“The question should not be, When do we get to leave? But instead, How are we going to win?” Hawley wrote in one blog post from 2005 about Iraq.
Regardless of whether former President Donald Trump runs again in 2024, Hawley has positioned himself as a potential presidential candidate with a pro-Trump platform that has included largely voting against President Joe Biden’s picks. Hawley has attacked Biden’s team for being “pro-endless wars,” citing past support for the Iraq War, and calling Biden’s team “warmongers.”
Like Hawley, Trump initially supported the Iraq War, and then campaigned heavily against the war in Iraq in his 2016 bid criticizing Republican primary opponents and eventual Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton for backing the invasion. Trump, opposed the war within a year of its start, but it’s unclear when exactly Hawley changed his opinion.
Phil Letsou, a spokesman for Hawley, said Hawley’s views had changed and pointed to his support in the Senate for withdrawing from Afghanistan and opposition to sending additional troops to the Middle East.
“Senator Hawley’s views have definitely changed since his school days. If the twenty-year failed experiment in ‘neo-conservative’ globalism in the Middle East doesn’t convince you that nation building doesn’t work, nothing will,” Letsou told CNN in an email.
It does not appear that Hawley campaigned on opposing Middle East wars prior to his election to the Senate, according to a KFile review of campaign events and interviews.
When campaigning for the Senate in 2017, Hawley accepted the endorsement of one of the most hawkish members of President George W. Bush’s administration, former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, saying Bolton “understands the many threats posed to America.”
In 2018, when asked about his views on the world’s perception of the US by a local Missouri TV station, Hawley spoke in support of Trump ending the Iran nuclear deal and moving the US embassy in Israel. He did not mention withdrawing from either Iraq or Afghanistan.
Hawley has heavily criticized members of Biden’s administration, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“What a group of corporatists and war enthusiasts,” Hawley tweeted when Biden announced a group of administration nominees and appointees. “Take Tony Blinken. He’s backed every endless war since the Iraq invasion.”
But as president of the Yale Law School Federalist Society just over a decade and a half ago, Hawley, then a 25-year-old law student, wrote numerous blog posts in favor of nation building in Iraq, and backing the Bush administration’s “broader geo-strategic goals” in the Middle East.
“Henry Kissinger, the former Secretary of State, has an excellent column on Iraq in this morning’s Washington Post. Kissinger understands the importance of linking the security and political situations in the country,” wrote Hawley in one December 2005 blog post.
“That is, we must both train Iraqi troops and use them to suppress the insurgency as well as push forward with the formation of a stable, democratic government,” he continued. “He also understands that military operations in Iraq must be subordinated to and integrated with our broader geo-strategic goals in the region. Read the piece. It’ll make an excellent primer for the President’s Oval Office address tonight.”
Bush’s address to the nation that night spoke of Iraq’s recent election as a step toward “a model of freedom for the Middle East” and warned against an early withdrawal from the country.
Kissinger’s column, in which he voiced his own support for the invasion of Iraq, also argued against withdrawing from the county.
Around that same period, Hawley was profiled by the New Haven Register in an article on conservative students in Connecticut colleges and law schools. The article stated that Hawley supported a “vigorous foreign policy that promotes democracy.”
In stark contrast, Hawley said in a 2019 speech after becoming a senator that “the point of American foreign policy should not be to remake the world, but to keep Americans safe and prosperous.”
In a November 2005 post titled “Iraq: What next?,” Hawley wrote on the “troubling situation in Iraq,” and the “need for a coherent, publicly-articulated strategy.” Hawley wrote on the lack of success in training Iraqi security forces and increasing the number of soldiers in the region who spoke Arabic.
Citing Weekly Standard founder and editor Bill Kristol in lambasting the term “exit strategy,” Hawley said that people should not be asking when the US should leave Iraq, but how to win the war.
“Taking these and other lessons to heart, Democrat Joe Biden has proposed a skeletal blueprint for moving forward in Iraq,” he said about the then-Delaware senator. “Leaving aside self-defeating talk of an ‘exit strategy’–an easy, empty phrase that as commentator William Kristol pointed out, usually signals an absence of serious reflection–Biden wrote this past Saturday of a victory strategy. He urged the Administration to announce a timetable, complete with specific dates and goals, for training Iraqi forces.”
“Whatever one makes of these specific proposals, the time has come for the President to announce a clear, coherent and quantifiable strategy for moving forward in Iraq,” he wrote about Bush. “The question should not be, When do we get to leave? But instead, How are we going to win? But unless the Administration does something quickly to answer that second question, they’ll have no choice but to answer the first, sooner rather than later.”
In an earlier blog post from November 2005, Hawley also offered his thoughts on the film “Jarhead,” based on the memoir of the same name from Anthony Swofford about the Gulf War in the early 1990s.
“For those who have endured Sam Mendes’ 2.5 hour whine-a-thon about the first Gulf War, Jarhead, in which protagonist Anthony Swofford whines about the danger of combat, whines about the lack of combat, whines about the pressure and then about the boredom–for those who have endured all this, Major Brooks Tucker’s recent piece on the film should come as welcome relief,” wrote Hawley.
“Major Tucker is a Marine. What’s more, he fought in Persian Gulf I, and assures us that contrary to the impression one might form from Swofford’s book and Mendes’ movie, Marines are typically not self-absorbed, unintelligent, irresponsible slackers. Have a look.”