Article on the anti-Bush neocons is published
The Vanity Fair article interviewing several prominent neocons who have broken with the administration over the conduct of the Iraq occupation is available in the January issue on newstands and online. Since the preview version of the piece that was posted online last month set off such a controversy, I am surprised that more hasn’t been made of the full version of the article. It is a most interesting read and I recommend it. My main take is as follows:
1. The men (and one woman) interviewed here overwhelmingly blame the administration’s “incompetence” as the reason the Iraq policy failed, rather than the underlying idea of the policy, which was to democratize Iraq and other Muslim countries. Therefore, while they sadly feel that the neoconservative policy of using American power to advance democratization has been dealt a severe blow (one of them says that neoconservatism is dead for at least a generation), they have not re-thought their basic ideology. It is as though they were saying that only “actually existing neoconservatism” has been discredited, since “real” neoconservatism hasn’t been tried yet.
2. Their credibility as critics of the administration is severely weakened by the fact that they waited until the Iraq policy was falling apart before everyone’s eyes, and even its conservative supporters were turning against it, before they came forward with these strong statements. Had they done so three years ago, they might have influenced public debate and even helped persuade the administration to change direction. In fact, they made no serious effort to inform the public on what they saw as the administration’s objectionable course of conduct until it was too late.
For example, last month in response to my earlier articles on the Vanity Fair interview, David Frum wrote to me and said that his colleague Richard Perle had opposed the Iraq policy. I did some searching, and found that Perle in talks and interviews in 2004 and 2005 repeatedly expressed his opposition to “occupation,” but you had to must read him carefully to find out that all he meant by “occupation” was the year-long Bremer pro-consulship, not the actual U.S. occupation of Iraq, as I explained here.
As another example of belated criticisms, Kenneth Adelman tells Vanity Fair:
“[T]he most dispiriting and awful moment of the whole administration was the day that Bush gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to [former C.I.A. director] George Tenet, General Tommy Franks, and Jerry [Paul] Bremer—three of the most incompetent people who’ve ever served in such key spots. And they get the highest civilian honor a president can bestow on anyone! That was the day I checked out of this administration. It was then I thought, There’s no seriousness here. These are not serious people. If he had been serious, the president would have realized that those three are each directly responsible for the disaster of Iraq.”
Did Adelman indicate this at the time? I’m not aware of that. Adelman says the president is not serious. Where is Adelman’s seriousness? (Look at what I said about the Medal of Freedom going to Tenet.)
All in all, one cannot say that Perle, Frum, Adelman, Gaffney, Cohen, Rubin, et al. have covered themselves with honor and glory.
My blog entries responding to the preview version of the Vanity Fair article last month are: