Sidney Blumenthal, who not only attended last Thursday’s luncheon with Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski but helped give it a bit of zest with this article on Scowcroft being shoved outside the door of Bush administration insiders just days before the meeting, wrote this in today’s Guardian.
Blumenthal recounts not only Brzezinski’s and Scowcroft’s cautionary characterizations of what is unfolding in Iraq, but continues to emphasize something radically important. The administration doesn’t want its progress towards its goals to be measured, or even measurable.
In April 2004 the Strategic Studies Institute of the Army War College produced a report on the metrics of the Rumsfeld doctrine: Toppling Saddam: Iraq and American Military Transformation. It concluded that the swift victory over Saddam was achieved by overwhelming technological superiority and Iraqi weakness, and therefore using operation Iraqi Freedom as “evidence” for Rumsfeld’s “transformation proposals could be a mistake”. The Pentagon has refused to release the study.
“Intellectual terrorism” prevails through the defence establishment, a leading military strategist at one of the war colleges, who deals in calm, measured expertise of a nonpartisan nature, told me. Even the respected defence research institute, the Rand Corporation, is being “cut out of the loop”, denied contracts for studies because the “metrics” are at odds with Rumsfeld’s projections.
President Bush clings to good news and happy talk, such as the number of school openings in Iraq. Those with gloomy assessments are not permitted to appear before him. The president orders no meetings on options based on worst-case scenarios. Military strategists and officers are systematically ignored. Suppression of contrary “metrics” is done in his name and spirit. Bush makes his decisions from a self-imposed bunker, a situation room of the mind, where ideological fantasies substitute for reality.
Bush and his team frown on metrics and cut off those — even the RAND Corporation — with alternative assessments of threats and what to do about them. RAND has always been the consummate insider institution, sort of the medulla oblongata of the military-industrial complex as I have observed.
I first met Donald Rumsfeld at RAND many years ago. He was early for a meeting, and my session in the room he wanted was ending late, or I was dithering and wanting another cup of coffee and a cookie — so I talked to him a bit. I kept thinking that this tough but smart, sharply dressed guy seemed like a pre-humbled Robert McNamara.
And today, Sid Blumenthal and many others who are writing about the hostility of the administration to real debate and the systematic consideration of alternative policies are reminding us that the worst behaviors of McNamara and the team around Kennedy and Johnson in the early build-up in Vietnam — their intellectual arrogance and aversion to empirical evidence that did not affirm their positions — are happening again. Again.
— Steve Clemons