Sunday, February 2
The Brains Behind Bush's War
Todd S. Purdum, New York Times, February 1, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 — Any history of the Bush administration's march toward war with Iraq will have to take account of long years of determined advocacy by a circle of defense policy intellectuals whose view that Saddam Hussein can no longer be tolerated or contained is now ascendant.

Like the national security experts who were the intellectual architects of the Vietnam War, men like McGeorge Bundy, Walt W. Rostow and others branded "The Best and the Brightest" in David Halberstam's ironic phrase, these theorists seem certain to be remembered, for better or worse, among the authors of the most salient evolution of American foreign policy since the end of the cold war: the pre-emptive attack.

At the center of this group are longtime Iraq hawks, Republicans like Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz; Richard Perle, a former Reagan administration defense official who now heads the Defense Policy Board, the Pentagon's advisory panel; and William Kristol, who was chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle and now edits the conservative Weekly Standard.

.... "The Vietnam War was not the brainchild of three or four people," said Mr. Kagan, whose new book "Of Paradise and Power: America vs. Europe in the New World Order," has just been published by Knopf. "It was a product of a whole way of thinking about the world. It was, for better or worse, the logical consequence of the policy of containment. And the breadth and depth of support for American policy in Vietnam, certainly in the elite intellectual class, was enormous: journalists, government, policy. Let's not suggest that this was somehow just the Bundys or Walt Rostow. This was national consensus."

One difference in the current debate over Iraq is that intellectual consensus is not so widespread. Indeed, as Michael O'Hanlon, a defense policy expert at the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution, noted, "If you look at nongovernmental experts on Iraq or use of force, what is striking is that pure academics are almost uniformly against the war, but people who have been in government or Washington think tanks tend to be, on average, more supportive." .... (more)

.... The drive was often led by a group called the Project for the New American Century, which was started in 1997 by Mr. Kristol and others to promote robust American engagement in the world. In 1998, the group urged Mr. Clinton to adopt a "full complement" of diplomatic and military measures to remove Mr. Hussein, in a letter signed by Mr. Wolfowitz, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others who now hold senior administration jobs.

.... All the same, Mr. Kristol acknowledged in a telephone interview: "I do lie awake at night, worrying. Something could go wrong. Chemical weapons could be used against American troops. A biological weapon could be set off in an American city. I would still argue, I think, that this is a necessary thing to do. But having had some tiny role, I do feel some responsibility. I do."
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