July 1, 2008 2:05PM

Setting the Wayback Machine

Andrew Sullivan has been re-reading The War over Iraq, William Kristol and Lawrence F. Kaplan's pamphlet advocating for a U.S. invasion of Iraq. The first thing that leaps to mind is how utterly dismissive and contemptuous Kristol and Kaplan were of those who were sounding cautionary notes before the war. Here they are on Chuck Hagel, who voted for the war but whom Kristol and Kaplan deemed insufficiently enthusiastic about it:

"Iraq's uncertain future, as opposed to its totalitarian present, has become the principle [sic] concern of many realists. 'What comes after a military invasion?' Senator Chuck Hagel would like to know. 'Who rules Iraq? Does the United States really want to be in Baghdad, trying to police Baghdad for twenty or thirty years?'"

Kristol goes on to mock this question with his usual assurance:

"Predictions of ethnic turmoil in Iraq are even more questionable than they were in the case of Afghanistan.

"Unlike the Taliban, Saddam has little support among any ethnic group, Sunnis included, and the Iraqi opposition is itself a multi-ethnic force... [T]he executive director of the Iraq Foundation, Rend Rahim Francke, says, 'we will not have a civil war in Iraq. This is contrary to Iraqi history, and Iraq has not had a history of communal conflict as there has been in the Balkans or in Afghanistan...'"

(Kristol and Kaplan fail to mention, of course, that Ms. Francke was not exactly an objective observer to this phenomenon; she was a lobbyist who spent years pushing for more U.S. action to oust Saddam Hussein.) This "there's no history of ethnic turmoil in Iraq" trope was central to Kristol's advocacy. In an article for The American Conservative in 2006 (not online, alas), I pointed out that

KristolOn--appropriately enough--April Fool's Day 2003, on NPR Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol informed host Terry Gross that "there's been a certain amount of pop sociology in America...that the Shi'a can't get along with the Sunni and the Shi'a in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There's almost no evidence of that at all."

The whole thing would be laughable if there weren't so many corpses over there.