Bill Kristol on Victory in Iraq and Impotence In Georgia
I usually comment on Bill Kristol’s much-awaited Monday morning columns in the New York Times. Because of travel, I did not get the opportunity to do so this week. But not to worry, the Times’ letters-to-the-editor writers came through, and not only do an excellent job of critiquing Kristol’s column, but also do a better job than I have in previous posts of describing the limited role our country can play in trying to resolve this latest conflict—because of our military adventure in Iraq.
Kristol’s topic this week was–what else?–the Russia-Georgia conflict. In his column, “Will Russia Get Away With It?,” in a rambling, circular way (“So Russia helps Iran. Iran and North Korea help Syria. Russia and China block Security Council sanctions against Zimbabwe. China props up the regimes in Burma and North Korea.”), Kristol both celebrates:
The further good news is that 2008 has been, in one respect, an auspicious year for freedom and democracy. In Iraq, we and our Iraqi allies are on the verge of a strategic victory over the jihadists in what they have called the central front of their struggle. This joint victory has the potential to weaken the jihadist impulse throughout the Middle East.
The United States, of course, is not without resources and allies to deal with these problems and threats. But at times we seem oddly timid and uncertain.
But, let me stop right here and let what I assume are “regular” people do the talking:
To the Editor:
Re “Will Russia Get Away With It?,” by William Kristol (column, Aug. 11):
Those who advocated the invasion of Iraq believed that it would offer an intimidating show of the United States’ power, cementing its status as the world’s dominant, and sole, superpower. The result has been precisely the opposite:
The limits of American power — our Army tied down in Iraq, even as we lose a second war in Afghanistan — have been humiliatingly displayed for the entire world to see.
The effects of this strategic failure are now on display, as Russia invades Georgia, while the United States can do little more than stand by and complain ineffectually, its once intimidating power exposed as so much empty bluster.
In the face of this wholesale disaster, William Kristol, an early and continuing supporter of the Iraq war, responds with precisely the arguments that got us into this mess in the first place, and finds it both regrettable and puzzling that the United States is now “oddly timid and uncertain”: unable, evidently, to recognize his own role in America’s current quandary.
François Furstenberg New York, Aug. 11, 2008
To the Editor:
If Georgians wonder where the United States may be while their country is enslaved by our good friends from Russia, they are really slow learners.
Didn’t they pay attention while the United States turned its back on the Hungarians in 1956? Didn’t they notice that the Cubans we transported to the Bay of Pigs were massacred because we provided no support? Weren’t they watching our Vietnamese allies being kicked out of the fleeing helicopters as we abandoned that country? Have they heard about the Hmong?
William Kristol asks, “Will Russia Get Away With It?” Of course it will. We don’t have a coherent foreign policy — we have sound bites of tough talk followed by abandonment of those dumb enough to believe us.
Arthur O. Armstrong Manhattan Beach, Calif., Aug. 11, 2008