Just after launching his bid for president earlier this year, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush struggled to answer questions about whether he — like his brother George W. Bush — would have invaded Iraq in 2003. A few days later, he flipped, saying: “Knowing what we know now, I would have not engaged.”
But this week, a speech at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, Bush flipped yet again, calling the Iraq War a mere “miscalculation” and arguing that the true mistake was withdrawing U.S. troops in 2011.
“So why was the success of the surge followed by a withdrawal from Iraq, leaving not even the residual force that commanders and the joint chiefs knew was necessary? That premature withdrawal was the fatal error, creating the void that ISIS moved in to fill — and that Iran has exploited to the full as well.”
In Bush’s retelling of the last decade-plus of war, everything was going great in Iraq until President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took office, saying they were “so eager to be the history-makers, they failed to be the peacemakers. It was a case of blind haste to get out.”
Jeb Bush failed to mention, however, that it was his brother George W. Bush who decided that the U.S. military should withdrawal from Iraq by the end of 2011. The Obama Administration continued those negotiations, and pushed for some troops to remain in the country to support and advise the new government. But because the U.S. insisted its remaining soldiers have legal immunity if they committed crimes in Iraq, the Iraqi government demanded most troops withdraw by the end of 2011. Thousands of U.S. soldiers are still there, as well as thousands of private military contractors.
Bush has repeatedly stressed that he he is “own man” independent from the legacies of his brother and father. Yet he has brought the architects of the Iraq War onto his campaign as advisers, and has even said he turns to George W. Bush for foreign policy feedback.
The plans he laid out in the Reagan Library speech reflect this influence: from rejecting the diplomatically-negotiated nuclear power deal with Iran to vowing regime change in Syria to suggesting stepping up airstrikes in Iraq. He also called for giving U.S. soldiers and marines “the go-ahead” to embed with the Iraqi military.