This morning, Conor Friedersdorf published a dispatch from his libertarian bubble entitled "The GOP Isn't the Only Party With an Iraq War Problem." What does he mean by this? Here's what he means:
The tragic news that forces linked to al-Qaeda have retaken Fallujah is just the latest reminder that George W. Bush's war of choice was a historic, catastrophic misjudgment....First of all, it's not conceivable that "someone like Rand Paul will win the GOP nomination" -- it's conceivable that Rand Paul will win the GOP nomination, but there simply isn't anyone else who thinks like him (or his father) on the subject of militarism who's shown any sign of wanting to pursue the Republican presidential nomination. That's because there simply isn't a war-skeptic wing of the GOP right now -- there are the Pauls, father and son, and a handful of other war-averse libertarians, and then there's the rest of the GOP, which is (to say the least) not on the same page.
The issue is going to be tough for Republicans to navigate, given that public opinion has turned against the war, even as powerful GOP factions still support it.... What's less remarked upon is the challenge Iraq will pose for Democrats.... as Daniel Larison notes, "Virtually none of the politicians mentioned as 2016 candidates in the GOP were even in national office during the Bush year," whereas several prominent Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and John Kerry, all have pro-war votes on their resumes....
It's conceivable that someone like Rand Paul will win the GOP nomination, and the general election will feature a Republican nominee attacking his Democratic opponent's war support in much the same way that Obama successfully attacked Clinton: "You thought the Iraq War was a prudent invasion, and now you want to be president?"
Ahh, but what about all the Republican resistance to President Obama's announced intention to attack Syria a few months back? Well, that wasn't opposition to war -- it was opposition to a Democratic president waging war. Republicans also sounded like peaceniks back in the late 1990s, when Bill Clinton was waging war in the Balkans; funny, that war-wariness wasn't a sign of a deep-seated Republican isolationism, as we learned a few years and a Republican president later.
Rand Paul is not going to attack Hillary Clinton on the Iraq War because Rand Paul wants Republicans to vote for him, and Republicans still back what Bush and Cheney did. See this CBS poll from December:
Democratic and independent support for the overthrow of Saddam is at 31%. Republican support? 56%, with 32% opposed.
There is no way in hell any ambitious Republican is going to alienate the party base that way. Even Rand Paul -- who's not the militarism opponent his father is -- won't do that.
Did Friedersdorf miss the right-wing freakout over Jake Tapper's recent interview of former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell? Luttrell is the author of Lone Survivor, an account of an operation in the Afghan War that went horribly wrong for American troops; Tapper, speaking to Luttrell as the movie version of Lone Survivor was reaching theaters, referred to the deaths in this operation as "senseless" -- and much of the right howled in outrage. (Luttrell was not happy either.) If Rand Paul makes a big deal of attacking either of Bush's wars -- not just what he's doing now by sponsoring a bill to end the military force authorization but really attacking the wars -- this will be his fate, too: he'll be accused of dishonoring the troops by his own party's voters. Sorry, Conor, he's not going to do that.
And every other Republican will accuse Hillary of letting Americans die in Benghazi because she's a love-bead-wearing hippie who hates America.