Miscellany — From the March 2013 issue

A Letter to Paul Wolfowitz

Occasioned by the tenth anniversary of the Iraq war

Dear Paul,

I have been meaning to write to you for some time, and the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war provides as good an occasion as any to do so. Distracted by other, more recent eruptions of violence, the country has all but forgotten the war. But I won’t and I expect you can’t, although our reasons for remembering may differ.

Twenty years ago, you became dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and hired me as a minor staff functionary. I never thanked you properly. I needed that job. Included in the benefits package was the chance to hobnob with luminaries who gathered at SAIS every few weeks to join Zbigniew Brzezinski for an off-the-record discussion of foreign policy. From five years of listening to these insiders pontificate, I drew one conclusion: people said to be smart — the ones with fancy résumés who get their op-eds published in the New York Times and appear on TV — really aren’t. They excel mostly in recycling bromides. When it came to sustenance, the sandwiches were superior to the chitchat.

You were an exception, however. You had a knack for framing things creatively. No matter how daunting the problem, you contrived a solution. More important, you grasped the big picture. Here, it was apparent, lay your métier. As Saul Bellow wrote of Philip Gorman, your fictionalized double, in Ravelstein, you possessed an aptitude for “Great Politics.” Where others saw complications, you discerned connections. Where others saw constraints, you found possibilities for action.

Truthfully, I wouldn’t give you especially high marks as dean. You were, of course, dutiful and never less than kind to students. Yet you seemed to find presiding over SAIS more bothersome than it was fulfilling. Given all that running the place entails — raising money, catering to various constituencies, managing a cantankerous and self-important faculty — I’m not sure I blame you. SAIS prepares people to exercise power. That’s why the school exists. Yet you wielded less clout than at any time during your previous two decades of government service.

So at Zbig’s luncheons, when you riffed on some policy issue — the crisis in the Balkans, the threat posed by North Korean nukes, the latest provocations of Saddam Hussein — it was a treat to watch you become so animated. What turned you on was playing the game. Being at SAIS was riding the bench.

Even during the 1990s, those who disliked your views tagged you as a neoconservative. But the label never quite fit. You were at most a fellow traveler. You never really signed on with the PR firm of Podhoretz, Kristol, and Kagan. Your approach to policy analysis owed more to Wohlstetter Inc. — a firm less interested in ideology than in power and its employment.

I didn’t understand this at the time, but I’ve come to appreciate the extent to which your thinking mirrors that of the nuclear strategist Albert Wohlstetter. Your friend Richard Perle put the matter succinctly: “Paul thinks the way Albert thinks.” Wohlstetter, the quintessential “defense intellectual,” had been your graduate-school mentor. You became, in effect, his agent, devoted to converting his principles into actual policy. This, in a sense, was your life’s work.

Most Americans today have never heard of Wohlstetter and wouldn’t know what to make of the guy even if they had. Everything about him exuded sophistication. He was the smartest guy in the room before anyone had coined the phrase. Therein lay his appeal. To be admitted to discipleship was to become one of the elect.

Wohlstetter’s perspective (which became yours) emphasized five distinct propositions. Call them the Wohlstetter Precepts.

First, liberal internationalism, with its optimistic expectation that the world will embrace a set of common norms to achieve peace, is an illusion. Of course virtually every president since Franklin Roosevelt has paid lip service to that illusion, and doing so during the Cold War may even have served a certain purpose. But to indulge it further constitutes sheer folly.

Second, the system that replaces liberal internationalism must address the ever-present (and growing) danger posed by catastrophic surprise. Remember Pearl Harbor. Now imagine something orders of magnitude worse — for instance, a nuclear attack from out of the blue.

Third, the key to averting or at least minimizing surprise is to act preventively. If shrewdly conceived and skillfully executed, action holds some possibility of safety, whereas inaction reduces that possibility to near zero. Eliminate the threat before it materializes. In statecraft, that defines the standard of excellence.

Fourth, the ultimate in preventive action is dominion. The best insurance against unpleasant surprises is to achieve unquestioned supremacy.

Lastly, by transforming the very nature of war, information technology — an arena in which the United States has historically enjoyed a clear edge — brings outright supremacy within reach. Of all the products of Albert Wohlstetter’s fertile brain, this one impressed you most. The potential implications were dazzling. According to Mao, political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. Wohlstetter went further. Given the right sort of gun — preferably one that fires very fast and very accurately — so, too, does world order.

With the passing of the Cold War, global hegemony seemed America’s for the taking. What others saw as an option you, Paul, saw as something much more: an obligation that the nation needed to seize, for its own good as well as for the world’s. Not long before we both showed up at SAIS, your first effort to codify supremacy and preventive action as a basis for strategy had ended in embarrassing failure. I refer here to the famous (or infamous) Defense Planning Guidance of 1992, drafted in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm by the Pentagon policy shop you then directed. Before this classified document was fully vetted by the White House, it was leaked to the New York Times, which made it front-page news. The draft DPG announced that it had become the “first objective” of U.S. policy “to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival.” With an eye toward “deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role,” the United States would maintain unquestioned military superiority and, if necessary, employ force unilaterally. As window dressing, allies might be nice, but the United States no longer considered them necessary.

Unfortunately, you and the team assigned to draft the DPG had miscalculated the administration’s support for your thinking. This was not the moment to be unfurling grandiose ambitions expressed in indelicate language. In the ensuing hue and cry, President George H. W. Bush disavowed the document. Your reputation took a hit. But you were undeterred.

The election of George W. Bush as president permitted you to escape from academe. You’d done yeoman work tutoring candidate Bush in how the world works, and he repaid the debt by appointing you to serve as Donald Rumsfeld’s deputy atop the Pentagon hierarchy. You took office as Osama bin Laden was conspiring to attack. Alas, neither Rumsfeld nor you nor anyone else in a position of real authority anticipated what was to occur. America’s vaunted defense establishment had left the country defenseless. Yet instead of seeing this as evidence of gross incompetence requiring the officials responsible to resign, you took it as an affirmation. For proof that averting surprise through preventive military action was now priority number one, Americans needed to look no further than the damage inflicted by nineteen thugs armed with box cutters.

You immediately saw the events of 9/11 as a second and more promising opening to assert U.S. supremacy. When riding high a decade earlier, many Americans had thought it either unseemly or unnecessary to lord it over others. Now, with the populace angry and frightened, the idea was likely to prove an easier sell. Although none of the hijackers were Iraqi, within days of 9/11 you were promoting military action against Iraq. Critics have chalked this up to your supposed obsession with Saddam. The criticism is misplaced. The scale of your ambitions was vastly greater.

In an instant, you grasped that the attacks provided a fresh opportunity to implement Wohlstetter’s Precepts, and Iraq offered a made-to-order venue. “We cannot wait to act until the threat is imminent,” you said in 2002. Toppling Saddam Hussein would validate the alternative to waiting. In Iraq the United States would demonstrate the efficacy of preventive war.

So even conceding a hat tip to Albert Wohlstetter, the Bush Doctrine was largely your handiwork. The urgency of invading Iraq stemmed from the need to validate that doctrine before the window of opportunity closed. What made it necessary to act immediately was not Saddam’s purported WMD program. It was not his nearly nonexistent links to Al Qaeda. It was certainly not the way he abused his own people. No, what drove events was the imperative of claiming for the United States prerogatives allowed no other nation.

I do not doubt the sincerity of your conviction (shared by President Bush) that our country could be counted on to exercise those prerogatives in ways beneficial to all humankind — promoting peace, democracy, and human rights. But the proximate aim was to unshackle American power. Saddam Hussein’s demise would serve as an object lesson for all: Here’s what we can do. Here’s what we will do.

Although you weren’t going to advertise the point, this unshackling would also contribute to the security of Israel. To Wohlstetter’s five precepts you had added a silent codicil. According to the unwritten sixth precept, Israeli interests and U.S. interests must align. You understood that making Israelis feel safer makes Israel less obstreperous, and that removing the sources of Israeli insecurity makes the harmonizing of U.S. and Israeli policies easier. Israel’s most effective friends are those who work quietly to keep the divergent tendencies in U.S.-Israeli relations from getting out of hand. You have always been such a friend. Preventive war to overthrow an evil dictator was going to elevate the United States to the status of Big Kahuna while also making Israelis feel just a little bit safer. This audacious trifecta describes your conception. And you almost pulled it off.

Imagine — you must have done so many times — if that notorious mission accomplished banner had accurately portrayed the situation on the ground in Iraq in May 2003. Imagine if U.S. forces had achieved a clean, decisive victory. Imagine that the famous (if staged) photo of Saddam’s statue in Baghdad’s Al Firdos Square being pulled down had actually presaged a rapid transition to a pro-American liberal democracy, just as your friend Ahmed Chalabi had promised. Imagine if none of the ensuing horrors and disappointments had occurred: the insurgency; Fallujah and Abu Ghraib; thousands of American lives lost and damaged; at least 125,000 Iraqis killed, and some 3 million others exiled or displaced; more than a trillion dollars squandered.

You expected something different, of course. Shortly before the war, you told Congress:

It’s hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam’s security forces and his army. Hard to imagine.

Your imagination led you to foresee a brief conflict, with Iraqis rather than U.S. taxpayers footing the bill for any mess left behind.

After all, preventive war was supposed to solve problems. Eliminating threats before they could materialize was going to enhance our standing, positioning us to call the shots. Instead, the result was a train wreck of epic proportions. Granted, as you yourself have said, “the world is better off” with Saddam Hussein having met his maker. But taken as a whole, the cost-benefit ratio is cause for weeping. As for global hegemony, we can kiss it goodbye.

What conclusions should we draw from the events that actually occurred, rather than from those you hoped for? In a 2003 Boston Globe interview, Richard Perle called Iraq “the first war that’s been fought in a way that would recognize Albert’s vision for future wars.” So perhaps the problem lies with Albert’s vision.

One of Wohlstetter’s distinguishing qualities, you once told an interviewer, was that he “was so insistent on ascertaining the facts. He had a very fact-based approach to policy.” Albert’s approach was ruthlessly pragmatic. “It derived from saying, Here’s the problem, look at it factually, see what the questions are that emerged from the thing itself, so to speak.” Then confront those questions.

One of the questions emerging from the Iraq debacle must be this one: Why did liberation at gunpoint yield results that differed so radically from what the war’s advocates had expected? Or, to sharpen the point, How did preventive war undertaken by ostensibly the strongest military in history produce a cataclysm?

Not one of your colleagues from the Bush Administration possesses the necessary combination of honesty, courage, and wit to answer these questions. If you don’t believe me, please sample the tediously self-exculpatory memoirs penned by (or on behalf of) Bush himself, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Tenet, Bremer, Feith, and a small squad of eminently forgettable generals.

What would Albert Wohlstetter have done? After Iraq, would he have been keen to give the Bush Doctrine another go, perhaps in Iran? Or would he have concluded that preventive war is both reckless and inherently immoral? That, of course, had been the traditional American view prior to 9/11.

Would Albert endorse Barack Obama’s variant of preventive war, the employing of unmanned aircraft as instruments of targeted assassination? Sending a Hellfire missile through some unsuspecting jihadist’s windshield certainly fits the definition of being proactive, but where does it lead? As a numbers guy, Albert might wonder how many “terrorists” we’re going to have to kill before the mission accomplished banner gets resurrected.

And what would Albert make of the war in Afghanistan, now limping into its second decade? Wohlstetter took from Vietnam the lesson that we needed new ways “to use our power discriminately and for worthy ends.” In light of Afghanistan, perhaps he would reconsider that position and reach the conclusion others took from Vietnam: Some wars can’t be won and aren’t worth fighting.

Finally, would Albert fail to note that U.S. and Israeli security interests are now rapidly slipping out of sync? The outcome of the Arab Spring remains unknown. But what the United States hopes will emerge from that upheaval in the long run differs considerably from what will serve Israel’s immediate needs.

Given the state of things and our own standing ten years after the start of the Iraq war, what would Albert do? I never met the man (he died in 1997), but my guess is that he wouldn’t flinch from taking on these questions, even if the answers threatened to contradict his own long-held beliefs. Neither should you, Paul. To be sure, whatever you might choose to say, you’ll be vilified, as Robert McNamara was vilified when he broke his long silence and admitted that he’d been “wrong, terribly wrong” about Vietnam. But help us learn the lessons of Iraq so that we might extract from it something of value in return for all the sacrifices made there. Forgive me for saying so, but you owe it to your country.

Give it a shot.

Andy
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teaches at Boston University. He is the author of The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War, to be republished next month in an updated edition.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705266619 Doug Johnston

    Many feel that the issue of exaggerated and manipulated intelligence begs the question of why Bush wanted war so badly that he was desperate for any excuse. The Letter to Paul Wolfowitz opens the door to the answers to that question. It sets the stage for the one thing that really bothers the public – cover-up.

    Hard to believe? Yes. Unlikely? Maybe not. In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, it is known that the Administration wanted war and was juggling several rationales. They chose, admittedly as a marketing decision, the threat of WMD. Once they made that choice, their own worst nightmare became the discovery, prior to invasions, of reliable, unequivocal evidence that no such threat existed. The following questions and answers suggest that nightmare became reality.

    NO WMD! WHO KNEW AND WHEN DID THEY KNOW IT?

    Q. Why the rush to war?
    A. Bush

    • Bill Gilliam

      Permit me to suggest Collin Powell to moderate any such discussion.

    • Mermaiden

      WHAT DOES IT SAY THAT THEY ARE ALL STILL FREE. THE ENTIRE W ADMIN. SHOULD BE LOCKED UP FOR LIFE, OR TURNED OVER TO THE HAGUE.

      • Canuckistani

        Look up The Trial of Tony Blair on wikipedia. I saw it in Canada. It was first aired in the UK on 15 January 2007. And the British kicked Blair (they called him Bliar) out of office before his term expired. Don’t you wish you could do that under your system? Can you imagine such a TV program about a sitting President airing in the US?

        • Mermaiden

          It would be liberating, to say the least. Such a twisted affair all around. Then TB getting all cozy with Isreal, and touting his big conversion to the Cat. church, makes one stomach churn. Wish Bush would leave the country, and get thrown into jail. He is an extremely cautious traveller these days…..ugh. Sickens at least 3/4 of this country, that much we know for sure.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/A-David-Darman/100000458946874 A David Darman

      This question should be added to the list of questions answers to which reveal the ugly manipulation of truth engaged in by the Bush/Cheney clique of warmongers.

      Q. Why did Cheney’s confidant, Scooter Libby, knowingly commit a felony in order to protect the Administration lie that Saddam had a smoking gun?

      A. I find his conduct to be strong evidence that Bush/Cheney and the rest of the warmongers would go to any lengths to maintain the credibility of their fabrications to justify a preemptive war, a war which has (nearly) ended tragically for all except anti-American regimes and populist movements.

  • Vivek Jain

    Passive-aggressiveness doesn’t suit you, Professor Bacevich. It’s a poor substitute for defenestration.

    • http://twitter.com/StephenKMackSD Stephen K. Mack

      Dear Vivek Jain,

      Mr. Bacevich with great ethical restraint and literary aplomb has utterly eviscerated the notorious ‘chicken hawk’. ‘Passive-aggressive’ has not a whit of relevance to the rhetorical/ethical questions that he raises. As a member of the American Foreign Policy establishment, Mr. Bacevich not only makes his argumentative points to telling effect, and considering the he lost a son in the War in Iraq, exercises admirable literary reserve.
      StephenKMackSD

      • Mermaiden

        AWESOME smackdown, and this fool had it coming.

    • Mermaiden

      Perhaps that’s for another time. Who are you to say?

    • skoobie

      Rather than focusing on the unique and particular lies about any given war, Bacevich tends to focus more on the habits of mind and the character traits that cause such lies to be told and accepted, again and again, decade after decade. There are plenty of fine op-ed writers turning out the type of material you seek — if that’s what you’re after, why not read some of them?

  • traynorjf

    Israel has us on a leash and is taking us on a random walk to hell.

    • obmed1

      Paranoid fool.

      • jack bertram

        perhaps not. Your personal ly vested interests are showing.

      • traynorjf

        Maybe, then maybe not. And your specialty?

  • http://www.postlinearity.com gregorylent

    earth is a schoolhouse .. no students learns from the previous class

  • Mission Unaccomplished

    Bacevich’s own service to his country, and the fact that he doesn’t bring to bear in his argument his son’s ultimate sacrifice in the current war in Iraq, both seem to reflect credit on his character and his restraint in writing this letter. I think he deserves a response.

    • Mermaiden

      Excellent point. He is a man of true substance. A rare thing.

  • angryspittle

    Alas, the only thing we learn from history is that we don’t.

  • Dean Taylor

    “what drove events [ie, Iraq] was the imperative of claiming for the United States prerogatives allowed no other nation…”

    the impetus for US war–including Iraq-as-preventive-war, remains the safeguarding of the investor class-configured status quo…

    to contrive other scenarios is elitist onanism–which careerist elitism being a fact of life inside the Beltway, ‘then’ and ‘now.’

    as Bacevich hits it: “listening to these insiders pontificate, I drew one conclusion: people said to be smart…really aren

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mark-Thomason/100001310617471 Mark Thomason

      “what drove events [ie, Iraq] was the imperative of claiming for the United States prerogatives allowed no other nation…”

      Bacevich’s thesis certainly explains why US policy so consistently arrogates to the US rights the US intends no other would exercise in like circumstances — drones, other air and missile attacks, assassinations, bombings, cyber attacks, as well as outright aggressive war by invasion. This is an important explanation that should open an important discussion of our basic concepts.

  • PauliExclu

    To Johnston:
    It was Sharon in his August 2001 meeting with Bush in Texas.

  • ACraigs

    A very balanced and brave call from Dr. Bacevich. It is not clear that an open letter challenging his friend and mentor DSD Wolfowitz was necessarily the kindest format to employ, but I do hope the Honorable Dr. Wolfowitz sees fit to respond with equal grace.

    To the substance of Dr. Bacevich’s argument, there is little doubt this misadventure has been a disaster. Listening to long-exiled malcontents like Chalabi, whether idealistic, delusional, or machiavellian, is rarely the fount of good policy. Our greatest mistake was to grossly misread Iran in this.

    We continue to pay the price for our errors, and President Obama is doing no better. An honest and open discussion, political points be damned, is what we need, and I thank Dr. Bacevich for this opening.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001983497922 Steve Rodriguez

    Andy – Wohlstetter’s vision may have worked if Bremer doesn’t diband the Iraqi Army and fires most of the Ba’ath Party; You put another 250K on the ground after the war and secure the peace, and instead of your sarcastic article, the neoconservatives would have been proven right; if Bush cut the deal when he had Syria and Iran begging for one in 2003 – fearful they were next…..

    everything is academic with academics. I am saddened at the “cataclysmic” disaster our Middle East policy has become, and the damage it has done to thousands of American families. But screwing up Iraq leaves out some other questions you didn’t address. The Middle East wasn’t a playground before we got there, and it wasn’t stable before Iraq. It is a cesspool of cultural and human failure. Our attempts at “fixing” the problem may have failed, but I don’t see China or Russia acting in other people’s interest. usually their only calculation is what is in there own interest.

    • AC

      apologist for the insane right much?

    • Chet Roman

      And if , if, if , if. Just a lot of ifs and daydreaming; worse than academics.

      “I don’t see China or Russia acting in other people’s interest”

      And if you think that the U.S. does you’re delusional.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eileen-Kuch/1255873681 Eileen Kuch

        The US doesn’t act in its own interests, as China and Russia do; otherwise, we’d be a much wealthier nation. By acting in Israhell’s interests, we’ve lost a huge fortune in both lives and treasure – 4,000+ dead; tens of thousands injured, many permanently; and, not least, over a trillion dollars wasted.

  • obmed1

    By what stretch of the imagination does Andrew think the invasion of Iraq served Israeli’s interests. Iraq like Syria is a highly balkanized artificial country cobbled together like Frankensteins monster for bits and pieces. It is full of warring factions that hate each other. It is held together and governed by ruthless force, fear, oil and bribery. Especially after the first Gulf war, Saddam was inside a box, under strict weapons embargo and with no fly zones paid for by the US taxpayer to the north and south. He had an army but it had all it could do to keep the Iranians, Kuwaitis and his internal enemies (e.g. the Kurds) from slitting his throat. Thus he represented zero threat to Israel either tactically or strategically. To the contrary, Saddam was quite useful to the Israeli’s since he served as a buffer against Iran and Saudi Arabia. Certainly by the time of 9-11 the Israeli’s had nothing to gain by rocking the boat in Iraq, just as presently they have nothing to gain by the fall of Assad in Syria. So why does Andrew bring the Jews into his argument against Wolfowitz? Is it because Wolfowitz is Jewish (though married to a Muslim with much sympathy and admiration for Islamic culture). It seems to me that he may simply be falling into the usual subconscious liberal anti-semitism that is so pervasive these days. He wants to blame everything (including the death of his son) on the the Jews and their self interested schemes. Fortunately his silly diatribes against the Jews-Israelis, take up only a short part of this article and in fact they detract from his main arguments.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Marola1 Mario Oliveira

      You should read Juan Cole’s article on Israel’s peddling.

      http://www.juancole.com/2013/03/israelis-remember-urged.html

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Hacim-Obmed/100002800720995 Hacim Obmed

        Cole is obviously another one of these idiots who thinks the world (and also the US) is controlled by the Jews and everything that happens is because of Jewish plots. What I said about the strategic judgement of Israel in relation to our invasion of Iraq is perfectly sound. Simply read my post and state one fact or argument which is in error. Anyone who cannot see the logic of this is just blinded by their anti-Semitic prejudice.

        • Chet Roman

          Exactly! Everyone that doesn’t agree with you is an anti-semite.

          • obmed1

            You are certainly an anti-semite

          • Natalie

            It is hard to debate someone who just yells “ANTI-SEMITE” whenever you point out facts. Neocons and Israel schills seem to be allergic to facts.

        • Patrick D

          Obmed,

          You are correct. The U.S. invasion of Iraq did not, objectively, serve Israel’s interests.

          Apparently, Benjamin Netanyahu was blinded by his anti-Semitic prejudice.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=fpQdg4D78Jc#!

    • skoobie

      I’m sorry, but if you can’t see the relevance of Israel to US policy toward the Middle East, then you don’t have a very good understanding of that policy or the people who make it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Hacim-Obmed/100002800720995 Hacim Obmed

        I did not say that Israel had no relevance to US policy in the ME. Please read my post. I said that it was not in Israeli interests to depose Saddam. The US did this for its own reasons and in fact the Israeli’s begged us not to do it.

    • Dan Lennon

      For Iraq and its fractured populace, Israel could represent a unifying factor that no other domestic or foreign element could provide. There was some underlying admiration of the US among Iraqi population, a fair number preferred us to Saddam. The large Shia population meant there was even some sympathy for the arch enemy Iranians throughout Iraq.

      But if there was one enemy that could mobilize a huge portion of Iraqis for a common cause, it would be Israel……hatred is probably fairly universal. A strike or campaign against Israel would have almost all of Iraq behind it, not to mention much of the Middle East region. A Saddam that didn’t have to spend so much time watching his back could be a dangerous Saddam.

      Fair to say its a longshot that Saddam could have mobilized his people, or the region, against Israel. He had trouble managing even simple elements of his country. But there is some logic that Israel is a lot safer without a potentially menacing Iraq on the horizon.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Hacim-Obmed/100002800720995 Hacim Obmed

        I cannot figure out if you are agreeing with me or disagreeing with me. Everyone knows the arabs are in constant a frenzy of Jew hatred. It will probably cause them all to explode of high blood pressure. However from the Israeli perspective this is a given regardless of the Arab regime in control of Iraq. It is thus better to have a murderous but impotent fool like Saddam to run things. Putting the Shia in change, and allowing a situation where the Iranians can meddle, is definitely the last thing they would want. Thus our policy in Iraq was totally contrary to the Israeli interest.

        • KhunKru

          Your initial post was certainly interesting and logical, if (from my perspective) skewed. By positing a theory, you shed light. However your subsequent comments fly further and further towards paranoid, vague, and over-generalized ad hominem attacks. I believe it is called ‘mirroring’… “the arabs are in constant a frenzy”, “they owe everything to our generosity”, etc. etc. When you claim “most Israeli’s [sic] recognized this”(that to topple Saddam was deleterious to Israel’s national interests), what is your evidence? Is it not possible that the Israeli leadership (and public) were, like their US counterparts, of mixed and various opinion?

          • obmed1

            The israeli’s must have been of mixed opinion since any large group would have differences. Certainly some would have been convinced by the fear of Iraqi WMD’s. However I cannot think of a single israeli analyst or government official or column writer who actively suggested that an attack of Iraq was advisable before the Bush administration decided to take the plunge. So I am speaking only of the majority opinion. Of course, unlike the french or germans, the Israelis are not in a position to vote in the security council or to publicly agitate and berate the american administration. Furthermore they would certainly try to be helpful once the decision for war was final. From everything I read in the Israeli press after 9-11 most analysis’s had not the slightest inkling that an invasion of Iraq might be a possible response. When the topic was mooted in the US establishment the reaction was of incredulity. They felt this policy was a big risk and that Saddam was not close to WMD’s and that the continued rule of Saddam was preferable to any likely replacement.

          • Shakespeare

            Nothing that you write is credible. According to George Tenet Richard Perle suggested that the US attacks Iraq on the 12 semptember 2001, and it’s known that Wolfowitz also proposed an invasion shortly after that. You want us to believe that people who had advised Israeli parties proposing regime change in Iraq, people who worked closely with the Isarel lobby had no contact with Israel? An isolated opinion in a newspaper in Israel means nothing. What counts are the activities of people linked to Israel through its lobbies:

            “The statements (by Philip D. Zelikow) are the first to surface from a source closely linked to the Bush administration acknowledging that the war, which has so far cost the lives of nearly 600 U.S. troops and thousands of Iraqis, was motivated by Washington’s desire to defend the Jewish state.”

          • Shakespeare

            BBC:

            “The (Israeli) chief-of-staff said that a successful offensive against Iraq would have positive consequences for the region,…”

          • obmed1

            Richard Perl is an american strategic nuclear analysts and a mathematician who specialized in game theory. He made major contributions to our victory in the cold war (classified and public). He is Jewish and a well know neocon who felt that our victory in the cold war left us in an dominant position as the preeminent world power. The victory, like the period after WW-2, opened a window of opportunity to really transform the world for the better in a decisive way. The neocons were idealists who felt that our position of power was fleeting and they felt the need to act before the moment the window closed. That is why they advocated decisive american intervention in Iraq. They knew that nothing productive could come of chasing around after Ben Laden in the hills of Afghanistan. But to bring democracy to a major country at the heart of the Arab world, now their was a project worthy of the American greatness. And it would have the added benefit of destroying the fundamentalist fanatic creed that gave rise to 9-11. The neocons were and are an idealistic Wilsonian bunch who acted in the finest american and christen (and Jewish) evangelical tradition. They wanted to heal the world (in Hebrew “Tikkun Olum”). They failed but is it a crime to have tried? I think it would have been a greater crime to have had the opportunity and to have sat and done nothing.

          • Shakespeare

            You don’t even know his name: Richard Perle and not Perl. He’s not and never was a mathematician and ha made no contribution to the US, only to himself and possibly to other countries. He’s a businessman, a lobbyst for other countries and some would say that the war that he promoted was an illegal and criminal war and because of that he should get a ticket to Den Haag.

          • Shakespeare

            As Richard Perle colaborated with Wolfowitz in promoting the war against Iraq, it would be interesting to have some more information about him also. The Wikipedia article about him has sections with the following titles: “Bribery Accusations and Alleged Conflicts of Interest”, “Unresolved Legal Issues”, “Adviser to Muammar al-Gaddafi”.

          • obmed1

            Are you some sort of anal retentive spelling fanatic?

          • Patrick D

            Again, the man who was recently re-elected as Israel’s Prime Minister addressing Congress before the invasion.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=fpQdg4D78Jc#!

          • mooser42001

            “I believe it is called ‘mirroring’”
            While ‘mirroring’ as you describe it is most probably involved, the technical name for it is a Ziocaine Syndrome episode. Basically, it has been posited that adherence to Zionism produces a state very similar to chronic cocaine and alcohol abuse.An episode of Ziocaine Syndrome intoxication may be followed by Ziocaine amnesia, which allows them to come back and say the same stupid and untrue things day after day. It’s a very distressing condition to witness. There are very few reversals or remission, the prognosis is dire.

    • OtherTim

      I think you’re misreading Bacevich’s point here, obmed1.

      To distill it, in paragraph 22 he says that supporters of the war thought that Israel would be better off as a result of the war. In paragraph 33 he concludes that Israel is NOT better off as a result of the war. And, as I read it, he seems to think that is too bad.

      I think it’s a fair argument, judiciously made.

      • obmed1

        There may have been some gap toothed idiot who in his enthusiasm for war thought that a benefit to Israel might be a good selling point. After all they were slanting and spinning every other angle so obviously they would try to make an argument based on Israel as well. The real truth, as Andrew points out, is that the neocons had dreams of liberating the oppressed, spreading democracy and generally making the world a better place, by judicious application of force. They wanted to securing a predominate hegemonic role for the US (the “good” superpower). Like so many before them they mean well, oh so well. That is is the real cause of their enthusiasm for the invasion and why they were willing to lie cheat and steal to accomplish it. Their rather idiotic arguments about a possible benefit to Israel are just part about as valid and cogent as their argument about WMD’s. Most Israeli’s recognized this at the time and had no desire to “liberate” Iraq. Their analysis was exactly like the current analysis regarding the Arab spring; namely the next despots will most likely be worse than the present ones. They cautioned us to stay away from Iraq. GHW bush listened to them but GW bush did not (much to everyones regret). Obama is also failing to listen. They begged him to prop up Mubarack with all possible means.

    • AC

      “falling into the usual subconscious liberal anti-semitism that is so pervasive these days”. AH ha, another deep thinker. There is no liberal anti-sem…. There is a realistic response to the actual policies and procedures of the israeli government. The rightwing israeli govt policies and treatment of the palestinians is a national suicide course. And it’s working great.

      • obmed1

        You are an excellent example of what I am talking about. You are so twisted as to actually think you are being realistic. They Jews offered the palestinians a decent deal in 2000 and Bill Clinton brokered it and guaranteed it. We all know what it involved. It is about the best they will ever hope to achieve in a negotiation but despite the pleadings of Clinton it was turned down. Maybe the palestinian have changed their minds but they will never again get anything close to what could have been theirs 13 years ago. The strategy of the Jews is the same of anyone who has negotiated a business deal. You keep the pressure on to settle and you slice them down inch by inch the long they stonewall. This is totally sensible. We and the Israelis brought them back from exile in Tunisia, We also gave them a piece of territory to controle and offered to help them set up a state of their own. We and the Israelis also funded them to the turn of billions a years to support their schools and security forces. They owe everything they have to our generosity and then they spit in our faces and reject the best offer we could possibly get them,

        • AC

          Your response is pure propaganda. It does not reflect reality. The events you reference did not happen as you picture them. Just one ie, the 2000 Oslo accords. A viable state was not offered then, and has never been since. Do the research. The great myth that Arafat “walked away from a good deal” has been perpetuated by the right wing. I understand, and sympathize with your emotional connection with israel and jews. You are wrong about bigots and wrong about anti-semites. You view reality thru a lens. We all do, to some extent. I view reality coldly, as it is. If israel wants to survive it will have to treat the palestinians in a just way. Quite simple. You know the old hackneyed saying, “no justice, no peace. know justice, know peace”. Well, it applies, my friend.

          • obmed1

            You are a liar and a an idiot. The proof of your lies is apparent from Clinton’s memoir on the negotiations and from the accounts of any number of other first hand witnesses to the negotiations. The final and absolute proof is that Arafat had nay number of opportunities to accept the deal the palestinians were offered and even today they cpould probably get 90% of this deal. If they are not ready to say yes to maximum thay could possibly be offered then what is the purpose of further talk. They simply need to be spanked and sent to their room and crushed and punished until they realize that this is a deal they cannot refuse. Yet they still continue to dream that a military victory is possible and they thus still continued to reject the Camp David accord offered in 2000. They simply do not understand that the Jews cannot be defeated. If they are willing to take a deal that recognizes Israel as the Jewish homeland and finally give up their self destructive hate then let them say so now.

          • Shakespeare

            You call other liars and idiots after writing yourself lies and idiotic posts? There are several testimonies and studies which show that Barak made no acceptable offer in Camp DAvid. One of them is the book by Clayton Swisher who talked to everybody who was at Camp David (The Truth about Camp David), then there is the article by Robert Malley, and Aaron David Miller also said that the American team there was only an extension of the Israeli negotiating team and did nothing without the approval of the Israeli. Second, you forget to mention the fact that Clinton broke his promise to Arafat. So, we cannot trust anything that he says, especially if it’s against all evidence. Third, the negotiations continued at Taba, what wouldn’t have happened if Arafat had behaved unreasonably. It was Sharon and the Israeli public who closed the negotiations, not the Palestinians.

          • obmed1

            The other party started with the insults. Amd you are an idiot for not reading the full tread before sticking your nose in. None of these people was actually present. In any even t we do not need recourse to memories of the actual negotiation to tell what a liar you are. The outline of the deal that Arafat rejected are well know and were described and published by the Israelis and by the US diplomatic side. The areas and adjustments and the arrangements for division of Jerusalem etc etc. Anyone who wanted peace and was bargaining in good faith would have grabbed such a deal with both hands or at least made a counteroffer of similar nature. Certainly Clinton understood that it was the best that the Palestinians could ever hope to achieve short of a military victory. All the Palestinians need to say if they want peace is that they have changed their minds and the camp David deal now looks good after all. Yet they continue to reject it because it does not include the right of return which they know full well is simply a formula for Jewish national suicide. It means they want war and are just biding their time until some hoped for day when they will win a militarily victory. This is what you call a good faith negotiation I suppose? .

          • Shakespeare

            You keep lying? Robert Malley was at Camp DAvid. And now, what do you say? And Aaron Miller was also there. See that you don’t know what you are talking about? And the thread doesn’t belong to you. I decide where I write. I don’t care reding you fantasies and lies.

          • AC

            you are a fucking pathetic piece of shit troll moron deluded fool tool. fuck off, scum.

          • obmed1

            You are a liar and a bullish*ter and you know it.

          • mooser42001

            “They simply do not understand that the Jews cannot be defeated.”
            Gosh, and why should they bother? Seems to me that out-marriage, failure to retain the young, internal schism, and a dearth on conversions is doing the job much more efficiently, as it is. And Gosh, won’t Jews want to stay Jewish even more when they learn they can take part in a life-long war, and get to hate, oh, I don’t know a fifth or sixth of the entire world’s population? Now who wouldn’t want to stick around a religion and culture like that? Say, obmed, what do you plan to do, forbid Jews from leaving Israel?

          • obmed1

            Dream on you anti-semetic fool. The Jews will be here dancing on your grave just as they dance on the graves of the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Romans, the Nazi’s. They are still here and leading the progress of humanity. Meanwhile all their past enemies are buried by time, forgotten and gathering dust.

          • obmed1

            On what basis do the Palestinians claim Judeia and Sameria According to you the past is dead and gone. Well if that is so then their claims date back to before to 1948 and 1967. Half a century and hence ancient history. All that matters according to you is facts on the ground. So be it. The Jews are a fact on the ground.

        • http://www.facebook.com/shirley.hall.71868 Shirley Hall

          Would you spit in the faces of anyone who bombed you ever so often, never allowed out of your “Territory,” etc. etc.?

          • obmed1

            All the territory west of the Jordan and east of the Mediterranean is legally controlled by the Jews. Of course the Jewish biblical claims to this land are well known but there ownership is also clear on the basis of modern international law. In 1921 the league of nations created the mandate of palestine and stipulated that it was to be the national homeland of the Jews. The mandate also granted the Jews the right to build and live in any part of the mandate without distinction between the grant line. Further, this grant was recognized and reaffirmed in the UN charter of 1948 and continues in force to this day. The Mandate explicitly recognized and granted the Jews their rights in view of their undoubted historical claims dating back more then 3000 years. The Mandate had nothing to do with the Holocaust which did not even happen until some 20 years later. In contrast to this glorious history, the palestinians, are an artificial people with no historical record of independent existence of accomplishment. The Jews can point to the kingdoms of Solomon and David with confirmed existence and scientific corroboration dating to before 10th century BCE. Of course they can point to their unique and ancient religion and their founding national epic (otherwise know as the old testament).. They can point to the hebrew language and the hebrew Alphabet which are older then 4000 years and is one of the first phonetic writing systems. In every one of the last 3000 years there are Jewish politicians, writers, philosophers, theologians, bankers, entrepreneurs, musicians, artists, poets, warriors, scientists and mathematicians. In contrast the Palestinians have no classical culture of any kind. The Palestinian “nation” was simply dreamed into existence by Arafat and a few cronies during a meeting at a Amman coffee shop in 1968. They are simply a reaction to the defeat of the Arab forces during the 1967 war. A nation born of jealousy, impotent rage and religious bigotry. Without Israel there would be no Palestine. There was never any talk of “Palestine” prior to ’67 when the West Bank was controlled by Jordanians. Ask yourself why this is?

          • obmed1

            I would spit in the face of a nation that celebrated suicide bombers. A nation where they danced in the streets after 9-11, that blows up a pizzeria full of teenagers or a passover Seder dinner for aged holocaust survivors. The palestinians have embraced the cult of death and human sacrifice. They have revived what the bible says is the ultimate sin in the eyes of God. The worship of death. The sin that led God to destroy the Philistines because of their worship of Baal and Beelzebub.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mark-Thomason/100001310617471 Mark Thomason

          “The Jews offered the palestinians a generous deal in 2000″

          No, they didn’t, and you are twisted and bigoted to call it that. Nobody would have accepted such a one-sided, Israel dictated travesty.

          • obmed1

            Exactly what was there about the deal that made it unacceptable? Everyone knows the terms offered. To simply say “it was unacceptable” is a cop out. The Palestinians would get 95% the West bank, some land swaps tfor the 5% adjustment and they also have a piece of Jerusalem. The palestinian state would be demilitarized and the Jews get some sort of security arrangements along the Jordan. Why was this unacceptable? Certainly Clinton states that it was astonishingly generous. It is certainly a darn sight better then where they are now and it is better then they could ever hope to get under present circumstances.

          • Patrick D

            “and the Jews get some sort of security arrangements along the Jordan.”

            Please allow Benjamin Netanyahu to explain how he was not negotiating in good faith and his intent to use that loop-hole to make the Palestinians an offer they had to refuse.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TG0vdzrmt4

            The United States needs to stop giving Israel the benefit of the doubt.

          • obmed1

            Netanyahu was not party to the negotiations in 2000 and in fact he won office largely because the mendacity of the Palestinians had been exposed. Obviously after the rejection of the Camp David offer the genocidal intentions of the Palestinians are exposed and it is apparent to anyone that the Palestinians are only interested in war. Why do you think the naive left wing peace party in Israel has been defeated and discredited and is not largely nonexistent. It is also why an offer such as the one in 2000 will never again be forthcoming.

          • Patrick D

            “It is also why an offer such as the one in 2000 will

            never again be forthcoming.”

            It will never be forthcoming because Israel continues to elect

            politicians committed to retaining effective sovereignty over the West Bank as
            part of “Greater Israel.” Increasingly, that has more to do

            with the steady shift in Jewish-Israeli demographics toward

            religious-nationalists (higher birth-rates) than anything Palestinians

            do. According to them, Palestinians are a fiction.

            To return to the context of the original article, like Colonel Bacevich, I am
            an American citizen. My country, the United States, is grossly over-committed
            to the Middle East as a region in light of our actual, vital, national
            interests despite the nonsense spouted by Neo-Conservatives and Neo-Wilsonians.

            Our “special relationship” with Israel is the predominant example.

            Not only is Israel and its conflict with the Palestinians irrelevant to the

            U.S., the “special relationship” is a strategic liability to the
            pursuit of our interests.

            I find myself roughly aligned with some Israeli right-wingers on the subject.

            No money, no political cover, no military assistance.

            From freezion.org’s FAQ’s:

            “A true supporter of the Jewish state would want the US to extend the

            same honest friendship to Israel that Thomas Jefferson urged Americans to offer

            all nations.”

            All nations, all parties, whether they are Israel’s enemies or not.

            The

          • obmed1

            Since land for peace is rejected by the Palestinians, might as well keep the land. It provides the Jews with some strategic depth to intercept the rocket fire. If the Palestinians don’t like it then they can always try getting the 2000 offer to be reactivated. Young israelis have pretty much given up on the liberal BS their parents believed however. They understand the score in the middle east and they know the ferocious Jew hatred which surrounds them. The Arabs are out to slit their throats and everyone knows it. Trust in your rifle and keep the high ground. More reliable than a promise form an lying arab.

          • mooser42001

            “The Jews offered the palestinians a generous deal in 2000″

            “The Jews”? Since when do the criminal Zionist represent “the Jews” Don’t drag me into your crap, obmed, I’m not responsible for it, and I’ll do whatever I can to stop it. But of course, Zionists hiding behind “the Jews”, is par for the course. We are supposed to be your human shield. I’m sick of it.
            But then I forget, the primary mission of a Zionist is to convince anyone and everyone that Jews cannot live with others, and should be turned over to them. Zionism is nothing more than anti-Semitism, cynically turned to Zionist purposes. It is sickening So I suppose, obmed, you have no particular desire to appear as a civilised human being.

          • obmed1

            The connection between the Jews and the promised land is fundamental to the Jewish religion. You cannot have one without the other. Obviously you know nothing about the Jewish religion. It might be instructive for you to read Exodus and to attend a Passover Seder. Then you might study the book of Ester which is basis of the feast of Purim. Next take some time to look at the book of Maccabees which is the basis of the feast of Hanukkah. Then of course there is the Book of Lamentations and the day of fasting called Tisha B’Av. This is primarily the anniversary (on the Hebrew calendar) of the day on which the First Temple built by King Solomon was destroyed by the Babylonians led by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE ( the year 3175 on Hebrew calendar). It is the end of the Kingdom of Judah the start the so-called Babylonian exile. After all this I think it is no exaggeration to say that anyone who is not a Zionist is also not a Jew.

          • Shakespeare

            Who cares if someone is a Jew or not or what is written in a fiction book? Palestine belonged rightfully to the Palestinians and not to the Zionists.

        • mooser42001

          ” Jews are at fault for the arab refusal to settle”
          Oh, I see, it’s the “Arabs” who are the ‘settlers’.; Sure, okay obmed. Wow, Zionism is going to leave me with no shred of Jewish ethnocentrism left untattered. Yes, sir obmed, I am just so proud to be Jewish when I read you. And gosh, when I think of the alacrity with which young Jews all over the world will accept life-long conflict and hatred as their inheritance, I know they will just love to stick around.
          It’s too late now. Zionism has murdered Judaism. Or gee, obmed, do you think “The Jews, destroyers of the evil Palestinians” is an honorific which will redound to our glory through the centuries?
          A once great religion, reduced to race prejudice, a quasi-religious colonial land-theft scheme, and being the courtier of empire. I will never forgive the Zionists.

    • Tourguide2

      As I remember, Wolfowitz along with Perle and Feith worked on a paper for the Likud party in the late nineties called “Securing the Realm” in which toppling Arab regimes and making them into liberal, Westernized democracies was the goal. It was all about remaking the Middle East, thereby making it a friendlier neighborhood for Israel. If I recall correctly, the Jerusalem Post was very much for the war in Iraq. AIPAC in this country also supported the use of force resolution that authorized the war in Iraq. After the “successful” invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam, Wolfowitz was made “Man of the Year” in 2004 by some Zionist organization in Israel.
      Now I totally agree with your analysis about how Iraq was completely boxed in. And that the only one to gain geopolitically from destroying secular Iraq with a Sunni dictator who acted as a buffer to Iran, was of course Iran. I realized that at the time and argued with those who were all hot for war, and I’m not an “expert.” But the sad truth is that people and nations don’t always act rationally. They delude themselves. The neo-cons in this country and in Isreal really thought they could remake Arab countries into a Western image. That is what is called “hubris.” It was hubris that led to the tragic mess in Iraq.

      • obmed1

        Wolfowitz and Perl also worked to spin the tails about WMD’s. Anything to spin the upside of an Iraq invasion.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mark-Thomason/100001310617471 Mark Thomason

        This comment tries to deny what happened, to avoid Israel’s responsibility and intended benefit. The Israelis were strongly in favor of the US attacking Iraq, and doing so immediately. CBS News reported “Israel is urging U.S. officials not to delay a military strike against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, an aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Friday. . . . “Any postponement of an attack on Iraq at this stage will serve no purpose,” Gissin said. “It will only give him (Saddam) more of an opportunity . . ..” http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-202_162-519037.html

        • obmed1

          This report refers only to tactical matters of timing, after the fundamental decision to invaded had already been made. Obviously, once our troops are in position and sitting in the middle of the desert and ready to launch, any delay would have cost lives by giving the enemy the chance to redeploy. It would be like delaying D-day and giving the germans the chance to reinforce the defenses on Omaha beach. The fact you bring such a spurious report into the discussion shows your desperation and mendacity.

    • http://harpers.org/ Harper

      Please simmer down on this discussion thread, everyone. We don’t want to have to close discussion on the entire piece.

    • Natalie

      Mr. Bacevich never said “Jews”. This is why I now am positive we are doomed. If you say Israel influences our foreign policy you are branded as an anti-semite and if you have an academic career or aspire to political office you can NEVER criticize Israel. Ever. Or mention their influence ( millions in PAC money cough cough) on our broken political system. It was a great ride while it lasted but America the Hegemon is dead.

  • http://www.facebook.com/russell.c.welch Russell C Welch

    Perhaps the mistake was the failure to realize that the use of force for unquestioned military superiority requires the continued use of force to maintain that superiority. Once in Iraq, the US failed to contain the support by Syria and Iran of the insurgents.

    • AC

      Delusional

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TIU4XR76CGJFSUG5WPZDFUGMUY HenryC

    The lesson of Vietnam is not some wars can’t be won. It is that some wars are not worth the price of winning.

  • billp

    “Preemptive war is like committing suicide for fear of death.” – Bismarck

  • Hughes

    Having survived in the military for 32 years under several quote smartest guys in the room unquote, i.e. McNamara,Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, among others,maybe it’s time for someone as quote dumb as a box of rocks unquote that has actually been shot at. Oh wait, maybe he was just appointed SecDef. signed F.Hughes, Capt. USN ret.

  • Dan

    This article proves once and for all, (if in fact you believe it as I do) that the invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with WMDs in the minds of those who planned and sold it to the American public. I mean in this entire disection of Paul Wolfowitz’s brain into why America invaded Iraq WMD’s is not mentioned.
    The article further indicates that the invasion of Iraq was planned before 911. Two quotes now come to mind.
    “It is inconceivable that America invaded Iraq over suspected WMDs and then failed to secure any suspected WMD site upon taking control of the country.” Bush Chief Weapons Inspector in Iraq David Kay.

  • Tom Clark

    Beautiful. Brutal.

  • harvey

    I’m always fascinated by how impressed these DC policy and political types are with themselves. I, too, worked in DC fresh out of college and was very soon in awe of the impractical stupidity and the arrogance and the passive-aggressive double-speak of the over-educated “people said to be smart” who made headlines but never seemed to pay a price for being wrong. It was explained to me that, in DC, success has many parents, but failure is an orphan.

    I was happy to finally move to a place where there’s a real financial bottom line, where the business powers have their fingers on the pulse of the world and expect to take full credit or blame for their decisions… and I’ve loved these last 20 years in Hollywood!

  • bruce b

    Great article.such truth.Waiting for any of the chicken hawks.to own up to that needless conflict.It ain;t gonna happen.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shirley.hall.71868 Shirley Hall

    Just imagine how the world would be a better place if Wolfowitz had nevever been born–how many more Iraqi’s would be alive today.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1148023235 William Salter

    The best thing that Wolfowitz could do for his country would be to take a swan dive off of the Washington Monument. It would befit his grandiose self-image and get rid of a clear and present danger to the country.

  • Mitchell Smith

    Andrew Bacevich is a man of true intellectual courage and honesty. He does not hesitate to tell things as they are and to call to account those responsible for massively consequential decisions — something of which there is far too little in American politics and foreign policy making today.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mark-Thomason/100001310617471 Mark Thomason

    Wonderfully written. This is a worthy tour of the real issues, and the men who framed them. Well done.

    I submit Albert and Paul would both answer your question other than you (and I) answer it: “After Iraq, would he have been keen to give the Bush Doctrine another go, perhaps in Iran?”

    They would say that we won, then lost the follow up. They would say that the original win was important and can be replicated in Iran, should be replicated in Iran.

    They would say the subsequent follow up failure could be avoided with benefit of the object lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. It could be avoided by just leaving, mission accomplished and the mess is for others, or by handling occupation with a much lighter hand, leaving in place substantial elements of the regime, rather as is suggested for a soft landing in Syria to avoid the Libyan mess.

    I don’t think it will work in Syria, nor would it work in Iran. Aggressive war is both immoral and foolish, and leads only to self made disaster. It always has, for all aggressors, usually sooner than later. But I don’t think that would be their answer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alan-MacDonald/1659822186 Alan MacDonald

    Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now” show today (3/22) exposing the crimes of
    Col. Steele, Rumsfeld, Bush, and by extension, Obama, in torture and
    international war crimes has now infected not just the White House
    and the Presidency (as was said of Nixon), but has exposed the entire
    facade of this disguised Global EMPIRE — which is only posing as
    our former country.

    This is the post that I submitted to the New York Times regarding
    their op-ed today, “Obama’s Nixonian Precedent” (which may
    or may not be censored), but which I will continue posting everywhere
    I can in the US media:

    “With the international exposure and release of irrefutable
    evidence, based on Bradley Manning, and Wikileaks and the subsequent
    documentary film “James Steele; America’s Mystery Man in Iraq”
    now shown on US TV “Democracy Now” (as well as throughout
    European TV networks) not only Obama, but also Bush, Rumsfeld,
    Cheney, and the entire political regime of this disguised Global
    Empire will soon have something to “Look forward to rather than
    back” — as Obama, infamously says.

    They, the front-men of this Empire, will certainly be “Looking
    Forward” to — prosecution for international war crimes by the
    International Criminal Court — just as the senior figures of the
    Nazi Empire did.

    Although their prosecution may have to be ‘in absentia’ (because
    this Empire refuses to join the “community of nations” in
    recognizing the ICC), the political leaders of this disguised Global
    Empire, this corporate/financial/militarist/legal/media and political
    Global Empire, which has ‘captured’ and now fully “Occupies”
    our former country by hiding behind the facade of its modernized
    TWO-Party ‘Vichy’ sham of faux-democratic and totally illegitimate
    government — just as surely as the earlier Nazi EMPIRE tried less
    successfully to do behind its crude single-party Vichy regime in
    ‘captured’ and “Occupied’ France c. 1940.

    Yes, President (and faux-Emperor) Obama, we all now are “Looking
    Forward rather than back”!

    Best luck and love to the fast expanding ‘Occupy the Empire’
    educational and revolutionary movement against this deceitful,
    guileful, disguised EMPIRE, which can’t so easily be identified as
    wearing Red Coats, Red Stars, nor funny looking Nazi helmets —-
    quite yet!

    Liberty, democracy, justice, and
    equality
    Over
    Violent/’Vichy’ Rel 2.0
    Empire”

    Alan
    MacDonald
    Sanford, Maine

    We don’t MERELY have; a gun/fear
    problem, or a ‘Fiscal Cliff’, ‘Sequestration’, and ‘Debt Limit’
    problem, or an expanding wars problem, or a ‘drone assassinations’
    problem, or a vast income & wealth inequality problem, or a Wall
    Street ‘looting’ problem, or a Global Warming and environmental
    death-spiral problem, or a domestic tyranny NDAA FISA spying problem,
    or, or, or, or …. ad nauseum — we have a hidden EMPIRE cancerous
    tumor which is the prime CAUSE of all these ‘symptom problems’.

  • Joshua Weinstein

    Appalled at how we were lied into a cataclysmic war by a bunch of neocon ideologues 10 years ago? Think it can’t happen again, with even more dire consequences? Read Pat Buchanan. It’s happening again:

    http://original.antiwar.com/buchanan/2013/03/21/goading-gullible-america-into-war/

  • JE

    This is an excellent piece and the comparison between Wolfowitz and McNamara an apt one. I am British—our former Prime Minister Anthony Blair deserves a letter such as this. And our contempt.

  • deedee2die4

    Wolf, Rummy, Cheney, Dubya, … Need to be tried as war criminals.

  • Henry Rowen

    Henry Rowen, Stanford University
    This anniversary has evoked many comments but perhaps none odder than that of Andrew Bacevitch, notably the prominence given to Albert Wohlstetter in the formation of Paul Wolfowitz’s gestalt. As someone who worked with Wohlstetter for over 40 years I can testify to his “perspectives”. They did not include “preventive attack” or “dominion” (in any of the variants Bacevich lists).

  • omop

    Does Bacevich being sarcastic in asking Wolfowitz do it because ” you owe it to your country.” Which country does Wolfowitz really claim as his own?

  • PBHale

    Excelllent letter. It’s about time someone pointed out that Saddam Hussein wasn’t such a bad guy after all. In the 30 years he was in power he hardly threatened anyone – not his own people or his neighbors. And despite the 28.5 years of that time when he was unstinting in his clandestined and sometimes overt pursuit of nuclear weapons, and his clear evidence of chemical weapons, everyone should have known in Aug 2002 when the UN Security Council voted to authorize the use of force if he didn’t comply with the 16 other UNSC resolutions that he had “sincerely” given up his pursuit of WMD for good. How could we not have taken the word of a sincere peace-loving leader like Saddam at that time?

    Oh if the rest of the world would only realize how better off it would be if Saddam and his sons were still in power today and that Wolfowitz had recognized their peaceful nature everyone – especially the Iraqi people themselves – would be SOOOO much better off! After all, Saddam hardly hurt anyone while HE was in power compared to what has happened since.

    When will these wild-eyed academicians, like Wohlstetter and Wolfowitz, ever realize that dictators bring stability and “peace” – hardly anyone ever complains when they are in power and crime is so much lower. Sadly we will never know what joy and peace Saddam would have brought to Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and especially Israel because the likes of American imperialism driven by the Bushes, Cheneys, Wolfowitz, and Wohlstetters simply fail to heed the sound advice of people like Professor Bacevich.

    Perhaps one day, we’ll recognize the clearly false premise that dictators are the problem when it is clear, as Prof Bacevich so eloquently described, it has all along been American arrogance to assume the opposite. Imagine how peaceful the Gulf region would have been in the past 10 years had we simply left well enough alone….

    • Shakespeare

      If dictators are such a problem, why does the US helps to depose democratic governments and supports the dictators that take the power afterwards? If dictators are a problem, why did the Baath party in Iraq and SAddam Hussein got a list of leftists to be liquidated after the Baath party took power, what was done by Saddam (according to the impressive documentary “Hidden Wars of Desert Storm”)? There would be a lot of things to say about your comment, but I think that you should at least try to answer those questions first.

  • rumifan

    plain and simply genius. Too bad Bacevich wasn’t secretary of defense.

  • Dave Miller

    By all means, let’s give Dr. Wolfowitz a shot at confessing to his criminality.

  • TomHouse

    i’m still, as i imagine many on the left are, awaiting an acknowledgment from the nation that we’ve been right about virtually everything. we clamored against the iraq and afghanistan invasions. we warned about environmental degradation. we argued against reckless capitalism. we railed against racism and sexism.

    yet we still get short shrift and a mocking eye-roll when we wade into policy discussion. thanks, dr bacevich, for making our case in this one arena at least.

  • Tom Anocu

    “19 thugs armed with box cutters” ??—–I stopped reading.
    I expected better Andrew.

  • Bahamas97x

    This article is total, pathetic rubbish.

    There is nothing innately humanitarian about preaching inaction. Each case much be considered dispassionately on its own merits. Sometimes, pre-emptive action will make the best sense.

    Between 1998 and 9/11, the US would have been entirely justified in going after Al-Qaeda with all it had. Had you done so, 9/11 would never have happened. Neither would Afghanistan or Iraq. Instead, you preferred a few feeble cruise missile strikes.

    In 1936, Britain and France could have stopped Hitler with relative ease. To our eternal shame, we delayed acting until Hitler was fully prepared for war. We were nearly destroyed by Hitler, but ironically those who paid most were not us Brits, but the people of eastern Europe who died in their millions and then were enslaved by the Soviet Union for 50 years. Of course, back in the 1930s there were many people screaming ‘warmonger’ at Churchill and preventing all action against Hitler, including even adequate rearming. They are responsible for the deaths of those millions.

    It is also clearly b*lls to say that Vietnam could not have been won. It was being won. Just because you lost it is no good trying to rationalise the shame you feel by saying that the war was not worth fighting in the first place. There was no justification for the invasion of south Vietnam by the north, or the genocides that followed. Vietnam was one of the most selfless, noble acts America ever did.

    And you have been in Afghanistan for 12 years. So what? You think 12 years is a long time? Sad. The cold war took 45 years to win. We Brits had soldiers in northern Ireland for 30 years and the trouble is still not fully over. Sometimes your enemy gets to choose how long you have to fight for. That doesn’t make it wrong to fight him. And you have lost about 2,100 soldiers in Afghanistan in those 12 years – you lose 2,700 people on US roads every month. During the time you have been in Afghanistan, maybe 165,000 people have been murdered in the US.

    And the article seems to forget how Saddam had been reducing that body so beloved of liberals, the UN, to a laughing stock for decades by his actions. We have all forgotten how menacing and troublesome his regime was.

    Finally, one reason why Iraq went wrong was because Iran and Syria and god knows who else, did everything in their power to prevent Iraq from emerging as a democratic, economically successful and peaceful state, in order to prevent it showing what a total, backward mess their own countries are.

  • Bahamas97x

    Why are Americans always whining about the Vietnam war? How does the Vietnam war really differ from the Korean war?
    I’ll tell you. You won the Korean war and you lost the Vietnam war. That’s pretty much the only difference. All the whining, agonizing and rationalising about the Vietnam war is merely an attempt to cover up the shame Americans feel for losing. There would be no agonizing if you had won.
    Nobody agonizes or even hardly remembers the Korean war anymore, even though it was very similar to Vietnam. Nobody gives a damn about Korean vets. Nobody makes films about how awful it was to be an infantryman in Korea. Nobody even attempts to draw any great social, political or moral conclusions from the Korean war.
    But the only way you can deal with the shame you feel for losing the Vietnam war (which you know you should and could have won) is by deluding yourself into thinking that it was an unjust war, or a war that couldn’t be won.
    In reality, Vietnam, like Korea, was a noble, selfless and wonderful attempt by America to hold back the tide of a global, aggressive communist power-grab. Vietnam was merely one lost battle in a war that ended with the decisive victory of liberal democracy over communist dictatorships. The last of those dictatorships still hang on (such as North Korea, Syria and until recently Libya), but seem to be dying one by one.

    For Gods sake grow up and stop agonizing about Vietnam. It was just one lost battle in a war you won.

    • Jerry Ku

      Well, the Vietnam war had a lot of murkiness to it. Famous Americans like Martin Luther King Jr even took the side of the North Vienamese. And then apparently the North wanted to compete with the South in an election to see who would rule the country. The South accused the North of being unable to do a fair election, but the North kept saying it could, and the South just refused to do the election altogether. To me it seems likely the North would’ve won a fair election if one had taken place, as poor people outnumber the rich and thus democracy favors the poor. So there’s a sense that the North Vietnamese regime had the majority of Vietnam’s population supporting it and that America was basically killing poor people off on behalf of Vietnam’s rich.

      Plus the Vietnam war was, like most American wars, sold to the public with ideas of self defense. The idea that if the communists took over Vietnam, dominos would fall and eventually it would be knocking on America’s door. But this didn’t pan out. The Vietnamese communists did not seem to care much at all about a global Communist cause. So without a threat, and the possibility that the US was taking the side of a minority of a nation’s population, many Americans couldn’t see much reason for the war.

      Plus back then, South Korea was a military dictatorship and remained so until the 1980s. So holding up South Korea as a great reason for fighting the Korean war wasn’t easy either.

  • John W. Costanzo

    Whatever happened to the tenet that goes something like this—With great power comes great responsibility”? If all 1st world nations practiced Wohlstetter’s warped ideology, millions of third-world civilians would die in horrific collateral damage conventional-ammo fireballs all over the world. Psychopaths like Wohlstetter and Wolfowitz never considered the lives of civilians or US soldiers in their preemptive war equations. I feel their beliefs were also influenced in secret by their cronies in the US defense industry and the pot of money that was promised to be awaiting them at the outer boundaries of the killing fields. When will the leaders of the free world realize that preemptive war on weak 3rd world nations is immoral and wrong no matter how much money can be made from it? I cannot even begin to imagine the magnitude of Mr. Bacevich’s loss. Therefore, I feel I owe him and his family my input into his letter to Wolfowitz. I believe GW Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Rove, Rice, etc… are intellectually and morally incapable of giving Mr. Bacevich a response. However, Mr. Bacevich already knows what transpired behind closed doors and why it’s implementation metastasized into quagmires we see before us today. Today, however, there lies on the horizon, a new technology that threatens the very future existence of advanced human civilization–drones. Could drones ever be turned onto the civilians of 1st world democratic nations? Yes. And that means their use domestically must be reigned in because drone use in the future could be used by a psychopath in a high public office of trust to seize dictatorial power. Comic book stuff I know, but, some comic book story plots in the 1980′s and early 1990′s involved 9/11-like destruction of the twin towers many years before 9/11 actually happened.

  • John W. Costanzo

    Whatever happened to the tenet that goes something like this—With great power comes great responsibility”? If all 1st world nations practiced Wohlstetter’s warped ideology, millions of third-world civilians would die in horrific collateral damage conventional-ammo fireballs all over the world. Psychopaths like Wohlstetter and Wolfowitz never considered the lives of civilians or US soldiers in their preemptive war equations. I feel their beliefs were also influenced in secret by their cronies in the US defense industry and the pot of money that was promised to be awaiting them at the outer boundaries of the killing fields. When will the leaders of the free world realize that preemptive war on weak 3rd world nations is immoral and wrong no matter how much money can be made from it? I cannot even begin to imagine the magnitude of Mr. Bacevich’s loss. Therefore, I feel I owe him and his family my input into his letter to Wolfowitz. I believe GW Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Rove, Rice, etc… are intellectually and morally incapable of giving Mr. Bacevich a response. However, Mr. Bacevich already knows what transpired behind closed doors and why it’s implementation metastasized into quagmires we see before us today. Today, however, there lies on the horizon, a new technology that threatens the very future existence of advanced human civilization–drones. Could drones ever be turned onto the civilians of 1st world democratic nations? Yes. And that means their use domestically must be reigned in because drone use in the future could be hijacked by a psychopath in a high public office of trust and engaged onto civilians to seize dictatorial power. Comic book stuff I know, but, some comic book story plots in the 1980′s and early 1990′s involved 9/11-like destruction of the twin towers many years before 9/11 actually happened.

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