Shorter David Frum
: If Bush had done it the way PNAC
and the American Enterprise Institute
told him he should have done it, we'd all be sniffing roses right now. Oh by the way, none of it is my fault.
George Mascolo interviewed David Frum who, at one point at least, thought George W. Bush was the right man
for the job. Apparently, Bush just wasn't enough of a neo-con to get the job done right.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Frum, five years ago you coined the now world famous term "Axis of Evil."
David Frum: A presidential speech is always the work of many hands. When the president makes the decision to accept it, these are his words. We were in the middle of a very big debate. Did the United States and the Western allies have a problem with al-Qaida, or did they face a larger threat from Islamic extremism combined with weapons of mass destruction? The president took the view that this is a bigger problem, that we are dealing with a whole network of countries who together will develop over time access to terrible weapons. He was trying to broaden people's focus in that speech.
Right. Because from that moment onward, al Qaeda would show up wherever the Bush administration was wont to go, including Iraq, Iran or Syria.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Initially, only Iran and Iraq were slated for membership. What prompted the inclusion of North Korea, a country which has no significant Muslim community?
Frum: With the concerns clearly defined, it was very difficult not to mention North Korea since they are such a blatant case. But I think there was one critical failure: Not to consider at all Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Oh... oops! How did that
slip out?! Oh can you imagine the suffering? All those Hummers sitting on blocks as Saudi oil dried up.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: That sounds like a really late excuse.
Frum: If you are looking for states that sponsor terrorism, I think there is no state in the world that has a worse record than Pakistan. And if you are concerned about the spread of extremist ideology, there is no state in the world that has a worse record than Saudi Arabia. So, if you are going to criticize what we did and said five years ago, the question should be how can you omit Pakistan and Saudi Arabia?
Because it is
an excuse. The mistake Frum is talking about here is not executing the plan the real
neo-cons had in mind - World War III.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The simple answer is probably: Because they were and they are close American allies.
Frum: There was too much readiness to believe that Pakistan wanted to completely cooperate with the West, and that is a big part of the problem in Afghanistan. And if terrorists ever get their hands on a really terrible weapon, the history of that weapon will ultimately be traced back to Pakistan. Saudi Arabia has been very helpful in many ways, but if you are thinking about the people who put gas bombs on German trains, they get their ideas from teachers paid by the Saudi government.
Jeez!! Some revelation that is. And how suddenly did a neo-con come to the sudden realization that Saudi Arabia was a problem?
SPIEGEL ONLINE: We don't remember anybody in Washington proposing to deal with Saudi Arabia instead of Iraq.
Frum: I would say that the story of the Bush Administration is the story of an administration caught halfway across the bridge; they did not want to face up to the magnitude of the problems. Its policies are premised on the assumption that we have a firm alliance with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. If it had been possible in 2001 to address the problem of Saudi Arabia, maybe there never would have been an Iraq war.
Oh. my. fucking. gawd. Halfway across a bridge?! If only the bear hadn't stopped to have a crap the dog would have caught the rabbit.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: This sounds hard to believe. So what would have been the appropriate reaction -- attacking Saudi Arabia?
Frum: No, not at all. But we should have faced up to the truth about what Saudi Arabia does and what it pays for. And the US and the other democracies do have the strength to demand that Saudi Arabia change its ways. It would not be too much to demand, for example, that the Saudi government cease financial support to religious missions beyond its own borders. No American administration has ever been willing to acknowledge the nature of the Saudi problem.
Which would have been a whole lot smarter than attacking Iraq, but what the hell, when you're mad, you're mad. You just have
to put your fist through the wall.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you think the President ever regretted the choice of words?"
Frum: President Bush is not a man for regrets, but the phrase does leave him with a problem. He committed himself in the most solemn possible way to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and yet the administration has no policy, even now. So he has this loose unguarded commitment without a policy to make it a reality.
Ummm. This is not news... is it?
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Back then it sounded like a scary unoffical task schedule for his presidency, and today Iraq is in chaos, North Korea a nuclear power and Iran obviously on its way. So is the doctrine still valid?
Frum: The fact that there has been little progress does not make the goal less urgent. It is my sense that, whereas five years ago Europeans often criticized Americans for trying to do too much, today they worry that Americans are doing too little.
Wow. You can cut the arrogance and the hubris with a machete. Actually it's not that Bush is doing too much
or too little
. It's that he's doing too much wrong
. We still don't have a good reason for invading Iraq.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The feeling in Europe seems to be much more, that by attacking Iraq, America lost the credibility to deal with the much more serious problems like North Korea and Iran.
Frum: That is a criticism that looks very powerful, five years later. One of the things the Bush Administration believed in 2002 was precisely that because Iraq was the weakest link it would be the easiest to deal with. The administration's plans were all premised on the idea that Iraq could be a success story, fairly quickly.
Was that the Mother Goose or the Brothers' Grimm plans? Given all the "intelligence" that was being spread around to sell the Bush administration ideas on Iraq, you'd have thought they would have looked at some, y'know, real
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Today, among the most fervent critics of the war in Iraq are the neocons, among them your friend Richard Perle. He said that if he had known how many mistakes the Bush Administration made, he would have been against the invasion. Are you distancing yourself from the war you supported so loudly?
Frum: That's a very difficult question. Let me say that terrible mistakes were made. There was discussion about handing over power to an Iraqi provisional government immediately. But we never did. The other plan that might have worked was a truly massive invasion with 300,000 men, and you had better prepare to stay a long time. The decision between these two plans was not made, so we ended up with an American occupation with only as many forces as were intended to support an Iraqi provisional government ...
Oh yeah. First, the little worm doesn't answer a direct question and then he goes on to blame the current problem on not using a plan that didn't exist.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: ... because there were many optimists among the neocons, who even did part of the so-called planning in the Pentagon, who even predicted a "cakewalk."
Frum: Whenever you discuss politics, it is always better to use individual names rather then the term neocon. The real misunderstanding was: Military war planners assumed that the United States could move in and encounter a functioning bureaucracy in a functioning state. It was the Japan parallel, that a thin layer of military people at the top working through a bureaucracy would be sufficent to run the country. But under the pressure of the sanctions of the 1990's the state collapsed and Saddam reverted to establishing a kind of feudal tribal regime. There was a sheik, and he was loyal, so he gave him Land Rovers and money. There was a sheik and he was not loyal. So he killed him.
A yes... the "cakewalk" was
the plan. Then... don't blame the neo-cons. It was only certain
neo-cons - the ones who did it wrong. And then the kicker. How is it the Bush administration did not know the state of Saddam's Iraq before they invaded it? Clearly, sanctions were working. But, Frum is trying to say that they didn't know this before they invaded Iraq. And, if he is telling us that they did know in 2002, it's clear Iraq didn't need to be invaded. Either way, Frum cannot justify his position.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The much too rosy assumptions even lead to the decision to kick out the members of the Baath party and send the Iraqi army home.
Frum: There are a lot of mysteries about the war, and one is where did those orders come from. Donald Rumsfeld insists he did not give them. Yet, Paul Bremer insists that he was carrying out an order given to him by somebody else.
And, hell, you'd think that Bremer would be able to identify the person who gave him the order. You know, from something like a police photo array. I guess that's the problem with "war presidents": they always wear disguises.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So do you come to the same conclusion regarding the Iraq disaster as Richard Perle?
Frum: I am not going to use that kind of language. All I will say in answer to that question is that I absolutely believed that Iraq was very close to acquiring weapons of mass destruction. And I have to think that the president shared that belief.
Hmmm... after he just finished telling us that Saddam had gone feudal. For what it's worth, anyone with a lottery ticket is very close to acquiring at least a million dollars.
This is a picture of a rat scrambling to find a way out of the sewer as the water starts to rise. Brought to you by the American Enterprise Institute where a plan is a terrible thing to waste time on.