From the day after the United States toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, it has run into one problem after another in Iraq. We failed to establish security. We steadily lost support from Arab Sunnis and Shi'a. We entered the war with limited international support and have even less today. However encouraging the January elections, Iraq is a work in progress, and it is straining our resources, roiling our military and complicating our diplomacy. How long public support will last is uncertain. So who is responsible for our current predicament, and what can we learn from a serious answer to that highly charged question?
Politics requires scapegoats, whether they bear guilt or not. And the media seem less interested in discovering who is responsible than in providing a megaphone for the accusations. But the questions need to be asked. We cannot begin to fix the policymaking process until we see who broke it--and even then, the damage may be beyond repair.
Cheered on by conservative think tanks and journals, the administration has focused on the sins of that easiest of targets, the career professionals. That requires bloodletting, and it has gushed at the top levels of the CIA. The State Department was expected to be next, but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice thus far has selected very able foreign service officers for a number of top positions. It is, of course, unclear how she will want to use their advice--or whether she will be able to do so. The Pentagon had already experienced significant bloodletting in the ranks of the career military through Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's highly personal and unorthodox choices for top jobs.