George Will Hates America and Freedom

How else to interpret this Washington Post column, wherein he lays a finely-manicured smackdown on the The Weekly Standard's exhortations to war?

The administration, justly criticized for its Iraq premises and their execution, is suddenly receiving some criticism so untethered from reality as to defy caricature. The national, ethnic and religious dynamics of the Middle East are opaque to most people, but to the Weekly Standard -- voice of a spectacularly misnamed radicalism, "neoconservatism" -- everything is crystal clear: Iran is the key to everything.

Will goes on to ridicule the magazine's lust for war with pretty much everyone, pinpointing the more disastrous policy recommendations they made (some luckily unfulfilled). That would be brutal enough, if Will didn't stop, clean his glasses, and drop the baseball-reference A-Bomb.

Neoconservatives have much to learn, even from Buddy Bell, manager of the Kansas City Royals. After his team lost its 10th consecutive game in April, Bell said, "I never say it can't get worse." In their next game, the Royals extended their losing streak to 11 and in May lost 13 in a row.

Good stuff. Now, might Will want to walk across the WaPo columnists' playpen and calmy explain this to Charles Krauthammer?

The America Conservative's senior writer W. James Antle III reviewed the WS's 10th anniversary essay collection here.

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  • ||

    Are people actually still listening to neoconservatives? I thought they'd pretty much been discredited as wackos. Even the Bushies only used them for their "vision" and unceremoniously dumped them when the Iraqis stopped throwing sweets & flowers and started throwing RPGs.

  • ||

    Wheelchair or no, I'm still taking Krauthammer over Will in a slapfight.

  • ||

    As always Will is a brilliant writer in the above article, but, to go off topic, if you haven't read the piece he wrote about his mother's death, go right now.
    (and bring a hanky)

  • ||

    Correction - Use the link in this post!
    As always Will is a brilliant writer in the above article, but, to go off topic, if you haven't read the piece he wrote about his mother's death, go right now.
    (and bring a hanky)

  • ||

    George Will was also one of the first conservatives to call bvllsh1t when the intelligent design issue (craze?) was all the rage.

  • Warren||

    The WS is certainly the voice of the current coalition in power (not merely the administration, the legislature, and courts but the particular factions within those institutions with their hands on the levers). Will correctly nails them for being not only consistently wrong about everything, but spectacularly wrong, and with grave consequences.

    Unfortunately for Will, his own record fairs well only in comparison to such hideous incompetence. Four years ago, he was an unequivocal hawk, calling for the bombing of Baghdad and claiming the UN was illegitimate and the US should not deign to even address it.

  • R C Dean||

    What Will, like most in his camp fail to do, is explain how, once we foreswear military action, we will deal with nations that (a) do not respond to diplomacy (b) are in the habit of credibly threatening if not actually assaulting others (whether directly or by proxy).

    Sometimes, however bad an option it is, war is the least worst option. I maintain that was the case with Iraq in 2003, and that it is the case today in Lebanon. Sure, it sucks, but all the other options are worse.

  • ||

    Warren,

    And let's not forget that Mr. Will called the day Reagan and Gorbachev signed their big arms control agreement "the day we lost the Cold War."

    But I liked this from the column: 'Speaking on ABC's "This Week," Rice called it "shortsighted" to judge the success of the administration's transformational ambitions by a "snapshot" of progress "some couple of years" into the transformation.'

    ...which is not exactly the tune she was singing on Flight Suit Day, or on Purple Finger Day, or on Let's-Pretend-the-Statue-Wasn't-Demolished-by-the-Marines Day.

    'Neoconservatives have much to learn, even from Buddy Bell, manager of the Kansas City Royals. After his team lost its 10th consecutive game in April, Bell said, "I never say it can't get worse." In their next game, the Royals extended their losing streak to 11 and in May lost 13 in a row.'

    Does anyone else remember the hawks' response to concerns that the Iraq War could destabilize the Middle East? "Ho ho ho! Destablize the Middle East? Oh no, that would be horrible! Ha ha, you just hate democracy."

    It's good that some of the people who were so wrong about this war can admit. The next step is for them to ask themselves why they were so wrong. Then maybe they could ask who was right, and then, why they were right. But that's probably too much to ask from the New Reality-Creators.

  • ||

    RC,

    Please find me the part where Will says we should "foreswear military action." I couldn't locate it.

    I know you like to tell yourself that abject pacifism is the only alternative your preferred policy of endless war, but look where believing what you want to be true has gotten us so far.

  • ||

    RC Dean wrote, Sometimes, however bad an option it is, war is the least worst option. I maintain that was the case with Iraq in 2003, and that it is the case today in Lebanon.

    Under what metric was war (invading Iraq) less bad than the status quo ante?

  • ||

    Why does Buddy Bell hate America?

  • ||

    anon,

    Even your skeptical response give's RC's argument too much credit, as our choices went well beyond the status quo ante vs. OIF.

    Once upon a time, weapons inspectors were confirming that absence of an Iraqi WMD program, Saddam Hussein was being humiliated in front of his country, and the entire UN was behind the effort. Had the US simply called and collected the pot at this point, George Bush would be remembered as a brilliant international strategist.

  • ||

    "Are people actually still listening to neoconservatives?"

    Well, Cheney and Rummy were PNAC poobahs. They're still around. Plus all the usual suspects (Kristol, Dr. Cabbagehammer) still get inordinate air time to spin their fantasies.

    I wish, as is often alleged, that the Republican Party took its marching orders from Big Business. The stock market is taking dump after steaming dump and I don't think WWIII or IV or V is great for bidness.

  • ||

    Minor semantic issues, but . . .

    The war in Iraq was a smashing success, over in a few weeks.

    The occupation of Iraq has been an utter disaster, due in major part to the inability of the planners of the war to understand the long-term consequences of their actions.

    The failure of the occuption does not necessarily mean that there was no justification to start the war. However, it clearly indicates the current administration was the wrong party to execute the war.

  • ||

    Josh,
    You're totally wrong. Jenna Bush will have socialized health care in 2024.

    Midterm elections and all.

  • ||

    What Will, like most in his camp fail to do, is explain how, once we foreswear military action, we will deal with nations that (a) do not respond to diplomacy (b) are in the habit of credibly threatening if not actually assaulting others (whether directly or by proxy).

    I think he explained it pretty well here: "And perhaps because containment, although of uncertain success, did work against Stalin and his successors, and might be preferable to a war against a nation much larger and more formidable than Iraq."

    He might also have mentioned Mao. Back when Red China got the Bomb in 1965, he was perceived as every bit as unbalanced as Kim Jong-il or Mahmud Ahmadinejad. Many people, arguing "better safe than sorry," suggested we needed to carry out a preemptive strike or two against Chinesem nuke faciities. It seems those pussy comsymps Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon didn't agree, however, and were willing to take the chance of having a mushroom clouds of Chincom origin rising up from the smoking ruins of a few of our and our allies' cities.

  • ||

    Will, for any of his faults, can at least realize reality when it hits him in the face. The hacks at Weekly Standard and NRO on the other handjust close their eyes, cover their ears and scream louder (after all, its not them suffering the consequences).

  • ||

    There is a lot of ranting about the Iraq war both pro and con. I can debate merits and such but these days I say stop talking and prove it. When Bush talks victory and Cheneny says "last throes" I say talk is cheap.

    Show me the victory!

    As far as I can tell, this administration is good at starting wars but don't know how to end them. Bush obviously can't handle Iraq or he would have. The Taliban is gaining ground in Afghanistan. Any reasonably person has to ask, What the heck?

    I thought it was old school values to not start something you can't finish.

  • Warren||

    Ken,
    Well put.

  • ||

    Containment is certainly preferable to war in most cases. Unfortunately, containment isn't always possible. When states use client terrorist organizations in lieu of their own militaries, they can be contained and not contained at the same time.

    No, I'm not arguing that endless war against everyone is required. I am just saying that the logic of containment, much like the logic of every other policy and institution that has evolved in an environment where states were the only actors, goes off the rails once people take off their uniforms and misbehave.

  • ||

    Jason L,

    If I get what you're saying about the changing nature of containment, you are relying on the "untraceable terrorist attack" to explain the change. One by a stateless group which received help from a state, but which isn't traceable after the fact back to that state.

    I don't really believe in the "untraceable terrorist attack." We probably would't be able to prove that so-and-so asked so-and-so to get him detonators in this meeting on this day, but we'd surely be able to meet the burden for pointing a finger at the guilty country. Read the 9/11 Report and look what they were able to find - and that's just what went into the public domain.

    Passing a nuke to a terrorist group - the scenario this war was premised on preventing - would bring the same retaliation on a government that launching the thing themselves would bring. Perhaps not with the 100% certainty that an ICBM launch from your territory would bring, but a 90%+ figure, which is the same thing in practice. Deterrence would still work.

  • ||

    How else to interpret this Washington Post column, wherein he lays a finely-manicured smackdown on the The Weekly Standard's exhortations to war?

  • ||

    (1) Am I the only person who thinks Sec'y Rice is a gibbering imbecile?

    (2) The "war" (invasion and overthrow of the Iraqi gov't) as has been pointed out, was pretty successful, from a tactical perspective. What do we suppose might have transpired if we had at that point pulled back into the desert, if not to Kuwait, and said, "Good luck- we'll be over here if you need us."?

  • ||

    R.C. Dean,

    That is a false choice fallacy.

  • ||

    P Brooks,

    Kind of a sink or swim approach, eh?

  • ||

    P Brooks,

    Kind of a sink or swim approach, eh?

  • ||

    P Brooks, I want to agree with you and I did at one time, but you have to consider how success is defined before you can claim it. By a narrow definition of toppling the old regime, you are correct, victory has been acheived. However, that's not the definition for victory in Iraq. As a matter of fact we have an ever declining definition of victory. Bush says defeat of the terrorist, hasn't happened. Now Rumsfield says victory is First and foremost, getting the Iraqis to stand up and fight. Which is it?

    Our government doesn't know what to do. I found nothing more ironic than the Drudge Report having one headline saying Senate votes to keep troops in Iraq, above a headline saying that the Generals were talking troop reductions. Which is it? Where are the Senators condeming the Pentagon troop reduction plans?

    In reality both parties want to cut and run, they are just fighting about who will actually get to do it.

  • ||

    I will now point out that I thought the invasion of Iraq was an incredibly stupid idea from day one.

    But it occurs to me that, if we had deposed Hussein without hanging around as an army of occupation, we might not have the mess we currently have. I would not characterize the approach as "sink or swim" but rather as not allowing ourselves to become the focus of Iraqi nationalist sentiment.

  • ||

    Just want to share a saying I learned in the Marine Corps.

    Prior planning prevents piss-poor performance.

  • ||

    I cannot recall if I have said this here previously, but I will take another whack at the fetid, rotting equine carcass which is the Iraq War. Three decades ago, I was in college, studying the theory and practice of guerilla and insurgency warfare. It was a fairly popular topic at the time, for reasons which should be obvious. I am not trying to pat myself on the back here, but NOTHING which has transpired in this sorry adventure has come as a surprise to me. It was obvious to me that an American army of occupation in Iraq was doomed to failure.

    At the same time I was studying that stuff, there were a lot of people at the service academies, the War College, and various other nooks and crannies of the DoD who were studying the same stuff, with much better research materials. This is the question which plagues me: "Where the fuck are those guys?" Did they learn lessons which were totally at variance with what I learned? Did they all watch the evacuation of Saigon on the Nightly News and say, "Well, that's that. I guess I better put in a transfer to the Tank Corps."?

    It's obvious (to me, for what that's worth) that none of those guys was ever allowed to be in the same room with Dumsfeld and his faithful dog, Wolfie.

  • ||

    But it occurs to me that, if we had deposed Hussein without hanging around as an army of occupation, we might not have the mess we currently have.

    Toppling the existing government, then leaving a vacuum in our wake as we exit would be morally bankrupt.

  • R C Dean||

    P. L.

    How so?

  • ||

    "Just want to share a saying I learned in the Marine Corps. Prior planning prevents piss-poor performance."

    Actually, that's from Kevin Smith's documentary that he made in film school (available as an extra-special extra on the Clerks Tenth Anniversary Special Edition DVD).

  • ||

    joe:

    "If I get what you're saying about the changing nature of containment, you are relying on the "untraceable terrorist attack" to explain the change. One by a stateless group which received help from a state, but which isn't traceable after the fact back to that state."

    That is close, but not quite it. I sincerely believe that you have two members of the security council that would let even a CSI-tight case slide because they are primarily interested in stable energy supplies. For another couple of members, you'd need DNA and photographs.

    Just in this case, what would the evidence need to be that Hezbollah gets its marching orders from Iran? The latitude to use a group like Hezbollah is extremely wide because not only is hard evidence objectively hard to come by, but any shred of plausible deniability for a terrorist sponsor state has the effect of an impenetrable shield in the UN.

    I believe this because it is the only reason there are any functioning terrorist groups on Earth. They are shielded because they operate within the borders of some nation we say is sovereign, but they are not accountable to said government.

    Containment means that sponsors must for some reason feel that there is a way their misdeeds could come back to bite them. It has never happened except in Afghanistan. Everyone knows who sponsors whom, but nobody does anything. Containment is a broken concept in these cases.

  • ||

    Toppling the existing government, then leaving a vacuum in our wake as we exit would be morally bankrupt.

    As opposed to invading a country wholly unprovoked, on amateurishly manufactured evidence of intent to collude with enemies with whom they've never gotten along.

    Yeah. Nuttin' morally bankrupt 'bout that, nosirree.

  • ||

    Jason Ligon,

    "That is close, but not quite it. I sincerely believe that you have two members of the security council that would let even a CSI-tight case slide because they are primarily interested in stable energy supplies. For another couple of members, you'd need DNA and photographs."

    Who cares? We don't need the UN's approval to defend ourselves or to respond to an attack, in either a legal, moral, or political sense. Deterrence doesn't depend on the enemy's fear that we'd get a denunciation through the Security Council - it depends on their fear that the B-2s would appear over their cities a few hours later.

    "It has never happened except in Afghanistan."

    Well, 9/11 may not have changed everything, but that's one thing it has changed. No distinction between terrorists and the states that sponsor them.

  • ||

    I don't really believe in the "untraceable terrorist attack." We probably would't be able to prove that so-and-so asked so-and-so to get him detonators in this meeting on this day, but we'd surely be able to meet the burden for pointing a finger at the guilty country. Read the 9/11 Report and look what they were able to find - and that's just what went into the public domain.

    Passing a nuke to a terrorist group - the scenario this war was premised on preventing - would bring the same retaliation on a government that launching the thing themselves would bring. Perhaps not with the 100% certainty that an ICBM launch from your territory would bring, but a 90%+ figure, which is the same thing in practice. Deterrence would still work.

    I agree with joe. Deterrence doesn't require a 100% probability that we'll be able to identify the guilty party. It doesn't even require 90%. No dictator is going to risk his powerful position on something that has a 90% chance of backfiring. I don't know what sort of odds a dictator would require before deciding that it's worth the risk, but if we assume that they are very, very, very self-interested (not the same thing as reasonable) then it's pretty clear that deterrence will work as long as we have a decent chance of fingering the culprit.

    And I agree with joe that we wouldn't need CSI level evidence to persuade the American people. Indeed, the more devastating the attack the lower the threshold would be. In many ways that is a bug, IMHO (war is serious business for serious people, the sort of thing that should be done with cold planning rather than blind rage), but if it persuades the dictators that attacking us via proxies is a dangerous game then it is at least in some regards a feature.

    Whatever else might be said in favor of invading Iraq, the need to establish a threat for deterrence is not on the list. Afghanistan already made it abundantly clear what will happen to anybody who sponsors another attack on the US.

    Frankly, my cynical view of Iraq is that some Americans (I'm using the term loosely) really just wanted to go kill some Arabs because of 9/11, and Iraq was how we did that. I mean, if it were really about the oil they'd be pumping a hell of a lot more than they are, supply would be higher, and price would be lower.

  • ||

    As opposed to invading a country wholly unprovoked, on amateurishly manufactured evidence of intent to collude with enemies with whom they've never gotten along.

    Yeah. Nuttin' morally bankrupt 'bout that, nosirree.


    Dear zero, the comment was in response to someone who posted that it might have been acceptable to pull out as soon as Saddam was eliminated.

    The question of whether or not the invasion itself was moral was not in play at the time.

    Do you normally struggle with following context of a discussion?

  • ||

    """Just want to share a saying I learned in the Marine Corps. Prior planning prevents piss-poor performance."

    Actually, that's from Kevin Smith's documentary that he made in film school (available as an extra-special extra on the Clerks Tenth Anniversary Special Edition DVD)."""

    Really I learned that saying in 1981, Was Clerks out then?

  • ||

    Um, carrick-

    Did you read the entire post from which you extracted that single sentence?

  • ||

    P Brooks,
    Did you ever read CounterInsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice" by David Galula? I read that last year and was real educational with respects to how wrong things have been handled. It was written in the 1960 so somethings were dated but it was real informative. I recommend to everyone.

    The people you spoke of were probably around but being ignored like everyone else who had expertise.

  • ||

    TrickyVic-

    To be honest, I do not specifically recall that book.

  • ||

    "Really I learned that saying in 1981, Was Clerks out then?"

    Oh, well, I apologize then. The Smith documentary was the first place I'd ever heard it and the people I know who use the phrase all got it from the documentary.

  • ||

    joe and Thoreau:

    Afghansitan is the most obvious of obvious cases. They didn't care to hide the fact that AQ operated within their borders and they weren't interested in plausible deniability.

    In the cases of Iran and Syria, there is no reason for them to believe they have anything like a 90% chance of facing repercussions. Everyone knows that Iran supplies missiles to Hezbollah through Damascus. I heard a guy on "The World" on NPR last night even describe the method of distribution. So, at a minimum, you get a decades long green light on supplying rocket artillery to terrorists. Are we saying that if AQ had been based in another state, but had received field strength weapons from the Taliban, they would have been off the hook?

    What would it take to legitimize action? Does it have to be WMDs? What about anti aircraft missiles? Do you have to base your operations within the borders of a sponsor state for it to count as 'support'? Do you really think you could prove who issued orders to Hezbollah?

    You folks are optimists.

  • ||

    No problem SR. It's a damn good saying worthy of being repeating by anyone. I'd have to to say it's on of my favorites.

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