The lesson that we should not have gone into Iraq at all, but that if we had to go in we should have installed a Sunni general as President that would play ball with us and keep his distance from Iran and then we should have left. Similarly, we should have gone into Afganistan to get rid of the Taliban government, then installed some general that would have kept the Taliban out and not allowed terrorists to use his country as a launching pad, and then left. It is futile and far too expensive to try nation-building and to install parliamentary democracies in backward countries where cousin marriage is common and hence intense loyalty to one's extended family precludes the attitudes conducive to democracy.
I think that Republican politicians are still to a large extent in denial over what the Iraq War meant and how much of a disaster it was. It looks like the best we can hope for is that as the older generation retires, they are replaced by more libertarian/realist Republicans. Or at least the balance between realists and neoconservatives might be more balanced. Another lesson I hope Republicans learn is the danger of nominating someone without the experience or intellectual curiosity to handle the job of being President. I think Republicans realized this to an extent by nominating Romney, since, if nothing else, he was thought of as a "smart guy".
I think this has yet to be decided, because it's largely wrapped-up in the Ron Paul revolt against the neoconservatives. While Paul obviously lost both times, his fellow GOP candidates were much closer to him in 2012. Rand is trying to build on this by synthesizing his father's noninterventionism with traditional cold war realism. Really, the party could go in almost any direction at this point.
Good point. However, I think that the standard bearer will have to come from the bulk of the party, not from the Paul/libertarian wing. It seems like the reactions of the bulk of the party to Paul are so strongly antagonistic that the change has to come from within. Almost a sort of "only Nixon could go to China" thing. If the person preaching noninterventionism is also preaching drug decriminalization and hating on the Fed, they're going to get lumped in with the Pauls, and we've seen how the party reacts to that wing. I think the only way the realists can claw back against the neocons is to have it come from a source that can't be easily dismissed. They might even need to have few Tea Party ties. Not a moderate (which is fortunate, because there are so few of them left!), but from someone with conservative cred, but also media cred and party cred. A mainstream conservative. In terms of the 2016 crowd, Thune, Pence, and Ryan could all conceivably play this role. Of them, only Pence might actually try it. (The pure governors can't because they don't have the foreign affairs cred, and the TeaPartiers can't, because the vague TP associations with Paul).
Rand Paul has already demonstrated an ability to not only move his party (the GOP electorate is now significantly more anti-drone than the Democrats), but the entire country:http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2013/03/25/a_50_point_swing_against_targeted_drone_killings_of_u_s_citizens.htmlJB frequently says that people don’t care about civil liberties. Even last week, he didn’t think Rand had changed public opinion at all. I think Rand is opening people’s eyes about what he may be able to achieve in a 2016 Presidential race.
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I don't see this question as one that should be aimed at Republicans because it makes the assumption that, somehow, Republicans differed from Democrats on the decision to go to war. 87% of congress, with supporters from both sides of the isle, voted in favor of war. Further, congress had access to the same evidence that the President had; the same evidence which intelligence organizations from Britain, France, Spain and others had determined to be credible at the time. The two parties didn't differ much in opinion until insurgents established an atmosphere of instability, combined with the looming fact that yellow cake uranium hadn't turned up (even though remnants of, once very potent WMDs were found - but got down-played by the mainstream media on both sides of the political spectrum).This would be a better question if it were more specific; perhaps by asking what was learned by the position taken by the Republicans AFTER the initial objectives were met. At least then the dialogue could better address lessons learned (if any) by the more distinctive positions taken by most (not all) Republicans during the post-invasion phases of the war.
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At The Washington Post
At The American Prospect