It shouldn't be surprising to see a liberal opponent of the Iraq war like myself assert that the Bush administration has screwed up the war. But now possibly the most important neoconservative publicist and sophist is making the same assertion, on Fox News no less:
BILL KRISTOL: There would not be civil war if Zarqawi had not spent the last 2 1/2 years - had ex-Saddamists with him, very skillfully going on the offensive slaughtering Shia in Karbala, now blowing up the mosque.
CHRIS WALLACE: They're there. There are going to be more mosques to blow up. What do you do about the terrorists?
KRISTOL: Kill them. Defeat them.
CHRIS WALLACE: We've been trying.
KRISTOL: We've been trying, and our soldiers are doing terrifically, but we have not had a serious three-year effort to fight a war in Iraq as opposed to laying the preconditions for getting out.
CICI CONNELLY: I think that really begs the question then: what have we been doing over there for three-plus years? You say there hasn't been a serious effort to rid that region of the terrorists. I just wonder what secretary Rumsfeld would say in response to that or all the U.S. soldiers who have been over there all this time.
KRISTOL: Secretary Rumsfeld's plan was to draw town to 30,000 troops at the end of major activities.
In a previous piece I described how neocon scholar Eliot Cohen's book Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen and Leadership in Wartime was used as a prop by the Bush administration to present Bush as a serious leader. Of course, as we've known all along, and as was demonstrated devastatingly yesterday by emptypockets, Bush is not leading our country with a "seriousness equal to that of the men and women our country sends into the fight." Kristol's comment, however, shows that the neoconservative pundits, Kristol and Cohen included, aren't any more serious than Bush when it comes to assessing the war in Iraq, because they're only looking at one aspect of the failure, the execution. They never candidly discuss the rationales given for the war, every one of which has been shown to have been a delusion or a fraud. And they won't, because that would get in the way of their political positioning for the 2008 election.
When Cohen's book came out in 2002, one of the blubs on the jacket--"If I could ask President Bush to read one book, this would be it"--came from William Kristol. We don't know whether Bush really read the book or only said he did. But it's clear that he hasn't taken Cohen's lessons to heart, for he remains disengaged in the details and problems of the war, and he and his aparatchiki continue to attack anyone who exercises candor in assessing the war's failures.
Cohen has written a partial mea culpa, musing in a WaPo piece last year as his eldest son prepared to ship out to Iraq that "a pundit should not recommend a policy without adequate regard for the ability of those in charge to execute it, and here I stumbled." But he still thinks war against Saddam's Iraq was justified. And he confessed that he felt "contempt for the ghoulish glee of some who think they were right in opposing the war, and for the blithe disregard of the bungles by some who think they were right in favoring it." Kristol's position is essentially the same: we could have won the war if Bush wouldn't have let Rummy et al screw it up. But it's wrong to even suggest the original idea of the invasion and occupation wasn't dishonest and/or insane.
This may seem like a spat within the Bush inner sanctum, but only if you forget what Kristol was doing in 2000. Remember, he didn't support Bush, he and his buddies at the Weekly Standard endorsed John McCain for the Republican nomination. It's essential to keep that in mind, because the "Bush and Rummy screwed up a good war" talking point will almost certainly start to surface as Republicans, especially neoconservatives, try to protect their reputations and push a candidacy that if successful will maintain their access to Republican power.
And as DemFromCT suggested well over a year ago, as it becomes clear we've lost Iraqi hearts and minds, the neos and the Republicans are likely to turn on the war dissenters and blame the war's failure on us. (Remember Cohen's "contempt" for those who were correct in opposing the war.) Kristol's position has the virtue of maintaining the attack on war opponents while championing a new approach to continuing the war in Iraq and never acknowledging the folly of the original idea. Expect them to use that position to turn on Bush, advance the candidacy of McCain, and continue to blame the failure of the war on everyone except the people who hatched the idea: in other words, they'll continue to blame everyone but themselves.