Monday marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It’s easy to forget how unchanging the Bush administration’s campaign to overthrow Saddam Hussein is embraced by the conservative movement.
Max Boot, columnist for the Weekly Standard gave triumphant predictions to readers on February 10, 2003. Boot promised readers that the impending invasion in Iraq would be a huge success. Boot stated that Baghdad would be freed by April. “It could mark the moment when democracy, a powerful antibiotic, was introduced to the Middle East and began to change the region for good.”
The Weekly Standard has been discontinued, itself a victim of a political moment that was defined by a Republican president, who famously called the Iraq War a “big fat error.” Max Boot, on his part, expressed some regret for his cheerleading for the war. Boot wrote this week in Foreign Affairs, “In retrospect I was wildly optimistic about the prospects for exporting democracy via force, and underestimating both the difficulties of such a huge undertaking.
David Frum, a prominent National Review blogger, questioned the motives and motivations of war-critics. His March 2003 article “Unpatriotic Conservators” is a Platonic description of early-aughts war fever. Frum said that war is a great clarifyer. “It forces peoples to choose sides.” The paleoconservatives chose–and all of us must make the same choice. They have turned their backs against their country in times of danger. We now turn our backs upon them.”
Frum is being honest in a sense, since he doesn’t pretend to be conservative. Frum does seem to realize that the “unpatriotic faction” of his old political persuasion might have had a point. Frum, sitting at the Atlantic this week, writes that “Saddam Hussein’s culpability doesn’t mean that full-scale war was wise.” It was, plainly.
It is possible that impugning contrarian motives may have been a factor. National Review is running a refreshingly varied array of voices in its current Iraq-20 special issue. While the war apologists are still there, they are joined by fierce opponents of war, including some alumni of this publication. “Unpatriotic” no more.
There is one voice that has been consistent over the past 20 years regarding Iraq and other similar misadventures overseas: The American Conservative.
We voiced our disapproval of the war machine from the first issue. The IRAQ FOLLY logo was on our first cover. Every issue of this publication warned of the dangers of an invasion. We were vindicated.
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TAC will be reflecting on the past 20 years and it is important that we welcome conservatives who are now recognizing the rightness of the magazine’s founders. To avoid repeating the 2003 mistakes, it is important to recall how the Republican administration got into such a disastrous misadventure. This is especially true as the war drums are pounding in Washington, calling for the attention of Eastern Europe.
TAC is proud to present a series on the legacy of the U.S. invasion in Iraq twenty years later. You will hear from many voices starting Monday about what went wrong in Iraq, and how we made such a terrible error. Some contributors were against the war right from the start. Some of them only realized the futility of the invasion after the fact. They are all wary of repeating that terrible invasion in 2003.
TAC did it right. The series will show that, in many ways, our dispositional allegiance to America is always towards America and Americans first. I hope that you enjoy the series. I invite you to be a part of this publication , which was created from the ground up. Join us.