Former Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) on Sunday clashed with neoconservative Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, who was one of the biggest proponents of the Iraq war and was continuing to call for “perpetual engagement” of U.S. armed forces in the Middle East.
ABC host George Stephanopoulos asked Kristol during a panel discussion if an increasing Al-Qaeda threat in Iraq could consume President Barack Obama’s attention in 2014, two years after he pulled all U.S. troops out of the country.
Kristol noted that the president had also declined to intervene in the Syrian civil war, which he said could make foreign policy a “big story” in 2014.
“We’ve had 12 years of war!” Schweitzer exclaimed. “For the last 11 years, you can’t find anybody left in America who can tell you why are we still in Afghanistan? Al-Qaeda attacked us, they’re not in Afghanistan. We’re fighting somebody called the Taliban. They live in caves in the Stone Age. Why are we still there?”
“How is the withdrawal from Iraq and the failure to intervene in Syria working out do you think?” Kristol shot back, raising his voice. “Do you think we’re safer? Do you think Al-Qaeda’s weaker as a result of that? Do you think Al-Qaeda will be weaker if we get out of Afghanistan?”
“I lived in Saudi Arabia during the 80s, when we were supporting [former Iraqi dictator] Saddam Hussein who was fighting Iran,” Schweitzer recalled. “When we went into Iraq, Al-Qaeda didn’t function there. We destabilized Iraq. We threw Saddam Hussein out, who was a bad guy like a lot of other people in the Middle East. And now we have Al-Qaeda. It’s our problem, we broke the China and now we’re going to have to go back in? What’s your solution?”
Kristol argued that the solution was to be “serious about being engaged in the Middle East.”
“Perpetual war in the Middle East,” Schweitzer quipped.
“No! Perpetual engagement and being serious about our responsibilities to world power,” Kristol replied. “And yes! Being willing to fight when we have to fight! Are you against that?”
Watch this video from ABC’s This Week, broadcast Jan. 5, 2014.