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Ducking the Blame for Iraq? No Surprise.

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Let's call it Kristol clear: "The Iraq meltdown isn't our fault." A surprise? Hardly. I wrote this one back in 2007...

The warriors of Iraq are preparing their escape hatch. How nice for them.

I'm not talking, you understand, about the soldiers and Marines who are actually fighting the war in Iraq. There's no escape for those brave men and women until their commander in chief finally figures a way out of the mess he's created over there.

No, I'm talking about the warriors who dreamed up this little adventure in the first place from the safety of their Washington offices, and who then served as enablers and cheerleaders as chaos set in and the body count kept climbing.

People like Bill Kristol.

Bill Kristol, the always affable (if frequently delusional) editor of the Weekly Standard, and among the gung-iest of the gung-ho crowd who were ready and willing -- with other people's sons and daughters, of course -- to transform the Middle East.

You might think that four-plus years of carnage would dampen his enthusiasm a bit. That helping al-Qaeda's recruitment efforts worldwide would occasion a bit of modesty, if not an outright apology.

Not a chance.

What Bill Kristol is doing instead is building the case for ducking the blame.

That's exactly what he's up to in an article he wrote for last Sunday's Washington Post. The ostensible purpose of the piece, titled "Why Bush Will Be a Winner," is to argue that the Bush presidency will "probably be a successful one." But the bulk of the piece is devoted to the war in Iraq -- and most of that is devoted to saving the neck of Bill Kristol and others of his ilk.

"We now seem to be on course to a successful outcome" in Iraq, Mr. Kristol writes -- "despite some confusion engendered by an almost meaningless 'benchmark' report last week." ("Confusion"? "Almost meaningless"?!)

"With the new counterinsurgency strategy announced on Jan. 10," Mr. Kristol continues, "backed up by the troop 'surge,' I think the odds are finally better than 50-50 that we will prevail."

And then the kicker:

"If we sustain the surge for a year and continue to train Iraqi troops effectively, we can probably begin to draw down in mid-to-late 2008... So if we keep our nerve here at home, we have a good shot at achieving a real, though messy, victory in Iraq."

So we're winning, Mr. Kristol claims. And we'll achieve our victory, he says, if we keep the surge going for another year or so.

Which he knows isn't going to happen.

Which is exactly the point.

He's offering advice that he knows won't be followed, can't be followed. Leave aside the politics of the situation, with the 2008 election getting closer and more and more of his fellow Republicans joining Democrats in urging an early withdrawal. The military logistics won't permit it either; our own generals are reporting that there isn't enough manpower left to sustain a surge beyond next spring without breaking the army.

All of which Bill Kristol surely knows. All of which I suspect he's counting on. And then when his latest advice isn't followed, and Iraq is finally chalked up as one of the great strategic blunders in all of American history, he can sit in his rocker at the Old Pundits Home and say, "See? If only they'd listened to me..."

Three decades after Vietnam, there are still people who insist that our politicians (or our protestors, or our anchormen, or...) snatched victory from our soldiers. That we were winning until we lost our nerve. That our mission was betrayed.

Articles like Bill Kristol's are setting the stage for an encore every bit as bitter.

The architects of disaster in Iraq know what they've done -- and now they're trying to squirm out of it.

Can you blame them?