Paul Wolfowitz in the New York Times

I was astounded to find an Op-Ed by Paul Wolfowitz in today’s New York Times. The content of the piece is unremarkable – he suggests that we should use South Korea as a model for our future involvement in Iraq – but his mere presence in the newspaper is what I found shocking. Wolfowitz served as Deputy Secretary of Defense from 2001 to 2005. In that capacity, he was the prime architect of our disastrous incursion into Iraq and the shameful (and fictional) public relations scam that sold the American people on the necessity of that undertaking.

The ineptitude of Wolfowitz and his co-conspirators in failing to plan for the post-war occupation of Iraq, detailed by Thomas Ricks in Fiasco and George Packer in The Assassins’ Gate, was grossly negligent and led to the death and injury of thousands of brave American soldiers whose sacrifice salvaged the Bush-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz mess in Iraq into the somewhat stable situation that exists today (stable for how long is another story). While Iraq may give the appearance of stability, the progeny of Wolfowitz’s destructive policies persist: if we had kept our focus on Afghanistan – the place where the terrorists who attacked us had come from – instead of shifting the bulk of our resources to the ill-fated occupation of Iraq, we might not be stuck in the quagmire that Afghanistan is today.

It probably should come as no surprise that the New York Times is assisting Wolfowitz’s rehabilitation. The Times, after all, completely abdicated its journalistic responsibility back then and became a willing participant in the Team Bush propaganda machine that so shamefully deceived the American public. All of this is an episode that Wolfowitz, the Times and countless others (especially the spineless Democrats in Congress who knew voting for war was a mistake but who couldn’t summon the courage to go against public opinion polls) would like us to forget. Please don’t.

NOTE: I’ve purposefully omitted a link to the Wolfowitz piece because I don’t want to reward him or the Times with a link. It’s easy enough to find if you want to read it.

11 Responses to Paul Wolfowitz in the New York Times

  1. C R Krieger says:

    OK, I’ve got all that.  And, when he was the Kennan Chair at National War College he did ZIP.

    All that said, is the analogy of Korea and Iraq correct, or even plausible?

    This is a very important question.  If he is correct, then we need to settle down for a long term effort to support Iraq.  We will endure some pretty bad Governments by our own standards, but in the end it will be a very good thing.

    If not, then it is cut and run time.

    And, if it is cut and run time, that suggests to me that we need to get ready for serious problems in the future in that neighborhood.

    About twenty years ago Rand Corporation came out with a small series of exercises called “The Day After”.  There is always a day after.  There are no “final solutions” in international affairs.

    Regards  —  Cliff

  2. DickH says:

    What to do with Iraq going forward is complicated and extremely important but that’s not the point of this post. I mostly wanted to express my outrage at Wolfowitz’s attempt to begin his rehabilitation with something like this Op-Ed and the Time’s concurrence in that effort.

  3. PaulM says:

    I see this as part and parcel of the troubled national psyche since 9/11, when the political decision-makers, at least the majority, and many leading opinion-makers opted to support putting the country on a war footing (“the war on terror”) as a response to the heinous crimes rather than treating the assault as a case of mass murder perpetrated by an “organized crime” entity infused with extreme religious views. In short order the US and some allies invaded two countries considered to be associated with the criminals, Afghanistan for sure and Iraq not so sure but accused of complicity. There was no “state” to be at war with when taking on al Qaeda. It’s a multi-national criminal gang of religious extremists. Why wasn’t this a job for the FBI, CIA, Scotland Yard, Interpol, and their counterparts around the world instead of the army, navy, air force, and marines of the coalition partners? Once men and women of the military were injected into the fight, all kinds of issues related to nationalism, patriotism, loyalty to country, and such came into play and got mixed into policy-making, strategy, and public opinion. We started down the path of regime change and nation-building rather than staying focused on apprehending and punishing the criminals.

  4. Michael Luciano says:

    This line from Wolfowitz was by far the funniest:

    …”Iraq occupies a key position in the Persian Gulf, a strategically important region of the world — a position that is all the more important because of the dangerous ambitions of Iran’s rulers.”

    Only an American diplomat steeped in the echo chamber of “American Exceptionalism” could keep a straight face while decrying Iranian “ambitions” for the region at a time when his country has tens of thousands of troops occupying two of Iran’s neighbors.

  5. JoeS says:

    From the Wolfowicz doctrine (before being tamed in the official release) in 1992.

    “In the Middle East and Southwest Asia, our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the region and preserve U.S. and Western access to the region’s oil.”

  6. DickH says:

    My memory is that during the summer of 2001 – before 9/11 – I felt the dominant foreign policy concern was the frequent flareups of violence between the Israelis and the Palestinians. I remember thinking “Bush really has to get a handle on this or it will get out of hand.” And then 9/11 happened.

    In the aftermath of the recent financial collapse, we often heard people say “Don’t let a crisis go to waste.” I suspect Wolfowitz, et al, felt the same way about Iraq and 9/11. I believe that history will show that their true objectives in invading Iraq were to (1) get control of a lot of oil and (2) install a pro-Israel regime in the region (the latter reason helps explain why the NYT was so accommodating in its coverage of the run up to the invasion). Fighting terrorists had nothing to do with the invasion of Iraq; that was just a pretext.

    When asked how he felt about all the foreign policy realists of the Bush I administration opposing the invasion, one of the Bush II neocons is said to have sneered: “We don’t need them; we make our own reality.” I still don’t know what bothers me more: their arrogance or their stupidity.

  7. C R Krieger says:

    I agree with PaulM, up to a point.  I don’t think that the FBI was going to be able to go into Afghanistan and arrest al Qaeda leaders and planners.  That was a job for the military or the CIA.  The first part of the operation in Afghanistan was a combined CIA and Special Forces operation with Air Force conventional support.  We might have stopped at that point, after telling the Taliban that we could return.

    As for DickH’s point about the true goals of the US WRT Iraq after 9/11, I think the second point (install a pro-Israel regime in the region (the latter reason helps explain why the NYT was so accommodating in its coverage of the r) is related to solving the Israeli/Palestinian problem and thus, indirectly, removing a source of trouble.  If, as the Bush II Administration was betting, Iraq turned to some form of a Democratic Government, then it would be an example to other Arab nations and thus might begin to undermine the autocratic regimes in the area, letting those People focus on improving their own conditions, rather than having Israel used as an excuse to keep everyone oppressed.

    And, this is an important and interesting thread.  The future is unexplored territory, and we navigate toward it by taking fixes from the past.

    Regards  —  Cliff

  8. DickH says:

    Cliff – Your second paragraph neatly sums up the hopes of the Bush II regime and, if it had a reasonable chance of working, I might not be as critical. But by ignoring 2000 years of history, that strategy was at best wishful thinking and more likely reckless disregard of reality. When has the invasion of a country in that part of the world by a western nation ever worked out well? And creating a functional democracy in a country with zero democratic traditions takes more than a decree from the occupying power.

  9. C R Krieger says:

    I agree with Dick that it was a faint hope, sort of like this next round of peace talks between Israel and Palestine.  But, I wish Secretary of State Clinton the best of luck with this one.  Miracles do happen.

    I have my own long term solution, but I keep it to myself, since no one will like it.  And it does not involve nuclear weapons, except as a deterrent.

    Regards  —  Cliff