By Paul Rosenberg
December 27, 2015
Two election cycles after losing the Democratic Party nomination because of her Iraq War vote, Hillary Clinton finally seems to have put it behind her. In fact, with the latest wave of ISIS hysteria, her hawkishness is seen by some as a plus. At the same time, striking a balance, a good case can be made that, though she did vote to authorize the Iraq War, she would never have started it herself if she had been president.
John Kerry made that very same argument back in 2004, in fact. AsKevin Drum described at the time , the media was echoing the Bush campaign spin, presenting Kerry’s position as confused and ludicrous at best, and as inconsistent flip-flopping at worst. But actually his position was a familiar one to them:
[T]hey know very well that there are lots and lots of liberal hawks and other former war supporters who have exactly the same position: pressuring Saddam was good, inspections were good, and eventually war might have been good too.You’ll note that there’s nothing new in the idea that invading Iraq benefited the Jihadi cause. Liberal hawks may have been mistaken, but not nearly as much as the neocons, whose trap they fell into. So has the liberal hawk position finally been fully vindicated? Is Hillary Clinton finally in the right place, at the right time?
But Bush blew it: he failed to rally world opinion, he failed to get the Arab world on our side, he failed to let the inspections process run its course, and he failed to plan properly for the postwar occupation. The result is a loss of American power and prestige, a diminished chance of Iraq becoming a pluralistic democracy, and an al-Qaeda that’s been given a second lease on life thanks to George Bush’s Queeg-like obsession with Saddam Hussein.
Electorally, perhaps. But in terms of actually having a working policy? That’s a whole different story. After all, Clinton herself pushed hard for a similarly flawed regime change strategy in Libya—Conor Friedersdorf even compared her role  in Libya to Cheney’s in Iraq. Hyperbolic? Yes. But he did have a point. As summarized by Joel Gillin at the New Republic, she did get carried away with questionable intelligence, over-focused on deposing a long-time U.S. bogeyman, and failed to give sufficient consideration to the depths of difficulties that would follow afterwards. All of which allowed the broader jihadi threat increased opportunity to spread.