William “Bill” Kristol – editor of the Weekly Standard and founding member of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) – and Fox News analyst and now a columnist for the New York Times – is a real pip.
Actually, he is the neoconservative’s neoconservative. Of all public figures responsible for the Iraq war, he may be the most responsible for that mess – he was the main spokesman for the underlying precept, that it was our job to create a “benign global hegemony” where all pesky nations in the world bent to our will and adopted our values, moral and economic – by military force, as we had more of that than anyone else, so we ought to use it. He was the man whose job was to popularize that way of looking at things – the explainer, and the cheerleading coach for all the others.
Of course he was wrong about a few things. In 2003, just as the war was starting, you might have heard him on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air with this –
There’s been a certain amount of pop sociology in America … that the Shi’a can’t get along with the Sunni and the Shi’a in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There’s almost no evidence of that at all. Iraq’s always been very secular.
On September 11, 2002, as the Bush administration began its sales campaign for the coming war, Kristol suggested that Saddam Hussein could do more harm to the United States than al Qaeda had: “we cannot afford to let Saddam Hussein inflict a worse 9/11 on us in the future.”
On September 15, 2002, he claimed that inspection and containment could not work with Saddam: “No one believes the inspections can work.” Actually, UN inspectors believed they could work. So, too, did about half of congressional Democrats. They were right.
On September 18, 2002, Kristol opined that a war in Iraq “could have terrifically good effects throughout the Middle East.”
On September 19, 2002, he once again pooh-poohed inspections: “We should not fool ourselves by believing that inspections could make any difference at all.” During a debate with me on Fox News Channel, after I noted that the goal of inspections was to prevent Saddam from reaching “the finish line” in developing nuclear weapons, Kristol exclaimed, “He’s past that finish line. He’s past the finish line.”
On November 21, 2002, he maintained, “we can remove Saddam because that could start a chain reaction in the Arab world that would be very healthy.”
On February 2, 2003, he claimed that Secretary of State Colin Powell at an upcoming UN speech would “show that there are loaded guns throughout Iraq” regarding weapons of mass destruction. As it turned out, everything in Powell’s speech was wrong. Kristol was uncritically echoing misleading information handed him by friends and allies within the Bush administration.
On February 20, 2003, he summed up the argument for war against Saddam: “He’s got weapons of mass destruction. At some point he will use them or give them to a terrorist group to use… Look, if we free the people of Iraq we will be respected in the Arab world…. France and Germany don’t have the courage to face up to the situation. That’s too bad. Most of Europe is with us. And I think we will be respected around the world for helping the people of Iraq to be liberated.”
On March 1, 2003, Kristol dismissed concerns that sectarian conflict might arise following a US invasion of Iraq: “We talk here about Shiites and Sunnis as if they’ve never lived together. Most Arab countries have Shiites and Sunnis, and a lot of them live perfectly well together.” He also said, “Very few wars in American history were prepared better or more thoroughly than this one by this president.” And he maintained that the war would be a bargain at $100 to $200 billion. The running tab is now nearing half a trillion dollars.
On March 5, 2003, Kristol said, “I think we’ll be vindicated when we discover the weapons of mass destruction and when we liberate the people of Iraq.”
Corn was wondering why the New York Times hired Kristol to write two columns a week. The man just got things wrong – the most important things. But of course the Times maintained that it was committed to presenting both side of things, and Kristol was the best of the best on the one side – a serious thinker, one who had to be respected.
Maybe so – and the hippie-dippy types who got things right on Iraq are, perhaps, just not serious, and deserve no respect – and the same for the dissident Democrats, the leaders of France, Germany, Russia, China and all the rest. It seems being right is not at all the same thing as being serious – a deep thinker. It’s very odd, but that’s the way it is – the world of serious thinkers is sort of like a very exclusive club that invites you, for its own reasons, reasons that are not revealed to outsiders.
Of course Hillary Clinton bought into this nonsense. She needed to be thought of as serious – however distorted the word had become. She voted for the war. It didn’t do her that much good in the end. Perhaps now she can write for the Times. The rest of us – not to be taken seriously – will remain on the blogs. That’s okay. Everyone knows the Groucho Marx line – “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.”
As for Kristol, he seems to be a charter member of that club – the Almost Always Wrong but Always Deeply Serious. No, there is no way you can join – you are invited in, or just proclaimed a member – or you are not.
And Kristol is still at it – whatever it is that he does. Sunday, June 22, 2008 – Fox News Sunday – via Think Progress, this:
On Fox News Sunday this morning, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol said that President Bush is more likely to attack Iran if he believes Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) is going to be elected.
However, “if the president thought John McCain was going to be the next president, he would think it more appropriate to let the next president make that decision than do it on his way out,” Kristol said, reinforcing the fact that McCain is offering a third Bush term on Iran.
Well, even if serious, Kristol is almost always wrong – but this is a tad alarming. After all, everyone at the White House thinks he’s always right – as co-founder of PNAC he wrote the book on what’s right. He is “the current thinking” – as it were, and such as it is. And he trusts that McCain will continue what he and Robert Kagan started with that project back in 1997.
That is, in fact, what he says – “I do wonder, with Senator Obama, if President Bush thinks Senator Obama’s going to win, does he somehow think – does he worry that Obama won’t follow through on that policy.” The implication is that McCain will.
Chris Wallace asked if Kristol was suggesting that Bush might “launch a military strike” before or after the election. That went like this:
WALLACE: So, you’re suggesting that he might in fact, if Obama’s going to win the election, either before or after the election, launch a military strike?
KRISTOL: I don’t know. I mean, I think he would worry about it. On the other hand, you can’t – it’s hard to make foreign policy based on guesses of election results. I think Israel is worried though. I mean, what is, what signal goes to Ahmadinejad if Obama wins on a platform of unconditional negotiations and with an obvious reluctance to even talk about using military force.
And then Kristol suggested that Obama’s election would tempt Saudi Arabia and Egypt to think, ‘”maybe we can use nuclear weapons.” That may be an insight into discussions in the Oval Office, or more importantly, in Cheney’s office. There is a video at the link if you wish to watch the exchange of “serious thinking.”
The assessment from Think Progress:
Kristol’s belief that Bush might attack Iran before leaving office is not new. In April, he told Bill Bennett that it wasn’t “out of the question” that Bush would consider such a strike because “people are overdoing how much of a lame duck the president is.”
The claim that Obama’s potential election could force Bush’s hand also isn’t new. Earlier this month, far-right pseudo scholar Daniel Pipes told National Review Online that “President Bush will do something” if the Democratic nominee won. “Should it be Mr. McCain that wins, he’ll punt,” said Pipes.
Both Kristol and Pipes apparently agree with President Bush’s claim in March that McCain’s “not going to change” his foreign policy.
So we get another war. But Kristol has been wrong.
But from THE GUN TOTING LIBERAL™ – really – there’s this:
It really isn’t too “far-fetched” to think Bill Kristol is correct in his theory, or more likely, “insider info” on the President’s intention to, almost, “wag the dog.” I have been expecting President Bush or his cohort, Vice President Dick “Shotgun” Cheney to commit an obvious war crime by attacking Iran just to help fellow neocon, Señor McCain, get elected anyway. I assure you, I am not alone in thinking it is a mere matter of time before this happens. On the other hand, it’s not too late to impeach these people (Cheney and Bush) for the numerous “high crimes and misdemeanors” they have committed while disguising themselves as “co-leaders of the free world” before they can go onto “bigger and better” EXTREMELY LUCRATIVE (in the case of Dick Cheney, for certain) things.
That part of a long and silly rant – and it’s no wonder the opposition isn’t taken seriously. Less silly is Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report – “All of this is, of course, a friendly reminder that when it comes to sticking to the status quo, and offering more of the same on international relations, Bush is counting on John McCain delivering four more years just like the last eight.”
The even less silly Andrew Sullivan frames it this way:
Bill Kristol airs the idea that if Obama looks as if he will win the election, Bush or Israel may be more likely to attack Iran before next January. Bush could say: Obama made me do it!
Kristol also raises the prospect of Saudi Arabia and Egypt going nuclear in response to an Obama presidency.
I think we’ll see many more of these dire warnings if Obama looks like the next president – and he’s increasingly the favorite.
But why do I find the hysteria not so effective this time around? Maybe it’s because the period in which we could have stopped Iran’s nuclear ambition is now behind us.
But Sullivan wonders if this third war could happen:
Could Bush bomb Iran before the next election and create a sense of international crisis that could cause voters to swing back to McCain? From everything we know about Bush and Cheney, the answer, surely, is yes. His failed policies have left only one option to prevent Iran’s going nuclear: war. And Bush must be chafing to see how his legacy could be dramatically changed if Obama wins. We could be facing the mother of all October surprises.
Now it is time to worry.
And the folks at Think Progress pile it on with this:
This morning on Fox News, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton continued his drumbeat for war against Iran. Adopting Bill Kristol’s argument, Bolton suggested that an attack on Iran depends on who Americans elect as the next President.
Well, someone has to watch Fox News for us, and again, there’s a video clip of this at the link. But the twist is that Bolton is suggesting that Israel will gladly do the work for us, and that’s already in the works:
I think if they [Israel] are to do anything, the most likely period is after our elections and before the inauguration of the next President. I don’t think they will do anything before our election because they don’t want to affect it. And they’d have to make a judgment whether to go during the remainder of President Bush’s term in office or wait for his successor.
And everyone would be fine with that, as Think Progress summarizes Bolton’s subsequent points. You see, Iran would do nothing:
He claimed that Iran’s options to retaliate after being attacked are actually “less broad than people think.” He suggested that Iran would not want to escalate a conflict because 1) it still needs to export oil, 2) it would worry about “an even greater response” from Israel, 3) and it would worry about the U.S.’s response.
And Bolton ended by saying that Arab states would be thrilled if we or Israel attacked Iran:
I don’t think you’d hear the Arab states say this publicly, but they would be delighted if the United States or Israel destroyed the Iranian nuclear weapons capability.
That seem to be one of the things only insiders know. You have to trust him on that. And you have to trust Kristol. They are both serious thinkers, after all.
But something is up. See Doug Ross – News Digest: The Israeli “Dry Run” on Iran’s Nuclear Facilities. They have been practicing.
And maybe these serious thinkers who are almost always wrong are right. You never know. See Andrew Roberts in the Telegraph (UK), with History will say that we misunderestimated George W Bush. Here’s bit of that:
If the West wins the modern counterpart of that struggle, the War Against Terror, historians will look back in amazement at the present unpopularity of George W Bush, and marvel at it quite as much as we now marvel at the 67 per cent disapproval rates for Truman throughout 1952.
Presidents are seldom remembered for more than one or two things; the rest slip away into a haze of historical amnesia. With Kennedy it was the Bay of Pigs and his own assassination, with Johnson the Great Society and Vietnam, with Nixon it was opening up China and the Watergate scandal, and so on.
George W Bush will be remembered for his responses to 9/11 in Afghanistan and Iraq, but since neither of those conflicts has yet ended in victory or defeat, it is far too early categorically to assume – as left-wingers, anti-war campaigners and almost all media commentators already do – that his historical reputation will be permanently down in the doldrums next to poor old Warren Harding’s.
Things will work out fine and he’ll be just as loved and respected as Harry Truman, you see:
The overthrow and execution of a foul tyrant, Saddam Hussein; the liberation of the Afghan people from the Taliban; the smashing of the terrorist networks of al-Qa’eda in that country and elsewhere and, finally, the protection of the American people from any further atrocities on US soil since 9/11, is a legacy of which to be proud.
While of course every individual death is a tragedy to the bereaved families, these great achievements have been won at a cost in human life a fraction the size of any past world-historical struggle of this magnitude.
Isn’t it pretty to think so. See “Debra” at Big Brass Blog – What Drugs Is This Guy On? – You have got to be kidding me! She says this:
Bush has shredded the meaning of the Constitution, he has let the citizens of a major city suffer for years, as if the initial suffering of Katrina wasn’t enough, he has presided over the greatest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in generations and this “columnist” thinks he’s going to be remembered as a great President. Thank goodness this crap is in a UK paper. Nobody but bloggers read foreign papers, but I’m sure that Faux News will highlight this line of bull dung.
She also cites the less excitable Doug Smith:
Truman – The Marshall Plan
Bush – Katrina
Truman – Pro Civil Rights and integration of the armed forces.
Bush – Anti-Gay Rights
Truman – Proposed Universal Health Insurance.
Bush – Against covering more children under the children’s health insurance program (CHIP). No support for stem cell research.
Truman – Helped create NATO
Bush – Couldn’t put together a significant coalition to occupy Iraq.
Truman – Recognized Israel
Bush – The first President in modern history to make no viable effort to help resolve the Mideast conflict between Israel and her neighbors.
Truman – Nuremberg War Crimes Trials
Bush – Torture, Guantanamo Bay
Well, there’s all that. Just who is a serious thinker?
Who can tell? There’s Alan Fram and Eileen Putman of the Associated Press with their comment on the times:
Is everything spinning out of control?
Midwestern levees are bursting. Polar bears are adrift. Gas prices are skyrocketing. Home values are abysmal. Air fares, college tuition and health care border on unaffordable. Wars without end rage in Iraq, Afghanistan and against terrorism.
Horatio Alger, twist in your grave.
The can-do, bootstrap approach embedded in the American psyche is under assault. Eroding it is a dour powerlessness that is chipping away at the country’s sturdy conviction that destiny can be commanded with sheer courage and perseverance.
You can see where that’s going, and it is a good read, full of detail about the sense of helplessness that seems pervasive now. That’s fertile ground for Kristol and Bolton.
With everything spinning out of control, you also have to worry about the serious thinkers, so well respected, who are always wrong.