Ask a Liberal: Who Lost Iraq? - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Ask a Liberal: Who Lost Iraq?

Who lost Iraq? In so many words, that is now the increasingly potent counter to years of liberal charges that America’s problems in the world can be traced to the Bush-Cheney foreign policy — specifically the invasion of 2003. The question has now taken root, with “Iraq” serving as shorthand for everything from Iraq itself to ISIS, the Syrian mess, Benghazi, and more. Graphically illustrated by the beheadings of two American journalists, a British aid worker, ISIS armies causing chaos in the once-stabilized region. Not to mention the murder of a 19-year old New Jersey college student Brendan Tevlin by a self-professed jihadist, the arrest of a Yemeni store owner in New York who sought to fund ISIS, and the news that the Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan has written to the head of ISIS asking to join.

The idea that Iraq had been stabilized — and hence the world of Islam calmed — was re-enforced in 2011 by no less than President Obama himself, as reported by Breitbart:

In a speech at Ft. Bragg, NC on December 14, 2011, President Barack Obama said the United States was “leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.”

“Iraq’s future will be in the hands of its people. America’s war in Iraq will be over,” he remarked. And “Iraq is not a perfect place. It has many challenges ahead. But we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people. We’re building a new partnership between our nations.”

Today, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer reported that Iraq is “falling apart.” The White House is currently debating dropping in aid or engaging in airstrikes against Iraq while stating “there could be a humanitarian catastrophe” inside Iraq.

The vividly gruesome nature of the videotaped beheadings in particular ignited an abrupt change in polling numbers, with over 70 percent of the American public demanding something be done about ISIS. It dawns that Islamic fascism is a centuries-old phenomenon that is now — once again — an active threat to Western civilization and America specifically. It predates George W. Bush. Over in Great Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron has been blunt in leading the charge on the liberal line that all of this was Bush’s fault, saying: “Let’s be clear about the source of the threat that we face. The terrorist threat was not created by the Iraq war 10 years ago. It existed even before the horrific attacks on 9/11, themselves sometime before the Iraq war.”

Increasingly, it is Obama’s policies that are seen as exactly the cause of all the turmoil not only in Iraq but in Ukraine and beyond — and this is a serious problem for Democrats.

This brings to mind the dawn of the Cold War. It was October 1, 1949: Mao Tse-tung declared the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. America’s Chinese nationalist allies, led by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, had fled to the island of Formosa, utterly defeated by Mao’s Communists.

In America the political reaction was as swift as it was politically significant. And it would last for decades until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Republicans quickly had a pithy slogan that said it all: “Who lost China?” Senator Robert Taft, a leading GOP presidential candidate for 1952, accused the Truman State Department, led by Secretary of State Dean Acheson, of acting “with its pro-communist allies” and “liquidating” the Chinese Nationalists. Pointedly adding that State was “guided by a left-wing group who have obviously wanted to get rid of Chiang and were willing at least to turn China over to the Communists for that purpose.” On another occasion he noted pointedly that “we abandoned Chiang Kai-Shek…the State Department absolutely wanted the Communists to win in China….Because in the State Department for a long time there’s been a strong Communist sympathy, as far as the Chinese Communists were concerned.

By 1950, former FDR State Department aide Alger Hiss — who had been at the controversial Yalta Summit with FDR, Churchill, and Stalin — had been convicted of being a Communist spy. Senator Joseph McCarthy had delivered a speech saying that he had a list of other Communist spies at State. In June of that year Communist North Korea invaded South Korea, launching the Korean War. Two years later, Hiss’s congressional antagonist now in the Senate, Richard Nixon, was the GOP’s vice-presidential nominee, campaigning on Acheson’s running the “Cowardly College of Communist Containment.” All of this infuriated Democrats. But cumulatively speaking, they learned the lesson — and they would do their damnedest to never again appear soft on Communism. 

Put another way? While the GOP would lose control of Congress in 1954, the Democrats would mostly stick to a tough anti-Communist line until the late-Vietnam War 1970s. Five of the next eight presidents serving from 1952 until the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 would be hardline anti-Communist. And not just republicans, but Democrats, too. John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson came to the White House with reputations as national security hawks. The one-termer Jimmy Carter is an exception, but even he felt compelled to campaign as a former naval officer. Once elected he did an about-face, famously saying Americans had gotten over their “inordinate fear” of Communists. He kissed Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev on the cheek at the SALT II signing in Vienna only to be repaid with a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and a Communist takeover of Nicaragua.

In short, the question of “Who lost China?” helped the GOP regain five Senate seats and twenty-eight House seats in the 1950 congressional elections. Two years later, the GOP finally broke the Democrats’ twenty-year grip on the White House with the general who had masterminded the D-Day invasion. More critically, the GOP locked into the American political consciousness the idea that the only way to deal with Communism was to be unflinchingly tough — and that only the GOP could be counted on for that toughness. The entire disaster of the Vietnam War did nothing if not reinforce the image of liberals as spectacularly inept at foreign policy. The war itself was so badly handled that it wound up electing Nixon, who was supposedly a finished political commodity by 1968.

Now, once again, liberals are running national security. As Brit Hume noted the other night on Fox News, Obama insisted that “his very election would so change the atmosphere in the world” that it would be a different and more peaceful place. Yet leaders around the globe watch in alarm as the Obama administration flip-flops more often than a catfish on a dock.

Who lost China? That simple question launched four decades of Cold War policy, five Republican presidents, two hawkish Democrat presidents and finally a president who was lacerated by hapless liberals for calling the Soviets an “Evil Empire” even as he finally put them onto the “ash heap of history.” Truthfully, “Who lost China?” goes down in history as one of the most powerful political slogans of the twentieth century.

As the world disintegrates into chaos, with polls sharply reversing and an alarmed American people suddenly awakening from Obama’s wishful thinking, the question now becomes: Who lost Iraq?

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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