Monday, April 03, 2006

Historical Delusions

Via Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo we're reminded of last week's New Yorker "Talk of the Town" piece written by Steve Coll. It may not be archived on the web for long, so here are a couple of choice bits summarizing the latest Pentagon report about the Saddam's delusions -- and our own -- that misled us into the Iraq War:
Saddam “found it impossible to abandon the illusion of having W.M.D.,” the [U.S. Joint Forces Command] study says. The Bush war cabinet, of course, clung to the same illusion, and a kind of mutually reinforcing trance took hold between the two leaderships as the invasion neared.

When the opposing armies finally crashed into each other in the desert, the professional officers fighting the war had in common a rich disdain for the self-styled strategists who had sent them into battle. [Michael] Gordon and [Lieutenant General Bernard] Trainor’s extensive interviews with the Army and Marine generals and colonels who commanded the invasion show that they had almost as little faith in Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his aides as their Iraqi counterparts had in Saddam and his sons.

* * *

The President and the members of his war cabinet now routinely wave at the horizon and speak about the long arc of history’s judgment—many years or decades must pass, they suggest, before the overthrow of Saddam and its impact on the Middle East can be properly evaluated. This is not only an evasion; it is bad historiography. Particularly in free societies, botched or unnecessary military invasions are almost always recognized as mistakes by the public and the professional military soon after they happen, and are rarely vindicated by time. This was true of the Boer War, Suez, and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and it will be true of Iraq.
Coll has more. So does the current bi-monthly issue of Foreign Affairs, with its "special, double-length article... presenting key excerpts from the recently declassified book-length report of the USJFCOM Iraqi Perspectives Project."

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