In its infinite wisdom, C-SPAN chose to commit this Hudson Institute panel to celluloid. Of course, I can’t get the dang video to work right, but I had the fortune to catch most of the panel last night on the teevee. Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, Dan Senor, and Peter Rodman got the old gang back together in an effort to pretend-examine What Went Wrong in Iraq.
The line that Feith advances is that we shouldn’t have done a, y’know, occupation. Wolfowitz supports this position, expressing amazement that “the term ‘occupation’ sticks with us today, even though the occupation ended in June 2004.” These are cute semantic games, but they’re an affront to reality. So Wolfowitz turns to this move, as reported by Eli Lake:
And I do think a real failure — I assign responsibility all over the place — was not having enough reliable Iraqi troops early enough and fast enough, because I think a sensible counterinsurgency strategy would not be to flood the country with 300,000 Americans, but rather to build up Iraqi forces among the population.
This sends Abu Muqawama, the pseudonymous U.S. military veteran and proprietor of a popular counterinsurgency blog, into apoplexy. What’s a real shame is that Lake’s own question, which was excellent, didn’t elicit a serious response. Lake observed that even under close tutelage from the Americans, galling depredations had been committed by the ISF, such as torture conducted by the Ministry of Interior, etc. Why, then, if we had handed more control over sooner, wouldn’t we have expected much more of this kind of thing to have happened?
Feith’s response? I’m paraphrasing here, but it was along the lines of “I just don’t think it would have.” So presumably under the Feith-Wolfowitz plan, we invade, grab Saddam, and then just turn the reins over to “external” Iraqi leader/charlatan Ahmed Chalabi and his band of 700 supporters? Or perhaps Wolfowitz meant his remark as an “assume a can-opener” joke? Wolfowitz’s claim that “a real failure…was not having enough reliable Iraqi troops early enough and fast enough” begs the question How on Earth could we have just had enough committed Iraqi troops “early enough and fast enough”???
Wolfowitz then ups the ante with his claim that “nobody could have foreseen the insurgency,” an insurgency which he attributes almost entirely to Saddam Hussein. Reading from Feith’s new book, Wolfowitz agrees with Feith that neither of them saw “a CIA assessment stating that after their ouster, the Ba’athists would be able to organize, recruit for, finance, supply, and command and control an insurgency, let alone an alliance with foreign jihadists.” This is an absurd over-attribution of responsibility for the insurgency to that Most Unitary of Evils, Saddam Hussein. As for who could have predicted that the intractable confessional disputes may have caused problems, Feith and Wolfowitz may want to look up Paul Pillar.
These points represent just the tip of the iceberg. Of course, if Hudson had had somebody on the panel who did not fundamentally agree on the basic justice, prudence, and strategic genius behind the war, all of this could have been exposed as nonsense in front of the cameras. But that’s not how the game is played, I guess.