To be honest, I don’t know how Bill Kristol can show his face in public at all, let alone continue to appear on national television and write articles in which he arrogantly proclaims that perpetual war has yielded stellar results despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. In an op-ed in Wednesday’s USA Today, Kristol assured us that invading Iraq was a fantastic idea, and that the only reason it’s a mess now is because of — you guessed it — President Obama.
Before we get into Kristol’s otherworldly piece, recall that eight days after the U.S. invaded in 2003, he said this:
“George Bush is not fighting this like Vietnam… This is going to be a two-month war, not an eight-year war.”
No, more like eight years and nine months. That’s 105 months in total. And of course, the U.S. is now bombing ISIS in Iraq (and Syria) and providing training and arms to Iraqis to help them fight ISIS, which wouldn’t exist were it not for the U.S. invasion in the first place.
But this isn’t how Kristol sees it. Writing in USA Today, he declared, “We were right to invade Iraq in 2003 to remove Saddam Hussein,” before proceeding to blame Obama for the current state of affairs:
“When President Obama took office, Iraq was calm, al-Qaeda was weakened and ISIS did not exist. Iran, meanwhile, was under pressure from abroad (due to sanctions) and at home (due to popular discontent, manifested by the Green uprising in the summer of 2009).
“The Obama administration threw it all away. It failed to support the dissidents in Iran in 2009, mishandled the Iraqi elections in 2010, removed all U.S. troops from Iraq at the end of 2011, and allowed the Syrian civil war to spiral out of control from 2011 on.”
First of all, when George W. Bush invaded Iraq, neither ISIS nor Al Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate existed. Nor did Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction that the Bush administration said were there. As evil as Saddam was and as brutally as he treated his own people, he kept the lid on sectarian tensions boiling underneath. Before his overthrow, Iraqis lived under the tyranny of a despot; now they live under a tyranny of chaos and religious fanaticism. Furthermore, the war killed more than 100,000 Iraqis and 5,000 Americans, and cost more than $1 trillion.
Second of all, the withdrawal of U.S. soldiers at the end of 2011 was done in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement signed in 2008 by Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki and U.S. President Bara–George W. Bush. Warmongers like Kristol and Dick Cheney love to gloss over this fact because it belies their narrative that Obama pulled out too soon and therefore Iraq descended into chaos because of him. However, Obama even tried to get the deadline extended, but Maliki wouldn’t agree to give U.S. soldiers immunity under Iraq law.
Third of all, baked into Kristol’s critique is the tragic erstwhile assumption of neoconservatives and liberal interventionists that the United States can, with relative ease, effect major change in a volatile place and get the exact result they want: a democracy that is friendly to U.S. interests, even when that country has little or no history of either.
Just look at the way Kristol talks about how Obama didn’t support the protesters in Iran, or how Obama “allowed the Syrian civil war to spiral out of control,” as if a U.S. president can flip a switch and manipulate geopolitics in large and often unstable countries to get a favorable outcome. It’s foolhardy and demonstrably untrue. Iraq is proof of that, as is Libya, which Obama bombed in 2011 in support of anti-Gaddafi forces. Kristol praised that action, writing,
“[D]espite his doubts and dithering, President Obama is taking us to war in another Muslim country. Good for him.”
Good for him?
Thanks in part to U.S. intervention, Libya now has two rival governments — neither of which has actually been able to govern in any meaningful way. ISIS is now there and overall the place is a disaster. Hence, the shipwrecks like the one that killed 800 people in which migrants from the country try to flee to Europe.
And now once again, our favorite neocon foreign policy “expert” wants to complete the Iraq trilogy by sending in more U.S. ground forces to defeat ISIS and “win” in Iraq once and for all since as you know, jihadists really know when to stop fighting because they’re not at all driven by a desire to die in combat against “infidels” so they can get their virgins in eternal paradise.
Go home, Bill Kristol. You’re wrong.