Commentary Magazine


Perhaps It’s Because They Believe in Something

Earlier this week, William Kristol, Robert Kagan, and Dan Senor unveiled a new Washington organization called the Foreign Policy Initiative with a conference about Afghanistan. As they did in the immediate aftermath of President Obama’s announcement that he was committing 17,000 troops to the country to pursue a surge-like policy designed by Gen. David Petraeus, Kristol and Kagan took pains to praise Obama. “A gutsy decision,” Kagan said.

Today, a youth at the New Republic with the opulent name of Barron YoungSmith wonders what exactly that devililsh Br’er Bill Kristol is up to:

Neocons have uprooted themselves from their post-Iraq position and planted themselves squarely in the putative political center. Or at least they’ve gone to lengths to make it seem that way. The FPI has all the identifiable trappings of Establishment foreign policy centrism: Gone is the stylized talk about World Domination and a New American Century; in its place is a nondescript name and a blue globe emblem that makes the organization appear like the younger cousin of the UN or CFR. Needless to say, the transformation isn’t totally convincing.

Really, this is just embarrassing. In the first place, the stylized talk about neoconservatives and “World Domination” comes from places like the New Republic’s own blog, the Plank, and not from “neoconservatives.” (As for “New American Century,” the term is a reference to one created by that famous neoconservative Henry Luce, then the proprietor of the notoriously intellectual Time Magazine. It is plausible YoungSmith, Brown ’06,  doesn’t know much about Henry Luce, since he existed before Twitter.) Speculations as to motive here are comical. Kristol and Kagan believe that a certain policy approach is best for the United States and the world. They  discover that Republicans on Capitol Hill are willing to surrender their own principles in pursuit of partisan posturing. So what do they do? They support the policy, not the party.

That, as it happens, has always been true of them. When Bill Kristol declared in 1994 that there was no health care crisis, he said it because he believed it, not because he was coming up with an angle. Bob Kagan was rather ruthless in his criticisms of the Bush administration and its handling of certain foreign-policy matters — and that was the case even when his own wife was working in the White House. This, Barron YoungSmith, is what people do when they possess deep convictions.

It might be prudent for YoungSmith to take a break from this sort of thing until he becomes Barron A Little Bit OlderSmith.