Fourth, post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction: We knew we had a problem there, because we did it one way in Bosnia -- I would say, the international approach. We tried another way in Afghanistan, which was the pie approach -- give every one of our national allies a piece of the pie, at least initially. And we found that everybody had a small piece of pie, which meant it was a second- or third-order priority, and nothing got done.
So in Iraq we decided, since the military actually knows how to get things done, we'll give it to the military with a lot of State Department and other agency help. And I think what we found is the military made a valiant effort but they didn't have the full skill set to solve the problem either, which raises a broader problem. We've spent 60 years investing and learning how to recruit, train, exercise, fight, and improve our military, and we have an unbelievable military. We have not made a similar commitment to develop the kind of civilian capabilities you need to do post-conflict stabilization reconstruction, or to get in pre-conflict to help unstable and post revolutionary states from descending into conflict.
I don't think that was a reason not to remove Saddam given the national security objectives, but I think one of the conclusions we should draw is we've got to make an investment in those capabilities, because I think, to assume that we're never going to need them again post conflict, and don't need them pre-conflict in -- in failing, or post revolutionary states, I think is wrong..
Eliot Cohen, Bush State Department official: I guess I just have four thoughts of ends and means. I could never get a clear sense of what democratic governance meant for a country like Iraq, and how ragged an outcome we could comfortably live with.
Secondly, I think part of our problem is we forgot how to do military government. I think the military really didn't want to have anything to do with anything associated with the sort of stuff that they had actually done quite a bit of in other places, particularly in Europe, after World War II. I think part of the problem here is the atrophy, or the disappearance of capabilities that maybe only mass mobilization military could have.
The third question I have about means is, how much development is really called for in all this, having seen how much of that got wasted, or was actually counterproductive? I really wonder whether we went overboard in how much we've spent, and that we ended up spending money in ways that created dependence, created resentment.
The fourth thing [is that] the large part of means is institutions and institutional culture. I think there were -- and there probably remain -- huge problems because I suspect that the half-life of our memory of these conflicts is going to be really short. And that the instinct of the military is not going to be to hold up a mirror to its own performance [to say], "How do we make sure that sort of thing doesn't happen again?" It will be to say, "God, we're never going to do that again." And then we'll find ourselves in a room like this -- well, maybe my kids will -- you know, 15 or 20 years from now.
Peter Feaver, Bush NSC staffer: I've gone back through a lot of the criticisms [of the war], and I've noticed several common flaws that are worth keeping in mind. The first one is a failure to do serious counterfactual analysis. What would have been the situation if we had chosen a different course?
The second level is, what if things had gone slightly differently -- those kinds of plausible what-ifs that could have happened but didn't happen that might have changed [the outcome].
And the third grand level is the counterfactual from the point of view of al Qaeda. Iraq broke al Qaeda in a way that it did not break the United States. The U.S. paid a terrible price, but Iraq turned out to be a breaking point for al Qaeda.