The war over Iraq – not to be confused with the conflict actually taking place there – is back in the headlines. This week’s report to Congress by America’s top two emissaries in Baghdad, Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, will provide a backdrop for the momentous decisions to come concerning whether and how to pursue victory in Iraq.
Before the politicians and their constituents make such decisions about where we go from here, they should be sure to ground themselves in the facts about how we got to this point. After all, as George Santayana put it, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Fortunately, it has just become considerably easier to understand the history of the decision to make Iraq a central front in the larger War for the Free World and to dissect what was and was not done right – and how to achieve better results in the future. Today marks the publication of an extraordinary new book on the subject, War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terror, by former Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith.
Now, Doug Feith has been a valued friend and colleague of mine for twenty-five years. Consequently, I know him to be a man who is scrupulous in his command of the facts, exacting in his analysis and lucidly articulate in his writing.
Still, I was unprepared for the thoroughness of the documentation, the sweeping nature of the narrative and the highly readable prose with which War and Decision depicts the actions precipitated at the highest levels of the U.S. government by the 9/11 attacks. Particularly edifying are Mr. Feith’s exploration of the serious policy differences between various decision-makers and the material contribution those disagreements made to the way in which the preparation, execution and aftermath of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime went down.
In contrast to previous books and memoirs on the subject that have been published to date, Feith’s is not aimed at self-promotion or self-vindication. Neither is it an effort to settle scores with those who have, in some cases viciously, attacked the author in their own screeds.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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