Mar 24, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 27 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Are Americans today war-weary? Sure. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been frustrating and tiring. Are Americans today unusually war-weary? No. They were wearier after the much larger and even more frustrating conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. And even though the two world wars of the last century had more satisfactory outcomes, their magnitude was such that they couldn’t help but induce a significant sense of war-weariness. And history shows that they did.
So American war-weariness isn’t new. Using it as an excuse to avoid maintaining our defenses or shouldering our responsibilities isn’t new, either. But that doesn’t make it admirable.
The March 5 Wall Street Journal featured a letter from Heidi Szrom of Valparaiso, Indiana. She was responding to an earlier letter defending President Obama’s foreign policies against a powerful critique in the Journal by the historian Niall Ferguson (“America’s Global Retreat”). The first letter writer noted Ferguson’s statement that more people may have died violent deaths in the Greater Middle East in the Obama years than under Bush, but excused Obama:
True, but it is also equally certain that fewer Americans have died violent deaths in the Greater Middle East during this presidency than during the previous one, and this is what matters more now to a war-weary American public.
To which Ms. Szrom responded:
According to pundits, the president and letter writers, America is “war weary.” Every time I hear this, I wonder: Did you serve? Did you volunteer to fight oppression in foreign lands? Did your son or brother or husband? If so, then I understand and sympathize with your complaint . . . unlike most of those who utter this shopworn phrase.
Perhaps the country’s weariness stems from a reluctance to face unpleasant truths—one of which is that power, like nature, abhors a vacuum. . . . History tells us it will only be a temporary reprieve. Our current defense cuts ensure that we will be woefully unprepared to face the next test. We are so weary that we are falling asleep.
Well said. If only Republican elected officials were half as clear-minded and nearly as courageous as Ms. Szrom in taking on the claim that we all need to defer to, to bow down to, our own war-weariness. In fact, the idol of war-weariness can be challenged. A war-weary public can be awakened and rallied. Indeed, events are right now doing the awakening. All that’s needed is the rallying. And the turnaround can be fast. Only 5 years after the end of the Vietnam war, and 15 years after our involvement there began in a big way, Ronald Reagan ran against both Democratic dovishness and Republican détente. He proposed confronting the Soviet Union and rebuilding our military. It was said that the country was too war-weary, that it was too soon after Vietnam, for Reagan’s stern and challenging message. Yet Reagan won the election in 1980. And by 1990 an awakened America had won the Cold War.
The next president will be elected in 2016, 15 years after 9/11 and 5 years after our abandonment of Iraq and the beginning of the drawdown in Afghanistan. Pundits will say that it would be politically foolish to try to awaken Americans rather than cater to their alleged war-weariness. We can’t prove them wrong. Perhaps it would be easier for a Republican to win in 2016 running after the fashion of Warren Gamaliel Harding in 1920 rather than that of Ronald Wilson Reagan in 1980.
But what would such a victory be worth? The term “war-weary” (actually “war-wearied”) may have first appeared in Shakespeare. In Henry VI, Part 1 (Act IV, Scene 4), the Earl of Somerset, for reasons of domestic political calculation, resists the entreaty of Sir William Lucy to go to the aid of his fellow English lord, “the over-daring Talbot,”
Who, ring’d about with bold adversity,
Cries out for noble York and Somerset,
To beat assailing death from his weak legions:
And whiles the honourable captain there
Drops bloody sweat from his war-wearied limbs,
And, in advantage lingering, looks for rescue,
You, his false hopes, the trust of England’s honour,
Keep off aloof with worthless emulation.
Somerset fails to rescue Talbot, but grandly states,
If he be dead, brave Talbot, then adieu!
To which Lucy replies,
His fame lives in the world, his shame in you.
Can Republicans do no better than shamefully to emulate Somerset and Obama (“I assure you nobody ends up being more war-weary than me”)? Will no brave leader step forward to honorably awaken us from our unworthy sleep?
Mar 3, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 24 • By FRED BARNES
Texas attorney general Greg Abbott has a famous saying: “What I really do for fun is I go into the office [and] sue the Obama administration.” Abbott’s relentless struggle against an administration that routinely exceeds its authority and tramples on federalism made him the ringleader among the two dozen Republican state AGs. He’s now running for governor.
Feb 24, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 23 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
On February 11, writing for the Washington Post, Republican lobbyist Ed Rogers ably summarized the latest “bad week for Obamacare.” The Congressional Budget Office concluded that Obamacare will cause “a decline in the number of full-time-equivalent workers of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024.” The CBO also found that Obamacare would—after all the spending and disruption and coercion—still leave about 31 million Americans uninsured a decade after implementation.
Feb 17, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 22 • By JAY COST
Last month, the House Republican leadership released its guiding principles on immigration reform. While mostly boilerplate, the document suggests that the House GOP envisions a bill similar to last year’s Senate compromise spearheaded by Marco Rubio: enhanced border security in exchange for legalization of the illegal immigrant population; more visas for the highly skilled and permits for temporary guest workers; and a rationalization of the immigration process.
Feb 3, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 20 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Election Day is almost nine months off. But right now Republicans seem almost certain to hold the House of Representatives and are likely to take the Senate. Which raises the inevitable question: How might the GOP seize defeat from the jaws of victory?
Jan 13, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 17 • By FRED BARNES
A White House official once noted that the problem with the national press corps is it can only keep one idea in its mind at a time. And while that’s often true, it’s not at the moment in regard to Republicans.
Today’s media line on the Republican party is it faces irreversible decline. That’s on the one hand. On the other, Republicans have a solid shot at capturing the Senate in the midterm elections in November, are all but certain to retain control of the House, and have reasonable prospects of winning the White House in 2016.
Jan 13, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 17 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
The year 2014 marks a centennial and a bicentennial. The centennial is well known: 1914 saw the beginning of World War I, a calamity perhaps unmatched until then in the history of the West. We will be reminded many times this year in centennial commemorations of the war’s terrible destruction, but also of its devastating political and cultural effects over subsequent decades, and of its continuing deep if often indirect contribution to today’s demoralization of the West.
Dec 30, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 16 • By FRED BARNES
President Obama is more perceptive about the shortcomings of government than we thought. “We have these big agencies, some of which are outdated, some of which are not designed properly,” he told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. Wow!
Dec 23, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 15 • By LEE SMITH
Two public opinion polls released last week show that the American public is skeptical of the Obama administration’s interim agreement with Iran concerning the Islamic Republic’s nuclear weapons program. Further, the surveys show that Americans by a large majority mistrust the mullahs and, as much as they’d like a negotiated settlement, believe that it’s unlikely.
Dec 23, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 15 • By FRED BARNES
In Washington, folks are celebrating a new bipartisan budget deal that saves us from another full round of reductions in federal spending mandated by the “sequester.” Far fewer are lamenting the dwindling of the sequester itself. As usual, Washington has things upside down.
Dec 2, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 12 • By ELLEN BORK
China’s Communist party leadership concluded an important agenda-setting meeting in Beijing on November 12. At this point much remains unclear about the decisions made at the Third Plenum of the 18th Communist Party Central Committee conclave, including changes to the One China policy, market reforms, and the abolition of the practice of Reeducation Through Labor. Independent media have no access to the proceedings, and even analysts able to read official party documents weren’t completely sure of what they meant.
Nov 25, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 11 • By LEE SMITH
On November 20, negotiations over Iran’s nuclear weapons program recommence in Geneva. The last round two weeks ago ended with egg on the Obama administration’s face after Secretary of State John Kerry failed to clear “bracketed text” with his own side in the talks. French foreign minister Laurent Fabius is rightly credited with saving the day and stopping the White House from making a deal that would have given the Iranians virtually everything they wanted for nothing but empty promises.
Nov 18, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 10 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Watching the Obama administration at work this week, a friend offered this judgment: Under Obama, Iran keeps its nuclear program and Americans lose their health insurance.
Nov 4, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 08 • By TERRY EASTLAND
Among the first cases heard by the Supreme Court in its new term is one from Michigan. The state stands accused of violating the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee by requiring equal treatment in public-university admissions decisions. Michigan has committed no such violation. Yet to judge by the oral argument in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, the Court, surprisingly, is closely divided. A decision against Michigan would be a setback for equal protection.
Nov 4, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 08 • By JAMES C. CAPRETTA
As metaphors go, “train wreck” turned out to be pretty apt. That’s how retiring Democratic senator Max Baucus described his expectations for the implementation of Obamacare at a hearing last April. If anything, he could be accused of soft pedaling the fiasco that has been on full display since the beginning of October.