Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Mark Danner Article a 'Must Read'

Mark Danner has written an excellent article for The New York Review of Books on the decision-making background to the Iraq War. The article starts slowly but gets to some real meat in Part 4 and 5.
Anyone wanting to answer the question of "how we began" in Iraq has to confront the monumental fact that the United States, the most powerful country in the world, invaded Iraq with no particular and specific idea of what it was going to do there, and then must try to explain how this could have happened.
This is indeed the question I have asked myself again and again, how could we have gone into this without a postwar plan? I have often been most tempted to blame Rumsfeld because he was given so much control over the whole effort, war and postwar. However, Danner writes:
Irresistible as Rumsfeld is, however, the story of the Iraq war disaster springs less from his brow than from that of an inexperienced and rigidly self-assured president who managed to fashion, with the help of a powerful vice-president, a strikingly disfigured process of governing.... Ron Suskind, who has been closely studying the inner workings of the Bush administration since his revealing piece about Karl Rove and John Dilulio in 2003 and his book on Paul O'Neill the following year, observes that "the interagency" not only serves to convey information and decisions but also is intended to perform a more basic function: "Sober due diligence, with an eye for the way previous administrations have thought through a standard array of challenges facing the United States, creates, in fact, a kind of check on executive power and prerogative." This is precisely what the President didn't want, particularly after September 11; deeply distrustful of the bureaucracy, desirous of quick, decisive action, impatient with bureaucrats and policy intellectuals, the President wanted to act....

Suskind... argues that Bush and Cheney constructed precisely the government they wanted: centralized, highly secretive, its clean, direct lines of decision unencumbered by information or consultation. "There was never any policy process to break, by Condi or anyone else," Richard Armitage, the former deputy secretary of state, remarks to Suskind. "There was never one from the start. Bush didn't want one, for whatever reason."
To me this has the ring of truth. During the 2000 election the press was thoroughly preoccupied with 'who you'd rather have a beer with', Bush or Gore. Well, we got the guy the press would rather have a beer with and we got a singularly incompetent president who will likely go down in history as close to our worst. I really suspect Bush has immeasurably increased the 'decline' of America as a 'Great Power'. Read Danner's article, there's a lot more. This article focuses upon what I think are the key questions in understanding the Iraq War: 1) why was there no postwar plan? 2) who decided to order de-baathification and disband the Iraqi military and why? The article provides some of the best thinking I've seen on these key questions.

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