May 20, 2004

Gaddis at the CFR

A must-read Q&A with Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis.

I won't excerpt much here. Do go read the whole thing.

But do note how Gaddis punctures much of the hyperbole surrounding the September 2002 NSS (that it celebrated radical, unilateral preemptive gunslinging with gross abandon):

"It was also interesting for a reason that has been largely forgotten in the wake of Iraq events, and that was the extent to which it was multilateral in character. There was a surprising amount about multilateralism in this document. It was quite clear--the document made it very clear that, if multilateral action is not possible, the United States will proceed unilaterally. And that is what has gotten most of the attention. But the intent was to try to build an international consensus in support of going after both terrorists and tyrants, and to do this on a multilateral basis. That was the original conception. And pre-emption was the novelty that was here, because this was something that had not been visible--it was never absent, but it was not visible in our strategies during the Cold War."

Later, on another topic, a questioner (an old boss!) queries:

QUESTIONER: James Sitrick, Coudert Brothers. You said your problem was not with the grand strategy, but that there seemed to be too little thinking about what to do when the dog caught the car afterwards.

GADDIS: Right.

QUESTIONER: It's my understanding that the State Department spent a couple years thinking about this and reporting on it, but that when President Bush gave control of postwar Iraq to the Defense Department, the State Department studies were rejected and discarded. Is that your understanding?

GADDIS: That is largely my understanding as well. And this is where a lot of my concern at present resides, is with the dominance of the Defense Department over our strategy. Because it seems to me that the track record has not been good in this regard. And I think there are two particular areas of concern that are very much, or ought to be very much, on our minds now. One is the policy on the treatment of prisoners, which goes well beyond what happened in Baghdad, but it's the whole international legal position on the status of prisoners, which is something that comes out of the Defense Department, and is--I think there's every reason for concern because of the precedents and the problems that this is likely to cause us in the future, it seems to me. So I'm extremely worried about that aspect of the situation.

"The other is what seems to me to be a gap that is developing between the attitudes of the civilian leadership in the Pentagon and the professional military. And we only see glimmers of this, but if you watched the testimony of Wolfowitz the other day, or [the testimony of Major] General [Antonio] Taguba and [Under] secretary [of Defense for Intelligence Stephen] Cambone, you see distance between these two. You see signals being misunderstood. You see a different story. You see the military be a lot more candid about what's going on, and saying there are real problems here. And you see less of a tendency on the part of the civilian leadership in the Pentagon. This is not healthy for the civilian leadership in the Pentagon to be at odds with the military leadership. And these are the two great grounds for concern that I have about the Rumsfeld Pentagon and the way it's being run right now."

Needless to say, Gaddis has a lot of company on these concerns, B.D. included.

Posted by Gregory at May 20, 2004 11:20 PM
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