Eric, I don't disagree with what you say regarding Danner. I knew the Nation Building phase wasn't going smoothly and remembered Sandra Mackey's prediction and wondered if anyone in the administration had read her book. I didn't comment on these matters because they pertained to how Phase Four could have been handled better. My counterfactual interest had to do with the situation before Phase One. I have never heard anyone discuss this. Maybe it isn't worth discussing. Maybe we couldn't do Realpolitik in such a ruthless manner, even though it might be less ruthless in the long wrong than what we choose to do. The same thing is true about the counterfactual pertaining to assassinating Hitler. We could have saved millions of lives. We could have prevented the holocaust, but we couldn't assassinate Hitler. For one thing we had disarmed ourselves and hadn't the means to do it. For another it is too out-of-character for us. We aren't that ruthless or farseeing despite what we see in conspiracy-theory movies. Maybe a democracy can't always do what is best for it. One of the guiding ideas of the Neocons is that we should do what is in our national interest. That should be, if not an absolute principle, at least a guiding or operating principle. If our administrations have choices, they should do what is in our national interest. The Neocon movement is idealistic. It is evangelistic about democracy. It would not consider the counterfactual I have been trying to consider. But the earlier Realpolitik of Kissinger might consider it. I'll bet that if Kissinger were on Lit-Ideas he'd respond to my question. In regard to the assassination of Hitler, Kissinger might say do it, but do it only if you won't get caught and it won't become public. In regard to the support of Saddam Hussein, he might say there is no way that could be done because it goes against our national principles. We do not cozy up to brutal dictators because it goes against our beliefs. Yes, we did it during the cold war, but that was different. We only did it to keep these brutal dictators from assisting our chief enemy the Soviet Union. It didn't mean we approved of what they were doing, and as soon as the Cold War was over we quit doing it. So I'm not suggesting we could have supported Saddam without the pretext of the Cold War - anymore than I am suggesting that we could have assassinated Hitler. We were (and still are) not mentally equipped or conditioned to do either. So we operate in accordance with our principles, Hitler slaughters huge numbers in Europe, and kills millions of Jews. Later on when it might have been better (in the long run) to leave a Hitler-wannabe alone, we take him out, even though leaving him in might have saved us a lot of trouble. Again, I am not advocating these things, but I am interested in them. Why can't we do them? Is it because we are democracies? Is it our Christian heritage? Is it because we aren't willing to look with jaundiced eye at what is out there and what might be in our best interest - even though countless movies and TV shows have depicted a Machiavellian CIA or other government agency which does exactly that? That is another interesting aspect of my counterfactual. Others have thought (negatively) that we have been doing all along something like what I want to consider - even though the CIA was eviscerated during the Clinton administration and may still not be up to doing the job it was created to do, let alone the Machiavellian machinations of the movies. No doubt I am risking a tangent here. Some people on Lit-Ideas can get into this, the hypothetical excesses of Homeland security, but I don't want to get into that. I am only interested in this one counterfactual: What would our present world have been like if we had supported Saddam Hussein prior to the First Gulf War? We sided with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia instead of Saddam. How do you like your Saudi and Kuwaiti friends now, Mr and Mrs America and all the ships at sea - not to mention everything else in the Middle East? Lawrence -----Original Message----- From: Eric Yost Sent: Tuesday, May 20, 2008 8:50 PM To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: Mark Danner and Realpolitik Lawrence, I have no objection to parsing the Iraq Invasion as part of one continuous war that began under Bush, Sr. On the other hand, what impressed me about Danner's article is the way he explicated the Iraq occupation mistakes pre-Petraeus, which were not rooted in de-Baathification per se, but in purely structural errors, organizational errors of the kind a more managerial President would have avoided. He quotes Colin Powell: "...You have to understand that when you have two chains of command and you don't have a common superior in the theater, it means that every little half-assed fight they have out there, if they can't work it out, comes out to one place to be resolved. And that's in the Pentagon. Not in the NSC or the State Department, but in the Pentagon." "[H]ow could U.S. officials," asks Danner, "repeatedly and consistently make such ill-advised and improbably stupid decisions, beginning with their lack of planning for the "postwar.'?" Danner continues, "The Iraq occupation would have all the weaknesses of two chains of command, weaknesses that became apparent [when Sanchez and Bremer took over], leaving the occupation in the hands of two officials who despised one another and hardly spoke."