Saturday, March 13, 2004

Cheney's baby

James Mann, author of Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet, offers a revised version of the early history of the Iraq war plan in a piece for the Washington Post.

Astute commentators have long rooted the drive to Iraq in Paul Wolfowitz's 1992 Defense Policy Guidance plan. The DPG is indeed crucial, says Mann, but it wasn't really Wolfowitz's baby:

A mostly fictional version of that event has been passed down over the years, and it goes like this: Wolfowitz, the undersecretary of defense, had drafted a version of American military strategy in which the United States would move to block any rival power in Europe, Asia or the Middle East. After the leaked document caused a furor, the first Bush administration retreated. The document was toned down and its key ideas were abandoned.

But interviews with participants show that this version is wrong in several important respects. Wolfowitz didn't write the original draft. While the draft was rewritten, it was not really toned down. Indeed, in subtle ways, using careful terminology and euphemisms, the vision of an American superpower was actually made more sweeping. And although Wolfowitz and his staff played key roles, the ultimate sponsor of the new strategy was Cheney.
Mann goes on to outline how the strategy became the adopted child of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's current Chief of Staff, and quotes Zalmay Khalilzad, the original author of the DPG and now US ambassador to Afghanistan, as saying that Cheney "took ownership" of the plan virtually once it was released.