The new question of choice to ask the 2016 Republican contenders is whether, given “what we know now,” the United States should have launched Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Asking various candidates has produced various answers, some of which are in entirely different corners of the debate.
A notable difference of opinion is between Chris Christie, who believes the invasion was not justified, and Jeb Bush, who offered some tepid support given what the intelligence was saying at the time. Report from CNN:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie attempted to draw a bright line between himself and Jeb Bush on the Iraq War in a CNN interview on Tuesday, definitively stating that given the absence of weapons of mass destruction he wouldn’t have authorized the war.
“I think President (George W.) Bush made the best decision he could at the time, given that his intelligence community was telling him that there was (weapons of mass destruction) and that there were other threats right there in Iraq,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead.”
“But I don’t think you can honestly say that if we knew then that there was no (weapons of mass destruction), that the country should have gone to war,” he said.
The comments were a direct response to Bush’s support for the Iraq War during a Fox News interview. Though Bush was asked by host Megyn Kelly whether, “knowing what we know now,” he would’ve authorized the war in Iraq, he responded affirmatively to a slightly different scenario.
“I would have (authorized the invasion), and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got,” Bush said in the interview. [Emphasis added]
The remarks drew widespread criticism from Bush’s left and right flanks, and caused a close ally, GOP strategist Ana Navarro, to backtrack on the comments, saying Bush told her he had “misheard” Kelly’s question.
Senator Ted Cruz also came out, agreeing more with Christie, that he would not have authorized the invasion. Report on Cruz from Business Insider:
Unlike former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) offered a clear position on whether the US’ 2003 invasion of Iraq was retrospectively a good idea.
“Of course not,” Cruz told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly on Tuesday.
Cruz said because the evidence used to justify the war — that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction — turned out to be false, there was “no way we would have gone to war with Iraq” in hindsight.
Bush and Cruz are likely rivals in the 2016 presidential race.
“The entire predicate of the war against Iraq was the intelligence that showed they had weapons of mass destruction and that there was a real risk that they might use them,” Cruz said. “Now I would note there was a bipartisan consensus of both Republicans and Democrats looking at that intelligence [who] concluded it was a real threat. We now know that intelligence was false.”
The politically “safe” answer is to say we shouldn’t have launched the invasion. Hindsight is easy when you’re not faced with the decisions at the time, which I think is the point Jeb was trying to make. I think the real question is whether you would have launched the invasion in 2003, given what the evidence was at the time.