Marking the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, the New York Times has elicited a collection of nine short reflections on what went wrong from a group of notables including some who were proximately responsible for much of the mess that sprouted from the ashes of the Saddam Hussein regime in the aftermath of regime change.
The entire collection can, I think, be summarized in just two words: who knew?
L. Paul Bremer wonders who knew that the military had no plan to provide for the security of the Iraqi people?
Richard Perle wonders who knew the Bush Administration wouldn’t turn the rebuilding of Iraq over to the Iraqis?
Ken Pollack wonders who knew the Bush Administration was that arrogant?
Danielle Pletka wonders who knew that the benefits of liberal government weren’t as universally self-evident as they apparently are?
Anthony Cordesman wonders who knew that the Administration’s experts, himself included, could be so wrong?
The answer, clearly, is not the Bush Administration. And it’s also not Congress, as is pointed out in Paul Eaton’s contribution to the collection.
The collection is well worth reading. It won’t take you ten minutes—they’re all short.
One last observation on Richard Perle’s contribution. After a litany of reasons in support of the invasion Richard Perle asserts:
Should we leave him in place and hope for the best, or destroy his regime in a lightning strike and thereby end the risk that he might collaborate with terrorists to enable an attack even more devastating than 9/11?
As I see it the problem with this way of phrasing the available alternatives is that those weren’t the only alternatives. I sincerely believe that there were other ways of containing Saddam Hussein for a fraction of the cost. But that wouldn’t have been as bold, visionary, or romantic.