Supporting the views of U.S. President George W. Bush, William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, said going to war with Iraq is the best option for ensuring the safety of American citizens.
Speaking to a crowd of approximately 100 people in Linsly-Chittenden Hall Tuesday, Kristol discussed how the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks ushered American politics into a new era. The talk, sponsored by Branford College, was the fifth annual Richard W. Goldman ’69 lecture.
Kristol, who did his undergraduate and doctoral work at Harvard University, opened his talk with Harvard-Yale jokes but went on to discuss how terrorism has left a permanent imprint on U.S. politics. The talk continued later that evening at a Branford Master’s Tea.
Kristol said recent American politic history can be divided into three general eras. The first was the Cold War era, when issues of foreign policy dominated the political scene. Democrats, with the exception of former President Jimmy Carter, were not elected during that time because the public did not think Democrats could manage foreign policy, he said. The second was the post-Cold War era in the 1990s, when the focus shifted to domestic policies. Kristol said former President Bill Clinton would not have been elected if the American people did not believe the Cold War was over.
The third era, Kristol said, began with the World Trade Center terrorist attacks.
“I think 9/11 was the end of the ’90s,” Kristol said.
Kristol said he thinks the attacks will have an increasing influence on U.S. policy in the future. He compared the events of Sept. 11, 2001, to the recent Columbia space shuttle explosion, which he said will fade into the background within a few weeks and ultimately have a minimal impact on the U.S. space program.
With the United States at a political crossroads, Kristol said the nation will have to decide whether or not to engage aggressively in foreign affairs. He said foreign policy is likely to play a major role in the 2004 presidential election.
The United States is currently engaged in three wars — against terrorism, dictators who seek to amass weapons of mass destruction, and “radical Islam” — and Kristol said he thinks America can dispose of at least one dictator.
“I think we will remove Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq,” Kristol said.
In defense of his assertions that politics have become more oriented around foreign policy, Kristol said one only needs to look at Pakistan’s and India’s nuclear weapons tests in 1998. U.S. citizens did not care much about those incidents because they did not feel directly threatened, he said.
Kristol also emphasized that Hussein and the Middle East are not the only concerns.
“You could easily have a nuclear arms race [in East Asia] if the U.S. seems weak,” Kristol said.
Following his speech, Kristol answered questions from audience members. One person asked if the United States is justified in bypassing international bodies, such as the United Nations, and acting unilaterally. In response, Kristol said if one supports war with Iraq, he has to support the Bush administration’s tactics. He said there is no “nicer” way to go about fighting Iraq because he thinks the United Nations would have never discussed Iraq had Bush not threatened unilateral action.
Katherine Epstein ’04 said she had already supported a war on Iraq before the talk.
“I enjoyed [the talk] tremendously,” Epstein said.