When Bill Clinton ran for reelection in 1996, he talked about building a bridge to the twenty-first century. Turns out his successor sprayed the bridge with a fair amount of graffiti: cryptic notations like 9/11, WTC 7, and Flight 93. George W. Bush and his vulcans built a bridge to self-destruction. They started a war in 2001 that, fifteen years later, has become a world war. Like a crazed arsonist, they started a fire that consumed everything they valued. One outcome is a piteous presidential campaign that pleads, “Let’s make America great again.”
No one can predict how long the war will last. At present, it still grows larger by the week. It is not a world war on the model of the great power conflicts of the twentieth century, though several great and regional powers are involved. It is rather a widely dispersed set of civil and international conflicts that involve millions of people, a multitude of armed groups, and more nationalities than anyone cares to count. The conflicts already feed each other, but as with wildfires, you cannot tell when conditions will develop that reduce their range of destruction.
The seed for these wars was 9/11, a New Pearl Harbor as the vulcans call it. The vulcans used 9/11 to justify American aggression in the fertile crescent. This aggression launched sectarian war between Sunni and Shia, a conflict that gradually enveloped numerous tribes, nationalities, and other religious sects. Now Iraq is only one of many places that suffers due to American recklessness.
At this point, most Iraqis and Americans agree about one important point: American forces should not occupy or pacify Iraq or any other country in the area. A few think we should use special forces to help manage the conflict. A few even think we should occupy Iraq with enough force to compel Shia and Sunni groups to stop fighting each other. Not so long ago, people in government actually spoke about how to reunite the country. Now so much violence has engulfed the entire region, no one any longer has a vision for desired outcomes. Our strategy amounts to, “Do something to stop the ISIS videos!”
Check the vulcans’ record for wise policy choices. More to the point, check if any leader from the Bush administration has ever taken responsibility for 9/11, or responded rationally to criticism of the attack on Baghdad, or acknowledged that the United States is responsible for the catastrophic consequences of that war. You will never find anything like that, because the vulcans are dishonest to the core. They lied about the origins of the Iraq war, and everything they have said since is equally dishonest and self-serving.
Even now, Dick Cheney slams President Obama for pulling American forces out of Iraq five years ago. Paul Wolfowitz says he plans to support Hillary Clinton in the upcoming elections, perhaps because he thinks she has better judgment than he does. Condoleezza Rice gives speeches to defend her actions as secretary of state. We used to listen to these people. We used to think these were leaders who knew their business. Their only business was to increase their own power. They failed even at that.