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October 24, 2004

Even with hindsight, Kerry can't decide

Bob Woodward wrote a book that came out this year called Plan of Attack, the writing of which involved deep questioning of Bush on why he made the decisions he did. Bush was very candid and spoke with Woodward for more than three and a half hours.

Woodward requested to give the same questions to John Kerry, to allow him to explain how his diplomacy would have been different. Kerry would have the benefit of hindsight, of course, so it would not be a very fair comparison with the decisions Bush made. The Kerry team was initially receptive to the idea, but have now backed down. Perhaps this 'plan' Kerry keeps talking about doesn't really exist?

The questions are quite interesting. Getting things ready for war involves numerous difficult decisions. Those (like Kerry) who trot out one error or miscalculation to 'prove' that the 'plan' for the war was a disaster are attempting to mislead their audience. Here's a few of the things Bush dealt with and the questions Kerry refused to answer:

10. In November-December 2002, major U.S. force deployments began but were strung out to avoid telling the world that war was all but inevitable and that diplomacy was over. Rumsfeld told the president that the large U.S. divisions could be kept in top fighting shape for only two to three months without degrading the force.

Questions: How might a President Kerry have handled this? What is the role of momentum in such a decision-making process?

11. On Dec. 21, 2002, CIA deputy John McLaughlin gave a major presentation to the president on the intelligence evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The president was not impressed and asked where the good, strong intelligence was. CIA Director George Tenet twice assured the president that the WMD case was a "slam dunk."

Questions: What might a President Kerry have done when he smelled weakness in an intelligence case?

12. On Jan. 9, 2003, the president asked Gen. Franks: What is my last decision point? Franks said it would be when Special Forces were put on the ground inside Iraq.

Question: Had the president already passed his last decision point when he ordered such a large military deployment and such extensive CIA covert action to support the military?

13. Around this time, in January 2003, Rumsfeld told the president that he was losing his options, and that after he asked U.S. allies to commit forces, it would not be feasible to back off. Rumsfeld asked to brief the Saudi ambassador, Prince Bandar bin Sultan. Vice President Cheney, Gen. Richard Myers and Rumsfeld briefed Bandar on Jan. 11, 2003, telling him "You can count on this" -- i.e., war.

Questions: Do you agree with Rumsfeld's assessment? Andy Card, the Bush White House chief of staff, thought the decision to go to war was not irrevocable, that Bush could pull back, though the consequences would be politically expensive. How does a president credibly threaten force without taking steps that make the use of force almost inevitable? Should foreign governments be briefed in this way?

Very interesting stuff. And unlike Kerry's pronouncements, it all takes place in the real world.

Posted by Bruce Gottfred at October 24, 2004 08:06 PM | TrackBack
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