Iraq War architect Bill Kristol complains about American "war-weariness"

The leading neoconservative says war-weariness is "an excuse to avoid... shouldering our responsibilities"

Published March 18, 2014 8:10PM (EDT)

Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol                            (<span about='' xmlns:cc=''><a href='' rel='cc:attributionURL' target='_blank'>Gage Skidmore</a> / <a href='' rel='license' target='_blank'>CC BY 3.0</a></span>)
Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol (Gage Skidmore / CC BY 3.0)

Bill Kristol, son of neoconservative titan Irving Kristol and editor of the Weekly Standard, has a new essay up at the Standard's website, decrying American war-weariness and chastising politicians who use Americans' desire to avoid war as "as an excuse to avoid maintaining our defenses or shouldering our responsibilities."

"Are Americans today war-weary?" Kristol begins. "Sure. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been frustrating and tiring."

"Are Americans today unusually war-weary?" he continues. "No. They were wearier after the much larger and even more frustrating conflicts in Korea and Vietnam."

Kristol goes on to claim that the wars in Korea and Vietnam "had more satisfactory outcomes" than those in Iraq and Afghanistan but nevertheless were concluded with "war-weariness," too. "So American war-weariness isn’t new," he writes. "Using it as an excuse to avoid maintaining our defenses or shouldering our responsibilities isn’t new, either."

"But that doesn’t make it admirable," he adds.

After approvingly quoting a letter to the Wall Street Journal that claimed the only people who could justifiably claim to be war-weary are members of the military, Kristol goes on to argue, "the idol of war-weariness can be challenged" and that "[a]ll that’s needed is the rallying."

He cites — who else? — Ronald Reagan as proof: "Ronald Reagan ran against both Democratic dovishness and Republican détente. He proposed confronting the Soviet Union and rebuilding our military. It was said that the country was too war-weary, that it was too soon after Vietnam, for Reagan’s stern and challenging message. Yet Reagan won the election in 1980."

Kristol grants that Reaganesque hawkishness might not be the GOP's best ticket to victory in 2016, but writes, "[W]hat would such a victory be worth?"

After quoting Shakespeare in service of the argument that war-weariness is shameful, Kristol writes, "Will no brave leader step forward to honorably awaken us from our unworthy sleep?"

By Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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