How Iraq War Hawks Can Help Stop Trump from Going to War with Iran
How Iraq War Hawks Can Help Stop Trump from Going to War with Iran
After Iraq: How the U.S. Failed to Fully Learn the Lessons of a Disastrous Intervention
After Iraq: How the U.S. Failed to Fully Learn the Lessons of a Disastrous Intervention
Op-Ed / Middle East & North Africa 2 minutes

How Iraq War Hawks Can Help Stop Trump from Going to War with Iran

The Iranian regime remains a source of instability in the Middle East and has brutalized its own people. Sanctions and assistance to Iran’s rivals should continue to be used to restrain Tehran, but there is every reason to believe that torpedoing the nuclear deal or prompting military escalation would only make things worse. 

Fifteen years ago this fall, in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, one of the most compelling public cases for war came not from President George W. Bush or his backers on Capitol Hill but from a wonky book written by a former C.I.A. analyst that landed, improbably, on best-seller lists and nightstands across Washington. Ken Pollack, now a scholar at the Brookings Institution, argued soberly but forcefully that a U.S.-led military assault to remove Saddam Hussein was necessary and affordable, what he called “our best option—or at least our least bad option.” The book’s title, “The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq,” was less nuanced but more memorable than Pollack’s analysis, which acknowledged the risk of trading “the threat of a nuclear-armed Saddam for the threat of an Iraq in chaos and civil war.”

The book quickly became the intellectual foundation for proponents of the Iraq War, many of whom, unlike Pollack, knew nothing about Iraq. Democratic politicians found an excuse to avoid opposing the President, a year after the 9/11 attacks. Skeptics were forced to reckon with an expert endorsement of the Administration’s shoddy intelligence. Like the decision to invade Iraq, the book has not aged well.

These days, it is hard not to think back to 2002. Now, as then, a new Administration seems to have come into office with a Middle Eastern country in its crosshairs: this time, it is Iraq’s neighbor, Iran. Now, as then, a President is making increasingly menacing threats and politicizing intelligence to fit alternative facts. And now, as then, some of the same influential voices outside the Administration will play a crucial role in either legitimizing or discrediting decisions that risk another unnecessary and reckless war.

For the last decade, advocates of the Iraq War from both parties have worn scarlet letters around Washington but few have suffered professionally, even after “Mission Accomplished” turned into a brutal sectarian conflict that cost trillions of dollars, claimed the lives of more than forty-five hundred Americans and many times that number of Iraqis (most of them civilians), and badly damaged the United States’s moral and strategic authority in the world.

But several of the Iraq War’s most prominent proponents have experienced a renaissance of sorts after voicing early, principled, and fervent opposition to President Trump—whose populist rhetoric and isolationist views they found distasteful. As a group, they share right-leaning politics, hawkish foreign-policy views, and strong support for the invasion of Iraq—and they have, to their credit, emerged as some of the most unexpected and effective opposition voices.

Read the full article at The New Yorker


Former President & CEO
Jeff Prescott
a former special assistant to President Obama on the National Security Council, is a consultant to the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement
Jon Finer
was chief of staff and director of policy planning at the State Department under former Secretary of State John F. Kerry

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