Phillip Carter, an Iraq veteran, is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington.
Beyond the thousands of casualties incurred, the millions of troops and civilians deployed, and the trillions of dollars committed, the most enduring legacy of the Iraq war will be the political movements it triggered in this country: It shattered Republicans’ monopoly on national security and eroded service members’ allegiance to the GOP.
The Republicans’ mismanagement of the war allowed Democrats to reclaim an issue lost to them since the Truman administration. Suddenly, the GOP wasn’t viewed as unquestionably strong on national security. It’s a shift that, since 2006, has profoundly affected elections and arguably contributed more than any other factor — save the economy — to Barack Obama’s 2008 victory.
We now know that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction on March 19, 2003, when U.S. troops invaded. This false casus belli alone would have been enough to tarnish the Republican brand. However, the Bush administration compounded that error with its failure to admit the existence of the insurgency, let alone plan for it, and its failure to provide adequate resources — until the troop surge of January 2007.