But despite all the opportunistic campaign rhetoric, the newly elected President Eisenhower more or less followed Truman’s policies. By July 1953 he had achieved an armistice. And by keeping sizable U.S. deployments of peacekeepers in place, he also ensured what would become a long evolution to democracy in South Korea and the country’s current dynamic economy. Had Eisenhower, in Obama-like worry over his 1956 reelection bid, yanked out all U.S. peacekeepers in December 1955, and blamed the resulting debacle on his Democratic predecessor (“Truman’s War”), while writing off the North Korean aggressors as jayvees, we can imagine a quick North Korean absorption of the South, with the sort of death and chaos we are now seeing in Iraq.
[. . .]
We can surely argue about Iraq, but we must not airbrush away facts. The mystery of the current Iraq fantasy is not that a prevaricating Donald Trump misrepresents the war in the fashion of Democratic senators and liberal pundits who once eagerly supported it, but that his Republican opponents so easily let him do it.
–Victor Davis Hanson, “Iraq: The Real Story”
Actually it’s not a mystery. The Republican candidates opposing Trump must have discovered that the dishonest “Bush lied” narrative about Iraq polls better than the truth. (None of the remaining Republican candidates seems qualified to be President. Unfortunately, the Democratic candidates are even worse.)
In 2009 news stories reported that fewer Americans had been killed in Iraq the previous year than were murdered in Chicago. Iraq had an imperfect but functioning democratic government. The war was essentially won.
In 2016 Iraq has largely fallen apart. ISIS, Iran and Russia dominate much of Iraq and Syria. ISIS controls territory in North Africa. Jordan and Saudi Arabia are hanging by threads. Turkey and Russia have skirmished. Israel no longer has regional air superiority, perhaps not even air superiority in all of its own territory. Talk of regional and even world war is in the air.
The principal differences between 2008 and 2016 are Obama’s terrible decisions to withdraw US forces from Iraq and then to stop defending our other Middle Eastern interests. Bush had nothing to do with it except to the extent he was inept at promoting his case at home. Many if not most Americans neither understand why we invaded Iraq nor remember the bi-partisan, international consensus for invasion that existed in 2002 and 2003.