argue that “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can issue idle threats, warning Iran not to ‘miscalculate’ our devotion to the region, but perhaps it is the Obama team that has once again miscalculated. This was precisely the reaction that critics of the complete troop withdrawal anticipated.”
If only these “critics of withdrawal” had anticipated the inevitability of Iran’s ascendance before they called for the invasion of Iraq. As Malou Innocent patiently explains, “No amount of prewar planning or ‘boots on the ground’ could have prevented the Islamic Republic’s political push into a neighboring country with a 60 percent Shiite majority. The removal of Saddam Hussein as the principal strategic counterweight to Iran paved the way for the expansion of Iranian influence in Iraq, and has enabled Tehran to back, with far greater impunity, its political allies in Baghdad. Even before 9/11, Iran possessed a budding nuclear program, the region’s largest population, an expansive ballistic-missile arsenal, and significant influence over the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah. By adding to that list enhanced political influence in Iraq, Iran can be somewhat more assertive geo-politically in the region, further limiting US policy options.” …
The U.S. was always going to leave Iraq eventually, and Iran was always going to exert more influence on the region as a result. What writers like Rubin fail to understand is that, if the war you advocate requires for its success the indefinite deployment of U.S. troops, you’ve advocated a failed war. The American people have never and will never agree to a perpetual war of choice that costs billions of dollars each year and results in the ongoing death of American troops — especially if its proponents suggest before it begins that it will be a cakewalk costing $50 to $60 billion. That’s hardly a difficult lesson, but neoconservatives still haven’t learned it.
Those quotes from Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz about how the Iraq was going to be a quick victory that would pay for itself should be written on their tombstones. Remember that when Erik Shinseki testified to Congress before the invasion that the war would require 150,000 troops or more and cost a couple hundred billion dollars, Wolfowitz declared that he was “wildly off the mark.” And then they pushed him into early retirement. Turns out he was, in fact, wildly off the mark — he was off by more than a trillion dollars.
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