Saturday, April 26, 2008

Doug Feith on the GWOT (UPDATED)

I'm only a little over 100 pages into Douglas Feith's War and Decision, but it is already an embarrassment of riches, a trove of fascinating insights into the early days of the US' response to 9/11, and to the campaign it forced upon us. Feith, then Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, worked very closely with Rumsfeld and a veritable Who's Who of the most influential figures in the Pentagon and USGOV. His accounts of the decision-making processes, the interdepartmental wrangling, and the large philosophical and strategic considerations which were thrust on a fledgling Bush Administration make for riveting reading.

Feith has generally been demonized almost at a level of Paul Wolfowitz as a Neocon's Neocon. But the figure who emerges from the pages of this extraordinary book is one of a thoughtful, humble, and deeply patriotic man who found himself in a position to influence his Nation's response to an almost unimaginable atrocity, and who worked with tireless vigilance to shape that response with the full knowledge that he was engaged in the very early stages of what would likely be a generational project. The choice to treat 9/11 as an act of War, rather than a mere law-enforcement problem is one for which I have little doubt generations to come will owe him and others a very great debt.

Hugh Hewitt has posted a very lengthy but well-worth-reading interview with Feith, whose voice is very much as it comes across in the book. Both are essential reading for those who wish to gain perspective on many of the cherished myths about the Bush Administration's approach to Afghanistan and Iraq as theaters in a vastly broader mission to keep America and the world safe from Islamist terrorism. Everything from Afghan warlords to WMD is treated in a comprehensive, fair and (no doubt for some) surprisingly moderate and fair-minded manner.

So far, I am in agreement with Hewitt (not always the case!) that this book stands with The Looming Tower as a must-read for those who desire a comprehensive understanding of the issues and threats which are encompassed within the Long War.

UPDATE (5/2/2008): Doug Feith has created a companion web site to the book, where he has posted much of the footnoted material, as well as the raft of unclassified documents from the appendices, a number of maps, timelines, and other bits which will enhance the usefulness of an already invaluable book.

Oh, and, according to that web site, "[t]he author is donating all of his book reveues to charitable organizations serving U.S. veterans and their families."

A class act all around.

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