There’s a lot wrong with this Bill Kristol article, but this line referring to the 1990s is probably the one most divorced from reality:
That decade of not policing the world ended with 9/11.
There is no way to look back at the 1990s and see a decade in which the U.S. was “not policing the world.” This was the period that saw the U.S. constantly deploying troops, routinely bombing Iraq as part of the no-fly zones, imposing sanctions, expanding existing alliances, and launching two military campaigns. This was the decade of Desert Storm, the interventions in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo, and missile strikes in Sudan and Afghanistan. One of the reasons that Bush initially campaigned on a “humble” foreign policy was the widespread perception that U.S. foreign policy during the ’90s, especially during the Clinton years, had been anything but that. Bush was never all that serious about the “humble” foreign policy idea, and in any case he abandoned it almost as soon as he could. 9/11 didn’t come about because the U.S. wasn’t activist and meddlesome enough during the ’90s. If anything, it was the exact opposite.
Do Republicans really want to take their foreign policy guidance from someone whose response to the last twelve years of war is to insist that the GOP lash itself even more tightly to hard-line and aggressive foreign policy? Speaking of aggressive foreign policy, Kristol refers to this as “the foreign policy of the Republican party for the last 70 years,” but in practice Republican administrations have not normally conducted a foreign policy anywhere as reckless, ideological, or disastrous as that of George W. Bush and John McCain. McCain’s current foreign policy hasn’t always been McCain’s, and it certainly hasn’t been Republican foreign policy ever since WWII. For most of the last seventy years, Republican administrations have not subscribed to the doctrine of preventive war, and I suspect they would find McCain’s enthusiasm to plunge the U.S. into one conflict after another bewildering and dangerous. Identifying the entire postwar Republican foreign policy tradition with the interventionist mania of McCain and Graham is simply wrong, and more than that it is insulting to most postwar Republicans.
Kristol’s recommendation is also politically disastrous for Republicans in the present. He writes:
The task of GOP political leaders is to educate the public about the dangers of the world and to inspire people to rise above their weariness.
If the last decade tells us anything about what sort of “education” the public would be receiving from Republican hawks on this subject, it is would be better for all concerned if they didn’t bother. It would be refreshing if Republicans would make an effort to educate the public about the dangers of the world instead of always misinforming them and exaggerating those dangers to justify an exorbitant, unnecessarily large military budget. Telling Republicans to ignore the public’s war weariness is extremely poor advice, since ignoring the public’s attitude toward current wars has contributed to three election defeats and blinded them to the fact that their long-held advantage on national security vanished years ago. If Republicans follow Kristol’s advice, they will most likely be condemning themselves to more defeats at the polls and to increasing irrelevance in policy debates. By the end of his article, Kristol has veered into self-parody with his insistence that more willpower is all that is required. If Republicans are want to avoid the same fate, they’ll ignore what he tells them.