So there I was, listening to a few of the major "architects" of the war in Iraq -- Paul Wolfowitz, formerly No. 2 man at the Pentagon under Donald Rumsfeld; Douglas J. Feith, formerly No. 3 man at the Pentagon under Rumsfeld; Peter Rodman, another former senior adviser to Rumsfeld; and Dan Senor, former senior adviser to Paul Bremer of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). They had assembled at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., for a discussion of Feith's new book, "War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism," but what they were drawn to discuss was what went wrong with the war in Iraq.
A rather large topic. Would it cover, perhaps, such grand themes as the multicultural Big Lie that insists Western ways may be grafted -- presto! -- onto Islamic cultures? Or maybe the difficulties inherent in the Western-style, humane projection of power against seventh-century terrorist barbarians?
The main discussion I heard turned more or less on one extremely narrow point of historic contention. It concerned the CPA rule of Iraq, which came to an end almost exactly four years ago. Wolfowitz and Feith, and Rodman to a less explicit degree, agreed that this period of American governance -- that is, the interlude before Iraq officially became sovereign -- was the fatal flaw, the fly in the ointment, the monkey wrench, the skunk at the garden party, the bad penny and overall cause of all of America's troubles in Iraq. It wasn't the overweening Bush administration plan for Jeffersonizing the Fertile Crescent, or our leaders' misreading of the "democratic ally" potential therein. It was the 14-month-reign of the CPA that caused all our woes. The CPA, the argument goes, in effect created the Sunni insurgency, which later gave rise to the Sunni-Shiite wars, and which ultimately required the added infusion of American troops known as the surge.
If I'm following this theory correctly, there is absolutely nothing in Iraqi history, politics, religion, sectarianism or culture that manifested itself in the bloody insurgency that followed the removal of Saddam Hussein. According to Feith & Co., it was only the American face on (and muscle behind) initial efforts to bring order, civil society and air conditioning to Iraq that made the newly ejected-from-power Sunnis (and others) organize, shoot, stab, blow up, maim and make violence a fact of Iraqi life to this day, four years into Iraqi sovereignty.
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