Some very interesting, if distressing, articles in the New York Review of Books over the past three weeks offer some context for the mess we find ourselves in.
In the December 21, 2006 issue, Mark Danner's review, "The War of the Imagination," looks at just how we got into Iraq in the first place. What were they thinking, anyway?
Inherent in the War of Imagination were certain rather obvious contradictions: Donald Rumsfeld's dream of a "demonstration model" war of quick, overwhelming victory did not foresee an extended occupation—on the contrary, the defense secretary abjured, publicly and vociferously, any notion that his troops would be used for "nation-building." Rumsfeld's war envisioned rapid victory and rapid departure. Wolfowitz and the other Pentagon neoconservatives, on the other hand, imagined a "democratic transformation," a thoroughgoing social revolution that would take a Baathist Party–run autocracy, complete with a Baathist-led army and vast domestic spying and security services, and transform it into a functioning democratic polity—without the participation of former Baathist officials.
How to resolve this contradiction? The answer, for the Pentagon, seems to have amounted to one word: Chalabi.Apparently, Chalabi was the plan. Put him into power, and he would do the nation building. There was one flaw in that plan: President Bush refused to put him into power. That caused a problem, because the brilliant minds behind this war did not have a plan B.
So there would be no President Chalabi. Unfortunately, the President, who thought of himself, Woodward says, "as the calcium in the backbone" of the US government, having banned Chalabi's ascension, neither offered an alternative plan nor forced the government he led to agree on one. Nor did Secretary Rumsfeld, who knew only that he wanted a quick victory and a quick departure.So what now?
Nearly four years into the Iraq war, as we enter the Time of Proposed Solutions, the consequences of those early decisions define the bloody landscape. By dismissing and humiliating the soldiers and officers of the Iraqi army our leaders, in effect, did much to recruit the insurgency. By bringing far too few troops to secure Saddam's enormous arms depots they armed it. By bringing too few to keep order they presided over the looting and overwhelming violence and social disintegration that provided the insurgency such fertile soil. By blithely purging tens of thousands of the country's Baathist elite, whatever their deeds, and by establishing a muscle-bound and inept American occupation without an "Iraqi face," they created an increasing resentment among Iraqis that fostered the insurgency and encouraged people to shelter it. And by providing too few troops to secure Iraq's borders they helped supply its forces with an unending number of Sunni Islamic extremists from neighboring states. It was the foreign Islamists' strategy above all to promote their jihadist cause by provoking a sectarian civil war in Iraq; by failing to prevent their attacks and to protect the Shia who became their targets, the US leaders have allowed them to succeed.Danner's review, which addresses State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III by Bob Woodward (Simon and Schuster, 560 pp., $30.00), The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11 by Ron Suskind (Simon and Schuster, 367 pp., $27.00) and State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, by James Risen (Free Press, 240 pp., $26.00), is well worth the read.