There are some excellent perspective pieces available now on the twisted, thorny path we followed to Baghdad, and the continuing ideological war between the foreign-policy “realists” and administration neoconservatives over the meaning of the so-called war on terror how to pursue it from here.
Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post has profiles of retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni, who to his surprise has become one of the chief critics of the administration’s Iraq policies, and of Deputy Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz, the author of many of those policies.
Zinni is a realist, who advocated containing an already defeated Saddam Hussein and questioned the rationale for war: "What I don't understand is that the bill of goods the neocons sold him has been proven false, yet heads haven't rolled. Where is the accountability? I think some fairly senior people at the Pentagon ought to go."
Wolfowitz is a neoconservative who provided much of the intellectual underpinning for the conflict: "We learned in the last century that democracies cannot live peacefully and undisturbed in a world where evil people control whole nations and seek to expand their bloody rule.We may have forgotten that lesson in the euphoria over the end of the Cold War."
The redoubtable Billmon adds to the mix a lengthy post examining where the neocons came from (they’re ex-Democrats), how they gradually gained credence in the GOP and their prospects as Bush enters the last year of his term. I’d forgotten some of the history he reconstructs here and I lived though all of it.
“Providing ideological world views to the ignorant is how the neocons have made their way in the world. And their new customers are the modern center of gravity of the Republican Party. They're the leaders of The Base -- that mystical block of true believers the Bush II administration feels it cannot afford to offend in any way.
“Which suggests to me the neocons won't remain in the twilight for long. The realists are the ones who don't seem to have much of a future in the GOP. Who knows? Maybe in time they'll defect to the Democratic Party, to become the intellectual mentors to a rising generation of moderately hawkish Democrats, in search of a world view.
“After all, it's happened before.”
All in all, some chewy reading for the holidays.