So what to do? Remember that Kristol’s loyalty to the Republicans often trumps national security. How else to explain his support for the GOP last November, even though a Republican victory would have prevented the surge in the first place and kept Rumsfeld in the Pentagon? One option: Change the subject by launching wars against Syria and Iran, and so polarize the country that the choice is framed as: MoveOn or America? That’s much better than having, you know, an actual debate about the merits of the war in Iraq and the war against Islamist terror. On that, Republicans lose. If the war is far wider and more terrifying, if the enemies can be multiplied and amplified, then the dynamic plays to the advantage of the GOP. It’s for us or against us again.
I really think that’s wrong. Kristol wants military action against Syria and Iran because Syria and Iran are both countries in the news and Kristol’s only idea about foreign policy is that the United States should deploy more military force. He’s also, clearly, a committed partisan Republican, but I think any fair reading of the record shows that his commitment to maximum military action all the time trumps petty considerations of partisanship. Recall that back in April 2001 Bush disappointed Kristol by not launching a war with China and got this treatment:
The profound national humiliation that President Bush has brought upon the United States may be forgotten temporarily when the American aircrew, held captive in China as this magazine goes to press, return home. But when we finish celebrating, it will be time to assess the damage done, and the dangers invited, by the administration’s behavior.
Now, that was idiotic. Our temporary forgetting of this “profound” humiliation will extend until the end of time because Bush, listening to Colin Powell and other sensible members of his administration, handled a sticky situation rather well and advanced our key interests at basically no cost. Kristol, by contrast, wanted to engage in a risky game of brinksmanship over nothing because, basically, he thinks war is great. Which, again, is profoundly dumb, but not in a partisan way. He’s just a one-trick pony.