(Page 3 of 3)
Reason: Rep. John Murtha (D-Penn.) said that
Gen. Petraeus's appearance in Washington was political, meant to
pump up support for the war more than inform the Congress. Is he
Gilchrest: I appreciate the fact that the general came here. I met Gen. Petraeus in Mosul and in Baghdad. I have a great deal of respect and I'm glad he came and glad he had a dialogue. And he also said here, again, clearly, that there's no military victory in Iraq, that it has to be a political solution. Look, Gen. Petraeus is a general taking orders from his commander-in-chief. He doesn't make policy. It is not his responsibility to say whether or not we're succeeding. The White House has to make that clarification. And for them to say "We're doing what the generals say" is irresponsible; it's just foreclosing their constitutional responsibilities. Gen. Petraeus can carry out the best tactics in the world but unless the overall strategy is well thought out he can never be successful. It always irritates me when they say "We're going to listen to the generals." They haven't listened to the generals from day one.
Reason: How do you interpret the Republican
base on this issue? There are a number of ad hoc groups that
bloggers have started to punish Republicans who've cast anti-war
votes, like Florida's Ric Keller...
Gilchrest: Poor soul.
Reason: That was the Victory Caucus. How do you respond
to these groups that want to oust anti-war
Gilchrest: I know what I want to say, but my mother taught me not to say it. Look, history is a vast early warning system. Knowledge is key to this issue. Simplistic, dogmatic ideology confines and restricts your view of the world. So if you want to be loyal to the troops in the field, if you're saying you're patriotic, then you'll read a book like Anthony Zinni's The Battle for Peace. You'll read a book like Fiasco. You'll turn the damn television off every night for two hours and read some objective opinions on this thing. Ignorance is pervasive in any culture and ours is not an exception.
Reason: In 2006 the GOP majority held a vote on
Iraq withdrawal that you said was intended to embarrass the
Democrats politically. And then the GOP lost the elections in part
because Democrats hit them on the war. Why have your colleagues
misread the popularity of the war?
Gilchrest: I can't psychoanalyze those guys. I think the GOP was dissolving. Now it's drying up and the wind's going to blow it away. I just don't think we have the depth of knowledge, intellect, and experience necessary for a viable political party any more.
Reason: That's changed since you got to
Gilchrest: Sure it's changed. I was a Republican and I still am. I'm not sure if maybe the GOP has been hijacked by the base, or by Karl Rove, or by all of these peripheral issues.
Reason: Such as?
Gilchrest: Issues that shouldn't be occupying a nation like this, with our place in global politics. We're stuck on gay marriage, flag burning; we're supposed to make sure you get campaign contributions from the NRA. We were stuck with those for so many years.
Reason: You don't worry about another primary
challenge from a Republican who thinks this war has to be won or
those issues are important?
Gilchrest: I don't worry about a primary challenge. It's inconvenient. My eternal soul will last a lot longer than my short, pathetic political career.
David Weigel is an associate editor of reason.
Discuss this article online.