Going head on at a question about the fallout from the Iraq war would seem to be as fun for a Republican on a live TV debate as a root canal.
Leave it to Donald Trump to draw a new party line in the sand.
“In my opinion, we’ve spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people that frankly, if they were there and if we could’ve spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges, and all of the other problems; our airports and all of the other problems we’ve had, we would’ve been a lot better off,” Trump said on the issue at last night’s CNN Republican debate.
And yes, the response from other candidates on the stage was the appropriate shock and awe.
“That is exactly what President Obama said. I’m amazed to hear that from a Republican presidential candidate,” former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina said.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the older brother of former President George W. Bush, whose administration pushed the buttons to launch the regime-change war with the pretext that it was part of the war on terror, was reduced to answering “I do” when asked if he still thinks toppling Saddam Hussein was a good deal.
“I think the lessons learned are that we have to have to have a strategy to get and a strategy to get out. Which means, that you create a stable situation,” said Bush, demonstrating why he’s far, far behind Trump and the rest of the field in the polls.
Hint: the last name isn’t helping, not when it forces you to cede the moral ground on one of the key issues of the election to a guy like Donald Trump, who was surprisingly understated in his command on this one.
“We have done a tremendous disservice, not only to Middle East, we’ve done a tremendous disservice to humanity. The people that have been killed, the people that have wiped away, and for what? It’s not like we had victory,” Trump said.
“It’s a mess. The Middle East is totally destabilized. A total and complete mess. I wish we had the $4 trillion or $5 trillion. I wish it were spent right here in the United States, on our schools, hospitals, roads, airports, and everything else that are all falling apart,” Trump said.
Fiorina stuck to her talking points, which had her pointing the finger for the issues in Iraq and the Middle East at President Obama and Hillary Clinton, as if it was Obama and Clinton who thought Iraqis would greet American soldiers on the streets of Baghdad with flowers.
“Hillary Clinton has gotten every foreign policy challenge wrong. Hitting the reset button with Vladimir Putin – recall that she called Bashar Al-Assad a positive reformer and then she opened an embassy and then later she said, over, and over, and over again, Bashar Al-Assad must go. Although she wasn’t prepared to do anything about it,” Fiorina said. “Recall that Hillary Clinton was all for toppling Gadhafi then didn’t listen to her own people on the ground. And then of course, when she lied about the terrorist attack in Benghazi, she invited more terrorist attacks.”
Indeed, if all else fails, Benghazi!
Bush, for his part, seemed to think blaming Democrats for his younger brother’s mess is as good an idea as any.
“Barack Obama does not believe America’s leadership in the world is a force for good. He does not believe that our strength is a place where security can take place. He leads from behind. He creates an environment that now we’re creating the most unstable situation we’ve had since the World War II era,” Bush harrumphed.
“The focus ought to be on the single fact that Hillary Clinton wants to double down on a failed foreign policy and we need to be united to defeat that because we’re going to be in a place that is far less secure than it is today. Don’t you all agree?”
As the crickets chirped, Ben Carson made a cameo appearance on the issue, demonstrating the lack of depth that has become apparent to voters now leaving his campaign in droves.
“No one is ever better off with dictators but there comes a time you know, when you’re on an airplane, they always say, In case of an emergency oxygen masks will drop down. Put yours on first and then administer help to your neighbor. We need oxygen right now,” Carson said, expecting applause, and getting nothing and having to like it.
“We need to start thinking about the needs of the American people before we go and solve everybody else’s problems. The fact of the matter is, is that the Middle East has been in turmoil for thousands of years. For us to think that we’re going to in there and fix that with a couple of little bombs and a few little decorations is relatively foolish,” Carson said.
Nobody is paying attention to Sen. Rand Paul, but he felt compelled to remind those stuck listening to him that he’s a non-interventionist libertarian at heart.
“There is often variations of evil on both sides of the war. What we have to decide is whether or not regime change is a good idea. It’s what the neoconservatives have wanted. It’s what the vast majority of those on the stage want. They still want regime change. They want it in Syria. They wanted it in Iraq. They want it in Libya. It has not worked,” Paul said.
“Out of regime change you get chaos. From the chaos you have seen repeatedly the rise of radical Islam. So we get this profession of, oh, my goodness, they want to do something about terrorism and yet they’re the problem because they allow terrorism to arise out of that chaos,” Paul said.
This offended the hell out of Sen. Ted Cruz, never one to let a chance to flex muscles he doesn’t have slip by.
“The question of whether we should toppling dictatorships is asking the wrong question. We should be defeating our enemies,” Cruz said, before being cut off by the CNN moderators, for speaking out of turn, and lucky he was that they did, because that was all he had to offer anyway.
So, how might this apply to the ongoing four-year civil war in Syria, clearly an offshoot of the instability that we sowed with our regime change in Iraq that is still playing out with ISIS filling an increasing portion of the resulting power vacuum?
Again, damn, Trump is the smart guy on the stage on this one. Hard to believe those words being there without sarcasm behind them.
“I think Assad is a bad guy, a very bad guy, all right? Lots of people killed. I think we are backing people we have no idea who they are. The rebels, we call them the rebels, the patriotic rebels. We have no idea. A lot of people think, Hugh, that they are ISIS,” Trump said.
“We have to do one thing at a time. We can’t be fighting ISIS and fighting Assad. Assad is fighting ISIS. He is fighting ISIS. Russia is fighting now ISIS. And Iran is fighting ISIS. We have to do one thing at a time. We can’t go – and I watched Lindsey Graham, he said, I have been here for 10 years fighting. Well, he will be there with that thinking for another 50 years. He won’t be able to solve the problem.
“We have to get rid of ISIS first,” Trump said. “After we get rid of ISIS, we’ll start thinking about it. But we can’t be fighting Assad. And when you’re fighting Assad, you are fighting Russia, you’re fighting – you’re fighting a lot of different groups.
“But we can’t be fighting everybody at one time,” Trump said.
– Story by Chris Graham