A former member of both Bush administrations compares the two Iraq wars.
Now the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Haass (The Opportunity: America’s Moment to Alter History’s Course, 2005, etc.) is one of a very select group—which includes Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Bob Gates and Paul Wolfowitz—that was involved in making high-level decisions in both major Iraq conflicts. Haass makes the case that the 1991 war, spurred by Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, was a necessary and well-planned operation. The current Iraq conflict, he says, was a poorly executed war of choice. Haass backs up his assertions with firsthand knowledge. He was in the room when many of the initial plans were hashed out, for example, and he was standing next to Bush I when he famously said, “This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait.” Bush I’s foreign policy was of a more practical, “realist” bent, the author argues, and its aims during the first conflict were concerned with reestablishing the status quo in the region. Bush II and his circle, on the other hand, had much more ambitious, difficult and dangerous goals: They wanted to truly transform the Middle East, and do it in one bold stroke. Haass admires then–Secretary of State Powell for his caution during the 2003 rush to war, but it’s clear that Powell’s (and Haass’s) push for a more diplomatic approach with Iraq had few advocates in Bush II’s inner circle. The result, he argues, was slipshod war planning. Haass also astutely notes the two presidents’ differing management styles. While Bush I welcomed rigorous and inclusive policy debate, Bush II was far less careful and more informal, which, Haass argues, led to disastrous postwar oversight in Iraq.
A unique perspective on how war policy was formed by two very different presidents.