Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
It’s a strange day when Ann Coulter, George Will, Glenn Greenwald, Pat Buchanan and Andrew Sullivan are all converging on the same point: that GOP Chair Michael Steele was right to call the war in Afghanistan “a war of Obama’s choosing”. And they are, of course, right. Bumbler and incompetent though he is, Michael Steele called this one. Once the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for Not Being George W. Bush decided to squander billions more dollars, waste more American lives, and embark on the doomed mission of turning a failed narcostate into the Great Society at Gunpoint project, he made it his war just as surely as LBJ made Kennedy’s dalliance in southeast Asia into his war. Of course, Steele did it, not out of some sudden realization that the Bush years were a disaster and it was time to own up, but out of a realization that Obama has, by his embrace of folly, given those who were looking for a way to distance themselves from the war while still wanting to look like Republicans a chance to pin it on the POTUS and pretend 2003-2008 never happened.
The results of this are fascinating to watch as American politics undergoes one of its periodic tectonic realignments and lots of old certainties start to shift. So, for instance, we now are seeing the bizarre spectacle of enthuasiastic right wing bomb thrower Ann Coulter tackling the enthusiastic right wing (and absolutely reliably wrong) false prophet Bill Kristol. Wrong about everything for the past decade, Kristol decided to exercise his charism of wrongness again by demanding that Steele resign for—wait for it—the grave sin of questioning the wisdom of our wise and great President Obama.
Kristol, who never saw a war he didn’t love, was one of the major boosters of our disastrous adventure in Iraq.
Some Klassic Kwotes from America’s Anti-Prophet:
“[the war in Iraq] “could have terrifically good effects troughout the Middle East” - September 18, 2002 column
[removing Saddam] “would start a chain reaction in the Arab world that would be very healthy” - November 21, 2002
If we free the people of Iraq, we will be respected in the Arab world… and I think we will be respected around the world. - February 20, 2003
Very few wars in American history were prepared better or more throughly than this one by this president. - March 1, 2003
The first two battles of this new era are now over. The battles of Afghanistan and Iraq has been won decisively and honorably. - April 28, 2003
Barack Obama is not going to beat Hillary Clinton in a single democratic primary. I’ll predict that right now. - Fox News Sunday, December 17, 2006
As America’s war booster par excellance, Kristol is naturally jealous to protect the rich legacy of catastrophe he has helped to create (whille building on it with demands that we should soon go to war with Iran in the inimitable famous last words, “Would it be so Dangerous?”). (Hey! What could possibly go wrong?”) So when President Obama chose to continue and expand the disastrous policies of the neocons in Afghanistan (of which Kristol is the archetype) Kristol suddenly found in Obama a military genius and philosopher king who will fulfil his vision of Salvation through Leviathan by Any Means Necessary by continuing our mission to no purpose in the graveyard of empires.
But, shockingly, Ann Coulter (hitherto a gung ho supporter of Mr. Bush’s Wars) suddenly disagrees. Not, of course, because she’s willing to admit that the whole adventure in the Mideast was a misbegotten catastrophe, nor to acknowledge that the Bush Administration almost immediately abandoned the only real post-9/11 mission (Kill bin Laden and his lieutenants). Nor does she want to acknowledge that the war in Iraq was an unjust and costly distraction which has resulted in an unstable Islamic state where a Muslim despot will “stand up” the moment our forces “stand down”, and that Afghanistan is now a quagmire that will cost us lives and dwindling treasure for no good purpose. Her column is full of all the old Rah Rah for the Bush disasters. But the end of her piece is what counts. For at the end, she agrees with Steele, suddenly repudiates the war and writes:
Nonetheless, Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney have demanded that Steele resign as head of the RNC for saying Afghanistan is now Obama’s war—and a badly thought-out one at that. (Didn’t liberals warn us that neoconservatives want permanent war?)
I thought the irreducible requirements of Republicanism were being for life, small government and a strong national defense, but I guess permanent war is on the platter now, too.
Of course, if Kristol is writing the rules for being a Republican, we’re all going to have to get on board for amnesty and a “National Greatness Project,” too – other Kristol ideas for the Republican Party. Also, John McCain. Kristol was an early backer of McCain for president—and look how great that turned out!
Inasmuch as demanding resignations is another new Republican position, here’s mine: Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney must resign immediately.
Don’t take the “resignation” stuff seriously. That’s just a tu quoque against Kristol’s demand for Steele’s resignation. But the remark about Kristol and the Neocons’ warmed-over Marxist love of “permanent war” is a very serious departure from the reservation for Coulter. Plus the fact that she doesn’t just say it to Kristol, but to to Liz Cheney, daughter of the VP who did so much to further Kristol’s disastrous vision for National Greatness.
What we are seeing here, in both Coulter and Steele’s remarks is an attempt to get while the getting is good and abandon the catastrophic adventures abroad which were undertaken nearly a decade ago. Obama has, like the Amateur President he is, contrived to take a bad situation and make it worse. Smart cookies like Coulter see the opportunity to hang it on him since he has so obligingly agreed to compound the disaster instead of withdraw from it. Meanwhile, the movers and shakers and opinion makers of the Bush years (like Kristol and the Cheneys) are still trying to prove that their disastrous nation-building enterprise was a great idea. So we are starting to see a fissure develop between those conservatives who are realizing what folly it was to abandon “life, small government and a strong national defense” and those conservatives who have entrenched themselves in favor of death, bloated and bankrupt government, and an exhausted and abused all-volunteer military deployed in the service of endless wars of creative destruction. I, for one, will take my victories where I can find them, so if Coulter and Steele want to finally voice an opposition to our ill-conceived and unwinnable adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq, I’m happy to welcome them aboard. It will be interesting to see if they get excommunicated as earlier skeptics of the neocon project have been. At the end of the day, of course, both Bush and Obama are the architects of this folly, but it would appear that at least some of Bush’s boosters are figuring out that Obama’s foolish decisions have given them a way to distance themselves from the debacle.
Another funny thing about all this is that, at present, the most serious critics of Obama are found, not on the Right, but on the Left. This comes as a shock to folks who get all their information from FOXNews and who believe that, apart from that network and a few Talk Radio types, all MSM reporters and pundits are, without exception, drooling worshippers of the Messiah of the Plains. But, in fact, Obama has become the target of increasingly bitter attacks from Lefties who recognize that, when it comes to war, Obama is Bush 44, but with less of a clue what he’s doing than his predecessor. Glenn Greenwald, for instance, has been unremitting in his assaults on Obama. As have been a growing number of Lefties. As Guardians of the Neocon Legacy continue to go to bat to defend Mr. Obama’s War, it will be weird and hilarious indeed to see the spectacle of Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity defending the wisdom and greatness of Barack Obama against the “anti-American” and godless assaults of a Rachel Maddow as she hosts Ann Coulter to voice a joint demand that no more American troops die for the pointless project of ignoring two Popes and virtually all the world’s bishops in two nation-building wars that even Jimmy Carter would not have been foolish enough to support.