current fixation is John McCain. This happened quite suddenly—after
McCain’s New Hampshire triumph, in fact. Writing
in the Weekly Standard, Kristol and David Brooks
declared: "[L]ike Reagan and Gingrich, McCain attacks
a Republican establishment that has already rotted from
within….It cannot save a faltering campaign no matter how
well funded it might be, no matter how many firewalls it
claims to erect….Indeed, this became almost comically evident
the last week in New Hampshire when the Bush campaign rolled
out Jack Kemp, John Sununu, and George Bush the elder to
prop up a faltering candidate. And whom did the Bush team
bring out the day after New Hampshire, when they presumably
should have learned that voters were looking for new blood
and new themes? Dan Quayle." Note Kristol’s shameless
opportunism. What exactly is wrong with George W. Bush?
Two months ago he could barely contain his enthusiasm. Here
is what he and Robert Kagan wrote last November about Dubya:
"George W. Bush’s…speech at the Reagan Library represents
the strongest and clearest articulation of a policy of American
global leadership by a major political figure since the
collapse of the Soviet Empire. In his call for renewed American
strength, confidence, and leadership, Bush stakes a claim
to the legacy of Ronald Reagan." The "legacy of
Ronald Reagan"! There is no higher praise than that.
Bush declared he was ready to fight a Cold War that ended
more than ten years ago. Congratulations were in order.
what happened? New Hampshire convinced Kristol that Bush
was a loser. It was time to jump ship. Kristol has never
been one to let loyalty stand in the way of the main chance.
Witness the sneering at his two former employers—"George
Bush the elder" and Dan Quayle—the two men to whom
Kristol owes his present elevation. Had he not served as
Dan Quayle’s chief of staff, Kristol would today be yet
another hack looking for a job on the Washington Times.
is now John McCain’s turn to wear the mantle of "Ronald
Reagan." Kristol and Brooks rhapsodize about the journeyman
Senator from Arizona: "The issue that gave the McCain
campaign its initial boost was Kosovo. He argued that America
as a great champion of democracy and decency could not fail
to act. And he supported his commander in chief despite
grave doubts about the conduct of the war….For McCain, the
president is, above all…two things: citizen reformer and
commander in chief. These two fundamental elements—reform
for the sake of citizenship and leadership in the service
of American greatness—undergird a not yet fully developed
program." Much of this is, of course, hot air. To be
sure, Kristol and Brooks like McCain because he is ready
to bomb recklessly. But, hell, he looked as if he was on
McCain’s humiliation in South Carolina, Kristol has decided
to hedge his bets. Writing
in the Washington Post, he muses: "If Bush
prevails, the rebellious impulse embodied by the McCain
campaign will reemerge after a Bush general election defeat,
or for that matter, during a Bush presidency, if he were
to win. If McCain is the nominee, he will have to give shape
to the inchoate movement he finds himself leading, and content
to the embryonic message he is grappling to articulate."
Having lavished so much praise on McCain, Kristol reveals
how insincere it all was. He has nothing but disdain for
his hero. The poor man apparently has no understanding about
the movement he accidentally "finds himself leading."
His only hope of winning is if lets Kristol and Brooks and
Kagan give "content" to the "message he is
grappling to articulate."
know only too well what this "message" is. Writing
in the July/August
1996 issue of Foreign Affairs, Kristol and Kagan
expressed their disdain for traditional Republican prudence:
"Today’s lukewarm consensus about America’s reduced
role in a post-Cold War world is wrong. Conservatives should
not accede to it; it is bad for the country and, incidentally,
bad for conservatism. Conservatives will not be able to
govern America over the long term if they fail to offer
a more elevated vision of America's international role.
should that role be? Benevolent global hegemony." One
would have thought "benevolent global hegemony"
is an oxymoron. Since the rest of the world does not want
US hegemony, it cannot possibly be described as "benevolent."
But then Kristol has no interest in the views of the people
over whom the United States is to exercise power.
ubiquitous post-Cold War question—where is the threat?—is
thus misconceived," Kristol and Kagan write. "In a
world in which peace and American security depend on American
power and the will to use it, the main threat the United
States faces now and in the future is its own weakness.
American hegemony is the only reliable defense against a
breakdown of peace and international order. The appropriate
goal of American foreign policy, therefore, is to preserve
that hegemony as far into the future as possible."
When you come across a passage like this, substitute the
words "German" and "Germany" for "American"
and the "United States" and then see how it sounds.
Kristol’s invocation of power for its own sake and justifying
it by our supposed superiority over other lesser people
eerily echoes the demagoguery of other reckless adventurers.
love for armaments is weird, though perhaps not unusual
for a bookish man who has never faced a threat more menacing
than a surly waiter at Palm. In
a recent issue of the Weekly Standard, Kristol wrote:
"Through the Clinton years, congressional Republicans
have been complicit in the neglect that is sapping American
military strength to the point where a majority of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff now admit their services are not up to the
demands of the national military strategy…. Defense spending
is now far below the requirements of American strategy and
global leadership." We are living in a time of peace.
The United States is much stronger than anyone else. And
there is Bill fulminating about our supposed military unpreparedness.
What are the "demands of the national military strategy"?
Kristol does not spell them out. No one can. He wants an
extra $100 billion a year for the Pentagon. But that would
be nowhere near enough to finance the running of the world
to serve America’s interests.
should be glad that their defense capabilities are as great
as the next six powers combined," Kristol and Kagan
wrote, "Indeed, they may even want to enshrine this
disparity in US defense strategy….Perhaps the United States
should inaugurate such a two- (or three-, or four-) power
standard of its own, which would preserve its military supremacy
regardless of the near-term global threats." Interesting.
Military capabilities should have no connection with any
"near-term global threats"! This truly is a demented
vision. One, moreover, that is sure to enrage other powers
enough to force them to take countermeasures of their own.
That, of course, would serve as justification for yet further
US military expenditures. In the end it will end up in war
as it always has in the past.
United States achieved its present position of strength
not by practicing a foreign policy of live and let live,
nor by passively waiting for threats to arise, but by actively
promoting American principles of governance abroad—democracy,
free markets, respect for liberty," Kristol and Kagan
bluster on. "Without a broad, sustaining foreign policy
vision, the American people will be inclined to withdraw
from the world and will lose sight of their abiding interest
in vigorous world leadership. Without a sense of mission,
they will seek deeper and deeper cuts in the defense and
foreign affairs budgets and gradually decimate the tools
of U.S. hegemony." Not only should America’s leaders
threaten countries that pose no threat to us, they must
lie to the American people who might otherwise take the
perfectly sensible view that they do not want to pick fights
with everyone under the sun.
ideas are truly dangerous. Combined with his ambition and
dissimulation, it makes him one of the most pernicious figures
to have emerged on the American scene for a long time.