The Neo-Incompetence Dodge

It’s become quite fashionable among neoconservative supporters of the Iraq invasion to hide behind their own version of the incompetence dodge, casting blame into an ever-smaller circle of culprits. On Sunday, the New York Times offered several of these characters an opportunity to employ this “neo-incompetence dodge.”

Among them, Richard Perle continues to insist that invading Iraq was “the right decision,” but that the trouble began when “rather than turn Iraq over to Iraqis to begin the daunting process of nation building…we sent an American to govern Iraq.”

L. Paul Bremer underestimated the task, but did his best to make a foolish policy work. I had badly underestimated the administration’s capacity to mess things up.

Former director of the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans Douglas Feith has likewise sought to cast blame on Bremer for “mishandling…the political transition” in Iraq. Like Perle, Feith continues to believe that the decision to invade was correct, but, according to the Washington Post, Feith blames Bremer for refusing to implement Feith’s plans to hand power to a group of U.S.-handpicked Iraq exiles like Ahmed Chalabi. Feith asserts that any good done by Bremer “was outweighed by the harm caused by the fact of occupation.”


In a CNN interview on Sunday, Paul Bremer fired back at Perle and Feith, suggesting that “the architects are running away from their building here.” Bremer asserts that the plan for a slow political transition conducted under the auspices of a longer-term U.S. military occupation was approved by President Bush , and condemns as unrealistic Feith’s and Perle’s plan to “simply hand over [power] to a group of unrepresentative exiles.” Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress “suffered a humiliating defeat” in the December 2005 elections, scoring “a minuscule 0.36 percent of the votes.”

AEI analyst Danielle Pletka contributes her own charming twist on the incompetence dodge, blaming the Iraqi people themselves for not embracing the opportunities afforded them by the American military occupation. Alas, Pletka laments, “there is no freedom gene, no inner guide that understands the virtues of civil society, of secret ballots, of political parties.” Pletka claims that “living under Saddam Hussein’s tyranny for decades conditioned Iraqis to accept unearned leadership, to embrace sect and tribe over ideas, and to tolerate unbridled corruption,” but seems blissfully unaware of how past U.S. support for Saddam’s regime could have conditioned Iraqis to suspect American motives as less than completely altruistic, or how the brutality inherent in any foreign occupation is not an atmosphere conducive to building trust between parties.

Trying to rescue their reputations by frantically casting blame on others (in Pletka’s case, on a whole country), Perle, Feith, and Pletka refuse to admit that the invasion of Iraq was a staggering foreign policy blunder which can never be rehabilitated, only mitigated. Until we understand that the Iraq war was a failure in its conception, not in its implementation, we will be doomed to more Iraqs in the future.