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The Contradictions of Kristolism

Justin Logan reports on today's Brookings Iraq event:

I asked a question during the proceedings of Bill Kristol, since in response to a question about the occupation fueling the insurgency, he admitted that "in some ways, what we have is the worst of both worlds." I told him that I understood that he and others would like to have lots more troops in Iraq, and that I imagined Iraq may look different if we had 300,000 or 400,000 troops there. But I asked him, since we don't have that kind of an army to deploy, why he would continue to advocate a policy he ackowledges as the "worst of both worlds" in the sense of not being able to impose its will on the Iraqi people while simultaneously fueling the fires of nationalism and resistance. He replied by saying that he didn't mean it was really the worst of both worlds, that maybe that was too extreme a rhetorical flourish, but that it illustrates the absurdity of having a "pre-9/11" military, diplomatic corps, intelligence community, et cetera, serving the ends of a "post-9/11" foreign policy.
This is quite the nonsensical reply from Kristol, or so it seems to me. He thinks our goals should be X, and that achieving X requires us to have A, while in fact we have B which cannot achieve X. Nevertheless, he is unwilling to contemplate scaling our goals back to something other than X even though there is no prospect of us acquiring A at any point in the future. Note that even if the will to create an Army properly sized and structured so as to implement a Kristol-esque policy existed in Washington (and it doesn't) it would take far too long to put it together (even if we started tomorrow, which we won't) in order for it to be a difference-maker in Iraq. If you believe, as Kristol apparently does, that winning in Iraq requires several hundred thousand additional troops, then the only reasonable thing to conclude is that we must give up on winning and start thinking about the best way to go home. Those additional 150,000-250,000 troops aren't going to appear just by magic, even if we draft the entire Weekly Standard editorial team.

January 25, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

Is not Jonathan V. Last worth at least one company? And Hugh Hewitt at least two more? Well we're well on our way if we do draft the staff of the Standard.

Posted by: TJ | Jan 25, 2005 5:55:25 PM

Let's not give up too soon here. Let's do draft the entire Weekly Standard Editorial team, and try it first. I, for one, can't think of any other plan with the slightest possibility of working.

Posted by: Vaughn Hopkins | Jan 25, 2005 6:04:17 PM

Well. As someone who would have supported Kristol's idealized policy, given idealized resources (which could have and should have been started building three years ago)...I have no answer except that I did not vote for the jerk in the White House. Kristol does not have that answer.

However, we would be idiots to presume that Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld are idiots. There is a plan. We will soon have at least the skeleton of a battle-hardened corps of shocktroops, Sardaukar, capable of Rummy's concept of rapid-strike force in the only way it would work. Brutal, callous, exhausted killers capable and willing to destroy anything they are aimed at.

Soon we have two brigades capable of leveling Tehran. Occupying? Pacifying? Not our yob, man.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jan 25, 2005 6:07:20 PM

You're comment is dead-on. Perhaps there is a viable approach (given the size of our army) other than cutting and running, but I don't know what it is, and Kristol obviously doesn't know either. One of the depressing points that this disconnect between reality and the program Kristol advocates is the moral bankruptcy of neoconservatism (or at least of Bill Kristol). Forget whether this war was a good idea or not; put aside for a moment the debate over how best to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; forget the whole neocon policy agenda -- because Kristol obviously has. Believe only this: Kristol puts the interests of the Republican Party over those of his country. Bush favors staying in Iraq (for whatever reason); therefore, Kristol favors staying in Iraq. I don't know what currency was exchanged -- cash, access to power, power -- but it's clear that Kristol has been bought and paid for. He is not an honest advocate for ideas. He's just a hired gun.

Posted by: Charlie Robb | Jan 25, 2005 6:13:00 PM

"...even if we draft the entire Weekly Standard editorial team."

Please, please, please...

Posted by: Petey | Jan 25, 2005 6:14:25 PM

He's in the Laurie Mylroie club of true believers that 9/11 was all a big conspiracy of the uncooperative Arab regimes. So I suppose he doesn't care if it gets wrong as long as we knocked out of the Elders of Araby plotting against us.

Posted by: absynthe | Jan 25, 2005 6:16:13 PM

Good lord. I never thought I'd be defending Bill Kristol...

Charlie Robb writes:

"I don't know what currency was exchanged -- cash, access to power, power -- but it's clear that Kristol has been bought and paid for. He is not an honest advocate for ideas. He's just a hired gun."

Kristol isn't bought and paid for. He's a partisan, backed into the corner of defending something indefensible, because that's where following his agenda has left him.

It happens.

Kristol actually tends to be pretty reasonable for a GOP partisan.

Posted by: Petey | Jan 25, 2005 6:20:13 PM

I like the part about how he praised the speech that he helped write.

Oh, and Petey, it would be pretty interesting to see what kind of boards Kristol sits on ... incidentally, advocating four simultaneous wars within the context of a doctrine of world domination is hardly "reasonable."

Posted by: praktike | Jan 25, 2005 6:31:50 PM

Kristol the writer always struck me as much more uncompromising and ideological than Kristol the talk show panelist. On the tube - and I assume in person - he is charming, affable, moderate and solicitous of the opinions of others - very disarming. In print he is a zealot.

I wouldn't discount the willingness of some of the hawks to opt for a strategy of treading water in Iraq until we get a draft. And it's not so irrational. A few years of gradually yet steadily increasing casualties in Iraq and the spectre of military defeat, coupled with a few manufactured emergencies in other spots, and the scared, manipulable majority may be begging for a draft.

In a couple of years, the kids of most of the boomers will be out of the draft woods, and there will then be nothing holding them back.

Posted by: Dan Kervick | Jan 25, 2005 6:35:18 PM

Good comments Mathew. That is the situation we have been in since the beginning: There NEVER HAS BEEN even the potential of "enough" troops -Boots On The Ground- there arent sufficient men available. Rummy (and the Brass) knew that from day 1. That is why the Generals didn't ask for more troops, there never were more.

Now, they could give rifles to the entire crew of an aircraft carrier, but they won't.

Real Good Managers. Well, there was a chance to fire these turkeys, and they are still there, so who's really to blame???

Posted by: Michael C | Jan 25, 2005 6:45:01 PM

Hey, why stop with the Weekly Standard? There must be at least 300,000 Pajama Praetorians in the hawkosphere that we can draft and ship over there.

Posted by: josh | Jan 25, 2005 6:46:35 PM

Remember - it was Bill Krstol that predicted the cost of this war would be between 0.1% and 0.2% of GDP (translation: $11 to $22 billion). The man never has had any credibility.

Posted by: pgl | Jan 25, 2005 7:11:30 PM

He thinks our goals should be X, and that achieving X requires us to have A, while in fact we have B which cannot achieve X.


Matthew's premise is mistaken.

Kristol apparently thinks that our goals should be X, and that achieving X would best be served by having (not "requires us to have") A. In fact, we have B, with which it is more difficult to achieve X (not "which cannot achieve X").

Because Matthew's premise is flawed, his conclusion (that is would be desirable to "scal[e] our goals back to something other than X") is also flawed.

Posted by: Al | Jan 25, 2005 7:12:01 PM

Petey - you seem to be saying dishonesty is AOK if one does not profit from it. Yikes!

Posted by: pgl | Jan 25, 2005 7:12:34 PM

Al is mistaken.

Kristol apparently thinks, "in some ways, what we have is the worst of both worlds", albeit without the rhetorical flourish. Kristol thinking we have the worst of both worlds is not compatible with Kristol thinking we have something much more difficult - but not impossible - to achieve.

Al's premise is flawed because he either:

B) Doesn't understand that worst of both worlds means to Kristol, eg. that we not only can't achieve our objectives, but that we are needlessly losing soldiers in by tilting into the wind.

OR

A) Doesn't wish to take Kristol at his own words.

Posted by: manyoso | Jan 25, 2005 7:28:46 PM

it would be pretty interesting to see what kind of boards Kristol sits on

i know one !

Posted by: cleek | Jan 25, 2005 8:06:02 PM

If you believe, as Kristol apparently does, that winning in Iraq requires several hundred thousand additional troops, then the only reasonable thing to conclude is that we must give up on winning and start thinking about the best way to go home.

I agree with Matt's logic, but not his conclusion. I think Kristol believes we need an immediate increase in the size of the army to fight the many military adventures in the PNAC plan, probably via a draft.

Posted by: ScrewyRabbit | Jan 25, 2005 8:21:21 PM

"I wouldn't discount the willingness of some of the hawks to opt for a strategy of treading water in Iraq until we get a draft. And it's not so irrational. A few years of gradually yet steadily increasing casualties in Iraq and the spectre of military defeat, coupled with a few manufactured emergencies in other spots, and the scared, manipulable majority may be begging for a draft.

In a couple of years, the kids of most of the boomers will be out of the draft woods, and there will then be nothing holding them back."

Sadly, that's probably right.

Its not to late to secede...

Posted by: Green Dem | Jan 25, 2005 9:34:49 PM

Are Kristol and his neocon buddies willing to consider RAISING TAXES in order to get the funds needed to build a "post-9/11 military"?

(Screams of outrage heard) No, I didn't think so.

Posted by: Rebecca Allen, PhD | Jan 25, 2005 10:38:38 PM

In some sense Al is more correct than Matt. Matt's conclusion rests upon the idea that B cannot lead to A. Since A and B do not exist in a world without other variables, it is impossible to say B cannot become A. Most importantly variable I (Iraqi people) has a lot to say in this equation. I is by no means an assured route to A, but it cannot be completely discounted.

Posted by: Publius Rex | Jan 25, 2005 10:49:02 PM

In some sense Al is more correct than Matt. Matt's conclusion rests upon the idea that B cannot lead to A. Since A and B do not exist in a world without other variables, it is impossible to say B cannot become A. Most importantly variable I (Iraqi people) has a lot to say in this equation. I is by no means an assured route to A, but it cannot be completely discounted.

And I could win the lottery tomorrow. In fact, I think I'll pre-emptively quit my job and begin and planning how I'll spend all my money.

Posted by: ScrewyRabbit | Jan 25, 2005 10:56:08 PM

Here's a great link for the real deal:

http://www.theeastcarolinian.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2005/01/25/41f594996f2ce

Posted by: Mike | Jan 25, 2005 11:05:35 PM

"Here's a great link for the real deal:"

Don't bother everyone. Its right wing bullshit.

Posted by: Green Dem | Jan 26, 2005 12:18:54 AM

ScrewyRabbit,

Give me a break. I was not arguing that I think B leads to A implicitly. Your hyperbole is shallow.

Al has a point, Matt has a point. Neither is likely to be absolutely correct. That's all I'm saying.

Posted by: Publius Rex | Jan 26, 2005 12:25:26 AM

A PBS program on Muslim terrorism in Europe made my heart sink. Everyone interviewed, from judges and police to moderate Muslims to jihadists, agreed that America's invasion of Iraq and our unconditional support of Israel, has made terrorist incidents vastly more likely. Radical Muslims are bubbling with joy. Great numbers of new recruits have started them thinking big. The Caliphate (when Muslims ruled an empire from Spain to India) might be revived! Thank you, George Bush!

What can be done about the catastrophe of Bush? One very small group, a combination of right wing religionists and somnambulant Americans---about one percent of global population---is wrecking the world. So much power should not be placed in the hands of so few. Do we fully realize how imperative it is that we get rid of these people? The go-along, get-along attitude of Democrats in Washington argues that we do not. We need much bigger and more creative ideas. What about folding the United States into a full-continent America? O.K., the Canadians won’t have us. Any other ideas?

As for the question of Kristol’s ideology, to borrow the image of another threadist, If Bush called for the crushing of all new-born kittens with cinder blocks, the next morning we’d see Kristol, Will, Brooks, et al, finding dozens of reasons to support the brilliant new doctrine. Did Pravda ever support Stalin with more consistency?

Posted by: James of DC | Jan 26, 2005 1:04:27 AM

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