The president liked the latest Kristol piece. Another reason to be irritated is this malign polyp of punditry:
"I've been pretty consistent, pretty upfront and straightforward about my views," [Kristol] says in his downtown office. "I had the same views when they were reasonably popular as I do now when they're unpopular. It would really be pathetic to adjust one's analysis based on public opinion."
Yes, it would. But the inference that this is what others are doing is the usual passive-aggressive smear. One can indeed adjust one's analysis based on public opinion. One can also do so based on the facts. And any sane observer of the events in Iraq will have concluded, as even Charles Krauthammer has, that the prospects for putting the country back together are extremely dim in the foreseeable future. And yet where is Charles' mea culpa? Where is Kristol's? They were key architects of this fasco but they glide seamlessly from defending its maximalist goals to new bench-marks and new criteria with nary a hiccup of introspection. This is not a sign of a serious intellectual movement. It is a sign of an ideological fixation.
Not to have ever accounted for the massive gap between neoconservative ideology and its impact on the Middle East these past five years is a mark of intellectual irresponsibility. Has Kristol ever expressed even a scintilla of regret for a policy that was based on an untruth and has caused so much misery and death? Has he ever stated his own responsibility for a war and an administration with this record? Au contraire. His response to the empirical collapse of his own intellectual project is simply to accuse his critics of attacking the troops. We all make mistakes; we can articulate things for good motives only to find them dashed on the shores of implementation. But to express nothing but criticism of Rumsfeld, to exhibit absolutely no reflection or humility in the face of a concept so flawed and a project so steeped in the blood of innocent people, to respond to such a chastening experience with more partisan attacks is a sign not of a set of ideas, but of a rigid ideology. If conservatism exists as a coherent philosophy, it is its opposite.