Consider these comments from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on yesterday’s Fox News morning show:
QUESTION: Do you — and this will be a tough one to get into a quick answer. Did Donald Rumsfeld mismanage the Iraq war in the beginning?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think the Iraq war, in the beginning, we did very well. I don’t—
QUESTION: I’m talking about the occupation.
SECRETARY RICE: Look, I don’t think we had the right structure. I’ll be very, very blunt. We tried in Afghanistan to use a kind of UN structure with countries adopting ministries. We tried in Iraq to give it to a single department, the Department of Defense. That’s why the President has now said that we need a Civilian Response Corps that can do those activities. But clearly, we didn’t have the right structure.
QUESTION: And is that Donald Rumsfeld’s responsibility?
SECRETARY RICE: No, I — look, I take responsibility for that, too. We just didn’t have the right structure.
This is a new version of the “incompetence dodge”. For years, when those on the right (and some on the left) wanted to defend preemptive war and aggressive uses of military force while simultaneously acknowledging that those things had turned out disastrously in Iraq, they would say that the idea behind the Iraq War wasn’t a bad one, but the execution had been terrible. If the folks running the war at DOD or State had simply been more competent, Iraq would be a flowering garden today.
Rice’s argument here is similar. She isn’t saying that if the people in charge (that would be her) had been more competent, things would be better. But she is saying that if the execution of and preparation for the occupation had been handled differently, Iraq would be better off today.
Of course, I’m not going to deny that execution, preparation, personnel, and competence were all problems. But suggesting that these were the only factors that contributed to the quagmire in Iraq refuses to acknowledge that occupations in the modern world are not sustainable, even for the largest and best-equipped military in the world. Nor does it acknowledge that wars that are not launched because of truly exigent circumstances are fundamentally imperialist and, as the history of imperialism illustrates, fated to fail. The failure in Iraq was not created by incompetence or a faulty “structure.” The failure in Iraq was the inevitable outcome of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.