Libertarian Institute director Scott Horton debates Bulwark editor Bill Kristol on the resolution, “A willingness to intervene, and seek regime change, is key to an American foreign policy that benefits America” at the Soho Forum in New York City, October 4, 2021.
The following is an automatically generated transcript.
Gene Epstein 0:00
Well, now for a major event of the evening, the resolution again reads, a willingness to intervene and to seek regime change is key to an American foreign policy that benefits America. Here to defend the resolution. Bill Kristol bill, please come to the stage.Here to oppose the resolution, Scott Horton, Scott, please come to the stage. Connor, please close the voting. The voting is now closed, and Bill Kristol VOB timer in front giving you signals, you have 17 and a half minutes to defend the resolution, a willingness to intervene and to seek regime change is key to an American foreign policy that benefits America. Take it away, Bill. Yeah, yeah.
Bill Kristol 1:14
Thanks, Gene. It’s good to be to be here back on the Upper West Side. Not in Soho, even though it’s misleadingly called the Soho forum, I guess maybe it once wasn’t Soho. I grew up less than a mile from here at first Riverside. So I remember this. This is where we’re at 95th and Broadway, I remember 96th and Broadway. I used to come and play pool and ping pong and some now destroyed kind of kind of old fashioned Guys and Dolls type place that made me think I was really in touch with America, there was an upper Westside kid. So I have fond memories of this corner have fond memories of the Upper West Side. But in any case, apart from being back in New York, thank you for having us for this discussion. I think it’s an important time to have a discussion about foreign policy, it hasn’t been front of mind, honestly, since people like me, who are concerned about democracy around the world found ourselves more concerned about democracy at home for the last four or five years and still concerned about it. I think they are connected. However, I do want to thank all of you for coming who were here, and those of you who are watching at home. I apologize. But I was gonna say I feel bad that you all have to wear masks masks, but it’s prudent, I suppose. And it’s good that you’re vaccinated. So it’s nice that we don’t have to what we’re speaking up here, do so I’ve got to say. So the resolution as Gene said, I’ll just cut to the chase here since I know you want to have a substantive discussion, and I do too. Willingness intervene to seek regime change is key to an American foreign policy that benefits America. I think this is correct. I think I would notice that it says a willingness to intervene doesn’t mean you have to intervene everywhere. It doesn’t mean they haven’t been ill advised interventions, but a willingness to intervene, which implies defense treaties, commitments with allies, forward basing of troops probably all the characteristics of the post 1945 post war order. I do think is key to a safer world. Key to a freer and more prosperous world. And a willingness to seek regime change, mostly peacefully, obviously, is key to a more democratic world and countries with democracies and self government, and with political and civil liberties. How to do that gets complicated, and I’ll talk about that a bit, too. But I think the fundamental point, the willingness to stand with allies, the willingness to intervene, if necessary, usually, that willingness is provides a deterrence. Occasionally it has to happen, a willingness to articulate that people deserve to live in freedom, and that we should do our best to help them and occasionally, if they’re being oppressed sufficiently, or if they’re being invaded by others, will even act to help them I think, is key. And I think central policy benefits America directly, but it also benefits the world, which in turn benefits America. So that’s my core argument. It’s a pretty straightforward argument. I honestly think it’s a pretty I think it’s correct, obviously. I mean, the key judgment people have to make is, what do you think of the post 1945 world order? If you think as I do, that, on the whole, it is a good thing, that if you compare it with the preceding 45 years, it’s undoubtedly produced a world more peaceful, more prosperous, more free, greater social liberties for all the terrible problems. But compared to the preceding half century, I think you have to say this has been a good half century, good 70 years or so, by comparison. All these things are by comparison. And that key to the success, economic successes, successes and life expectancies, successes and political freedom. Success and just keeping the peace, success and not having another use of nuclear weapons in anger since 1945.
Those successes really depended on this American led world order, which in turn depended on a core defense structure, the foreign policy structure, national security structure, of which the US was the Keystone. I think it’s actually a great achievement. Historians will look back on the post 1945, cold, first Cold War order and then post Cold War, even post 911 for the last 20 years and say, under appreciated at the time, lots of challenges at the time, lots of mistakes at the time. But compared to what compared to what one of the most important things in life, but especially in foreign policy, is not taking for granted. That bad things very bad things sometimes did not happen. So it’s pretty easy to look at the world and see particular instances of failure particular places, things could be better have particular things that one wishes wanted done differently in retrospect. But if you step back and say, All in all, what does one think of this post World War Two liberal order global order that we have undergirded? I think one has to say, as I say peace, prosperity, but also think of the things that didn’t go wrong, the things that didn’t happen. And you know, Soviet Union did not prevail in the Cold War. liberal democracy spread intermittently and with some setbacks in the last 15 years, but to countries where it hadn’t been before, prosperity was expanded massively. I mean, the achievement of helping hundreds of millions, I guess the billions of people come out of poverty, especially in East Asia, obviously, in Southeast Asia and China and India and surrounding countries. That does not happen without the undergirding of this American led liberal global order, their achievement, it’s mostly an economic achievement. But their achievement depends, I think, on a general world in which they are not fighting wars, every 10 or 20 years, as they certainly were, before that in East Asia and elsewhere. It depends on a free trade and free movement of capital. And the ability to learn lessons in terms of international economics, which in turn is undergirded by that liberal world order. So we take that for granted as if all those are obviously the case that you know, India, China, all these places, we’re just going to develop in the way they have. It was not obviously the case, it hadn’t happened before. And I don’t think we can count on it having happened if we if we had withdrawn from the world, as we had done in 1918, or as we had done prior to 1914 in certain ways, but we certainly can’t couldn’t count on it being sustained. We had a pretty good liberal world order until 1913 1914. But it turned out not to be reliably enough, undergirded, I think we have provided a kind of ability to sustain that kind of liberal world order that didn’t exist before. That has really nothing to be not something to be taken for granted. And that’s something to be whose importance can be slighted. Intervention is messy. There have been good interventions in my opinion, they’ve been obviously ones that didn’t go well that were problematic. And I think they vertically mix that but ones that have been mistaken the most the earliest ones Korean Vietnam, were by far the most costly for us.
Korea maybe necessary, certainly part of the outcome of that very successful, booming free country, but not so happy historically, obviously, North Korea at all, Vietnam are much less successful, obviously intervention, the subsequent ones want to go through them and try to weigh them. I’m sure everyone’s interested in Iraq, which I was, was a strong supporter of and remained qualified. I would say, supporter of obviously we were wrong about weapons of mass destruction. So that’s it, we would not have gone to war if we had known they weren’t there. But still I would say that the the light in which we went to war in Iraq was, for me, at least Personally, I won’t speak for everyone else. The experience after the Cold War of Saddam invading Kuwait, and and you know, killing the hundreds of 1000s of zone people in the, in the years before that. And after the intervention when we didn’t go and remove him and insist on a gene change. We let him hold power, kill people redevelop some weapons of mass destruction. It turns out, we destroyed a lot of those in 1998. And then in the Balkans, we did nothing as Milosevic engaged in ethnic cleansing in Europe. We finally intervened there, and reasonably successfully, I would argue and since then, and 20 years for 20 years, since 9899, after the second intervention Kosovo, we have not had that kind of slaughter in Europe. And we in fact, achieved an awful lot in central Eastern Europe where there hadn’t been much history, too much history of liberal democracy and freedom, some backsliding, unfortunately, in the last few years, and especially in Hungary and a little in Poland. And that just for me makes the case though, why it’s so important that we stay engaged and stay active. And NATO puts a lot of pressure on these countries, incidentally, to maintain their democracies, a lot of incentives for them not to slide back. The fact that we have enemies like booton, who are opponents, like Luton, who’ve grown up again, for me makes the case for that fundamental willingness to assume our role in the world. Not to try to pull back. I mean, I would just say this about interventions without, you know, trying to escape from the difficulty of them. When I was very much younger, someone made the point that if the Allies had intervened, if the UK and France had intervened in 1936, when Hitler went into the su datelined, it would have been a total mess. And if they insist on a regime change, it would have been very difficult in Germany. And people will be looking at that two years later, or maybe 15 years later, as Gee, was that really necessary and that, you know, it’s got to be careful when you intervene, you got to step back, let things play, let things take their course, let things play out. You don’t know what would have happened if we hadn’t done certain things. We do know what happened in Syria, when we did not intervene in 2011. And then in 2013, with a red line. And we know that 500,000 people have been killed and billions of people driven from their homes, that migration crisis, which then destabilized Europe, incidentally, and probably helped the rise of authoritarian populism elsewhere in the world. So the intervention can have bad consequences. The war in Iraq was fought terribly for the first three years. And I think we did stabilize it by the end of 2008, with the surge, but I’m perfectly open to the argument that all in all, it would have been better if we hadn’t gone in, I think it’s a it’s hard to know, you can’t rewrite, we run history backwards, what would it look like if saddam or his kids were in charge, and they were developing weapons of mass destruction as they had tried to in the past? We don’t know. But But I certainly will acknowledge it was not a well run intervention, and maybe not a well thought through intervention. Still, you know, Syria is the counter argument of a non intervention. And I think one has to take that counter argument, at least, seriously, people like me, were very influenced by the experience of the Balkans. And I would say also by the experience of Rwanda, in 94, were at that point, we were kind of exhausted, we’d intervened in Somalia and 93 that went badly with Mogadishu. And we just really neither party and almost no one in the US said, Oh, my God, we can’t just sit back and watch what happened in Rwanda happened, and a million people got slaughtered. And that was preventable. That was preventable by us and by others, that we didn’t prevent it. And I remember Six years later, watching al gore and george bush debate in 2000, on foreign policy, and the the anti interventionist mood was still in the ascendancy. Bush was chastising Clinton for too, too aggressive foreign policy, he was promising more humble foreign policy. And one of them with a moderator JIM LEHRER said, well, would you have intervened in Rwanda, a million people died there wouldn’t have taken that much to stop that, or at least to stop some of that. And Bush said, No, no, we can’t just solve everyone else’s problems. And Gore, who certainly didn’t agree with that, I think gore felt very bad that we hadn’t intervened said, Oh, no, we can’t intervene. His political advisors who said there was no support for intervention 911 change that we went into Afghanistan, I think correctly, maybe we should have maybe we should have left earlier. Maybe we shouldn’t we should have could have done some things differently. We they went into Iraq, those the two post 911 interventions, really, and again, we don’t know what the ones looks like, if we pull out of Afghanistan earlier, I hope it doesn’t go too terribly there. Now, I worry about what happens there. In terms of the people of Afghanistan. I also worry what happens in terms of regional destabilization in Pakistan and elsewhere, Pakistan’s nuclear power, I come back to the nuclear question. Very few people predicted in 1945, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki that there would be no use of nuclear weapons. For what what is it now 75 years, except for tests. And that’s an achievement. And who knows whether we could have been less forward leaning and stopped other nations from getting nuclear weapons that the reason Japan is not a nuclear power is that we there’s the US Japan, defense pact, and defense pact means willingness to intervene. That’s literally what a defense pact means. And the reason South Korea is not a nuclear power is probably the We have troops there, as well as having a pact with them. And if they both are looking at China, and there were no US troops in the region, and no us commitments, they would be nuclear. And you have to say what is world look like India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons China does. That’s dangerous enough. South Korea, Japan, do others decide? I think we just underestimate the cost that would be paid. If the US stepped back from its global commitments. A couple of quick points in closing, can we afford to be the global superpower? Yes, it costs. I don’t know what our defense budget is now about, I think 3.5-4% of GDP. Let’s just add a percent or two for intelligence State Department all the other costs of being global power, 5-6%. It’s just not it’s worth it, in my opinion. If other people think it’s doing harm to the world, you can make that argument. But it’s not. It’s not that we can’t afford it. That is just not a real a really important argument. I think. So we should argue it on the merits, I think rather than this kind of notion that we’re going bankrupt because of the defense budget. Is a national security state been terrible for us at home? Has it, you know, eroded civil liberties? It’s because it’s sort of a cliche that the national security state the war is the health of the state. And, you know, it’s very dangerous to civil liberties, to freedom to civil rights. It can be and there’s certainly instances of that at the end of World War One. And then of course, the Japanese internment, for example, World War Two. But really, the story from 45 to 2015, in the US, has been one of expanding equality, expanding civil liberties, certainly on core civil rights issues, for example, partly spurred, in some respects, by the fact that we were telling the world they had to be democratic. And then people correctly that I mean, the communists of it said, what about you look at the way African Americans are treated in the US. And that was actually a bit of a spur to improving our country. It’s not a reason, obviously, to have the global responsibilities. But I think if you just step back and say is there less, you know, freedom of speech on a ton of issues, we care about freedom of religion, it has not been the case that at least the post 1945, American global presence has led to some kind of erosion of liberty. In the US, we can argument size for governor in the US and all kinds of issues, but it’s not just not empirically true, that we’ve become some kind of garrison state hostile to, to freedom, hostile to social progress, and so forth. And finally, I just think for those who say, well, but all this is nice for the world. But what about America, American democracy, American Freedom is not solid is not I think, ultimately, you can’t count on it in a world that’s entirely hostile. We have a big interest in having other democracies in the world for the sake of those people, but also for the sake of our own confidence in ourselves, and that we don’t become a garrison state constantly thinking that all over the world, there are countries that might attack us. So I think even from the point of view of democracy at home, not even but including, not just from the point of view of people living abroad, but from the point of view of Americans at home, we have a big interest in democracy around the world.
Gene Epstein 18:15
Thank you, Bill. For the negative Scott Horton, take it away, Scott.
Scott Horton 18:27
All right. Thank you, Gene. And hello to Mr. Kristol. As some of you know, Mr. Kristol was chief of staff to Dan Quayle, who I consider to be the best vice president of my lifetime. And think about who the other ones were for a second. I will respond about Hitler and World War Two more in a later segment there. America is in real trouble. For the last few years, my opponent has been at the forefront of those warning against the death of modern liberalism. And that far right populist trumpism is taking this country in a very dangerous direction, towards authoritarianism, even dictatorship. But Mr. Kristol, you and David Brooks promised us national greatness. You said America needed to be called to their quote, grand destiny, quote, nationalism. We needed quote, national strength and moral assertiveness abroad advancing the cause of freedom around the world. We needed a big project we can all do together. As Burke’s friend Christopher beam wrote invading Iraq, quote, suited his quest and yours for this greatness. In his 1996 article toward a NEO Reaganite foreign policy, arguing for benevolent global hegemony, my opponent wrote that John Quincy Adams was wrong that the US should not go abroad seeking monsters to destroy why not he asked. For the exact reasons that Quincy Adams delineated, our principles would turn from Liberty to force, we would become the divatress of the world but no longer the ruler of our own spirit. He said Adams was right. The wars did not make America great. The wars. 3000 people were killed on September 11 2001. As Paul Wolfowitz admitted, the main reason Osama bin Laden cited for attacking America was the US military bases left in Saudi Arabia for the so called dual containment policy against Iraq and Iran in the 1990s. After Iraq war one the Persian Gulf War. Bin Laden’s plan was to provoke the United States into invading Afghanistan, so we could replicate the Mujahideen earlier success against the USSR, with U.S. support in the 1980s. This time against us, to bog us down bleed us to bankruptcy and create a choking life for the American people under the tyranny of our security state. And after the last 20 years of war and Afghanistan, and across the Middle East, we have less influence there than ever before. A $30 trillion national debt, and increasingly invasive surveillance state and militarized police state, almost 7000 dead troops 37,000 if you count those who killed themselves in the aftermath, and the worst partisan political, racial and other social division of my lifetime Anyway, I’m 45.
So much of this crisis is directly due to the costs financial and otherwise of America’s Middle East regime change wars. Let’s review some recent regime changes and their consequences. Note that in neoconservative doctrine, democracy absolutely must be spread to Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Syria, but not Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Oman, Egypt or Pakistan. And if there’s a democratically elected government that our government doesn’t like, the US won’t hesitate to try to overthrow it, like in Algeria 1993, Gaza in 2007, Egypt in 2013, and Ukraine in 2004 and 2014. Now to the regime changes I’m sorry, I have to skip Kosovo and Somalia for time. First on our list is President Carter and Reagan support for the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s. to overthrow the communist regime there. This led directly to the rise of Haqqani Hekmatyar, the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Carter and Reagan support for Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and its 1980s war to overthrow the ayatollah in Iran also backfired. It solidified the mullahs power in Persia and led directly to the so called Gulf War, after iraq invaded Kuwait in a dispute over debts from the war against Iran. As mentioned, America’s first Iraq war, launched to restore the Kuwaiti monarchy in 1991, led directly to the dual containment policy against Iraq and Iran from military bases in Saudi Arabia, and Al Qaeda is war against the United States. Since 2001, after failing to deploy enough reinforcements to capture or kill Bin Ladin at Tora Bora or allow the Delta Force to pursue to pursue him into Pakistan. The Bush administration instead sought regime change against the Taliban in Kabul, who Bill Clinton had supported just a few years before in their own regime change against the Mujahideen warlords, whom presidents Carter and Reagan had supported against the communists in the 1980s. This led to 20 years of war, including a massive so called surge escalation halfway through for absolutely nothing and leading to the Taliban walking right back into power as the US withdrew in the summer of 2021. Saddam Hussein in Iraq war two. When David wormser wrote his clean break plan for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his first government in 1996. He acknowledged that targeting secularists, dictators, Hussein and Assad for regime change in Iraq and Syria could further fanned the flames of Islamised anti American terrorism. But he said the solution to that problem would just have to wait until the war against them was over. Maybe in 1996, this was somehow understandable from a hawks perspective, at least. According to Richard Schultz in the weekly standard. In the 1990s. The Pentagon Joint Staff would repeat as cliche that, quote, terrorism is a small price to pay for being a superpower. But after the African embassy bombings of 1998, the USS Cole attack in 2000 and September 11, which killed nearly 3000 people in New York and at the Pentagon. It was less understandable. Yet the neoconservatives led by Mr. Kristol persisted.
The neo cons best laid plans to empower Jordan and compliant Shi’ites to take over Iraq failed the American invasion of 2003 and power Iran’s favored factions among the Shi’ites, the Supreme Islamic Council and Dawa party. In fact, it was King Abdullah of Jordan who coined the phrase Shi’ite Crescent to describe Iran’s newly enhanced power just after the invasion, clean break nothing. This American Shi’ite Alliance pushed their Sunni Arab enemies out of Baghdad and into the arms of al Qaeda in Iraq, which did not even exist before the war, adding 1000s of hardened fighters to Osama bin Laden’s movement, including 1000s of foreign fighters who traveled there to fight against the US Shi’ite Alliance. Many of these men later went home to Libya, Syria and Yemen to get ready for the next wars there. The US took their side in all three. In Libya, the Hawks said they had to intervene to overthrow secular dictator Gaddafi to protect the poor civilians. But at the very least 10s of 1000s of people have been killed in endless fighting in that country in the decades since. Bin Ladenite groups veterans of the second iraq war led that revolt and have thrived in the meantime, as civil war has raged for years. Some warlords brought back literal chattel slavery of sub Saharan Africans. 1000s of refugees drown in the Mediterranean. The war spread from Libya into Mali, Chad, Niger, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso and Nigeria. Obama’s and allied support for the bin Ladenite revolt against the secular government in Syria and attempt to weaken their ally Iran after the Iraq War had done so much to empower them led to the rise of the Islamic State so called Caliphate in eastern Syria and western Iraq, and then the third Iraq war from 2014 to 2018 to then destroy it. On behalf of those same Iranian backed Shi’ite groups the hawks wish they hadn’t fought the second Iraq war for. No, the US should not back these dictators, like so called President Sisi in Egypt. That’s part of what got us attacked in the first place. But we sure as hell should not be supporting bin Ladenite insurgencies against them either. Hillary Clinton and Saudi Arabia’s installation of Mansur Hadi when they co opted the Arab Spring revolt in Yemen in 2011, and 12, lead straight to the next phase of the war, which broke out in 2015. For the last six and a half years, the US has backed Saudi Arabia and UAE in a war that has killed hundreds of 1000s of people and also strengthened al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula beyond belief. There are now something like 30,000 bin Ladenite fighters in the world, and Iran and Russia who intervene to save Assad from Al Qaeda and ISIS are more influential in the region than ever. This is not how it was supposed to be. Speaking of Russia, it isn’t just the Mideast wars in Georgia, the US supported the rose revolution of 2003. And the installation of Mikhail Saakashvili, who almost got us into a war with Russia when he attacked their peacekeeping forces in South Ossetia just five years later, and Vice President Cheney urged george bush to strike Russian forces coming across the Caucasus Mountains. The US also helped to overthrow the government of Ukraine twice in 2004, and 2014. In 2014 they used actual Nazis in a street push against the elected government. It was supposed to be easy to get away with while Putin was distracted with the Sochi Olympics. But instead, the new Ukraine coup junta lost Crimea to Russia and started a brutal war in the East which has killed more than 10,000 people and unnecessarily ratcheted up tensions with the other most powerful nuclear weapons state on the planet. Then National Endowment for Democracy had Carl Gershman even threatened regime change in Moscow itself and the washington post in October 2013. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton famously blessed the Honduran coup of 2009 leading directly to the rise of murderous drug cartels in that country and a massive child refugee crisis at our southern border. The American establishment had it so called unipolar moment at the high watermark of US influence to lead the world into the brave new future at the turn of the millennium, and they blew it. The US government has spread not liberty, but the tyranny of the majority, not free markets but corrupt crony contracting, not peace and security, but mass sectarian violence and destabilization. This has led to increase support for left and right wing socialism around the world in reaction liberalism and democracy in the broadest sense have been discredited as meaning nothing more than supplication to American demands, or cheap excuses for our violent intervention. The economic crisis and refugee crisis resulting from our Middle East wars has led to the rise of the populist right in Europe, where their ascendant in the European Parliament, the UK has left the EU, and the unraveling of the entire so called liberal international order, even in the West has begun. In your 1997, national greatness piece in The Wall Street Journal, you wrote that the universal principle at the heart of the American ideal is a mandate to quote advance freedom and quote around the world, apparently by any means necessary for the world’s own good, but means determine ends. And even if somehow waging violent coups, and regime change, wars across the planet could guarantee freedom for those people, it would necessarily come at the expense of those whose lives and liberty our government is actually sworn to protect, ours. No wonder that here in America as well, people are moving to the socialist left and nationalist right, since the disastrous consequences of militarism and regime change, or what passes for liberalism in the center, the backlash from Bush’s disastrous wars and the devastating economic crash of 2008. A direct result of the feds militarism friendly easy money policy in the preceding decade, led to the disruptive and destabilizing Presidency of Barack Obama, his disastrous wars and the so called K shaped economic recovery of his time in office, meaning bankers and think tankers paid by defense contractors did great, while the people on the bottom three quarters of the economic ladder remain stuck in 2009, led directly to the election of Donald J. Trump running as an economic populist and worse skeptic over W Bush’s brother and Barack Obama’s Secretary of State. His election was a reaction against the military and economic legacy of the proceeding 15 years, and its central liberal establishment champions, including the neoconservatives. And who? A guy who built his political capital proclaiming on talk radio that Obama was a secret pro terrorist Muslim from Kenya. In other words, your Nemesis Trump was exploiting your movements previous cultivation of this sort of illiberal sentiment among Republican voters back when it was still useful to your ends, building support for the wars. Now that the anti muslim chauvinism of the American right is no longer useful, you claim the right itself is now the greatest threat to democracy. If so, this is the nationalist movement the neoconservatives have done so much to cultivate and promote for bin Laden and his friends were few, but would be enemies who happened to be Muslim were many. So bush and the neo cons supported the worst sort of right wing populist nationalism in America, especially with our wink and nod approach to the Muslim hating hacks on am talk radio. It was central to Karl Rove’s plan for his permanent Republican majority. That was a big part of why my opponent was so determined to bring Sarah Palin on board with John McCain in 2008. She could get the rubes excited and afraid and keep them and continue and convince them to continue to support the McCainian neoconservative doctrines behind the long war in the Middle East. It’s why your friend Frank Gaffney pretended to believe that a small Sufi mosque in a building down the street from the Old World Trade Center site was supposed to represent the Muslim enemies triumph over America, or that the 50 states needed to pass emergency legislation to protect us all from enslavement under Sharia law. This deliberately deceptive campaign did much to make the right worse. Now the centrists are terrified of the populist right, accusing them all being neo nazi white supremacists, including many 10s or hundreds of 1000s of men and women who are resentful veterans of the wars you’ve lied them into. And in turn, the populist right is terrified that the War on Terrorism is now being turned against them. As the Department of Homeland Security redefines violent extremism to mean almost any political activity outside of the two major parties. The people in return resent the power of the establishment which so despises them even more. And now, the average guy is supposed to believe that the last quarter century’s greatest proponents of American Empire such as Mr. Kristol and Dick Cheney’s daughter, Liz herself, an avowed Hawk and promoter of torture are the last principal defenders of the Old Republic they destroyed. Who’s buying that? Engagement, leadership, primacy, preeminence, had Gemini. These are just youth Muslims for World Empire with the USA in the position of the hated British that our forebears had led the world in overthrowing the doctrine that the middle part of North America should be or could be the dominant military and political power in Eurasia in and indefinitely is crazy on its face. And plus, the whole thing is really just a racket, as the soldiers call it, a self licking ice cream cone. In other words, a government program creating its own disasters it must then attempt to solve. No nation on Earth threatens the United States. As Ron Paul once told The Washington Post, we could defend this country with a couple of good submarines. The US Constitution does not authorize this posture of global dominance. The people of the world do not want it. The American people’s costs are in the trillions, and our gain is non existent. We suffer the terribly destructive inflation generated boom bust cycle and endlessly rising prices. The feds rifle through our internet and phone records. Our sheriff’s deputies act like special operations forces at war in our neighborhoods.
Gene Epstein 36:05
Times up, Scott. Got one more second go again.
Scott Horton 36:09
Sorry, I’m almost done. Our sheriff’s after the act like special operations forces that were in our neighborhoods, our soldiers and Marines come home maimed physically and mentally, and more and more terrorists are motivated to attack the United States. There’s a widespread feeling in America that liberty, justice, fairness under law and cooperation and compromise through little D democracy is now untenable. Hatreds between sectors of society have become much more solidified. More people speak of secession and separation, the people are finding out the hard way that you cannot have it both ways. There is no such thing as a limited constitutional world Empire. There cannot be a balanced budget, a free and prosperous economy, independent major media, or rule of law in a state of permanent war. We Americans among us that we Americans are losing our freedom in the name of forcibly spreading it to the rest of the world. Enough already, let’s defend America first, and all aggressive wars and covert interventions and other nations abandon our empire and put the protection of liberty in our own country at the top of our political priorities, then shed of all this violent hypocrisy, we will be able to lead the world and the only legitimate way we can by the benign sympathy of our example. Thank you. And sorry for going over.
Gene Epstein 37:35
Bill Kristol, you get an extra two minutes for your rebuttal. But you want you can take this podium for your rebuttal maybe best? Yeah. Okay. Take it away, Bill.
Bill Kristol 37:46
Kind of a lot to wrap up there. But I will. That’s okay. I think I’ll just, I’ll just let the two minutes go. I, you know, the Middle East is a very difficult part of the world. And we’ve obviously made many mistakes there. I think what are the mistakes you made was not pushing democracy hard enough when we had real leverage. I’m not a defender of the Saudi regime. I was kind of mocked in 2002, when I said that I thought, a consistent policy for freedom in that part of the world would would would anticipate and even work towards the end of the dominance of the house of Saudi in Saudi Arabia. And I continue to think and I certainly critical of both the Trump and Biden administration for being too soft on NBS, for example, for arranging for the killing of an American resident, Jamal Khashoggi. So I’ve been saying with CC, same with Pakistan, I would be, if anything, I think, in the Middle East, which is so difficult, though, and which we look at and then get, understandably, shrink from the consequences of really a kind of even liberal Imperial world. And so we tend to pull back and we tend to, for understandable reasons, prioritize short term security, peace, anti terror, which is all important, you know, it’s not nothing that we haven’t had another 911 to 20 years. And, and we probably don’t do enough to promote liberty and democracy. Mr. Horton didn’t seem to acknowledge the importance of the US commitments in Europe and in Asia, to defending democracies, where they exist, or creating them, where they didn’t exist to expanding them where they exist, and to the general peace and prosperity of both regions, which is not something that had marked them historically, for the preceding part of the 20th century when we weren’t involved much. We have, it’s as if we’ve never not been involved in the world. We’ve not been involved in the world and very conspicuously chose not to be involved in the world, after 1918. And we saw how that worked out. Now, maybe that’s not it’s not the same and we could have done things differently. And it wasn’t inevitable that what happened in both Asia and Europe what were to happen, but I think one at least has to somehow sketch out how our withdraw from the world would not invite much greater aggression on the part of autocrats much greater oppression at home, on the part of dictators totally on, fettered by any fear of US pressure US sanctions US soft power, let alone US hard power. So I, I really think that’s a very, that would be a very bad world. At the end was Horton tried to sort of say, Well, he’s sort of vaguely for liberty around the world, too. But actually, this it wouldn’t be good for liberty around the world, I don’t believe would be good for liberty here. And for the reasons I briefly indicated, this, I do believe that it’s not well, I’ll put it this way. The people who care a lot about liberty in the US really care about liberty? Seem to me mostly to be people who also care about Liberty around the world, they could differ somewhat on how much we can do, whether it’s Joe Biden thinks we should withdraw from Afghanistan and use more diplomacy and hopefully not have to fight Middle East type wars. I’m uncertain about that future. I agree with him, on the other hand, to maintaining the alliances in Europe and Asia, but I would make this point. Talk to actual liberals, small liberals, people who believe in Liberty around the world, talk to actual democrats around the world, how many of them want the US to withdraw? Even the ones who think the US has been unwise in their countries, and I’ve discussed this with many such people, often in the Middle East and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, don’t think the answer is well, if you just left, things would really get better. Quite the contrary. It’s that we’re not doing the right thing. We’re not doing things carefully enough, we’re not being intelligent enough in the way in which we promote liberty, those are all fair points. And well, but the idea that somehow, any people, real people around the world, whether it’s an I was, I thought it was unfortunate, that Mr. Horton repeated in effect, pro Putin talking points about Ukraine.
I sympathize with the Ukrainian people who were invaded by Putin’s Russia and and the idea that Putin wouldn’t do more, if the NATO and the fact Ukraine was kept outside the NATO guarantees gave up his weapons, his nuclear weapons in ’94 great victory, incidentally, for nuclear non proliferation. Because we in the Britain and Britain, kind of guaranteed Ukraine, they wouldn’t pay a price for giving up those weapons, they were nervous about Russia, even then, we didn’t do much when Russia invaded were at least able to contain it to a little to a part of Ukraine. But again, the the evidence for me is that it’s US retreat that invites aggression, not excessive US intervention, that invites aggression, or that makes life more miserable for more people. Again interventions individually, we can debate how to do it, we can debate, wars haven’t gone away, because of the US maintain global order. The Middle East in particular, is a very difficult part of the world where the transition to modernity has been very problematic in so many ways. And maybe we should have been more cautious in the Middle East. About what we could do, though, again, I would just point out the places where we have, there’s been an unbelievable amount of slaughter in the Middle East that we weren’t involved in one way or the other. When thanks for the iran iraq war, where the consumeristic hated establishment types in Washington were sort of well let them just kill each other that actually didn’t work out well. And also hundreds of 1000s of people died. And Syria, the refugee crisis is a product of non intervention in Syria, of not doing what Obama said we would do the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people has not been Assad has paid no price for that. And he’s still in power. And that’s a horrible signal to send a horrible precedent to allow to be set in the 21st century. So I unapologetic in defending. Leave aside my, I guess I could defend my 1997 peace, but I don’t really remember that Well, except the National vainness we were for was a greatness in defending and promoting freedom. And I am for that kind of national greatness. I am for a healthy debate in our free democracy, about how to do that. I am not for Trump type national greatness, which cares not at all about political and civil liberties.
Gene Epstein 44:15
Five minutes rebuttal from you, Scott, take it away.
Scott Horton 44:17
Okay. And sorry for going over before when I practiced I read it fast, I guess. Alright, key things here in no particular order. But you know, first of all, the second world war obviously hangs over all of this, America defeated the Nazis and the Japanese, and then, you know, created this post war order that Mr. Kristol is referring to here. But the thing of that is, as you guys all know, Oh, I’m sorry.
I think everybody knows, as even Winston Churchill himself said, it was Theodore Roosevelt and especially Woodrow Wilson’s intervention in World War One that caused World War Two World War One was ending as a stalemate before America got involved and tilted the powers so far in favor of the allies and against the Central Powers. That first of all, they prolong the world long enough for Lenin and Trotsky, no offense to seize power in Russia and create the Soviet Union. And they empowered the British and the French to inflict the Versailles Treaty on the Germans, which stripped them of all of their territories and demanded all these reparations that destroyed the economy and led to the rise of the Nazi power. The Nazi Party on the promise of getting revenge for what had been done to the Germans at the end of World War One. If America had just stayed out there would have been no Soviet Union and no Nazi Germany to fight World War Two at all. Okay, then, as far as what happened in Ukraine in 2014, America sponsored real Nazis, not just neo nazis, but the proud grandsons of the galatian SS who had perpetrated the Holocaust in Ukraine against Jews and Poles there. The Right Sector, this Svoboda party formerly called the Social Nationalist Party and the AES off Battalion, all of whom proudly fly swastikas and commit crimes against minorities in Ukraine. And it was Ukraine that attacked the east. Once they overthrew the government, the Donbass region in the east of the country, Donetsk and Luhansk. They decided, well, if you guys are going to overthrow the government, we elected in a free and fair election in 2010, then we’re just going to occupy all the government buildings and refuse to recognize the new government, then the Kiev regime attack them. They called it the war on terrorism. And they invaded the eastern part of their own country. And yes, it’s true that the Russians did send special operations forces across the border to help them but they never did invade the country at all with regular infantry. And when in 2000, and I think late 14 or early 2015, the people of the Donbass region voted in a plebiscite to join the Russian Federation. Putin told them no, he had no interest in absorbing their territory whatsoever, he would only provide them enough help that they needed to keep the Kiev regime out. And that was it. You also heard and this goes back to his original statement at the beginning here that the US has kept the peace in the world for 75 years. And he did mention Korea and Vietnam. And that’s all but he didn’t mention that we killed 2 million Koreans, somewhere between 3 and 5 million. Nobody really knows how many Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians were killed. And then of course, the domino fell, it was knocked over by America and spread communism to Cambodia, and lead directly to the rise of Pol Pot and another 2 million dead there. He didn’t count the million dead Iraqis or the million dead and I got to talk about Obama’s intervention in Syria. He did talk about the million dead Iraqis, the half a million dead Syrians and and Pakistanis and Afghans and Libyans. And now Yemenis where, at the very minimum, a quarter of a million people have been killed, you know, certainly in the war in Somalia, which helped lead to the famine of 2011 through 13. Something like 250,000 people died in that famine, Muslim children under the age of five, just like he’s dying of cholera, in the war in Yemen, inflicted by the Americans and their allies who bombed the hospitals bombed the water and the sewage, and the electricity, and all of the means of civilian support there in that country. And now, it’s just not true. And I don’t know who told you this. But you might know that Edward Snowden leaks the black budget to The Washington Post and they published it. Obama spent a billion dollars a year on the war in Syria, and he admitted it, Jeffrey Goldberg asked him in March of 2012. He said, don’t you think that if we got rid of Assad in Syria, that’d be a good way to bring Iran down a peg? And Obama said, Absolutely. And Goldberg said, Well, is there anything more that you could be doing to speed this process along? And Obama said, Well, I can’t tell you Jeffrey, because your classified clearance isn’t high enough. And we all know because even the washington post in the New York Times admitted it over and over America, Saudi, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan and Israel all supported Al-Nusra, which and their allies, Jaysh al-Islam and the other Bin Ladin night groups there. These were the Syrian veterans of Iraq war two and America took their side because the government that they were fighting was friends with Iran, which had no role in knocking our towers.
Gene Epstein 49:42
Well, thank you for both. We now go to the q&a portion of the evening. We have two mics over there. You can line up to ask your questions. And we have questions from the streamers. I want to take my moderators prerogative to ask question of Scott I believe Bill Kristol has basically asked you for a counterfactual. And and of course, you guys are sometimes talking about more than a century’s worth of military foreign policy. I’m wondering, Scott, if you could take it from 911. Like there was a question 911 happened. Let’s assume that everything up through 911 also happened. You didn’t change that part of history. But now from 911 on, Bill is really challenging you to say, What is your alternative to what went on? What what could have happened from 911? On what?
Scott Horton 50:42
Well, I’ll cite the great Harry Brown, the former libertarian presidential candidate and great libertarian activist. I asked him on my show, Harry Brown, did you hear me the first part? Yeah, the great Harry Brown, I asked him, Well, what would you have done, and he would have called off the policies that call the cause the attack in the first place. But assuming the attack, what he would have done was he would have negotiated in good faith with the Taliban who hated bin Laden and Al Qaeda and wanted rid of him, instead of refusing the Taliban’s offers to negotiate as George Bush did for almost a solid month in the lead up to the start of the war. And barring that, barring success, on negotiating extradition, he would have sent special operations forces to capture or kill bin Laden, and his few hundreds, no more than 400 members of al Qaeda, they’re hiding with bin Laden at Tora Bora and Afghanistan. And then he would called the whole thing off, and especially including the entire policy of American dominance in the Middle East. That was the cause of the problem in the first place, our bases in Saudi, our support for Israel, and their unending violence against the people of Palestine. And at that time of Lebanon. And if we had just called all of that off, and proved to the world, that we are, what the Statue of Liberty says that we are, and that was Harry Brown’s thing, the Statue of Liberty. And if we had, you know, really worked hard to perfect liberty in our own country, and to spread it by example. And in fact, Harry Brown was an evangelical, libertarian, he was determined to see Liberty spread around the world. And he was determined to give a Statue of Liberty speech, he would have given it every day, if he’d been the president, about how we are doing everything we can to perfect the application of the Bill of Rights in our society, and your societies out there in the world, your bills of rights aren’t good enough. And you need to try at least as hard as we are trying to create a free society for our own people here. And then instead of waiting in a swimming pool of the blood of innocent people looking like the world’s worst hypocrite, it would have been great. And it would have sounded great to the people of the world. Remember, on September 12, they held a million man candlelight vigil in downtown Tehran. On behalf of the people, the United States, we had the entire world ready to listen to America ready to join up in our cause. But it wasn’t the right cause. It was, Hey, you know what we could do? We could get a bonus war, if we could just lie to these people and we’ll just publish in the Weekly Standard over and over and over again, that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are friends and Saddam is going to give weapons of mass destruction to Osama bin Laden to kill you and your mama and your hometown. If we don’t preempt them, and stop them from attacking us first. Let’s do that we could get away with that. People are so upset about the 3000 dead New Yorkers, we can exploit that grief and fear. We can overthrow whoever we want now on to Baghdad against who the guy in the French baray. And the clean shaven chin and the olive green military uniform. Who they could have just sent, Colin Powell, the Secretary of State at the time, was a four star General, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I think he was tough enough to handle Saddam. And if not him, how about mean old Donald Rumsfeld? They were old friends from when he helped arm Iraq in the 1980s under Ronald Reagan. They couldn’t have just gone over there and read the riot act of Saddam and put them in line? No. Remember, Dick Cheney said we can’t talk to evil, because that will, you know, justify it. That will you know, Saddam Hussein, like it wasn’t already the dictator of Iraq since 1979. That will give him legitimacy and credibility. If we talk to him. We have only one choice to attack Iraq before they attack us first. Yeah.
Gene Epstein 54:37
Bill, please take the mic up. And do you want to comment on Scott’s reply?
Bill Kristol 54:46
Our policies did not cause 911. Our policies did not cause Assad to use poison gas against his own people and kill 500,000 of them. Our policies did not cause Putin to kill journalists and to crush freedom in Russia. I mean, Mr. Horton may believe that the US is the source and cause of evil in the world. I disagree.
Gene Epstein 55:09
Okay, do you well, and if you want to have another dialogue about that briefly, go ahead. Yeah.
Scott Horton 55:15
Well, the men who did 911 were responsible for 911. But they were motivated by American foreign policy. And, you know, actually just went back and watched the CNN interview of Bin Ladin from 1998 or 96. And the whole story as well, they hate our bases in Saudi Arabia and our support for Israel. Back to you in the studio, Jimmy. Because nobody said they hate us for our freedom. They hate us because their radical Islamic beliefs, make them hate those who are good and innocent and beautiful and love their Mama. No one had told that lie yet. So they just tell him as simple it was,
Bill Kristol 55:53
you think the Taliban are doing what they’re doing right now in Afghanistan because they hate what do they hate? We got out of Afghanistan.
Scott Horton 56:01
The Taliban aren’t attacking us. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I they were attacking us until we left and then they stopped.
Bill Kristol 56:06
Now I’m saying Do you think that there’s going to be liberty and freedom that young girls in Afghanistan will have opportunities and the like?
Scott Horton 56:13
No. Okay, I don’t know what the point of that was.
Bill Kristol 56:18
Well, the point of that is that Liberty matters around the world that bin Laden was not provoked by I don’t believe our having some basis in Saudi Arabia that we’d had for an awful long time, or by our supporting Israel, which had been there for an awful long time.
Scott Horton 56:31
You don’t believe that? Because you don’t know anything about it. I guess. Why don’t you read the declaration of war from 1996 and 1998. Or you know better yet read perfect soldiers by Terry McDermott. It’s the biography of the Hamburg cell 911 hijackers. Don’t interrupt yet hang on a second, Mohamed Atta. The lead hijacker on September 11. He joined al Qaeda decided to join al Qaeda and attack the United States, when Israel invaded Lebanon in 1996, and operation Grapes of Wrath, and a couple of months later, Osama bin Laden put out his declaration of war, declaring war against the United States and ranting on and on about the Qana massacre of 106 dead civilians killed by the Israelis hiding in a UN shelter. And that was when Mohammed atta and his friend Ramzi bin Al shibh, decided they wanted to join al Qaeda, they then went and traveled to Afghanistan met Bin Ladin joined the group and were recruited to carry out the planes operation against the United States of America. So even if you want to pretend to believe that all been loved and cared about was that we didn’t all want to convert to his religion or something else. His recruitment stick was these people are hurting our people. Simple as that.
Unknown Speaker 57:47
There have always been injustices in the world which allow evil men to recruit others to work to serve them. I mean, obviously Hitler took advantage of Versailles, I think, again, that was stepping back Incidentally, in 1919, not imposing something on as much as maybe we should have to make sure there was more just peace. The fact that evil men take advantage of past injustices, grievances, insoluble conflicts, does not mean that we then withdraw and hope that those evil men do nothing evil?
Scott Horton 58:19
It means we should stop doing evil and terrible things that provoke them.
Unknown Speaker 58:23
We didn’t. Well, that’s ridiculous. That’s where I’m just, okay, fine. I’m just gonna say, I do not believe that we did evil things that provoked 911.
Unknown Speaker 58:30
Okay, thank you both. That was a good and lively exchange. And, and now we are going to go over the questions. Please, please don’t identify yourself. Just ask your question as a question, if you want to address it to one of the other party say so but otherwise ask the question. Please take it away, sir.
Audience Member 1 58:51
My question is for Mr. Bill Kristol. Clearly American foreign policies in the great pivot to China, you know, we have two major fighter jets being designed right now with China in mind. We have aircraft carriers being designed with China in mind. Right now we sail pretty often our Nimitz class carrier and to area that China considers their their waters and there’s 6000 souls on board those Nimitz class carriers, and China has missiles that can strike them. If we were to lose one carrier that’d be 6000. Dead. That’s that’s two 911’s in one afternoon. What would be our response if in current American foreign policy, and wouldn’t that response wouldn’t one of the things on the table be a nuclear exchange? And at that point, aren’t we rolling the dice on the great sword of Damocles over us?
Gene Epstein 59:45
Thank you for your question, Bill.
Unknown Speaker 59:49
It I mean, China is a big challenge to the US. It’s a very unfortunate that the bet on liberalisation in China, which was not a crazy bet that economic involvement would encourage political localization may have worked for a while, has now been reversed by Xi, we have defense obligations, obviously to Japan, Taiwan and elsewhere. And I do think in general, those aircraft carriers have maintained the peace. And I mean, just empirically, they have maintained the peace, I would argue, in an area of the world where there are deep enmities and where they have been terrible, terrible wars, in not quite in our memory, but in the memory of our parents and grandparents, if we would were to withdraw out of fear. And it’s an understandable concern, obviously, that let’s say there would be a Chinese missile attack on on one of our carriers. I mean, I think we can deter that without using nuclear weapons or even threatening the use of nuclear weapons. But if we were to withdraw, we would have I mean, Japan would certainly go nuclear, other countries in the region, South Korea, I think even Taiwan, if they had a chance, would decide there’s no US Defense. Australia, the US Defense commitments have no credibility, and that creates a much more dangerous and much more unstable world. I mean, if you want to create a world that has the conditions that then leads to an endless cycle of violence, I would say, the US can just withdraw from Asia, we can withdraw from Europe, we can give up on our efforts in the Middle East, and we will have endless cycles of violence as we’ve had in so many, in those parts of the world before. Over the in the 21st century.
Gene Epstein 1:01:23
Scott Horton 1:01:25
Well, it doesn’t make any difference one way or the other, to the American people who rules Taiwan, and nobody wants to see violence, it would be terrible. If China invaded and people were killed there. No one wants that. But if the Chinese rolled into outer Mongolia, does anybody in here think that America should intervene, start a war, to protect Mongolia from Chinese aggression, or there’s some things that are just out of our purview and out of our jurisdiction, and cost too much. And by the way, you know, back to the cost, Mr. Kristol has said repeatedly, just how affordable all of this is, but our national debt is $30 trillion right now. We spend something like a trillion dollars a year on militarism, if you count the VA, and the care and feeding of the nukes, if the Energy Department and the rest of that we absolutely cannot afford it. And if you ask the people who lost, you know, people in the wars, or in the terrorist attacks against this country, in the meantime, their costs are a lot higher. Now, you know, if you have a think tank that’s financed by arms manufacturers, then these are good times and you don’t probably understand what anybody else has to worry about. But there is severe as they call it, economic anxiety in this country, mostly caused by the boom and bust crash cycle that we have, they call it the business cycle, it’s the inflationary money cycle. And the reason they keep expanding the money supply is to make the world Empire seem free. For all those checks, he was cashing, they never raised his taxes once in the highest bracket, because they just borrowed the money from China and printed it instead. So then regular people are blowing their brains out because they’re forced to carry this economy on their back.
Gene Epstein 1:03:14
Okay, next question now, please.
Audience Member 2 1:03:19
My question goes to Mr. Kristol, recently, you wrote in an article at the Bulwark. Commenting on some of Biden’s comments around Afghanistan recently, quote, Biden concludes his anti war discussion by reminding us that there’s nothing low grade, or low risk or low cost about any war. But this isn’t true, hard, hard hearted, though it may sound to say this, some wars are much more low grade or low risk or low cost than others. So first, Mr. Kristol, could you define a little more specifically, what you view as low grade, low risk and low cost? And then point to a specific intervention, say in the last couple or few decades, that you view is meeting that criteria and having been successful?
Unknown Speaker 1:04:02
Yeah, I think the Balkans intervention, I would say that, obviously, I mean, look, I am anti war, I hate the idea that we would send and most Americans do the idea that Americans are yearning to send young men and women abroad to fight. That’s not the case. If anything, it’s the opposite. We’re large commercial country we enjoy and as we should pursuing happiness here in the United States, we have oceans protecting us. We don’t have a long historical tradition, as maybe we have some tradition, of course of fighting on this continent. Not always justly, obviously. But we don’t have the kind of European type history. And so Americans, I think, on the whole refrain from wars. And it is good to have an American president, honestly, and I think almost every American president falls into this category, who is reluctant to send young Americans off to war. But if you think as I do that, occasionally, with the threat of war and even more, occasionally, less occasionally, I guess I should say, war actually engaging wars necessary, then you have to obviously try to confine them to less costly wars, both economically and much more importantly, in terms of the human cost. And importantly also in terms of the after effects, the the sort of what, what, what messages get sent. So I would say the Balkans would be one case of a war that was worth it. And that I think, had pretty good consequences in Europe. And I would compare it to the Nottage mentioned a place like Rwanda or Syria.
Gene Epstein 1:05:36
Scott Horton 1:05:37
Yeah, you know, as Yugoslavia was breaking up, they actually had struck a deal where the Bosnian Muslims in the Croats would have a coalition and they would be the majority. And the Serbs would be the minority partner in the coalition. And they signed on to that and accepted that. It wasn’t until American ambassadors Zimmerman intervened and told the Croats to not take the deal to ruin the deal they’d already accepted, and instead go to war, you can have more. And that was what turned the, you know, what was already a disaster in the Balkans into the absolute catastrophe. That, you know, he’s claiming that America solved was the American ambassador who helped to cause that thing in the first place. And, and, you know, I’m sorry, I meant to mention earlier real quick here, when I was talking about the 2 million dead in Korea and the 3 million in Vietnam, and the million and a half or two, killed in America’s Middle East wars, just in the last 20 years. The people who always get left out of that are the people of Indonesia, and East Timor, and Bangladesh. And Guatemala, of course, 500,000 dead in the Civil War caused by the American coup in Guatemala. And, of course, El Salvador and Nicaragua, all throughout the Middle East. And these are essentially massacres and and, you know, pseudo genocides, even in some cases, perpetrated by American puppets, American compliant governments and governments protected by the United States of America, for example, Gerald Ford gave the green light for the massacre of the East Timorese in Indonesia. In 1975, Richard Nixon gave the green light for the Pakistanis to carry out their atrocities in Bangladesh, and et cetera, et cetera. He always says not just tonight, but always America has kept the peace for 75 years. Are only white lives important? Does it only matter that Russia hasn’t fought Germany again? And these other people’s lives just don’t count the USA has killed a holocaust worth of civilians in the last 75 years.
Gene Epstein 1:07:51
Let’s summerize it there. Next question.
Audience Member 3 1:07:56
A hypothetical question for you, Mr. Horton. Let’s say you are the resident of a totalitarian nation like Australia. And let’s say, let’s say 10 20 years pass, they’re still locked down. The rest of the world is back to normal. They are still under lockdowns, you live in Australia, would you want America Would you like America to intervene to come say you save you in totalitarian Australia?
Scott Horton 1:08:21
No, absolutely, I would not want that. And especially looking at the consequences of American intervention there. But you know, I think there’s going to be a very strong reaction in Australia, and they are under an absolutely authoritarian lockdown system right now. But they still have regular elections. And at least for now, I guess we’ll see. But I am predicting the resounding defeat of everybody in charge of that country now after they have pushed things so far. And but one more thing too. If Americans, individual citizens want to go overseas and participate in somebody else’s conflict, like the Spanish Civil War, or you want to go and help liberate the people and you know, the Iraqis and slaved under the Dawa party now, then you’re free to go and do that. Just leave me out of it. Thank you.
Gene Epstein 1:09:11
Bill, do you have a comment on Australia?
Bill Kristol 1:09:14
I’m gonna have a comment on a discourse that, you know, trivializes the Holocaust by saying the United States has conducted Holocaust that attacks that means the United States and really grotesque way if we made mistakes did we give, as you say, green lights or yellow lights when we shouldn’t have that could quite well that could be. Talk to people from East Timor, though talk to people from Bangladesh, or they want the US to just withdraw and leave them leave them to the mercies of their neighbors or would they prefer for the US to have done more and to be doing more and as we have done more since incidentally, the Pakistan Bangladesh Bangladesh split off from Pakistan, doing more to keep the peace there, talk to people who care about Liberty around the world. They understand that for all the mistakes we make, and the we are important to them to their peace, to their prosperity to their liberty, people of all kinds I would say all ethnicities, all religions, of course, our dimension of the Balkans was on behalf of Muslims, our intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan was on behalf of Muslims. And our departure from Afghanistan is unfortunately left many decent people in Afghanistan, who worked with us and more importantly, worked for themselves and enjoyed the relative freedom over the last 20 years. Now worrying that they may never have a chance to that again, I hope we can do it diplomatically, help get decent people out who’ve worked with us, that’s our moral obligation. And I also hope we can diplomatically perhaps help work for an outcome there that’s less bad than unfortunately the outcome looks like it might be. But that’s again where I think our intervention both diplomatic, economic, as well as if need be occasionally military is so important around the world, but just again, the the notion that you know, Austraila and their foolish COVID protocols now, and people can chortle about how that’s like totalitarianism. But that’s ludicrous, honestly, and a discourse that can come talk about a US Holocaust, and about authoritarian, I’m not sure what term was used. So I don’t want to characterize it. But talk about Australia, even in a semi joking way, in the same way one talks about genuine, genuine dictatorships that kill dissidents and really oppress minorities in horrible ways. People who can talk cavalierly about that. I don’t know what to say.
Gene Epstein 1:11:27
Scott Horton 1:11:28
I don’t get to answer? Yeah. trivializing the Holocaust. Our government, led by the neoconservative hawks, called every opponent of the American government. Hitler, Noriega’s Hitler. David Koresh is Hitler. Saddam Hussein is Hitler, the Ayatollah Khomeini and Khamenei are Hitler. In fact, just what six weeks ago HR McMaster said that for Trump to have negotiated with the Taliban, that’s just like Neville Chamberlain negotiating with Hitler. Well, that to me, sounds like it’s trivializing the Holocaust. Either Hitler was a unique danger, or he wasn’t. And I would say that he was and I would say that when they bring up Adolf Hitler the exception that proves the rule in every single case where America has to intervene Oh, Muammar Qaddafi. The guy from the Naked Gun 2, yeah, no, we got to get him too he’s Hitler too they’re all Hitler’s speaking of trivializing the Holocaust.
Gene Epstein 1:12:31
Comment Bill? No? You wanna pass? Okay, you want to pass. Question?
Audience Member 4 1:12:40
Historically, it seems that empires don’t last.
Gene Epstein 1:12:44
Audience Member 4 1:12:45
Yes. So the question is, do you think well civilization is changed that the United States would be exempt? Or do we end like end up like Rome? England, Spain, which one of them where do you see us going?
Bill Kristol 1:13:01
You look historically Republic’s don’t last either, unfortunately. And so,
Scott Horton 1:13:05
Because they turn into empires.
Gene Epstein 1:13:08
Okay let him finish Scott.
Bill Kristol 1:13:10
Yeah. So what is the implication of that, that we need to keep a republic we need to keep we don’t have an empire. We have a I called up the devil into Gemini to be provocative, but we have a liberal world order, which our power does undergird. I’m not willing. I’m not backing away from that. I’m not, you know, glossing over that. Are we overstretched? Were we overstretched? Were we over ambitious and what we tried to do in the Middle East, perhaps I, as I said earlier, that those are tough calls. But again, the problem then I think, was a little bit too much ambition and promoting liberty, not that we should not promote and defend Liberty where it is, and there is a lot of there are a lot of I mean, to look at this world and to say that it’s the you know, sight of US Holocaust, and I guess have Liberty being crushed everywhere in the US rampaging around again, as people who like liberty, whether they’re in Europe or in Asia, or Latin America, if they just want the US to leave. Or if they think that the US should play a more active role in helping them secure the freedoms which are universal freedoms, they are universal freedoms, doesn’t mean we can make them. You make them universal. We need to protect them here, obviously. So we can be a republic. But also I would say if you want to use a provocative term, we can be at once a republic and a liberal Empire. That’s what the founders thought, honestly. And I think we have done a decent job of it for 250 years, and I think we can keep on doing it hopefully for another 250 years.
Gene Epstein 1:14:35
May I take moderators prerogative to to pick up on Bill’s point made a few times to throw it at you, Scott. Bill is basically saying that, that that a jury of people who live in many of these countries, they support American presidents, and that so that’s his challenge to you. What do you say to the idea that people in East Timor and elsewhere want the US to be involved. What’s your response?
Scott Horton 1:15:02
I’ve never heard of someone from East Timor wanting the US to be involved. I’m sure that I’m sure that when Mr. Kristol travels around to European capitals, he meets with people who like the American presence there. But the idea that that means, I mean, I know somebody showed me the opinion polls in Bangladesh, and for that matter, you know, in Eastern Europe that say that they want the Americans there. And if let’s say, they hold another plebiscite, this one that American respects in Ukraine, and in 99% of the people in Ukraine want the United States military there. But that increases the chance of a war with Russia, then who cares what they think this is our country. And you know, if I lived in probably any country in the old world, just the same as I live in this one, I would want to improve it. But that’s on them. And I do agree that liberty is a universal principle. Of course, it’s a universal principle, but it must be locally enforced, because you see what happens when the USA, if you want to say America is the best at it out of anybody. When the USA acts as the world government, they kill millions of people in the name of doing good.
Gene Epstein 1:16:16
Bill do want to respond to that or, do you want to wait? Okay, so let’s see where we have this side. I think this is gonna have to be our last question. Go ahead.
Unknown Speaker 1:16:26
This is for Mr. Kristol. So there have been you claim there have been successes and failures of the post 1945 world order. How much worse would the failures have to be? Or how meager the successes would they have to be for you to say, it wasn’t worth it, we would have been better off keeping ourselves isolated?
Bill Kristol 1:16:49
I mean, it’s, it’s a good question. And obviously one can’t rerun rerun history for 75 years? No, I think you know, it nuclear weapons being used several times, Europe, descending back into war, as it had twice in the preceding half century. In the subsequent half century, the Cold War ending with nuclear exchange, or massive conflicts of ground troops in Europe instead of the collapse of the Soviet Union, thanks to our partly, partly thanks to our pressure, partly thanks to Gorbachev seeing that the Soviet system wasn’t working. And the power of example, that was Mr. Horton sided, also, working with the power of example, doesn’t go away. Because we have troops in Germany, making sure that the Soviet Union can’t foolishly decide one day to try to expand the bounds of the Warsaw Pact. You know, if East Europe hadn’t become central East Europe hadn’t become free if we hadn’t achieved the goal of a Europe, peaceful if we have Taiwan and South Korea hadn’t become democratic nations, I think, if Japan weren’t still a democratic nation 75 years after. So I think if Yeah, if all those things had gone south, or some of those things, obviously, the balance would look very, would look very different. The Middle East is the toughest place. I will grant, I think we I don’t think we’ve made things worse there. I don’t think we’ve made things as much better as I would hope, though, I am still hopeful the Arab Spring, which, for various reasons, didn’t work, so to speak, we didn’t do as much to help us I think we could have made we were exhausted after Iraq and couldn’t have done much, much more. But it shows that people there do yearn for freedom. And I do think there’s much more we could do diplomatically and in other ways, civil society to help to help even in the Middle East, which is probably the toughest part of the world for, for my case.
Gene Epstein 1:18:33
Coming from you, Scott, on that question. Yeah.
Scott Horton 1:18:37
Well, it’s NATO expansion in the post Cold War era is the greatest threat to peace in Europe now. And we now share, you know, the NATO military Empire, Hillary Clinton said, the Russians are doing exercises right on NATO’s doorstep. She meant inside Russia, because NATO is move their doorstep all the way to the Baltic states, right on their border. And in the Trump years, they actually had military exercises within just a couple of 100 yards of the Russian border. That’s not keeping the peace. That’s putting the entire species at risk.
Gene Epstein 1:19:11
Thank you, Scott. That closes the q&a. And Bill Kristol. Seven, half minutes of summation, you want to take the podium again? Yeah?
Bill Kristol 1:19:23
That’s okay. I can do it from here I think, Okay, I’m gonna be brief, partly because I do have to actually catch a plane as Gene knows. And I don’t want to therefore, and I apologize if I seem to rush out and not mix and mingle. Since there might be friends here from the upper west side and elsewhere. I mean, we have a fundamentally such a fundamentally different view of the world. I’m not sure that we’ve been able to convince each other I’m sure if you’re not convinced each other anything and I’m not sure we’ve convinced many of you. In this kind of debate. I guess my one, I’ll take this, I’ll just say this. You know what, it’s better to make one’s arguments assuming good faith on the part of one’s the people with one whom differs ones opponents and assuming that maybe they’re wrong, maybe I’m wrong. I mean, I get that last question, I think was a very fair question. And one could elaborate on it in ways that I probably haven’t thought of and make more of a case that we made more mistakes than I realized. And the things would be better if we hadn’t done it if the US had been less ambitious, if we spent less on defense if we pull back from the world or not. But the idea that, you know, people that that were Mr. Horton calls the neoconservatives, whatever don’t want the right kinds of outcomes is as ridiculous as thinking libertarians or whoever’s for you know, a republican on an empire and for no American intervention anywhere, don’t want these outcomes. I think they’re naive. I think they don’t understand the way the world would work. And I think they don’t learn the lessons from history they might otherwise learn. But I understand that most of those people don’t go around rooting for dictators to crush dissidents, or for countries to remain in terrible poverty, or for ethnic minorities to be brutally slaughtered as in Xinjiang. I don’t accuse people who favor more dovish policies with China, of thinking that it’s great that China has concentration camps for Muslims in the east. But I, I think making arguments therefore, on the actual substance, the actual consequences of policies, assuming that the great majority of us on all sides, want the right thing is, is a better way to make arguments.
Gene Epstein 1:21:33
We usually recommend the podium So Scott might as well take the podium. You have seven and a half minutes, Scott.
Scott Horton 1:21:40
Are we still gonna have a chance to ask each other a question too?
Gene Epstein 1:21:42
No it’s over seven and a half minutes of summary take it away, Scott.
Scott Horton 1:21:44
All right, I’ll email you Bill.
I think I’ve made myself pretty clear. So this thing is kind of busted. Instead of recapping, if you’ll allow, I’d like to just bring up a couple of things that I had to cut from my opening statement for time there. Is there any real benefit to the American people from our policy of global domination, including regime change, perhaps access to oil and minerals? Certainly not. Roger Stern, an economic geographer at Princeton University published his study in 2010, which determine the US had quote misallocated $8 trillion dollars between 1976 and 2007, protecting the sea lanes in and out of the Persian Gulf. When safe when oil safe transport was never really under threat. We spent a few more trillion since then. This is far more than Americans even spend consuming Middle Eastern oil. Even if somehow we could just scoop up all the oil and walk away with it as Donald Trump seems to believe it could never be worth the cost and blood and grief or the opportunities lost when people turn away from America for acting in such a ruthless manner they are occupying and stealing Syrian oil today. Elon Musk celebrated the coup against the popularly elected government in Bolivia in 2018. Crowing on Twitter that it’s great because he needs their lithium for his Tesla’s. His company may have played zero role in that coup for all I know, but the US government moved quickly to support it. And that still raises the important question, what is America’s national interests over the long term? And is it good for the rest of us, when selfish, narrow special interests justify violent intervention in other people’s countries for their own good in the short term. And let’s just presume that the financial gains far outweigh the costs when companies like Freeport McMoRan are able to run off with all of West Papua’s gold, even accounting for the taxpayers cost for US government involved there? What shall it profit a nation, they gain the whole world and lose their own soul. You know, by committing horrible deadly sins against helpless people. Part of the problem here is that the neoconservatives and their neoliberal counterparts never really understood what Liberty was about in the first place. It’s a great way to finance a peknac. But Pentagon contracting is not the free market. It’s corrupt crony capitalism. And due to the economic deformations of America’s permanent war system, the most wealthy counties in the country now are not here in New York City. But in the suburbs of Washington, DC, where our supposed public servants live and work. And the richest in this city, as all Americans in the rest of the world know are all market proof due to the so called Greenspan put, they get bailed out by Congress and the Federal Reserve System every time they make a few trillion dollars worth of bad bets. While regular people are forced to carry their weight on our backs, their son our sons come home from war, unable to find good work, unlike in all the promises, and this is another major reason for the current crisis of confidence by the American people in our supposed betters who rule us. So no the nation as a whole doesn’t benefit financially or otherwise from acts of violence and coercion by the American government. Read NSC 68. Paul Nizza did not understand economics. The whole Imperial project is a fool’s errand. And how much time do I have? Three, two. Okay. And then I wanted to mention Somalia here because I had to skip it for time in my opening statement, but it ain’t fair that Somalia always get skipped another six weeks or so it’ll be America’s longest war. Bush started supporting the warlords a hunt down supposed al Qaeda terrorists in Somalia before the end of 2001, including the son of Mohammed Aideed, the bad guy from the Black Hawk Down catastrophe of 1993. Those warlords made life miserable for everyone, until the people came together to form a new government, the Islamic Courts Union to force them out. Bush then supported the Ethiopian invasion of 2006, which traded the harmless Islamic Courts Union for the much more dangerous al Shabaab insurgency. In 2008, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice decided that ICU chief Sheikh Ahmed Sharif could be the leader of the country after all, just within the form of the new government that US had created for them. Nevermind the last two years of killing, but al Shabaab kept fighting and the US drone war against them has continued ever since. And as soon as us as the US ceases support the government it has created in Mogadishu will surely fall just like Kabul.
and Kosovo in 1999. The war was in favor of secession, which is a regime change of sorts. This war put Bin Ladin’s friends in the Kosovo liberation in part in Kosovo Liberation Army in power, including Hashim Facie the convicted Oregon thief and gangster, and guilty of prosecuting and cleansing the Serb minority there in the inverse of the lies they told to justify starting that war. Bill Clinton in the Weekly Standard claimed that 100,000 civilians had been killed, Kosovar Albanian civilians by the Serbs. When the war was over, the FBI found a few 1000 grays of fighting aged males, and went home after two weeks when the alleged mass graves containing the 100,000 killed were proven to be non existent. Kosovo is now permanently dependent on the United States, we still maintain a massive military base there to this day. So there have been no successes in the War on Terrorism, unless you count winning two Iraq wars for the Shi’ites who despise us and continue to insist that our troops leave their country immediately. I don’t.
Gene Epstein 1:27:52
Please open on voting for the final vote, but also vote only now if your last name begins with an A through M. So just a segmented pause a moment. If you’re not a through m pause on the voting, but a through m, please vote. And on the resolution, yes, no, or undecided. A willingness to intervene at a seek regime change is key to an American foreign policy that benefits America. Thanks to you both thanks to Scott, thanks to Bill Kristol for a spirited exchange. Bill has professional obligations in the morning and has to take a plane, Scott isn’t leaving till Wednesday. And so he’s going to be in the corner at the entranceway. And he’s going to some local watering hole that a local guy will lead us to. Bill, unfortunately, I know you probably love to come because this is your old stamping ground. But I know you’ve got promises to keep. And so you’re going to be taking off, but Scott is going to be doing book signings for his book Enough Already at that place. So if you want to congregate in the corner there at the entrance way, then you can follow Scott, wherever he leads you to where he will be doing book signing and sales. So that’s a through M has voted. So now N through the rest of the alphabet can vote N through Z. Please vote on the resolution. And we’re going to be compiling a final tally. Meanwhile, I want to announce that both of you are invited to you are going to have on November 15 event, which will be downtown, actually legitimately in a SOHO venue. You’ll look it up. That’s going to be a debate on intellectual property. Stephan Kinsella versus Richard Epstein. Stephan Kinsella will defend the resolution. All patent and copyright law should be abolished. Now. It will be November 15th downtown. On December 8th, we will have a debate on vaccine mandates not held here. It will be the resolution defended will be Gillian Selman versus Angela McArdle. Gillian Selman will defend the resolution. While vaccine mandates are an infringement on freedom, some are justified due to their big payoff in lives saved. That will be Gillian Soman, George Mason, your law prof versus Angela McArdle taking the negative. We have another debate now definitely scheduled in March. This will be good at Wagner versus Steven Conan. Greg Wagner will defend the resolution. Climate Science compels us to make large and rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. That’s also scheduled for March. You’ll find it in a couple of days on our website. So that’s three debates that are definite one that is up in the air because Dave Rubin was going to debate Robbie Swaby. Dave Rubin, who’s got an enormous following. He refused to come on principled grounds because of the requirements having to do with masks and, and vaccines. And so we have to schedule that elsewhere. We’re looking for a venue for that. That will be Dave Rubin versus Robbie Swaby. It’s definitely going to happen one way or the other. But probably not in New York City. Dave Rubin will defend the resolution. Government must do something about big tech censorship, whether we like it or not. That will be that resolution. And where do we stand on the voting? We still have a minute to go Okay, we got the results okay. Yeah, okay. Yeah. All right. The yes votes picked up. You didn’t get-of course it went with the vote you get initially counts against you. And so extra voting, you know, Bill Kristol had 7% of the vote, and it climbed to 9.4%.
Now that’s the number to beat. But, but then the no votes went from 72% to 85%. Picking up 12 points. So the Tootsie Roll goes to Scott Horton. Congratulations.