Joe Conason's Journal

Remember Bush's promise never to undertake a foreign intervention without an exit strategy? That boast isn't holding up so well anymore.

By Salon Staff

Published September 3, 2003 8:31PM (EDT)

Washington's "grown-ups" -- and their big screw-ups Do you remember when the Bush administration was new, and its flacks assured us that "the grown-ups" had returned to power in Washington? And do you remember how the president and his claque told us that, unlike those people they replaced, this White House would never undertake a foreign intervention without an exit strategy?

Those boasts aren't holding up so well anymore, as we learn more every day about the ineptitude and arrogance that the Bush leaguers brought to their great Mesopotamian adventure.

Today's Washington Times, a bad newspaper with good defense sources, reports that it has obtained a "secret" Pentagon document analyzing the deficiencies and defects of the administration's Iraq planning. According to the paper's account, this report awarded three possible "grades" to each activity analyzed:

"The worst was 'capabilities that fell short of expectations or needs, and need to be redressed through new initiatives.' Getting this low grade were the postwar planning and the search for weapons of mass destruction, as well as the mix of active and reserve forces, and the troop deployment to the region." A higher grade was awarded to the public relations effort, however.

Speaking of lousy planning, Reuters reports that the Pentagon may have to reduce the commitment of American troops in Iraq by half or more. (Such news is especially troubling at a time when the Taliban is evidently regaining strength and renewing its alliance with al-Qaida.) That must be why -- having openly sneered at the United Nations and our doubting European allies for most of the past year -- President Bush has suddenly decided that we need their assistance after all.

Of course, Bush may also be worried by his declining poll numbers and what they portend in his bid for a second term (I don't use the term "reelect" to refer to him). As Robert Kuttner writes today:

"Bush's foreign policy is a shambles. The architects of the Iraq war have been proven wrong on every contention they made -- the imminent weapons of mass destruction, the alleged Saddam-al-Qaida connection, the supposed ease of occupation and reconstruction. Thumbing America's nose at 'old Europe' proved a major blunder. Bush now needs the United Nations to clean up his mess, but he is insisting on U.S. control ... This is a hornets' nest that Bush's policy stirred up. GIs are still getting killed for a war that the American public is turning against."

How did this happen? Ideology played an important part, as Joshua Micah Marshall explains elegantly here.
[2:00 p.m. PDT, Sept. 3, 2003]

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