Nearly two decades after the George W. Bush administration’s decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, a political scientist and strategist assesses the many flaws in that plan—and the planners.
In this riveting study, Mazarr (Unmodern Men in the Modern World: Radical Islam, Terrorism, and the War on Modernity, 2007, etc.), associate director of the Strategy and Doctrine Program at the Arroyo Center at the Rand Corporation, sees the ill-fated lunge into war—from the president’s hysterical response to 9/11 to the inability of his senior policy staff to glean the real warnings and risks of failure in the invasion—as less of a nefarious plot to deceive the nation and more of a badly misplaced expression of missionary zeal. The author systematically reviews the criteria of liability for legal negligence by government decision-makers in leading the nation into a costly, senseless war, and he notes how in nearly every instance, they failed in their tasks. Bush’s heedless decision to initiate a “global war on terror” was regarded as a “God-given mission” while he continued to “scoff at deep analysis.” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld arrogantly “did not ensure an adequate consideration of the postwar” issues. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was often sidelined by senior officials and failed to “take the bold actions” to convince the president of serious planning flaws. Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell simply “had his orders,” and Gen. Tommy Franks assured the president that the military leadership “had a plan” to get in and out quickly, and that “he had the postwar security situation all sewn up.” Mazarr also takes to task members of Congress for lack of due diligence in unearthing “evidence of a brewing fiasco” and the media for failing in its job of providing a check on government power and not “bothering to do much investigation,” especially regarding Hussein’s ostensible possession of nuclear weapons.
An excellent, cleareyed study that does not look for villains but rather lessons for a possible future situation in which “a government is in thrall to a moralistic sense of rightness.”