Yesterday, CNN's indefatigable Deirdre Walsh reported that Dick Cheney would be addressing house Republicans at their weekly meeting, and that the topic would be the "the importance of growing the House Republican majority." This didn't seem like the sort of thing that would occupy Dick Cheney's mind the day before President Obama would speak on Iraq—hours, actually, after Cheney's own AEI speech about "9/11 and the future of foreign policy."
Indeed, as Republican congressmen filed out of the Capitol Hill Club, they acknowledged that Cheney had talked about the need for a larger, stronger military, and how the disaster in northern Iraq should rattle the people who think America can withdraw from Afghanistan soon. According to people in the room, Cheney reminded Republicans that Pakistan was in a weaker position if Afghanistan faltered, and that it was Pakistan that had already aided North Koreans as they built their nuclear program.
Mike McAuliff and Jennifer Bendery have more:
"What he talked about was we've, Republicans, have had a position on peace through strength. You look at all the Republican presidents we've had back to [Dwight] Eisenhower. You know they all understand, if you're not strong, then you invite aggression. When you invite aggression, you end up with people getting killed," said Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee who recently returned from the Middle East.
"It's important to be strong, and that's what he talked about," he added.
There was no sense that Republicans would pre-empt the president and demand a vote on further action in Iraq. No surprise; few Republicans demanded that the commander-in-chief call back Congress last month, as bombs dropped on ISIS. But while McKeon had been around for a while, and supported the 2002 vote to move into Iraq, younger and more libertarian Republicans were no less critical of Cheneyism than they'd been before he entered the room.
"His views don't reflect the views of most Republicans," said Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, talking to a small group of reporters, the Washington Post's Robert Costa asking most of the questions. "His worldview is that we should be in countries around the world, and have armed forces everywhere, and most Republicans don't agree with that."
Costa asked Amash if the GOP's hawks were making a comeback.
"No," said Amash. "Did you see my election?" It had only been a few weeks since he routed a more hawkish Republican, who accused Amash of being a friend of al-Qaida.
After the other reporters moved on, Amash kept talking about the danger of listening to hawks who'd called for invading Iraq in 2002. "They have no credibility," he said. "The claims they made have been proved to be wrong. They helped destabilize the region, and now they're calling for greater use of force without any clear-cut strategy. That doesn't sound like something the American people will get behind."
Kentucky Rep. Tom Massie, who like Amash won his office with the support of Ron Paul backers, was just as direct. "Constituents in my district are very war-weary," he said. "I'm war-weary. The president would have to complete an almost impossible task, which is to convince me he has an exit strategy, and when we're done with this third war in the Middle East, we'll be better off than we were before."
I asked Massie whether he disagreed with Cheney's worry that leaving Afghanistan in a hurry would create another power vacuum. "I wasn't wrapped up in his every word," he said. "I'm gonna try the mother of all pivots here. I have a press conference today about why the 28 pages of the 9/11 report need to be released. Until we know what enabled or caused 9/11, we shouldn't be talking about starting a third war to prevent another 9/11."