Appearing on CSPAN’s Washington Journal last Friday, Bill Kristol was confronted by a caller on his role and that of his magazine, The Weekly Standard, as the main ideological drivers behind the Iraq war. As Think Progress noted, Kristol showed absolutely no remorse for having been completely wrong in almost every particular about the war’s consequences for the United States, blithely asserting that “I think the war was right, and I think we’ve succeeded in the war.”
As I’ve written before, the Iraq war has “succeeded” only in the sense that we seem for now to have avoided the very worst imaginable outcome there. Though violence has declined from the catastrophic levels seen in 2006–7, Iraqi factions remain at odds over key political issues of the new Iraqi state, and as shown by the upsurge in violence between the Iraqi government and Sunni militias this weekend, remain prepared to resort to violence to press their claims.
Watching the video, I did get the distinct sense that, at some level, Kristol knows that he’s peddling snake oil, given the way that he quickly pivoted away from Iraq to argue that “in Afghanistan, incidentally, it’s President Obama who’s announcing the increase in troops today” — as if the further deployment of U.S. troops to that country was an affirmation of his ideas, rather than proof of their failure.
Kristol also protested that Obama’s plan “is not something he was forced into by the Weekly Standard or anyone else.” As with most of what comes out of Bill Kristol’s mouth, though, this is not entirely true. The main reason that President Obama has had to commit further troops and resources to Afghanistan is that President Bush failed to finish the job there. The reason he failed to finish the job is that he went and started a war in Iraq, aided and abetted by the trash journalism and shameless jingoism of Bill Kristol and The Weekly Standard. While The Weekly Standard didn’t “force” Obama to escalate in Afghanistan, they did play a central role in creating a situation wherein escalation is the least worst option. But Kristol is far less interested in honestly considering the costs of the Iraq debacle to American national security than he is in mitigating the costs to his own reputation, as he attempts to re-introduce his discredited ideology into the American political discourse.