Most observers agree that the Iraq war was a mistake. If there were no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, and no links between Saddam Hussein's regime and the 9/11 attacks, then voting in favor of a war that should never have happened is a monumental mistake worthy of a simple, unequivocal, un-nuanced apology.
Republicans are not the only ones receiving daily demands that they apologize for voting in favor of the 2003 Iraq war resolution. The left wing of the Democratic party (and every single Barack Obama supporter) is also demanding Hillary Clinton's apology for the same "mistake".
But how much of a mistake was the 2003 vote, and does it deserve an apology?
Consider the circumstances -- a relatively successful and quick victory over the Taliban in the 2001 Afghanistan war; an overwhelming and essentially unquestioned consensus in the international community, not to mention international intelligence organizations, that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons he failed to destroy or dismantle after 17 previous UN resolutions; and a unanimously endorsed UN Security Council resolution 1441 (passed just prior to the war) declaring that Saddam Hussein was in "material breech" of international law and other related disarmament resolutions.
Now, from the point of view of a U.S. senator contemplating his or her position in this post-9/11 (post-Anthrax) scenario, with an American public still very concerned about terrorism and chemical or biological weapons, what should you do? Do you give the President the bargaining leverage he needs to issue a "credible" threat to Saddam Hussein to dismantle the weapons "everyone" thought he had? Or do you question all of the intelligence and weaken the President's bargaining power?
Voting in favor of the war resolution was the only way to grant the President the authority to "credibly" threaten Saddam with force to comply with international law. If he had to do it all over again Saddam would no doubt have opened all of his palaces to inspectors without issuing a single condition. The fact that he didn't do this led everyone to believe he must have been hiding something, which remains one of the most puzzling aspects of the entire crisis.
But there is nothing much Hillary (or anyone else who voted in favor of the war resolution) could (or should) have done differently then given a balanced assessment of all of the information available.
Unfortunately, political circumstances at the time of the vote are now entirely irrelevant. Political pressures in Washington today virtually guarantee that the perfect political strategy heading into the next election requires a perfect political apology from Hillary, despite the fact that it was the only logical, publicly acceptable and politically rational thing for her to have done do at the time.