Armchair war heroes Bill Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz are back, all over the television, calling for the deployment of troops to Iraq. Bookers at “Meet the Press,” “Morning Joe” and “This Week” are being called out for treating these liars and frauds, who led the charge for the disastrous Iraq War, as experts whose opinions on the latest violence in Iraq is somehow in high demand.
Salon was curious about the most prominent of these placements, when Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy secretary of defense, was asked onto last Sunday’s “Meet the Press.” We asked several NBC News P.R. representatives and producers for comment and received none. Perhaps we’re just silly and the rationale behind the bookings is obvious. They’re just trying to get one side of the story!
But do these guys really represent a legitimate “side” in the current Iraq debate, or just themselves and a few other discredited friends within the Beltway?
Let’s posit, for a minute, that it’s not the end of the world for two more frauds to be treated as experts on television. There’s nothing new about this; approximately 892 percent of political television is active fraudulence against its viewers. And what if we were to forget their previous indiscretions and start from a blank slate? “Now is not the time to re-litigate either the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 or the decision to withdraw from it in 2011,” Fred Kagan and Bill Kristol write in the Weekly Standard. That’s an amazing thing to ask, but let’s take them up on it. Let’s just look at what Kristol, Kagan and Wolfowitz are calling for with regards to the situation in Iraq right now, and determine whether it’s a reasonable argument that could represent one significant “side” in the debate and thus merit the megaphone of repeated television exposure.
So … what’s the argument? Kristol and Kagan, how about you go first?
This would require a willingness to send American forces back to Iraq. It would mean not merely conducting U.S. air strikes, but also accompanying those strikes with special operators, and perhaps regular U.S. military units, on the ground. This is the only chance we have to persuade Iraq’s Sunni Arabs that they have an alternative to joining up with al Qaeda or being at the mercy of government-backed and Iranian-backed death squads, and that we have not thrown in with the Iranians. It is also the only way to regain influence with the Iraqi government and to stabilize the Iraqi Security Forces on terms that would allow us to demand the demobilization of Shi’a militias and to move to limit Iranian influence and to create bargaining chips with Iran to insist on the withdrawal of their forces if and when the situation stabilizes.
When Kristol went on “Morning Joe” Tuesday to defend this hot thesis, fellow guest John Heilemann asked one of the several obvious follow-ups: “How would you get over the fact that the country en masse, Democrat and Republican, would tell you you’re nuts to think that we should be sending residual forces back into Iraq to get back involved in this war?” Kristol replied that he believed a presidential speech could rally the public to the side of reinvasion. Who knew that Bill Kristol held the president’s rhetorical powers in such high esteem?
Wolfowitz, meanwhile, suggested to “MTP” host David Gregory that recent events have proven that the United States was in error to withdraw from Iraq in 2011. President Obama should admit that was a mistake — yes, he wants others to admit their mistakes — and reestablish an open-ended military commitment to Iraq. Were the United States to do that, Iraq could become the next South Korea. Booming! “We stuck with South Korea for 60 years, South Korea is a miracle story,” he said, “but if we had walked away from South Korea in 1953 — that country was a basket case.”
And so we have the big ask from Kristol, Kagan and Wolfowitz: send ground troops back into Iraq indefinitely. And hell, why not into Syria too?
As Heilemann suggested, this is an insane argument that most members of both parties would reject. And even if we’re not putting news shows in the penalty box for booking people who’ve made egregious mistakes in the past, you’ve got to question the booking for this present insanity. Maybe a hawk arguing for airstrikes against Iraq might qualify as representing a legitimate “side” in the debate, making a case on behalf of a significant — but not that large, honestly — subset of the American people. But ground troops, with an open-ended commitment? This is a yahoo opinion. The opinion of a nut. The guy out on the street, screaming about how outer space aliens did 9/11. You don’t ever see that guy on “Meet the Press.” And yet there’s probably a greater audience of people out there who believe outer space aliens did 9/11 than there is of people who believe reinvading Iraq is a legitimate option right now.
The upper echelons of Washington media still don’t understand just how narrow the neoconservatives’ window was in our history. Since Vietnam, the idea of willy-nilly invading countries to spread American values rightly has been perceived as loopy. When the country was in a state of panic after 9/11, the Wolfowitzes and Kristols of the world finally got their chance to dictate foreign policy, and the country didn’t take long to realize what a mistake that was. There are probably only 10 or 20 people total in the United States now who agree with the neocon consensus that Iraq must be reinvaded indefinitely. Why offer such a fringe opinion such ample media space? What sense does that make?