The Conservative Civil War

George F. Will, whose calm, skeptical record in this war certainly bests mine and many others, opens a new front against neoconservatives today:

The administration, justly criticized for its Iraq premises and their execution, is suddenly receiving some criticism so untethered from reality as to defy caricature. The national, ethnic and religious dynamics of the Middle East are opaque to most people, but to the Weekly Standard - voice of a spectacularly misnamed radicalism, "neoconservatism" -- everything is crystal clear: Iran is the key to everything...

So, the Weekly Standard says: "We might consider countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait?" ... "Why wait?" Perhaps because the U.S. military has enough on its plate in the deteriorating wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which both border Iran. And perhaps because containment, although of uncertain success, did work against Stalin and his successors, and might be preferable to a war against a nation much larger and more formidable than Iraq. And if Bashar Assad's regime does not fall after the Weekly Standard's hoped-for third war, with Iran, does the magazine hope for a fourth?

But Will's most devastating line is early on in the piece:

[I]t is not perverse to wonder whether the spectacle of America, currently learning a lesson - one that conservatives should not have to learn on the job - about the limits of power to subdue an unruly world, has emboldened many enemies. [My italics.]

To be perfectly honest, although I agree that Bill Kristol's call for yet another war has a whiff of the unhinged about it, I'm not so fond of the containment record in the Middle East of the past fifty years. It's hard to "contain" non-state actors, fueled by religious fervor, operating from the safe-houses of patron rogue-regimes, with potential access to WMDs. My concern is that the engagement was so recklessly planned and executed that it has made matters temporarily worse rather than better. Whether it makes things permanently worse is now up to very deft manuevring from our leadership. And under the current president, let's just say we shouldn't get our hopes up.