The PJ Tatler

Does Rand Paul Have a Point About the GOP and ISIS?

You win a war by winning, not by negotiating. My PJ Media colleague Andy McCarthy gets it exactly right. After pointing out the serious flaws in the Kentucky senator’s screwball, isolationist foreign policy prescriptions, McCarthy observes:

All that said, if Paul’s point was that Republican policy contributed to the Islamist bedlam now exploding across the Middle East and northern Africa, that ought to be undeniable. Because the senator hyperbolically claimed that the GOP “created” ISIS, the indignant rebukes raining down on him from Republican leaders and sympathizers focus on Iraq. It was there that the organization was born as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), eventually rebranding as ISIS upon breaking away from the mother ship and declaring its caliphate.

Selectively mining facts, the Republican establishment claims that, thanks to the 2007 troop surge, President Bush annihilated AQI before there ever was an ISIS. The latter arose, so the story goes, because Obama reversed Bush’s policies and refused to keep a residual force in Iraq after 2011. In point of fact, the GOP fingerprints on the sweeping Middle East disaster transcend Iraq. But even if we just stick to Iraq, the Republican story is woefully incomplete.

… the fact that Iran was behind the killing of thousands of American troops, the Bush administration treated Iran as if it had an interest in Iraqi stability. The Republican administration ignored Iran’s fueling of the jihad; negotiated with Iran (ostensibly through intermediaries) on its nuclear-weapons program; and disaggregated the nuke negotiations from Iran’s terror promotion — just as Obama has done — despite the fact that the United States was Iran’s top terror target. Bush even backed as Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, a pro-Iranian Shiite Islamist who, predictably, drew Baghdad ever closer to Tehran while exacerbating the rift with Iraqi Sunnis. This increased an already teeming recruiting pool for AQI and, later, ISIS.

The surge did indeed tamp down on the violence and inflict withering losses on AQI. Still, it is a gross exaggeration to claim, as Republicans do, that the surge “won” the war in Iraq. If we judge matters by Bush’s stated objective — a stable, democratic Iraq that would be a reliable American counterterrorism ally — Iraq was already a failure by 2007. The surge killed many jihadists and gave the warring Iraqi factions yet another opportunity to reconcile. But it was always known that (a) our jihadist enemies backed by Iran were a regional (in fact, a global) threat, so the war could not be won in Iraq alone; and (b) the surge was a temporary measure, not a permanent solution. The latter problem was exacerbated by the status-of-forces agreement (SOFA) to which Bush reluctantly agreed. In lashing out against Paul, Republicans and their apologists emphasize that Obama changed Bush’s policies. This is true, but it conveniently omits mentioning that Bush’s policies were first changed by . . . Bush.

Anyone contemplating voting for another member of the Bush family needs to have his or her head examined. And until we hear the lamentations of the women across the Middle East, this “War on Terror” will go on forever.