Plan of attack

I just finished the book with this title written by Bob Woodward (of the Watergate fame) on the war in Iraq. Just in time for Clifford the Big Red Dog to celebrate four years since the fall of Baghdad in April 9, 2003.

The most impressive thing in this book is the access that the author had to the president and the administration at large. And it is reasonably positive of the administration. Three years more or less had passed since it was published and already some historical prospective is possible, which makes this text more relatively interesting than one would expect.

The president comes across as much more intelligent than one would suspect. Some people in the administration are downright impressive. It is interesting to see some of the inner working of the administration.

However, it is amazing how decision making in this level is still an amateurish endeavor. While the army runs simulation exercises to figure out how to make a military plan working, the political level does not have a similar mechanism. Dissent is in the pleasure of the president – as he surrounds himself (or herself) with people that agree with them – the president is bound to hear only his own beliefs echoed back to him. A bit of skepticism and self doubt could have easily improved the decision making in this case.

Furthermore, the system of checks and balances tends to collapse when the politics of fear takes over (9/11 etc, etc, etc). The administration and the president have free hand in making any decision they want to make in such a situation. This is a structural problems with the system (not only in the US) and not necessarily only a problem with the current administration/president.

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