2) The questions reporters and citizens should ask instead. There are two of them.
a) Based on “what we knew then,” how did you assess the evidence, possible benefits, and possible risks of invading Iraq? What were your views as of early 2003? This is a straightforward-rather-than-tricky, for-the-record query. It’s a prelude to the much more important question:
b) Regardless of whether you feel you were right or wrong, prescient or misled, how exactly will the experience of Iraq—yours in weighing evidence, the country’s in going to war—shape your decisions on the future, unforeseeable choices about committing American force?
Question 2(b) is the essential question, on this topic, for candidates aspiring to become president. In assessing answers to this question:
—Minus points to any candidate who tries to bluff through with the tired “I don’t do hypotheticals” cliché. That might apply if you’re a military commander declining to say exactly when and where you’ll attack. But if you want to be president you need to explain the mindset with which you’ll approach still-undefined (that is, hypothetical) challenges.
—Plus points to any candidate who wrestles honestly with the question of what he (or she) has learned from being wrong (or right) about Iraq.