You've seen them pontificate gravely on Meet the Press, explain military strategy to Oprah, denounce France on The O'Reilly Factor, and solve the war's aftermath in 30 seconds on The NewsHour. But face it, it's impossible to tell them apart.
What's the difference, if any, between William Kristol and Robert Kagan? Which one of those ex-generals worked for Bush the Father, which worked for Clinton, and which worked for Bush the Son? Who is Frank Gaffney, and why is he always on my TV set?
The Slate field guide to Iraq pundits is arranged in order of bellicosity, from blood-red hawks to snow-white doves.
1. Richard Perle
Aka: The Hawk's Hawk Authorized bio: Chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board. American Enterprise Institute fellow. Unauthorized bio: Easily mistaken for an actual administration official. Suing Sy Hersh, who criticized him in The New Yorker for establishing a company that would allegedly profit from war. His take on war: Liberate Iraq, allied and U.N. objections be damned. The Iraqi people will rejoice at Saddam's downfall. Like a broken record:"The Iraqis will welcome the liberators with open arms."Connections: Godfather of the oust-Saddam movement. James Woolsey and Henry Kissinger serve on his Defense Policy Board. Like Frank Gaffney, a hawkish former Reaganite and aide to former Democratic Sen. "Scoop" Jackson. In the neocon clique with Kagan and Kristol. Don't tell Jacques Chirac: Vacations at a French summer house.
2. Frank Gaffney
Aka: Mini-Perle Authorized bio: President and CEO of the Center for Security Policy. Assistant secretary of defense under Reagan. Unauthorized bio: The cable networks call him when Perle is busy. His take on war: Why are we even talking to the United Nations? We should've liberated Iraq a long time ago. Iraq is a terrorist nation, involved in planning the 1993 WTC bombing and possibly even Oklahoma City. Heck, we should liberate North Korea and the rest of the Middle East, too. Like a broken record:"I simply disagree that there's no evidence of involvement between Saddam and acts of terror in this country. There is considerable evidence of it."Connections: Woolsey, Laurie Mylroie, and Perle are on his center's advisory council. Has allied with Kagan and Kristol. Who's next? In March 2001, Gaffney promoted a new Bush doctrine that would "challenge the legitimacy" of autocratic governments, including Castro's Cuba, Qaddafi's Libya, and Putin's Russia.
3. William Kristol
Aka: The Happy Warrior Authorized bio: Chief of staff for Vice President Dan Quayle. Editor of the Weekly Standard. Co-author of The War on Iraq: Saddam's Tyranny and America's Mission. Chairman and co-director of the Project for the New American Century, etc., etc., etc. Unauthorized bio: Irving Kristol's son, Dan Quayle's brain. His take on war: Inspections are a joke. Let's get Saddam and bring freedom to the Middle East. Like a broken record:"We're not going to have peaceful disarmament with Saddam Hussein."Connections: Kagan, Perle, and pretty much the rest of the GOP. Early adopter: Kristol and his magazine were preaching regime change in the '90s.
4. Robert Kagan
Aka: The Thoughtful Superhawk Authorized bio: Washington Post columnist, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, author of Paradise and Power: America vs. Europe in the New World Order, co-director of the Project for the New American Century. Unauthorized bio: The guy who explains why the Europeans are wimps. His take on war: European and American views of geopolitics are irreconcilable. The American view—that only force can secure democracy and international order—is correct, so we should topple Saddam now. Like a broken record:"Americans are from Mars; Europeans are from Venus."Connections: Writes for Kristol's Weekly Standard and directs Kristol's think tank. Kagan and Kristol co-wrote the 1996 Foreign Affairs piece "Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy," a neocon manifesto advocating that the United States pursue "benevolent global hegemony." Works under Jessica Mathews at Carnegie. He is not: Frederick Kagan (his brother, a military historian with identical views), Robert Kaplan (Atlantic Monthly, geopolitical Jeremiah), Lawrence Kaplan (New Republic, identical views), or Fred Kaplan (Slate, "Bush is blowing it"). See Slate's "No Relation" Explainer, which details the fine points.
5. Laurie Mylroie
Aka: Ms. Iraq=Al-Qaida Authorized bio: Iraq scholar and investigator, author of The War Against America: Saddam Hussein and the World Trade Center Attacks: A Study of Revenge, which links Iraq to both World Trade Center attacks. Unauthorized bio: The one who blames everything on Saddam. Her take on war: Get Saddam before he and his terror associates strike again. Like a broken record:"Iraq and Osama Bin Laden work together. Osama Bin Laden provides the ideology. Iraqi intelligence provides the direction, training, and expertise."Connections: Perle and Gaffney tout her research, and Woolsey contributed to her book. Unlikely history: Advised Bill Clinton during his 1992 campaign.
6. James Woolsey
Aka: The Clintonite Who Sounds Like a Bushie Authorized bio: CIA director under President Clinton. Unauthorized bio: The guy who advocated looking into Saddam's ties to Sept. 11 as early as Sept. 13. His take on war: Hussein has ties to al-Qaida, employs weapons of mass destruction on his own people, and starts wars against his neighbors. Case closed. Like a broken record: Inspections will fail because Hans Blix leads a gang of "Inspector Clouseaus, wandering around a country the size of California, with an inspection force the size of the Chico, Calif., police force."Connections: Boosted Mylroie's Iraq/al-Qaida theories. Serves on the Defense Policy Board with Perle and Henry Kissinger. Closet detective: He traveled to Great Britain on his own last year to investigate links between Iraq and al-Qaida.
7. Steve Emerson
Aka: The Terrorism Guru Doves Love To Hate Authorized bio: NBC terrorism analyst; author of American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us; producer of 1994 Frontline film Jihad in America. Unauthorized bio: Journalist most loathed by American Muslims. Has been documenting American links to Islamic terrorists for years. His take on war: Invading Iraq will increase terrorism in the short run, but let's do it anyway; Saddam cannot be allowed to develop WMD. Like a broken record:"Bin Laden has set up a franchise operation."Superhero alter ego: Batman. People who visit Emerson's D.C. office must be blindfolded en route, and employees call it "the bat cave."