Weekly Standard editor emeritus Bill Kristol joined me this morning:
HH: Joined by editor emeritus of the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol. Good morning, Bill.
BK: Hi, Hugh.
HH: You might expect that I will, I brought you on to talk about your Omarosa in depth knowledge, and to plumb that story. But in fact, I want to talk to you about a cascading series of crises in the Middle East, which is actually stunning. Right now, we have President Erdogan threatening an Ottoman slap at Lt. General Funk, who said American troops would defend themselves. We have a story from Bloomberg that U.S, the U.S. troops killed scores of Russian mercenaries in Syria this week. And we have Israel attacking Iranian drones, having an F-16 shot down, and a massive series of counterstrikes on Iranian positions in Syria. In other words, that is a tinderbox. It’s actually more than a tinderbox. It’s on fire, and we’re talking about Omarosa, Bill. What in the world?
BK: Well, I’m glad you’re calling attention to it. I’ve had the exact same thought the last few days. The Iran-Israel confrontation was a big deal. And hopefully, it doesn’t escalate into a full-scale war. But it certainly could. And then of course, Turkey and everything else, I think President Obama began a process very self-consciously and quite explicitly of withdrawal, basically, from the Middle East. He maybe didn’t quite use that word, but nation building must begin at home, and he took us out of, of course, Iraq, and didn’t commit in Syria both in 2011 when the civil war when we could, I think, have really made a difference in the nipping of the violence in the bud, or at least shaping it and controlling it. And then of course with the famous red line in 2013 and then the Iran deal in 2015, which seemed to signal that we were willing to let the, sort of, Iran have a kind of hegemony over the area, and certainly weren’t going to exert ourselves. And so whoever had become president would have inherited a very difficult situation. President Trump, despite his occasional bellicosity of rhetoric, is an America first guy, very averse to American troops on the ground, has done some good things, I think, in crushing ISIS, but no real strategy of dealing with Iran or stabilizing the area as much as possible, and so here we are. I think it’s really, it is a real live, you know, what’s the word I’m looking for, end time kind of, real time lesson in what happens when the U.S. withdraws, which is not regional stability, balance of power, it’s increasing chaos. The bad guys get stronger. People who are on the fence tend to become bad guys or work with bad guys, because who else are they going to work with? And so you have this insane situation in Syria where everyone’s looking to Russia as the kind of peacemaker and you know, the resolver of the issues as opposed to the U.S.