Senator Lindsey Graham is irrepressibly cheerful, but he’s not very happy about the world these days.
“I think I understand exactly the mess we’re in,” the 2016 Republican presidential hopeful said on Monday. “Leaving Iraq too soon is just as bad as not having enough [troops] when you went in. At the end of the day, Syria is hell on earth. And there’s no way to fix Iraq unless you fix Syria, and you’re not going to fix Syria until you deal with [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad, ‘cause no Arab army is going to just fight ISIL.”
“I spent a lot of time learning this crap,” Graham concluded, “and I am ready to go.”
“And Putin? Your worst days are ahead, pal.”
The senator from South Carolina spoke with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg on Monday at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Graham presented a stark view of a world full of challenges that only the threat or use of military force might resolve. And he delivered that dour view with wit, quips, and a mischievous grin that frequently provoked the crowd into open laughter, even as it absorbed his litany of woe.
Graham was unequivocal about the Iranian regime and the U.S.-led negotiations over its nuclear program. “I think these guys are religious Nazis with an end-of-days view of their religion and that they’re dangerous as hell,” he said. He attacked the Obama administration for “sitting down and talking to people who’re nuts as if they’re not nuts.” An Iranian nuclear weapon, he said, would be shared with a terrorist organization “at a minimum,” and might be used by Iran itself. “Do they want to kill a lot of us?” he asked. “I think they do.”