Could this group have succeeded without Bill Kristol’s Weekly Standard serving as its public relations quarterback? Perhaps, but trying to imagine it led by the New York-based monthly Commentary or the American Enterprise Institute, without a glossy weekly and well-oiled entrée into Fox News studios, is difficult. As it was, the neoconservatives prevailed over the more cautious establishment figures within the administration like Colin Powell and Condi Rice and outside by George H.W. Bush veterans James Baker and Brent Scowcroft by a relatively narrow margin. War in Iraq was not inevitable; it was the culmination of concentrated political and ideological effort.
If the Iraq war was sold to the American establishment by a small elite, the price was borne by many. Estimates of the fiscal costs run from $1 trillion to as much as $3 trillion, (if you credit Nobel prize recipient Joseph Stiglitz’s calculations, which include the long-term care costs for American soldiers with lifelong and life shattering injuries). The human costs to the soldiers and their families was substantial. Throughout the Mideast, the number of people killed, wounded, or turned into refugees by the invasion was staggering. The American “regional dominance” touted by the Standard proved entirely fanciful.
Having more or less destroyed Iraq as a functioning country, the neoconservatives have now set their sights on Iran, their next candidate for regime change. In its final issue, the Standard touted the presidential ambitions of Nikki Haley. Few who follow politics are unaware that her preeminent qualification in the Standard‘s eyes is that she is a willing and attractive salesperson for hostility to Iran.