Max Boot has a post up that very nicely illustrates the huge distorting influence that the desire for retroactive vindication of the foolish decision to invade has had on the past five years worth of American policy in Iraq:
I was recently asked, after a speech, if the decision to invade Iraq was a terrible blunder. I replied it was too soon to tell. Immediately after the downfall of Saddam Hussein, President Bush’s decision to topple him looked like a great idea. A few years later, after unremitting guerrilla warfare and terrorism, it looked like a disaster. But then the surge reversed perceptions once again and gave us a chance to salvation a decent outcome. It would be a tragedy if we blow that chance and the nay saying of the Iraq War critics is vindicated by a complete American withdrawal followed by a disastrous resumption of fighting.
This is complete nonsense. Once upon a time, we were told that the United States should invade Iraq in order to eliminate its dangerous nuclear weapons program. It turns out that there was no such nuclear weapons program. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent, and thousands of people have been killed, maimed, and displaced in order to eliminate a nonexistent nuclear weapons program. It’s a complete and total disaster, a blundering unforced error of American statecraft whose direct and indirect costs boggle the mind. But as Boot says, the appearance of things “going well” or “going badly” in Iraq sometimes seems to have enormous retroactive relevance to the wisdom or lack thereof of the initial decision to invade. Therefore, for the past five years a range of stakeholders, inside and outside the government, have repeatedly urged the American government to waste more time and resources in an effort to salvage their own reputations even though America has little concrete interest in Iraqi politics and less ability to actually shape long-term outcomes.