Miscellany — From the March 2013 issue

A Letter to Paul Wolfowitz

Occasioned by the tenth anniversary of the Iraq war

( 5 of 6 )

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.

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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