Norman A. Bailey replies: Folly is too mild a word for American policy in Iraq
Knowledge informed by judgment equals wisdom. Ignorance reinforced by arrogance equals folly.
The Bush II administration was ignorant and arrogant and committed folly not only by invading Iraq
but by compounding that foundational error by committing just about every subsequent folly possible,
including the disbanding of the army and police, which unleashed hordes of young unemployed men with training in weapons, but also the civil service by decreeing that no bureaucrat could keep his job if he was a member of the Ba’ath Party, overlooking the fact that you could not have a civil service position of any significance UNLESS you were a member of the party. It just got worse from there, but of course both George “Slam Dunk” Tenet and Paul Bremer were awarded the medal of freedom by the feckless president, the paradigm of ignorance, and his minders, blinded by their unconquerable arrogance. Bush came to office determined to destroy Saddam for trying to assassinate his father and 9/11 gave him the pretext. However, Saddam could have been overthrown without firing a shot. the office of the under-secretary of defense for policy (Doug Feith) asked me for an analysis of the economic effects of an invasion of Iraq about four months before it took place. Instead of giving Feith what he was undoubtedly looking for, which any competent graduate student in economics could have done (“The oil markets will be disrupted temporarily but will right themselves quickly, blah, blah, blah”) I prepared a paper demonstrating how Saddam could be overthrown, by declaring an absolute land, sea and air blockade of the country. After maybe two weeks one of his top generals would have shot him in the head and taken over. I later discovered that the main objection to the idea was what such a blockade would have meant to “women and children” deprived of food and medicine. As we all know, war is good for women and children.
Folly is too mild a word. We must search for another.
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Norman A. Bailey is President of the Institute for Global Economic Growth, the author of numerous books and articles and recipient of several honorary degrees, medals and awards and two orders of knighthood. He also teaches economic statecraft at The Institute of World Politics and has experience on the staff of the National Security Council at the White House, in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and in business, consulting and finance.