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Kristol Meth


The war’s most enduring organ-grinder is gettin’ his Friedman on today, declaring once again that Bush’s war has reached a turning point, and that Americans are slowly — to the chagrin of the New York Times — awakening to the Good News. Steve Bennen gives substance to the obvious, which is that Kristol’s skull is once again playing host to a leprechaun tea party. As Bennen writes, “[it’s] a special kind of worldview that leads a person to look at one discouraging development after another, and conclude, “Finally, everything’s going my way!”

Worldview, brain parasite — whatever you want to call it, I can only agree that it’s quite remarkable. Indeed, a quick perusal through the Weekly Standard‘s dumpster reveals that for Kristol is a true master of the daily affirmation. For most of the rest of the country, the war in Iraq has been like waking up every day and finding a warm pile of shit on the breakfast plate; Kristol, meanwhile, believes he’s in Disneyland and that he’s gobbling a pancake in the shape of Mickey Mouse.

Here’s Kristol in late November 2004:

Meanwhile, the offensive in Falluja has gone better than expected, and we are following up in Mosul, Ramadi, and elsewhere as necessary. The president is clearly resolved to mobilize all available military, political, and diplomatic resources to bring off elections in Iraq, and successfully to prosecute the larger war on terror and hasten the transformation of the Middle East.

And here he is in early March 2005:

Just four weeks after the Iraqi election of January 30, 2005, it seems increasingly likely that that date will turn out to have been a genuine turning point. The fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, ended an era. September 11, 2001, ended an interregnum. In the new era in which we now live, 1/30/05 could be a key moment–perhaps the key moment so far–in vindicating the Bush Doctrine as the right response to 9/11. And now there is the prospect of further and accelerating progress.

And in case we’d forgotten by November 2005 that things were looking up, Kristol explained once again why the election of an ineffectual parliament was such a big deal:

Meanwhile, the political process in Iraq continued in a relatively promising direction, as some Sunni groups seemed increasingly reconciled to pursuing their goals through politics rather than betting on the success of the insurgency. On the military front, the joint U.S.-Iraqi effort to fight an effective counterinsurgency seemed to be making some progress.

And last but not least, here’s Billy in December 2005, less than two months before the obliteration of the Golden Dome:

There may now be a realization among Sunnis that the insurgency is not winning, and thus may not be the best way for them to recover their lost power–or even to strengthen their bargaining position. Sunni fence sitters seem to be tilting toward involvement in the political process. A more active counterinsurgency strategy–and the presence of 160,000 American troops–has not, as some predicted, reduced Sunni participation in the political process or engendered greater hostility and violence. On the contrary, the extra troops helped provide the security that made it safer for Sunnis and others to vote, and for democracy to take root. If American and Iraqi troops continue to provide basic security, and if Iraq’s different sects and political groups now begin to engage in serious, peaceful bargaining, then we may just have witnessed the beginning of Iraq’s future.

The issue here is not so much that Kristol has been utterly wrong about everything he’s advised or predicted about Iraq since the late 1990s; the greater obscenity is that everything Kristol has written about Iraq has been transparently subordinated to the cause of shielding the Bush administration from any kind of accountability for the past. As Rob pointed out the other day, “Not everyone is Bill Kristol, of whom we can more or less assume unstated motives and intentions.” For Kristol, shameless optimism is more than simply therapeutic; instead, it’s always couched in terms of “buying time” for whatever political encounter happens to be looming over the horizon for the Republican Party. In 2004, Americans’ had to maintain their faith in order to elect Bush and (eventually) vindicate him; in 2005, optimism was required to keep the war on sturdy ground for the upcoming Congressional elections.

Now, Kristol wants everyone to believe, the “good news” from Iraq must be emphasized so that General Petraeus’ September report on “the surge” can be received in its proper spirit — which is to say as yet another instrument for “buying time” and prolonging the war.

No one knows, of course, what Petraeus’ testimony might reveal, but I’m pretty sure we can guess what the staff meeting at the Standard is going to look like that day:

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