Neoconservative pundit Bill Kristol continued to beat the war drum on Tuesday, insisting that — despite evidence of nationwide war-weariness — Americans could get behind yet another military intervention in Iraq.
Kristol made his case on “Morning Joe,” calling on President Obama to deploy air and ground forces to stabilize the tumultuous situation in Iraq. Bloomberg’s John Heilemann, who was also on the show’s panel, told Kristol that “there is no, zero, none, less than zero appetite for the kind of thing you’re talking about.”
“How would you get over the fact that the country en masse, Democrat and Republican, would tell you you’re nuts to think that we should be sending residual forces back into Iraq to get back involved in this war?” Heilemann asked.
Kristol assured Heilemann that Obama could use the bully pulpit to mobilize the country.
“If [Obama] goes on TV and says, ‘This is a strategic crisis for the reasons I’m going to lay out here. We have to do something no one wants to do, which is to go back in with a lot of air power and special forces and maybe a few conventional troops to help stabilize the situation. We cannot allow an al Qaeda-backed group to dominate one part of the Middle East and Iran and Iranian-backed groups to dominate another part of the Middle East. It’s an unacceptable threat to us.’ He would have support,” Kristol said.
He made the same point on Monday in a column that he co-authored with Frederick W. Kagan for The Weekly Standard.
The piece was an eerie call-back to a Weekly Standard article Kristol wrote in early-2002 with Kagan’s brother, Robert.
Monday’s piece was titled “What to Do in Iraq.” In 2002, Kristol and Robert Kagan wrote under the headline, “What to Do About Iraq.”
Kristol and Frederick Kagan wrote with confidence on Monday, offering up a doomsday scenario if the U.S. fails to act.
“This path won’t be easy, but the alternatives are much worse,” they wrote. “Doing nothing means we will face a full-scale sectarian war—Syria on steroids—with millions of refugees and tens or hundreds of thousands more dead, along with a massive expansion of Iranian control into southern Iraq and an al Qaeda safe haven stretching from the Tigris to the middle of Syria.”
Iraq’s collapse, they wrote, “would be a disaster for American interests and security in the Middle East and around the world.”
Kristol and the other Kagan brother provided a similar warning about American inaction in 2002.
“The Iraqi threat is enormous,” they wrote then. “It gets bigger with every day that passes.”
Dubious pre-war pronouncements like that have helped cement Kristol’s reputation as a consistently wrong pundit.
Kristol, of course, would prefer that the country not look back.
He and Frederick Kagan wrote Monday that it’s “not the time to re-litigate either the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 or the decision to withdraw from it in 2011.”
Obama would face an uphill climb if he were to heed Kristol’s advice. A survey released Tuesday from Democratic firm Public Policy Polling found that only 16 percent of Americans would support sending troops back to Iraq, while 74 percent are opposed. A Gallup poll released last year on the 10th anniversary of the invasion showed that a majority of Americans consider the war a mistake.
Kristol actually challenged the country’s war-weariness months ago. Well before Islamic militants began capturing Iraqi cities on an ominous march to Baghdad, Kristol called on a “brave leader” to help America re-discover its appetite for war.
“In fact, the idol of war-weariness can be challenged,” Kristol wrote in March. “A war-weary public can be awakened and rallied. Indeed, events are right now doing the awakening. All that’s needed is the rallying. And the turnaround can be fast.”