Congratulations to Douglas Feith

whose invaluable book, War and Decision, has just come out in paperback. The paperback edition touts Doug’s book as a Washington Post and New York Times bestseller. There’s some irony here, inasmuch as both newspapers declined to review War and Decision, and the Times rejected a series of news stories about the book submitted by its award-winning correspondent James Risen.

The MSM’s decision to ignore War and Decision was understandable. Through the painstaking use of documentary evidence, Feith destroys much of the false narrative the MSM labored so hard to assign to the Iraq war and the decisions surrounding it. The MSM apparently had no substantive response. In fact, Doug said today that, to his knowledge, no one has identified a single factual inaccuracy in the book. Under these circumstances, from the standpoint of the liberal MSM, the best approach was simply to ignore the book. Meanwhile, lefty bloggers limited themselves, as usual, to invective.

Looking back at the past six years, Feith finds plenty to criticize in Bush administration Iraq policy, including some of his own decisions. The administration’s major mistakes, he says, were the prolonged occupation and the failure to build up Iraqi forces quickly enough. Feith rejects the idea that the tactics underlying the surge — notably policing techniques that immersed our forces in Iraqi neighborhoods — could have succeeded in 2004, prior to the “Sunni awakening.” But my talks with folks who were policing Baghdad in 2005 and 2006, cause me to think that the “surge” techniques might well have been effective in that city a year or two before they were finally tried.

Feith takes satisfaction not just in the success of the surge, but also in the series of Iraqi elections since January 2005, including the provincial elections held just a few days ago. He is certain (as I am) that the rest of the region has noticed with envy that Iraqis get to select their leaders, and believes (as I do) that these sentiments will likely have a positive impact down the road.

Feith insists, however, that the invasion of Iraq was not about promoting democracy; rather it was intended to eliminate the threat the administration believed Saddam Hussein posed. The decision to promote democracy in Iraq was not the motive behind the invasion, but rather the answer to the question of what do we do in Iraq after we have toppled Saddam for other reasons. The claim that the administration took the U.S. to war to “impose” democracy in Iraq is, in fact, one of the many myths Feith destroys in War and Decision.

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