Friday, November 03, 2006

Neocons Trying to Salvage Their Careers

A lot has been said about the well-documented incompetence of the Bush Administration. That incompetence in many ways was evident long before we went to war in Iraq. But the fiasco in Iraq isn't just about incompetence. It is first of all a strategic failure that stems from its initial conception. Even if the Bush Administration had sent enough troops in the first place and managed to install at least the beginnings of a genuine democracy, there had been plans from the beginning to move on to Syria and Iran. North Korea at some point may have also been in the picture.

The Bush Administration's strategic failures can be traced to flawed ideological assumptions, arrogance and recklessness. A way to look at it is to recognize that Bush was guilty of strategic incompetence from the inception of the war and tactical incompetence in the management of the war.

So it's fascinating to watch some of the biggest proponents of the war, the intellectual neoconservatives, now scramble to protect their reputations and stay in business, so to speak.
Atrios has the story:
Funny. From Vanity Fair's press release:
New York, N.Y., November 3, 2006 — A group of neoconservatives led by former chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee Richard Perle and former Pentagon insider Kenneth Adelman tell Vanity Fair contributing editor David Rose that they blame the “dysfunctional” Bush administration for the “disaster” in Iraq and say that if they had it to do over again they would not advocate an invasion of Iraq.

Perle tells Rose that, “at the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible.... I don’t think he realized the extent of the opposition within his own administration, and the disloyalty.... [Bush] did not make decisions, in part because the machinery of government that he nominally ran was actually running him.”

Adelman tells Rose that when he wrote in 2002 that “liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk,” he “just presumed that what I considered to be the most competent national-security team since Truman was indeed going to be competent. They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the postwar era. Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional.”

Like other right wing Republicans, neocons are never wrong. Richard Perle, by the way, seemed in a hurry, once the war started in 2003, to profit personally from the war; it's hard to escape the observation that Perle seem to put privatization efforts ahead of the democracy side of the Iraq project which he so actively promoted. Mixed motivations are never a good sign.

Here's more from David Rose of Vanity Fair:
I remember sitting with Richard Perle in his suite at London's Grosvenor House hotel and receiving a private lecture on the importance of securing victory in Iraq. "Iraq is a very good candidate for democratic reform," he said. "It won't be Westminster overnight, but the great democracies of the world didn't achieve the full, rich structure of democratic governance overnight. The Iraqis have a decent chance of succeeding." Perle seemed to exude the scent of liberation, as well as a whiff of gunpowder. It was February 2003, and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the culmination of his long campaign on behalf of regime change in Iraq, was less than a month away.

Three years later, Perle and I meet again at his home outside Washington, D.C. It is October, the worst month for U.S. casualties in Iraq in almost two years, and Republicans are bracing for losses in the upcoming midterm elections. As he looks into my eyes, speaking slowly and with obvious deliberation, Perle is unrecognizable as the confident hawk who, as chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, had invited the exiled Iraqi dissident Ahmad Chalabi to its first meeting after 9/11. "The levels of brutality that we've seen are truly horrifying, and I have to say, I underestimated the depravity," Perle says now, adding that total defeat—an American withdrawal that leaves Iraq as an anarchic "failed state"—is not yet inevitable but is becoming more likely. "And then," says Perle, "you'll get all the mayhem that the world is capable of creating."

According to Perle, who left the Defense Policy Board in 2004, this unfolding catastrophe has a central cause: devastating dysfunction within the administration of President George W. Bush. Perle says, "The decisions did not get made that should have been. They didn't get made in a timely fashion, and the differences were argued out endlessly.… At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible.… I don't think he realized the extent of the opposition within his own administration, and the disloyalty."

Disloyalty. That's a cheap word right wing Republicans like to use when they are unwilling to accept responsibility for their own failures and omissions. Disloyalty is a cheap word used to ignore valid criticism and concern from experts and professionals. And, in the end, it is fiction: Bush will always be remembered as a president who worked a bit too hard to surround himself with advisers who would not contradict him. Even Colin Powell was far too loyal to Bush for far too long in spite of his many misgivings—honest, well-reasoned misgivings that Bush should have heeded.

Supposedly, Perle is a military expert. Any time in the lead up to the war he could have spoken up about the need to address any number of issues including the flawed and politically manipulated intelligence, the international and domestic repercussions of using politically manipulated intelligence, the need to plan for the period after the fall of Baghdad, the need for sufficient troops, and the need to build an international coalition, just to name a few of the issues that got short shrift by the Bush inner circle of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Karl Rove.

Once the war began, Perle again could have spoken up about the need to round up the caches of conventional arms, the mistake to disband the military, the mistake to fire so much of the functioning day-to-day part of the Iraqi government, the need to employ experts rather than young ignorant Bush loyalists, the blunder of ignoring Iraqi calls for democracy, the need to urge a less colonial manner in which we conducted ourselves under Bremer, and the profound blunder of using torture as if no one in the Muslim world would ever notice and wonder about the contradiction of our claim to be promoting democracy. Let me note that this is hardly a complete list.

Perle owed his ultimate loyalty to the US Constitution and to the American people. He clearly forgot what his own responsibilities were and his self-justifications are transparently self-serving. It is correct to blame Bush for a great many things having to do with Iraq but it is fraudulent for neoconservatives like Richard Perle to assert they played no role in the fiasco.


Blogger Mike Bock said...

Thanks for posting the Vanity Fair excerpts. How could the supposed "experts" have made such huge errors of prediction concerning the Iraq war? The predictions, as it turns out, were wildly optimistic to the point of having no basis in reality. At the beginning of the war, for example, there was the estimation that the entire war would cost only $50 billion. In retrospect it seems hard to believe that this prediction was an honest mistake; it seems such ridiculously optimistic predictions more likely were part of a coordinated effort to deceive, as a means of gaining support for initiating the war.

Yes, Bush, in pursuit of this war, has shown much incompetence; a central feature of that incompetence was the failure of Bush to be guided by principles of character, principles of integrity. The "experts," the neocons, who empowered Bush, in his disregard for basic honesty, deserve ridicule, censure and destroyed careers.

11:56 AM  
Anonymous Craig said...

Mike, thanks for the comments. I'm still learning things about the intellectual neoconservatives like Bill Kristol, Perle, Adelman and Wolfowitz who provided a lot of cover for Bush. When I go back in their history, I find their foreign policy batting average was always on the poor side. It's amazing they managed to get taken seriously in the first place.

As for Bush, you're right about character and integrity; it would make a good post for someone to remind people why those two qualities matter and what the consequences are when we fail to see a president's real qualities.

I'll never forgive the media for letting Bush get away with running on the theme in 2000 that there was no difference between himself and Gore except character.

12:39 AM  

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