The Corner

KRISTOL CLEAR?

John, It may be that I’ve misinterpreted what Kristol meant. If so I was unfair. As I read what he was saying, there was at least an inference that the US should have also attacked either Iran or North Korea or both. That would have been a mistake. As matters currently stand, it would still be a mistake. 

  On the Iraq point, Kristol is, of course (as you rightly say) on surer ground (although I have yet to be convinced that adding more troops now will really make the difference that some, including Kristol, say it will). I didn’t think it at the time of the invasion, but it’s quite clear now that the US/Coalition did not now have enough back-up troops to enforce the peace after the initial (impressive) military victory. In my defense (sort of), I never envisaged that the Americans would ignore the then British advice to maintain as much of the existing social/political structure in Iraq as was reasonably compatible with regime change. That they did ignore it remains, to me, astonishing.   On the wider point on the over-reliance of the use of force (or threat of it), I do think that there has been an unecessary unwillingness to talk to some of the people that the US needs to be talking to. In particular, the failure to engage Russia (and in this respect the Vice President’s Vilnius speech must rank as one of the great unforced errors of the year) has been little short of extraordinary, and to those who say that that Putin is a nasty piece of work (he is), I say, get over it. Foreign policy is about protecting the national interest, nothing else. If, beyond the water’s edge, that occasionally may have to mean wallowing in the gutter, embracing despots, and betraying allies, so be it. It’s a rough planet.

You then make the point that much GOP discontent can be explained by the problems in Iraq. There’s a lot to that, of course, but I seem to remember (look at NRODT back then if you think I’m wrong) that in 1992 there was enormous GOP discontent with another Bush (remember all the talk about the deficit, remember “read my lips”), something that contributed to the rise of Perot and the fall of GHWB, despite his triumph in Kuwait the year before. That brought us a Clinton presidency. I think we both agree that history could repeat itself.

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