Bill Kristol spoke at the
UJ President Robert Wexler, in his dialogue with Kristol, prefaced one of his questions by quoting this paragraph from Kristol’s Weekly Standard editorial last week:
“Bush has two more years. Whatever happens in November's elections, the country cannot afford his all-U.N.-all-the-time defensive crouch. It is not too late to increase the size of the military; to work with Japan, rather than kowtowing to China, on North Korea; to institute an interdiction regime around that country; to act with a coalition of the willing to bomb airfields and aircraft assisting genocide in Sudan; to help the democrats in and near Russia; to insist on real sanctions and pressure on Iran, backed by the threat of force; and generally to stop huffing and puffing about what is unacceptable and intolerable -- only to then accept the unacceptable and tolerate the intolerable. But it is getting late.”
Before Wexler could get to his question, the quotation elicited the largest round of applause of the evening.
In a JCI interview before his presentation, we asked Kristol a question relating to the paragraph that Wexler later quoted:
JCI: . . . My question relates to the piece that you just wrote in the Weekly Standard, where you talked about the Bush administration perhaps putting itself in the position where it will have to accept the unacceptable. The word “unacceptable” as it relates to Iran has been used by the President, Vice-President, the Secretary of State and John Bolton, the UN representative -- most of them multiple times. Once you say that, is it possible to accept the unacceptable, or is the Bush administration on a course where it needs to do something one way or the other before he leaves office?
Kristol: Well I hope he does something. I hope he begins laying the groundwork for serious sanctions and then if necessary perhaps for military action. What worries me is that he is not laying that groundwork, and he can’t just pivot suddenly in 2008 and order bombs away, you know. You need Congressional authorization, probably; you need to have laid the groundwork politically here at home; you need to have tried pressure and sanctions, which we aren’t even at yet with
. People say things are unacceptable -- there’s a lot of history on this in the twentieth century -- and unfortunately sometimes accept them. We said a North Korean atomic bomb was unacceptable. So I think Bush means to do well and I think he does not want Iran to have nuclear weapons, but I’m not sure he has thought through a real strategy to prevent it. Iran
JCI: Is there a strategy in your view?
Kristol: Yeah, I think so -- a combination of serious pressure, not waiting on the UN, having a sense of urgency, and helping dissidents within the country and really trying to see what you can do to really disrupt the nuclear program with a real threat of force, but not letting yourself be bargained down to the lowest common denominator in accord with the Europeans in the case of Iran or in accord with China and Russia in the case of North Korea. Look -- alliances and allies are important, but we’re letting ourselves I think be dragged down to the lowest common denominator.
The “lowest common denominator” is the tacitly shared view among Russia, China and Europe that a nuclear armed Iran is not an immediate threat to them (they will be eaten last), that it might even operate as a beneficial brake on American power, and that their own interests lie more in continued access to Iranian oil and commercial opportunities than in attempting to stop the Iranian nuclear program.
The common denominators are thus much more likely ultimately to distance themselves from the Great Satan than to join it in any serious action. Even the sainted Colin Powell could not get
During the UJ colloquy following his presentation, Kristol noted that the pursuit of the lowest common denominator strategy has already been seriously counterproductive:
I think without incredible pressure or military force it’s very unlikely that Iran will in any way back off from its nuclear program, or that those in Iran -- and there are many -- who think this is unwise or imprudent would gain leverage against those who want to go ahead with the nuclear program.
One of the bad side effects of our looking weak and hesitant is that in the last year Ahmadinejad’s been running around provoking everyone, behaving like a madman, thumbing his nose at the U.S. and the West -- and he pays no price. And if one were an opponent of Admadinejad in Iran -- not a dissident, but someone in government who is kind of a more cautious type, and you’ve been warning, “gee, this will get us in trouble” -- and [Admadinejad] gets in no trouble at all -- it’s very bad for the internal dynamics in Iran. I think we have inadvertently helped to strengthen [hardliners] in
by not responding vigorously. Iran
Earlier this year, John Hinderaker at Power Line noted the anomaly between (a) the frequent statements by the Bush administration that an Iranian bomb is unacceptable, and (b) the likely inability of Bush to order military action on his own, given the impact of
After the election, Bush should go to Congress -- especially if it is a Democratic Congress -- and seek a substantial increase in the size of the armed forces and a standing authorization to use military force, if the president ultimately determines it is necessary, to prevent
We might as well find out now whether Congress concurs that the nuclear armament of nations who have threatened the
Ironically, only a standing Congressional authorization of force -- particularly following a contentious national election relating to
And it is getting late.