Monday, October 24, 2005

The Old Heads revolt

Steve Clemons has excerpts of Brent Scowcroft's interview in the New Yorker that takes the Chimperial Disgustus to the proverbial woodshed.

To his credit, Scowcroft has long been on this path. As early as 2002 he was counseling, publicly, that this misadventure not be undertaken. However, no one in the Bush Administration listened. All the wise old heads were ignored.

But now, having been shown to be right, the criticism will sting badly. It's only problem being that it will get lost in the midst of Fitzmas.

In August of 2002, seven months before George W. Bush launched the invasion of Iraq, Scowcroft upset the White House with an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal. The headline read, "DON'T ATTACK SADDAM." Scowcroft would have preferred something more nuanced, he told me, but the words accurately reflected his message.


A common criticism of the Administration of George W. Bush is that it ignores ideas that conflict with its aims. "We always made sure the President was hearing all the possibilities," John Sununu, who served as chief of staff to George H. W. Bush, said. "That's one of the differences between the first Bush Administration and this Bush Administration."

I asked Colin Powell if he thought, in retrospect, that the Administration should have paid attention to Scowcroft's arguments about Iraq. Powell, who is widely believed to have been far less influential in policymaking than either Cheney or the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, said, pointedly, "I always listen to him. He's a very analytic and thoughtful individual, he's powerful in argument, and I've never worked with a better friend and colleague."

When, in an e-mail, I asked George H.W. Bush about Scowcroft's most useful qualities as a national-security adviser, he replied that Scowcroft "was very good about making sure that we did not simply consider the 'best case,' but instead considered what it would mean if things went our way, and also if they did not."

Notice the little shiv there from John Sununu AND Daddy Bush too?!


The disintegrating relationship between Scowcroft and Condoleezza Rice has not escaped the notice of their colleagues from the first Bush Administration. She was a political-science professor at Stanford when, in 1989, Scowcroft hired her to serve as a Soviet expert on the National Security Council.

Scowcroft found her bright -- "brighter than I was" -- and personable, and he brought her all the way inside, to the Bush family circle. When Scowcroft published his Wall Street Journal article, Rice telephoned him, according to several people with knowledge of the call. "She said, 'How could you do this to us?'" a Scowcroft friend recalled. "What bothered Brent more than Condi yelling at him was the fact that here she is, the national-security adviser, and she's not interested in hearing what a former national-security adviser had to say."

David Halberstam once wrote about Vietnam being a disaster despite -- and perhaps because of, the nation's "Best and the Brightest" not being in touch with reality.

What will the sequel to this be called, "The Best Bush Could do and the Cronyist?".

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