The Second Great Mulligan: Does ISIS prove Dick Cheney was right about Iraq all along?

The Second Great Mulligan: It’s Catching On!

The Second Great Mulligan: It’s Catching On!

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 10 2014 11:17 AM

The Second Great Mulligan: It’s Catching On!

He’s back. Again.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

No, not my phrase—that would be strange—but the phenomenon I described on Monday is making its merry way around the opinion-spheres. Dick Cheney is giving a speech at the American Enterprise Institute today, bracketing Barack Obama's own address about the next moves against ISIS. (He likes to do this, health permitting, as when he gave his own "rebuttal" to Obama's 2009 speech about Gitmo and torture, starting with a joke about how former senators like Obama liked to filibuster and run on.) The Wall Street Journal's op-ed page welcomed Cheney back to AEI, which had been having a lovely rebranding until he showed up, with an op-ed urging Obama to admit that the former vice president was right and that ignoring him destablized the world.

They saw how the early mistakes in Iraq led to chaos until the 2007 surge saved the day and left Mr. Obama with an opportunity he squandered ... one way to start undoing the damage [around the world] would be to concede that Dick Cheney was right all along.

Boy, the phrase "all along" is asked to do some heavy from-the-knees lifting there. All along? The timer starts four years after the start of the Iraq war, and two years after Cheney insisted, pre-surge, that Iraqi insurgent groups were in their "last throes"?

Yes, that's the new rule. We are to analyze the situation of 2014 by crediting the Bush administration not for the Iraq war, but for post-surge Iraq. This has been the argument since 2011, when the Obama administration failed to extend the three-year status of forces agreement that (to the satisfaction of hawks) Bush had handed to him. The theme at the time, as Charles Krauthammer put it, was that Obama was "handed a war that was won," and he blew it. (There were 54 deaths in the risidual coalition forces in Iraq in 2011, so being assigned there wasn't exactly like being assigned to peaceful South Korea.)

Hawks are in the position that the anti-war advocates had been for years, and they're loving it. Remember, when American troops left Iraq in 2011, Americans supported the move by a 3–1 margin. More recently, after a few months of ISIS propaganda and terror, the margin has slipped to 2–1. Hawks, having represented the terribly unpopular side of the debate, claim to have been right all along when being right was difficult. And they would like you to forget how this whole "Iraq, a shaky sectarian state under the influence of Iran" thing started.

David Weigel is a reporter for the Washington Post.