Shadow Government

Irving Kristol, RIP

By Christian Brose

I just saw the sad news that Irving Kristol passed away this afternoon at the age of 89. I had the pleasure of working at the two magazines that Irving was best known for -- first at The National Interest and then very briefly at The Public Interest. By the time I showed up, Irving had long since ended his day-to-day involvement in both (he was never as much involved in the NI as he was in the PI), but I did have a chance to meet him on a few occasions when he came into the office for lunch with the staff. My memory, to my everlasting shame, is mostly that of a dumb young kid running his yap, overeager to engage with and impress the founder of the place, and him smiling and listening politely, arguing with me and asking me questions, but never doing what he should have done, which was told me to go sit quietly in the corner and color.

Others will have far better, and more personal, recollections of Irving Kristol. I knew him mainly through his writings and my brief time working in the institutions he built. For a young person fresh out of college, there was nothing quite like coming to work at the "Kristol palace," as the editors used to call both magazines. It was a four-day work week with lunches on the house -- from which came the joke, pretty antiquated by the time I got there, that we were dedicated to fighting socialism in the world while practicing it in the office. A professor of mine even tells the story of a student of his looking for a job that he sent to see Irving, who promptly met with him and talked with him for awhile, liked him, but didn't have anything to offer him. So he told the kid to put down on his resume that he'd worked for Irving for six months, and if anyone brought it up, he would happily serve as a reference.

As someone who actually got to work at Irving's magazines, I'd say it was about as close to a "workers' paradise" as we're ever likely to get. As a 22-year-old assistant editor, I was expected to handle magazine business from Monday to Thursday (which mainly consisted of reading and talking with my colleagues about policy, history, philosophy, culture, and everything in between), but I was then expected to use those remaining three days to do my own work, write my own articles, publish under my own name, and however the magazine could help me do that, it would. That had been Irving's policy for decades, and it remained as much a mission of each magazine as what was published quarterly in its pages. The roster of significant (and diverse) thinkers who got their start because of Irving's investment in his young staff -- from Bob Kagan, to Michael Lind, to Mark Lilla, to many others -- is as worthy a legacy as what he achieved through the countless articles he wrote himself and published from others.

And that achievement was nothing less than the revitalization, indeed the redefinition, of conservative thinking in America. It would be a poor tribute indeed for me to prattle on about Irving's work and that of his magazines. Far better for the interested reader to start with this selection of Irving's pieces that the Weekly Standard has posted, and then dig into the archives of The Public Interest (newly online thanks to the outstanding work of National Affairs, the new magazine that will carry the PI's torch for a new era). Read through all of that, while trying to keep up with the deluge of tributes and reminiscences that will pour forth in the coming days from people who truly knew him the best, and you'll begin to have a sense of how much Irving Kristol meant to so many people -- and how sorely he'll be missed.

Shadow Government

Obama won't stay the course in Afghanistan -- then what?

By Kori Schake

Skepticism grows in President Obama's party about his presumed endorsement of General Stanley McChrystal's assessment of the strategy and resources required to succeed in Afghanistan. Senate Armed Services Chair Carl Levin has expressed skepticism about sending more forces until the Afghans contribute more themselves. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doubts there will be public support. Lynn Woolsey, Chairman of the Progressive Caucus, is threatening to lead opposition to funding the President's wars.

I believe Obama will not continue on the trajectory he set out for redoubling our efforts to win the "good war" in Afghanistan. He and his advisors lacked -- and continue to lack -- understanding of the importance of succeeding in Iraq, or why the surge strategy and additional forces changed the political dynamic in that country. His priorities are domestic, and he even encouraged trade-offs between international security and domestic policy by suggesting that his health care plan was affordable because (by his accounting) it would cost less than the wars we are fighting.

So I suspect that over the course of the next 9 months, the administration will conclude that: (a) the sticker price for achieving its aims in Afghanistan is too high; (b) international partners are exhausted with this effort; and (c) Afghans aren't providing the indigenous partnership that our strategy relies on to be successful. I don't share these views, but reasonable people who mean our country well could conclude them.

The only wrong choice -- both morally and strategically -- would be for the President to continue sending our country's sons and daughters to war if he is unwilling to commit the resources and effort to win it. That would be the true and tragic Vietnam parallel.

American power is pervasive and diverse enough to protect our interests without winning all our wars, as Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia demonstrate. But if the President winds down our effort to construct an Afghanistan that will not be a breeding ground for terrorist attacks, what are the policy alternatives for keeping Americans safe from terrorism?

The first is better defense: pushing out the perimeter of our defense against attack and building in layers of defense (inspecting cargo at ports of embarkation, checking flight manifests before planes come into U.S. airspace, tracing money from suspect organizations and individuals, cross-referencing databases in local/state/federal law enforcement and other sources). Much of this is already routine.

The second is relinquishing the concept of holding states accountable for actions occurring in their territory, and either gaining their tacit cooperation or violating their sovereignty to kill or capture people we feel threatened by. This was the approach to terrorism before 9/11. It accepts the world is dangerous and manages consequences rather than causes. However, clandestine operations are the key component of this approach, and the Attorney General's belief that even outside legal opinion does not protect agents could prevent this from being executable.

The third is ceding Afghanistan to squalor but redoubling our partnership with Pakistan. Many in the so-called Muslim world are surprised at our effort in Afghanistan, a society they consider at the far margin of affecting Muslim attitudes. Pakistan is understandably skeptical of American enthusiasm now, given our support for the mujaheddin, use of their intelligence community's relationships, and sanctimonious intrusiveness in their country's affairs. The Obama administration is off to a good start in relations with Pakistan, and could channel assistance for public education programs and other tools to shape a positive future in Pakistan along with our encouragement and assistance in their fight against extremism. A failed Afghanistan could be a containment problem if we had a successful Pakistan.

The fourth is cordoning off places we consider suspect: restricting travel and immigration, considering people suspect by passport rather than action. Of course, this categorical denial diminishes our ability to foster moderation in those societies by closing them off to education, relatives, and experiences that show them a different America than terrorists paint. Moreover, it redoubles the punishment of people unfortunate enough to be born in a society riven by terrorists in their midst.

The fifth, and I believe least damaging, alternative would be for the administration to broaden its scope of cooperation with Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, even Iran and other countries that might be willing to adopt common cause with us for the long and arduous work of building an Afghanistan that would not be a threat to its own people and ours. This would require acknowledging to the Russians our culpability in their failed occupation of Afghanistan, working with them and the Chinese on border control measures they use repressively with their own publics but would help separate the problems of Afghanistan from those of surrounding countries, addressing corruption when it inevitably occurs, and numerous other unpalatable compromises.

But that is the work of coalition warfare. The only difference between that and what we are doing now is that we'd be making the compromises with countries that share fewer of our values and more of our interests in Afghanistan.