So George Will, who strongly supported the Iraq war before he strongly opposed it, is now strongly opposing the Afghanistan war after he once strongly supported it. In Will’s words, “forces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, air strikes and small, potent special forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters.”
It is a column that could have been written in Japanese aboard the USS Missouri.
I plan to take up at a later time a substantive analysis of why Mr. Will’s column — an astonishingly weak column, it must be said, particularly given his high standards over the years — is deeply flawed. Before doing that, however, it’s worth examining his track record on both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr. Will’s shifting stands on these wars is vertigo-inducing. To understand just how much this is so, consider Iraq. Once upon a time, supporting the Iraq war was fashionable; large majorities of the public were behind it. So was most of the political class. And so was George Will. Yet that understates things quite a lot. Will was not just in favor of the war; he was as passionate and articulate champion of it as you could possibly find. In an October 8, 2002, interview with PBS’s Charlie Rose, for example, Will said:
I think the answer is that we believe, with reason, that democracy’s infectious. We’ve seen it. We saw it happen in Eastern Europe. It’s just — people reached a critical mass of mendacity under those regimes of the East block, and it exploded. And I do believe that you will see [in the Middle East] a ripple effect, a happy domino effect, if you will, of democracy knocking over these medieval tyrannies . . . Condoleezza Rice is quite right. She says there is an enormous condescension in saying that somehow the Arab world is just not up to democracy. And there’s an enormous ahistorical error when people say, “Well, we can’t go into war with Iraq until we know what postwar Iraq’s going to look like.” In 1942, a year after Pearl Harbor, did we have a clear idea what we were going to do with postwar Germany? With postwar Japan? Of course not. We made it up as we went along, and we did a very good job. . . .
Mr. Will applauded bringing “instability” to the Middle East and countries like Egypt. “What is so wonderful about the stability of Egypt?” he asked. And when asked, “Do you think [Iraq] will be a quick and easy conflict, if it comes to that,” Mr. Will answered, “Fairly quick, yes.” Read More