War: Because, hey, what’s the worst that could happen?

What’s the harm of bombing [ISIS] at least for a few weeks and seeing what happens?

This is Bill Kristol’s idea of foreign policy. Drop some bombs and “see what happens.”

"What's the harm ...?"
“What’s the harm …?”

You may remember Kristol and his Neoconservative friends for advocating this same idea back in 2003 — “What’s the harm of invading Iraq at least for a few weeks and seeing what happens?” I’m so old I can still remember how that turned out.

This is the basis of the Neocons’ preferential option for war: Hey, what’s the worst that could happen?

One of the many problems with that mentality is that it tends to produce an answer to that question.

We don’t need to take a careful look at the jus ad bello criteria of just war theory to consider whether Kristol’s argument for war is justifiable. It’s not simply that his argument violates those criteria, but that it refuses to acknowledge that there are or ever could be any criteria for whether or not war is a reasonable or just measure. For Kristol, war is the default — the perpetual first resort.

We could kill a lot of very bad guys,” Kristol said, revealing he’s still committed to the simple, neat and wrong idea that shaped American policy during the Bush administration — just kill all the bad people and all your problems will be solved:

As jaw-droppingly awful as it is to realize that Kristol hasn’t learned anything from his complicity in the biggest, deadliest blunder of a generation, it’s just as awful to realize that many others haven’t learned anything from that mistake either. “Someone said on a panel with me,” Kristol says there — because he’s still regularly invited to sit on panels and to offer advice. It’s the same advice he offered in 2002 and 2003 and yet, despite everything that came of that, people still imagine it’s worth listening to.

As James Fallows wrote last month for The Atlantic, the lethal debacle of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq means “Some people have earned the right not to be listened to.”

Fallows boggles at the fact that Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby — two men who were definitively and massively wrong about everything from 2002 on — were recently hired to teach a course titled, “The War in Iraq: A Study in Decision-Making.”

For a bit of contrast from a saner time, here’s a snippet of Anthony S. Pitch’s piece marking the bicentennial of the burning of Washington by British troops in 1814:

The man most responsible for the catastrophe was none other than the Secretary of War, John Armstrong, of whom it was said, “Nature and habits forbid him to speak well of any man.” When a frantic head of the capital’s militia went to see him, the officious and stubborn secretary of war belittled the threat to the capital.

“They would not come with such a fleet without meaning to strike somewhere. But they certainly will not come here!” he said. “What the devil will they do here? Baltimore is the place.” Later he would become the most reviled man in the country and resigned from office.

Armstrong’s resignation and his complete disappearance from public life was necessary. His becoming “the most reviled man in the country” was wholly appropriate.

But Armstrong wasn’t as massively, sweepingly wrong as people like Kristol, Wolfowitz, Libby, Chaney, Rice, Powell and Bush were in 2002. And the consequences of Armstrong’s catastrophic wrongness were not as vast and enduring as the ongoing catastrophe chosen by those fools.

Plus Armstrong at least had the decency to go away. Kristol, et. al., refuse to do so.

They’re still on TV, on the radio, online and in print. And they’re still saying the same foolish thing: “We could kill a lot of very bad guys. … What’s the harm of bombing them … and seeing what happens?”

The recklessness and pride of that still-influential ideology, I think, gives an answer to Scott Paeth’s recent question: “Has the ‘Niebuhr Moment’ Passed?” No, it hasn’t. It hasn’t even arrived yet.

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