WALLACE: But isn’t that the result of what’s happened in Iraq?
KRISTOL: No, it’s a result of our deducing from the situation in Iraq that we can’t stand up to Iran. I mean, when we stand up over and over and say Iran is shipping Improvised Explosive Devices into Iraq and killing U.S. soldiers, and Syria’s providing a line for terrorists to come into Iraq and kill U.S. soldiers, and that’s unacceptable. That’s not helpful. And then we do nothing about it. When Ahmadinejad says provocative things, continues to ship arms to Hezbollah, and we say, okay, maybe now we’ll give you direct talks. That, unfortunately, that weakness has been provocative. Ahmadinejad feels emboldened. Now we need to show him, and I think the administration has done a good job the last couple of days of showing him, that he miscalculated. And indeed, this is a great opportunity. I think our weakness, unfortunately, invited this aggression, but this aggression is a great opportunity to begin resuming the offensive against the terrorist groups.
What? We invade Iraq, and it invites more aggression? Who could have predicted? Kristol’s point (his lassez faire attitude about the facts notwithstanding) should serve to destroy any notion that aggressive activity can create a reputation for “resolve”. In this case, we have attacked and destroyed the regime in between Syria and Iran. This action, according to Kristol, has resulted in a reputation for weakness on the part of the United States. Why? Because follow-through has been insufficiently aggressive. What Kristol fails to grapple with is we CANNOT control how countries like Iran and Syria view us; they assume that we are weak, and interpret the available evidence accordingly. Wars like Iraq don’t lend themselves to a singular interpretation, as different actors take away different interpretations. It should hardly surprise us that Iran and Syria interpret the attack differently than we do. But it’s nice to see that the premier neocon is admitting that the invasion of Iraq has failed utterly to give the US a reputation for resolve or strength.
The lesson should not be lost on Israel, either. Many have argued that the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 allowed Hezbollah and the Palestinians to conclude that Israel was weak. This is a strange lesson to learn, when you think about it; an eighteen year occupation ends, with relatively low casualties for the occupying power in spite of extremely high casualties for the occupied, and this is supposed to indicate that Israel is weak? More about this later. The question of the day is “what will Hezbollah learn from the current Israeli attacks?” There is zero chance that the bombing will destroy Hezbollah, and an invasion doesn’t stand a much better hope. At some point the Israeli strikes will end, and there will undoubtedly be elements within Hezbollah that say “Look; the Israelis are weak. They bombed us, but then gave up. They invaded, but then went home. This indicates that they have weak resolve”. This is simply not a game that Israel (or the US) can win; you cannot convince an opponent that you have resolve. You can convince someone that you have capability (there’s lots of evidence that Iran toned itself down after 1991, noting how easily the US destroyed the Iraqi Army), but you can’t convince them that you’re tough.