America's biggest genius: Why Lindsey Graham is a huge threat to Einstein

Lindsey Graham wants to run for president on his sterling foreign policy record. Behold his intellectual perfection

Published January 30, 2015 11:58AM (EST)

  (AP/Rainier Ehrhardt)
(AP/Rainier Ehrhardt)

News that Sen. Lindsey Graham is actively exploring a run for the presidency in 2016 should thrill and delight all serious people who think seriously about foreign policy. As I made clear in my endorsement of Graham from last October – in on the ground floor, baby! – there’s nobody in politics with a firmer grasp of how everything that happens on the international stage is linked to Benghazi. The world needs strategic thinking of that caliber now more than ever.

The rationale behind president-in-waiting Graham’s candidacy is, as you’d expect, foreign policy. “I think the world is falling apart and I've been more right than wrong when it comes to foreign policy,” Graham said on “Meet the Press” this past weekend. Modesty of this sort is admirable, coming from the man who is preordained to save this falling-apart world, but he sells himself short.

Lindsey Graham has been literally right about literally everything having to do with foreign policy. At least, he’s been right on all the big stuff, and there’s been nothing bigger during his tenure in Congress than the Iraq War. A brief review of his past statements on Iraq shows beyond any doubt that, while some people got Iraq completely wrong, Lindsey Graham got it completely right.


Gannett News Service, Sept. 6, 2002:

Graham, who sponsored a House-passed resolution last year demanding that Saddam once again allow U.N. weapons inspections, also said the United States doesn't need the world's approval to go after Saddam.

"Saddam Hussein has been hard at work trying to secure chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. He's trying to upgrade his mass-destruction arsenal that will be used against us and our friends," Graham said. "Iraq is a self-defense issue, and we need to aggressively engage Saddam Hussein. We don't need the blessings of the world to defend ourselves. A regime change is the only alternative in Iraq."

VERDICT: Lindsey Graham was right

The fearsome arsenal of chemical, nuclear and biological weapons amassed by Saddam Hussein in the years leading up to 2003 was almost too terrifying to comprehend, and the threat that arsenal posed to the United States and the rest of the world can’t be overstated. Which leads us to…


Charleston Post and Courier, Oct. 27, 2002:

Graham said the United States needs to push for a regime change in Iraq, which he said presents "a threat to our way of life."

VERDICT: Lindsey Graham was right

There’s not a person alive at the time who doesn’t remember when Saddam Hussein and his supremely powerful military machine – made all the more potent by years of constant conflict and crippling international sanctions – showed up at the borders of the United States completely undetected and ready to invade. At the time, many people had been skeptical that a small international pariah in the Middle East posed an existential threat to the world’s dominant military and economic superpower. But that’s just because they hadn’t listened to Lindsey Graham, who understood that Iraq’s Soviet-era air and ground forces, though barely functional, were a threat to the American way of life.


From the Aug. 24, 2003, edition of “Fox News Sunday”:

GRAHAM: But generally speaking, the population centers in Baghdad, Basra and other main areas, you've got most people wanting us to succeed, with a handful of people that are trying to destabilize us. But Baghdad is a dangerous place because a handful of people are trying to drive us out of here.

VERDICT: Lindsey Graham was right

The Iraqi insurgency, such as it existed, ended up being no more than a few disgruntled Saddam loyalists and foreign agitators who limited their activities to Baghdad and caused a bit of trouble before being swiftly and permanently put down. [CITATION NEEDED]


From the Aug. 29, 2003, Charleston Post and Courier:

Graham this month visited Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. He said he thinks the 147,000 U.S. troops now in Iraq are enough to handle the fight against terrorists but he wants more engineers and more troops trained in civil affairs, the Army's nation-builders, deployed.

Asked how long U.S. troops must stay in Iraq, Graham replied "perhaps a year or more."

He rejected the notion that the U.S. military must stay through 2009. "If we're there through 2009, something went wrong," he said.

VERDICT: Lindsey Graham was right

The number of U.S. combat forces committed to Iraq War at the outset was perfectly sufficient to deal with the aftermath of the invasion, and the planning that went into the U.S. occupation stands out as one of the modern era’s shining examples of strategic thinking and logistical foresight. The United States initiated hostilities against Iraq in March of 2003 and officially ended its military role on August 30, 2004 – a year and a day after Graham made his prediction – when the last U.S. soldiers departed from Baghdad amid a parade of grateful Iraqi celebrants. Five years later, as 2009 drew to a close, Americans all over the country took a moment to pause and reflect on the fact that we definitely weren’t in Iraq anymore because absolutely nothing had gone wrong.


From the Nov. 14, 2004, edition of CBS’s “Face the Nation”:

GRAHAM: Fallujah, I think, Bob, is a turning point in the sense that the Iraqis are fighting for their own freedom. They're better trained, they're better equipped. They're willing to die for their own freedom.

VERDICT: Lindsey Graham was right

November 2004 is indeed viewed by historians as the turning point in the Iraq War, when Iraqi and U.S. forces finally succeeded in putting down the insurgency.


From the Sept. 14, 2004, edition of CNN’s “News Night”:

GRAHAM: And between now and our November election and between now and January there will be hell to pay in Iraq because the stakes are very high but, if we can make it through January, Aaron, then I think we've turned the corner.

VERDICT: Lindsey Graham was right

January 2005 is indeed viewed by historians as the turning point in the Iraq War, when Iraqi and U.S. forces finally succeeded in putting down the insurgency.


The Washington Post, Aug. 28, 2007:

"With all due respect to Senator Warner, the model he is suggesting -- to put pressure [on the Iraqi government] by mandating troop withdrawal -- is exactly the opposite of what we should do," Graham said in an interview after returning from Iraq this past weekend. "I believe the pressure that will lead to reconciliation will not be from what an American politician thinks but what the Iraqi people think. And I'm confident that the Iraqi people have turned a corner."

VERDICT: Lindsey Graham was right

August 2007 is indeed viewed by historians as the turning point in the Iraq War, when Iraqi and U.S. forces finally succeeded in putting down the insurgency.

That’s a strong record of non-wrongness from one of Congress’ sharpest foreign policy minds. Lindsey Graham’s entrance into the 2016 race should help focus the discussion on how the indiscriminate use of force can solve basically every problem the U.S. faces on the international stage, and that’s a discussion we desperately need to have.

By Simon Maloy

MORE FROM Simon Maloy