It is essential to take William (“Bill”) Kristol seriously. He has been so utterly wrong on so many things (America’s ability to run the world, NATO, Turkey, the Balkans, Chechnya, Iraq, Sarah Palin, Russia, Iran, Georgia, John McCain, missile defense . . . ) that his pronouncements merit respect. Being consistently wrong—in the fleeting guise of things measurably empirical, that is—they contain a deeper wisdom. Kristol’s “analysis” is the equivalent of Tetzel’s dropping penny: The form may seem inane, but the message reverberates in faraway places.
Bill Kristol matters, so please bear with me and endure the longest quote I’ve ever copied to these pages over the past decade, because a mere hyperlink won’t do:
[H]ysteria is not a sign of health. When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society. He’s marginalizing himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s.
Nor is it a sign of health when other American conservatives are so fearful of a popular awakening that they side with the dictator against the democrats. Rather, it’s a sign of fearfulness unworthy of Americans, of short-sightedness uncharacteristic of conservatives, of excuse-making for thuggery unworthy of the American conservative tradition…
The idea that democracy produces radical Islam is false: Whether in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian territories, or Egypt, it is the dictatorships that have promoted and abetted Islamic radicalism . . . Nor is it in any way “realist” to suggest that backing Mubarak during this crisis would promote “stability.” To the contrary: The situation is growing more unstable because of Mubarak’s unwillingness to abdicate. Helping him cling to power now would only pour fuel on the revolutionary fire, and push the Egyptian people in a more anti-American direction . . .
[O]ne of the most hopeful aspects of the current conservative revival is its reclamation of the American constitutionalist tradition. That tradition is anchored even beyond the Constitution, of course, in the Declaration of Independence. And that document, let’s not forget, proclaims that, “Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends [life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness], it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it.” An American conservatism that looks back to 1776 cannot turn its back on the Egyptian people. We should wish them well—and we should work to help them achieve as good an outcome as possible . . . American conservatives should remember our commitment, in the words of Federalist 39, to “that honorable determination which animates every votary of freedom, to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government.”
Egypt turns out to have its votaries of freedom. The Egyptian people want to exercise their capacity for self-government. American conservatives, heirs to our own bold and far-sighted revolutionaries, should help them.
I do not know where to start, so I won’t: All I have to say in response to this is contained in my earlier writings, and plagiarizing oneself is no compliment to oneself.
And yet . . . Call me a conspiracy theorist, but the magnitude of Kristol’s idiocy is so breathtaking that it cannot be accidental. There are 12 to 15 red flags one could grab and exploit for all their rhetorical, logical, historical, legal, and moral worth.
I prefer to leave the parsing to our on the whole astute and intelligent online commentators. Bill Kristol matters. Treat him like one of Will Shortz’s Sunday morning mind games. Enjoy!