03 January 2011

Andrew Bacevich on Douglas Feith

There should be literary prizes for putting the boot into targets who deserve it. Christopher Hitchens tipped a wonderful bucket over Henry Kissinger recently (see Hitchens on Kissinger).

In his The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 2008, Andrew J. Bacevich has this to say about Douglas Feith, who from 2001 to 2005 served as the Under-Secretary of Defence for Policy, the  third-ranking position in Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon:

Trained as a lawyer, Feith possessed the temperament of an ideologue. He specialized in enforcing preconceived notions.  Rumsfeld felt certain, for example, that Saddam Hussein had links to the 9/11 hijackers.  He was also convinced that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction hidden away.  Feith’s job was to confirm what his boss already knew. Toward that end, he devoted personal attention to the Office of Special Plans (OSP), which duly told Rumsfeld what he wanted to hear.   OSP’s analysis turned out to be completely wrong, but Feith had accomplished his purpose – and his boss’s.

As the countdown toward the invasion proceeded, Rumsfeld didn’t want anyone outside of his own shop mucking around with the war planning.  The defence secretary found especially irritating concerns expressed by the State Department and some military officers that occupying Iraq might pose some challenges.  He counted on Feith to shut out the meddlers and to base Pahse IV planning on best-case assumptions.  Once again, Feith delivered.  Small wonder that Rumsfeld described his subordinate as “a rare talent”.  Rumsfeld had every reason to be satisfied.

Yet Rumsfeld’s assessment seems unlikely to stand.  Whatever Feith may achieve during the remainder of his life and whatever epitaph he chooses for inscription on his gravestone, history will remember him as “the stupidest fucking guy on the planet.”

The source of that judgement, which is likely to remain definitive, is General Tommy Franks.

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