24 October 2005

Breaking Ranks

Jeffrey Goldberg's Scowcroft Article: "Breaking Ranks"

In "Breaking Ranks" (p. 54), in the October 31, 2005, issue of The New Yorker, Jeffrey Goldberg reports on the growing divide between the Bush Administration and its Republican critics. The criticism from Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser to George H.W. Bush, has been particularly pronounced, Goldberg writes. Scowcroft recalls advice he gave the first President Bush at the conclusion of the first Gulf War, when there was pressure to remove Saddam Hussein.

It would have been easy to reach Baghdad, Scowcroft said, but what then? "At the minimum, we'd be an occupier in a hostile land. Our forces would be sniped at by guerrillas, and once we were there, how would we get out? What would be the rationale for leaving? I don't like the term 'exit strategy' - but what do you do with Iraq once you own it?" Scowcroft then said of Iraq, "This is exactly where we are now. We own it. And we can't let go. We're getting sniped at. Now, will we win? I think there's a fair chance we'll win. But look at the cost."

Scowcroft has known George W. Bush for decades, but since the beginning of the Iraq war, he has been frozen out of the White House. "On the face of it," Goldberg writes, "this is remarkable," because Scowcroft's best friend is the former President Bush; the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, was a Scowcroft protege; and Vice-President Dick Cheney is also a friend. "The real anomaly in the Administration is Cheney," Scowcroft told Goldberg.

"I consider Cheney a good friend - I've known him for thirty years. But this Dick Cheney I don't know anymore." When, in an e-mail, George H.W. Bush was asked about Scowcroft's most useful qualities as an adviser, the former President wrote that he "was very good about making sure that we did not simply consider the 'best case,' but instead considered what it would mean if things went our way, and also if they did not."

According to friends of the elder Bush, the "estrangement of his son and his best friend has been an abiding source of unhappiness," Goldberg writes. Scowcroft said he hoped for a better relationship with the son, and adds, "I like George Bush personally, and he is the son of a man I'm just crazy about." Of the differences between father and son, Scowcroft said, "I don't want to go there."

Colleagues have paid particular notice to the relationship between Scowcroft and Rice, who worked closely during the first Bush Administration. Friends of Scowcroft recall a dinner in September of 2002, when discussion of the impending war in Iraq became heated. As Goldberg reports, Rice finally said, irritably, "The world is a messy place, and someone has to clean it up."

"For Scowcroft," Goldberg writes, "the second Gulf war is a reminder of the unwelcome consequences of radical intervention, especially when it is attempted without sufficient understanding of America's limitations or of the history of a region." Scowcroft says, "I believe in the fallibility of human nature. We continually step on our best aspirations. We're humans. Given a chance to screw up, we will."

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