Though Justice against Fate complain,
And plead the ancient Rights in vain—
But those do hold or break
As men are strong or weak... (1)
Holbrooke on Wilkerson | Liberals Against Terrorism: Lest this page become too much of a Bush administration cheering section, let me quote Richard Holbrooke approvingly here:
I am certainly not going to defend Cheney or Rumsfeld. They made mistakes of historic proportions in Iraq and elsewhere, and the damage done to America's world role in the past four years will, I believe, take a decade to undo. But for Wilkerson to describe major policy mistakes as the result of a process that was dysfunctional -- even though it was -- is inaccurate. In the end, presidents get the advice they deserve, from the advisers they pick. Those advisers never agree completely, nor should they. Bush was surely aware that there were two views in his administration on most critical issues, but the buck stopped on his desk. Apparently, Cheney's voice was often the most influential, but Bush made the final calls. As Les Gelb wrote about Vietnam with deliberate irony, "the system worked," but it produced the wrong outcome.
I think Holbrooke is right that a Goldwater-Nichols style bureacratic [fix] is insufficient to deal with the kind of leadership chasm presented by our current president. Still, I do think there's much to be done on the administrative front and would like to see Lugar and Biden get some serious work done there.
Also in Holbrooke's piece: praise for Rice's quiet reorientation of Bush administration policy toward North Korea, Iran, and especially Europe. I generally agree that Rice has shown herself to be a much better Secretary of State than she was an NSA.
It's not clear to me that a Goldwater-Nichols-style act is necessary: Wilkerson says that the purpose of such an act would be to get the executive branch to behave according to Clinton's PDD 56, but the Clinton administration already did so. And the Bush administration does not because it does not want to.
It is clear to me that Holbrooke's praise of Rice is grossly unwarranted. Bush got the advisors he wanted, yes. He did not get the advisors he needed. Condi Rice turned into a National Security Advisor who made sure the president heard what he wanted to hear, not what he needed to hear. Why? Because she was weak and didn't want to do her job: she didn't want to get fired, and wanted Bush to appoint her as Secretary of State, and didn't want Bush to be mad at her.
For Holbrooke to blame Bush for what went wrong in 2001-4 and to praise Rice for what has gone on in 2005--that's just not right, and not fair. Holbrooke knows better.
And, of course, as the "Republican wisemen" say: Rumsfeld is simply insane, Wolfowitz and Bolton are out in the gamma quadrant, Feith is the stupidest f------ man on the earth, and Cheney is not the man he once was.
(1) From Andrew Marvell, "A Horatian Ode Upon Cromwell's Return From Ireland"