This sounds a bit like the asinine theory that tells us U.S. foreign policy made 19 jihadists attack us on 9/11. But isn't there also something a little goofy about the notion that if only the United States hadn't run an occupation government for a year, everything in Iraq would be hunky-dory? Not surprisingly, the CPA's Senor didn't agree with the Feithian proposition, arguing that the lack of a U.S. counterinsurgency strategy was a bigger problem. He didn't get much argument that this was a problem; indeed, Wolfowitz agreed the United States was, as he put it a trifle breezily, "pretty much clueless on counterinsurgency."
The classic clueless moment, however, came later in answer to a question from the floor: Did the administration ever tell Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia to bar combatants from crossing their borders into Iraq -- or else? And if not ("not" is clearly the answer since these borders have been Grand Central Station for jihadists), why not? Wolfowitz owned up that the United States had said something or other at some point, but, overall, the consensus on the dais came down to a big, shrugging non-answer.
I got one of those answers myself, at least from Feith. I asked: What did these gentlemen think the United States would ultimately get out of Iraq in exchange for our massive investment of blood and treasure? And had they learned anything to make them doubt the president's often-repeated promise that Iraq would become an "ally" in the "war on terror"? Shrug. Not interested in answering.
Looking back, there was a narrowness in the scope of discussion that time constraints alone can't explain. It was as though the men believed every clue to heartbreak in Iraq could be found in the chain of events as they had already occurred -- in papers already generated, debates already argued, rounds of infighting already waged, decisions already executed. In other words, to these men, there would seem to be nothing new worth pondering -- like, for instance, the havoc Islamic ways wreak on Western-style nation-building.