Stepping Over The Bodies

We’ve all noted here that the fiercest proponents of the Warlord’s catastrophic foreign policy largely are unscathed and continue to flourish professionally, financially and personally. So, too, with ‘mainstream’ news organizations which confused their interests in a nation or other region with American national interests.

The WaPo long ago became an obvious Neocon booster, particularly its Op-Ed pages. It still largely is, although the editorial board slyly papers over some of its early enthusiasms with carefully parsed posing. But if one remembers the past and reads the present, the cracks are still there, allowing one to see Fred Hiatt in all his intellectual squalor.

Echo Chamber

No surprise then that the WaPo assigned Max Boot, Neocon youngling, intellectual poseur and amateur military historian, to write a review of General Sanchez’ new book, “Wiser in Battle.” Boot continues the Line that Sanchez was in over his head, a whiner and overly emotional (all damning for both the real military and their jealous geek wannabes in their air conditioned hallways of D.C., where screen savers still blurt “SPPPPAAAAARRRTAAAANS!! — an eternity ago in pop culture terms. (Whenever we’ve run into that crowd, it is almost inevitable that one one of them will boast that their 18 year old (or second nephew twice removed) signed up — as if that somehow transfers to them. Sad beyond the telling of it)).

What we don’t get here from Boot is any analysis. What of Sanchez’ observations? What really happened at Fallujah? How significant was it? Where did the micromanagement — the famous 8,000 mile screwdriver — from 37 year old kids on the NSC and Rumsfeld have the impact? Boot is unable or unwilling to say. In fact, he provides no analytical framework of his own to the Sanchez tome. This review is not unlike his own largely panglossian and deeply flawed book; Boot prefers peddling others’ content. Boot is merely a clumsy assassin, leaving his prints, the weapon and his cellphone at the scene of his botched hit.


By contrast, Thomas Powers, whom we have always held in high regard, shows exactly what is missing from Boot’s clumsy mau mau. Powers synthesizes several works and provides an over arching analysis on the war in Iraq. Much of what he writes appears to validate Sanchez’s claim, even if Sanchez, too, was a willing and culpable participant:

Lesson Number Two emerged that autumn back at the Pentagon, where Rossmiller was a rising member of the Office of Iraq Analysis. In the months running up to the Iraqi elections in December 2005, Rossmiller and other DIA analysts all predicted that Iraqis were going to “vote identity” and the winners would be Shiite Islamists, who were already running the government. President Bush and the US ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, publicly predicted the opposite—secularists were gaining, the Sunnis were going to vote this time, a genuine “national unity government” would end sectarian strife, the corner would be turned as the war entered its fourth year.

Rossmiller soon realized that this was not simply a difference of opinion. Nobody dared to tell the President he was wrong, either to his face or in an official report. This timidity ran right down the chain of command from the White House to Rumsfeld to the director of the DIA, ever downward level by level until it reached the analysts actually working the data. “You’re being too pessimistic,” they were told. “We can’t pass this up the chain . . . . We need to make sure we’re not too far off message with this.”

Some analysts protested and watched their careers sputter; most retreated into bitter humor. Reports were rewritten to support official hope. On the very eve of the Iraqi election a briefing was concocted to “report” that Islamists were worrying about a late surge by some administration favorite, as if a roomful of nodding heads at a briefing in the Pentagon were somehow going to carry the election in Iraq. Watching this exercise in magical thinking and self-delusion convinced Rossmiller that under Rumsfeld intelligence itself was “still broken” nearly three years into the war—an expensive charade to find or predict whatever the White House wanted.

As Powers then notes, after arming the Sunni ‘Awakening Councils’ to fight Al Qaeda for us in Anbar Province, we have now armed and financed the largest militia of them all — one poised for conflict with the Shia government over broken promises. Surge or no surge, the concept of reconciliation appears farther away than ever.

Even in an overview format, Boot simply fails to put *the time, let alone the man (Sanchez)* into an analytical perspective. All the more reason to hold Richard Haas and the debased Council on Foreign Relations in contempt for promoting Boot. Well, one supposes it could be worse. They haven’t named Boot the Editor-in-Chief of the now largely (and deservedly) unread Foreign Affairs yet.

Here’s how Powers sees either a Crown Prince or HRC Administration going forward:

Getting out of Iraq will require just as much resolution as it took to get in—and the same kind of resolution: a willingness to ignore the consequences. The consequence hardest to ignore will be the growing power and influence of Iran, which Bush has described as one of the two great security threats to the US. Israel shares this view of Iran. No new president will want to run the risk of being thought soft on Iran. This is where the military error exacts a terrible price. A political conflict transformed into a military conflict requires a military resolution, and those, famously, come in two forms—victory or defeat. Getting out means admitting defeat.

s it possible that the new president will have that kind of resolution? I think not; to my ear Clinton and Obama don’t sound drained of hope or bright ideas, determined to cut losses and end the agony. Why should they? They’re coming in fresh from the sidelines. Getting out, giving up, admitting defeat are not what we expect from the psychology of newly elected presidents who have just overcome all odds and battled through to personal victory. They’ve managed the impossible once; why not again? Planning for withdrawals might begin on Day One, but the plans will be hostage to events.

At first, perhaps, all runs smoothly. Then things begin to happen. The situation on the first day has altered by the tenth. Some faction of Iraqis joins or drops out of the fight. A troublesome law is passed, or left standing. A helicopter goes down with casualties in two digits. The Green Zone is hit by a new wave of rockets or mortars from Sadr City in Baghdad. The US Army protests that the rockets or mortars were provided by Iran. The new president warns Iran to stay out of the fight. The government in Tehran dismisses the warning. This is already a long-established pattern. Why should we expect it to change? So it goes. At an unmarked moment somewhere between the third and the sixth month a sea change occurs: Bush’s war becomes the new president’s war, and getting out means failure, means defeat, means rising opposition at home, means no second term. It’s not hard to see where this is going.

We are committed in Afghanistan. We are not ready to leave Iraq. In both countries our friends are in trouble. The pride of American arms is at stake. The world is watching. To me the logic of events seems inescapable. Unless something quite unexpected happens, four years from now the presidential candidates will be arguing about two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, one going into its ninth year, the other into its eleventh. The choice will be the one Americans hate most—get out or fight on.


  1. says

    Thomas Powers continues to impress me. I remember reading Heisenberg’s War: The Secret History of the German Bomb (1993) and knowing he was a Pulitzer class writer. Always respect his writings and research. Sometimes I see a parallel in his writing style with yours Dr. Strauss. Keep up the good posts!

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