Secretary of State John Kerry told the House Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday that the U.S. should be wary of trusting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s warnings on Iran, because Netanyahu had also backed the Iraq War. Kerry’s remarks were hypocritical, since he also supported the war. And they raise the disturbing suggestion, beloved of conspiracy theorists, that Israel is dragging the U.S. to war. Yet it is worth asking whether Kerry’s criticism has merit.
Netanyahu’s vehement assertion in 2002–as a private citizen, testifying to Congress–that Saddam Hussein was pursuing weapons of mass destruction certainly looks foolish in retrospect. In his defense, it is what the world’s intelligence agencies also believed. It may even have been what Saddam Hussein himself believed. It was the only conclusion to draw from Saddam’s defiance of the United Nations inspectors, and it was only the war that allowed the question to be settled.
Moreover, Netanyahu was right about a number of other things. He correctly predicted that the Iraq war could destabilize Iran, which it did in 2009 (though President Barack Obama failed to take advantage). He correctly predicted that the Iraq war would discourage other states in the region that had similar weapons programs: Libya soon gave its programs up, and Iran suspended its work towards a nuclear weapon for a time. Netanyahu also predicted the democratization of the region.
One thing that Netanyahu could not have predicted was the weakness of the next U.S. president. He stressed that the Iraq war and the war on terror would only succeed if America focused on “the three W’s — winning, winning and winning.” He could not have foreseen that Democrats would try to leave Iraq in defeat, and that Obama would later turn a victory into a loss. He could not have foreseen that the U.S. would actually promote the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran’s regional power.
Overall, Netanyahu’s support for the Iraq War actually reinforces his credibility, because so much of what he said about the region has actually transpired. Even if he had been wrong on every point regarding Iraq, that would not mean that what he is saying about Iran is untrue. In addition, Netanyahu’s warnings about Iran are corroborated even by those, like Kenneth Pollack, who oppose war as a policy option (Pollack favors a kind of containment). So Kerry’s criticism misses the mark.
Kerry’s jab at Netanyahu’s support for the Iraq War, then, deserves to be seen not as a substantive point but rather as a partisan one, a signal to fellow Democrats about which side of the argument they should back. The anti-war movement has taken over the Democratic Party, and so likening the Iran crisis to the Iraq war is an appeal to politics rather than reason.
In reality, history will judge Netanyahu’s errors in Iraq more favorably than Kerry’s errors on Iran–and elsewhere–today.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak