Thursday, March 27, 2003

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When hawks are wrong

Gideon Rose makes an excellent point in Slate this week -- if Operation Iraqi Freedom proves anything, it's that there's not a chance in hell Saddam Hussein's regime could have been toppled via arming and abetting the Iraqi National Congress. Which is what neoconservatives were suggesting in recent years. Rose has some devastating quotes from Richard Perle:

Back in 1998, Richard Perle claimed that 'It would be neither wise nor necessary for us to send ground forces into Iraq when patriotic Iraqis are willing to fight to liberate their own country.' If the United States were 'to give logistical support and military equipment to the opposition and to use airpower to defend it in the territory it controls,' the result would be 'a full-blown insurrection against Saddam.'

Later in the piece:

A good sense of what the hawks thought would happen can be found in an exchange that Perle had with Sen. Charles Robb at a Senate hearing in May 1998. When Perle claimed that 'once Basra changed hands' the situation on the ground and in the region would 'change dramatically,' Robb pressed him on how things would get to that point: 'Is someone going to have to physically stand on the Basra territory before this change in dynamic occurs? And if so, who is—which troops are going to accomplish that objective?' Perle replied, 'I think Iraqi opposition elements, with relatively light armament could accomplish that, provided they were backed up by air power.'

Let me add here that this is not a distortion of Perle's views -- I heard the same narrative from him when he gave a talk in Chicago last spring.

Rose's conclusion speaks for itself:

Because of the devastating military approach the administration has chosen, the outcome of the war is not in doubt, and victory may even (one hopes) come quite soon. But the war's progress to date is enough to put paid to the idea that Iraq was a paper tiger and that Saddam might have fallen quickly and easily to the less-than-daunting military prowess of the INC.


UPDATE: Richard Perle has resigned from the Defense Policy Board. Ordinarily I would say "Rose gets results!!" here, but I won't for two reasons. First, Perle resigned because of a lobbying imbroglio, not outside criticism. Second, in full disclosure I must say I know Gideon reasonably well and trust me, the last thing the man needs is more fulsome praise.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan links to a prominent non-hawk who also thought "this war is going to be over in a flash." If you keep reading, you'll see that not all the neocons bought into the Perle line of reasoning.

posted by Dan on 03.27.03 at 09:15 PM