On Monday, The New York Times reported that growing numbers of conservatives are turning against President Bush on Iraq. This follows an inarticulate defense of the Iraq operation by Bush in a press conference last week and growing attacks on our troops. It is now becoming increasingly clear that the basic rationale for the war was not well thought through and that postwar planning was deeply flawed at a minimum. These may result from a basic weakness in this White House's policy-making and decision-making processes.
I have to say that my own feelings on the war parallel those of many others who previously supported the war but now feel deep misgivings. Although I don't often write on foreign policy, I felt I had an obligation to take a stand on Iraq before the war started. In a February 2003 column, I reluctantly supported the war because at the time I thought there was credible evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. With that country being ruled by a lunatic dictator with known ties to terrorist groups, I felt that President Bush deserved the benefit of a doubt.
Since then, I have been very disturbed by the lack of WMD's. I am not yet convinced that President Bush manufactured evidence for their existence as a pretext for war. But I do believe that he has fostered a White House culture that contributes to error with a stifled internal debate, a decision-making process that seems to short circuit research and analysis, and an obsession with loyalty and secrecy that makes the Nixon White House appear as a model of openness and transparency.
In this respect, I have been strongly influenced by Ron Suskind's recent book, "The Price of Loyalty," which was based on interviews with former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and thousands of internal documents provided by him. That book paints a picture of an administration in which it appears that President Bush often makes key decisions with little if any analysis or discussion among those with the job of implementing those decisions.
In short, President Bush often seems to operate like the character from "Alice in Wonderland" who declared, "Sentence first -- verdict afterwards." Instead of figuring out why and how things should be done before acting, the White House seems to act first and then create ex post facto rationalizations for that decision in lieu of serious deliberation.
Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.
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