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Jewish World Review
April 8, 2008
/ 3 Nissan 5768
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
The war over Iraq not to be confused with the conflict
actually taking place there is back in the headlines. This week's
report to Congress by America's top two emissaries in Baghdad, Gen.
David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, will provide a backdrop for
the momentous decisions to come concerning whether and how to pursue
victory in Iraq.
Before the politicians and their constituents make such
decisions about where we go from here, they should be sure to ground
themselves in the facts about how we got to this point. After all, as
George Santayana put it, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed
to repeat it."
Fortunately, it has just become considerably easier to understand the
history of the decision to make Iraq a central front in the larger War
for the Free World and to dissect what was and was not done right and
how to achieve better results in the future. Today marks the
publication of an extraordinary new book on the subject, War and
Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terror, by
former Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith.
Now, Doug Feith has been a valued friend and colleague of mine for
twenty-five years. Consequently, I know him to be a man who is
scrupulous in his command of the facts, exacting in his analysis and
lucidly articulate in his writing.
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Still, I was unprepared for the thoroughness of the documentation, the
sweeping nature of the narrative and the highly readable prose with
which War and Decision depicts the actions precipitated at the highest
levels of the U.S. government by the 9/11 attacks. Particularly
edifying are Mr. Feith's exploration of the serious policy differences
between various decision-makers and the material contribution those
disagreements made to the way in which the preparation, execution and
aftermath of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime went down.
In contrast to previous books and memoirs on the subject that have been
published to date, Feith's is not aimed at self-promotion or
self-vindication. Neither is it an effort to settle scores with those
who have, in some cases viciously, attacked the author in their own
Rather, it is the first attempt by a serious student of history to lay
out the myriad, challenging choices confronting a president who, within
eight months of taking office, witnessed a devastating attack on this
country and resolved to prevent another possibly far more destructive
one from occurring. The considerations, the competing recommendations
and the presidential and Cabinet-level decisions that shaped the Bush
Administration's approach to the terrorist threat emanating from
state-sponsored networks are documented in an unvarnished, highly
Particularly interesting are the many points on which earlier tomes and
conventional wisdom are mistaken. For instance, Mr. Feith demonstrates
that the record simply does not support claims that: "Bush and his
hawkish advisors" were intent on waging war on Iraq from the get-go;
Rumsfeld and his "neo-cons" failed to prepare for post-war Iraq and that
the State Department had, only to have its plans spurned by the
Pentagon; and Feith's office tried to manipulate pre-war intelligence
about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Given how central many of
these myths are to the current criticism of the Iraq war, the
contradictory evidence deserves attention.
Even more critical to this week's congressional testimony and what
follows on Capitol Hill, on the hustings and, not least in Iraq are
Mr. Feith's insights into problems that continue to afflict America's
execution of the war. For example:
On issue after issue, George W. Bush's decisions on Iraq were
undermined by subordinates who opposed the president's policies. As
Feith charitably puts it, Mr. Bush "could...justly be faulted for an
excessive tolerance of indiscipline, even of disloyalty from his own
officials." This pattern continues with members of the intelligence
community, senior diplomats and even, until recently, a top military
officer routinely flouting presidential direction sometimes openly, on
other occasions through malicious leaks to the press.
There has been an abject failure to address competently and
comprehensively the ideological nature of our Islamofascist enemies and
their enablers. "...In the fight against terrorism, the effort to
counter ideological support remains a gaping deficiency. No one in the
Administration...is currently developing and implementing a
comprehensive strategy beyond public diplomacy." Congress has not
helped matters, by failing to confirm Jim Glassman or reconstituting a
dedicated organization like the U.S. Information Agency to do this work.
Most importantly, the costs of failures to act or win in
Iraq continue to be underestimated. "If and when major new terrorist
attacks occur in the United States, the public will reexamine the Bush
Administration's strategy for the war on terrorism. The likely
criticism then will not be that the President was too tough on the
jihadists, the Baathists and other state supporters of terrorism, but
that the Administration might have fought the terrorist network even
more intensely and comprehensively.
"No dereliction of statesmanship is as unpardonable as a failure to
protect the nation's security. If the head of government underreacts
when the country is threatened, history is not likely to excuse him on
the grounds that his excessive caution enjoyed bipartisan support."
Doug Feith has made important contributions to our nation's security for
three decades in public life and the private sector. If his splendid
War and Decision gets the reading it warrants, others will be more
likely to do so as well.
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JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Comments by clicking here.
BUY FRANK'S LATEST
"War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World"
America has been at war for years, but until now, it has not been clear with whom or precisely for what. And we have not been using the full resources we need to win.
With the publication of War Footing, lead-authored by Frank Gaffney, it not only becomes clear who the enemy is and how high the stakes are, but also exactly how we can prevail.
War Footing shows that we are engaged in nothing less than a War for the Free World. This is a fight to the death with Islamofascists, Muslim extremists driven by a totalitarian political ideology that, like Nazism or Communism before it, is determined to destroy freedom and the people who love it. Sales help fund JWR.
© 2006, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.