Victor Davis Hanson: Iraqi Irony ... History Takes Times To Write





Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author most recently of The End of Sparta.

Amid all the stories about the ongoing violence in Syria, the most disturbing is the possibility that President Bashar Assad could either deploy the arsenal of chemical and biological weapons that his government claims it has, or provide it to terrorists.
 
There are suggestions that at least some of Assad’s supposed stockpile may have come from Saddam Hussein’s frantic, eleventh-hour efforts in 2002 to hide his own arsenals of weapons of mass destruction in neighboring Syria. Various retired Iraqi military officers have alleged as much. Although the story was met with general neglect or scorn from the American media, the present U.S. director of national intelligence, James Clapper, long ago asserted his belief in such a weapons transfer.
 
The Bush administration fixated on WMD in justifying the invasion of Iraq while largely ignoring more than 20 other writs to remove Saddam, as authorized by Congress in October 2002. That obsession would come back to haunt George W. Bush when stockpiles of deployable WMD failed to turn up in postwar Iraq. By 2006, “Bush lied; thousands died,” was the serial charge of the antiwar Left. But before long, such depots may finally turn up in Syria.
 
Another staple story of the last decade was the inept management of the reconstruction of Iraq. Many Americans understandably questioned how civilian and military leaders allowed a brilliant three-week victory over Saddam to degenerate into a disastrous five-year war before the surge finally salvaged Iraq. That fighting and reconstruction anywhere in the Middle East are difficult under any circumstances was forgotten. The press preferred instead to charge that the singular incompetence or malfeasance of Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld led to the unnecessary costs in American blood and treasure.
 
But perhaps that scenario needs an update as well. Journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s new book, Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan, is a blistering critique of the Obama administration’s three-year conduct of the Afghanistan war and its decision to surge troops; Chandrasekaran chronicles stupid decisions, petty infighting, arrogance, and naïveté. In an earlier book on Iraq, Chandrasekaran had alleged that America’s Iraq dilemmas were the result of a similarly bungling Bush administration.
 
So was the know-it-all reporter right then about Iraq, is he right now about Afghanistan, neither, or both?..


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