Sunday, August 10, 2008

On understanding the war - Part 3

Doug Feith, in his new book, "War and Decision," gives the best explanation that I have seen to date as to why the post invasion occupation of Iraq unfolded as it did. Feith, the former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy under Donald Rumsfeld, doesn't provide all the answers in his book. Nor does he, as my friend Bill McCusker asserted, blame everyone else for the problems. He does lay some blame on Colin Powell and Richard Armitage at the Department of State, on George Tenet and Company at the CIA, and finally, on the President himself. Nor does he leave the Defense Department and the American military blameless. Feith lays out the justification and rationale for some of his own decisions and lets history and the reader be their own judge as to how right, or wrong, those decisions were.

Most importantly, Feith asserts that many of the damming accusations made against the Bush Administration by the media were incorrect. Let me be clear here - he DID NOT say the the Bush Administration did not make any mistakes. They did, and he points out those mistakes. He does present compelling evidence, to include declassified U.S. government documents, that the following accusations made against Bush and his advisers were INCORRECT:

- "U.S. officials manipulated intelligence to induce the President to overthrow Saddam, and to persuade the public to support the war."

- "... that officials who made the case for regime change in Iraq did so for ideological or improper reasons - to spread democracy by the sword, or to serve Israel's interests rather than America's."

- "That President Bush and his hawkish advisers came into office intent on launching a war in Iraq and gave no serious consideration to means short of war to deal with the Iraqi problem."

- "That 'neocon' officials failed to plan for postwar Iraq, believing that both the war itself and the postwar transition to democracy would be easy."

- "That Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Department planned to 'anoint' Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi exile, as the leader of liberated Iraq."

- "That the State Department had a plan for post-war Iraq, and that Defense officials ignored or discarded the plan."

Mr Feith's efforts to counter these media assertions are extremely well documented. In fact, he has set up a web site that presents the web links to the documents, some of which were formerly classified, that he uses as a basis to substantiate his arguments. One may not agree with all of his conclusions, and I don't, but at least we are forming our judgments from the set of facts.

A discussion of charges and counter-charges against the Bush administration would fill volumes and already has. More volumes are waiting to be filled and I suspect that these arguments will be picked up by historians and continued for the next century. As always, every thing's about me, so let's get this discussion back to my big issue: During the preparations for the war, why wasn't there more and better post-invasion planning?

This is a good and solid question, one that I have been asking without an adequate answer for over five years. In fact, Feith lays out the "sensible questions [one might] raise about the Administration's pre-war work." These questions are:

- "In all the planning efforts, did the government fail to anticipate major problems that would emerge?"
- "Did it have good plans for the problems that it anticipated and encountered?"
- "Did it implement its plans well?"

For five years the Bush administration's critics have been saying that the answer to these questions are Yes, No and No. Feith contends, "The answers are not simple." As always in life reality is seldom black and white, and more often shades of gray.

In my next post I will talk about just how gray that I think the answers to these questions are.

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