I think the answer is that we believe, with reason, that democracy’s infectious. We’ve seen it. We saw it happen in Eastern Europe. It’s just — people reached a critical mass of mendacity under those regimes of the East block, and it exploded. And I do believe that you will see [in the Middle East] a ripple effect, a happy domino effect, if you will, of democracy knocking over these medieval tyrannies . . . Condoleezza Rice is quite right. She says there is an enormous condescension in saying that somehow the Arab world is just not up to democracy. And there’s an enormous ahistorical error when people say, “Well, we can’t go into war with Iraq until we know what postwar Iraq’s going to look like.” In 1942, a year after Pearl Harbor, did we have a clear idea what we were going to do with postwar Germany? With postwar Japan? Of course not. We made it up as we went along, and we did a very good job. . . .
Krauthammer took a phone call from Donald Trump in April of 2011 and somehow came away with the impression that Trump was going to make a genuine run for the White House. Krauthammer’s reasoning was this: “But as a person, I thought more highly of him … because of the gracious way and the calm and courteous way he discussed the issues.”
The last 11 years have been filled with hard learning. The 2003 invasion of Iraq, the worst foreign policy decision in U.S. history, coincided with mission creep (“nation building”) in Afghanistan. Both strengthened what can be called the Republicans’ John Quincy Adams faction: America “goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”
To a degree that will baffle historians, the political-intellectual complex that made the Iraq War possible remains intact, and powerful. Amnesia is part of the reason why. If Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, and Benjamin Netanyahu knew that before denouncing the Iran deal they’d be required to account for their views on Iraq, they might not show up in the green room. If they did, their television appearances would take a radically different course from the course they generally take today.