A Letter to Paul Wolfowitz occasioned by the tenth anniversary of the Iraq war

Andrew J. Bacevich in Harper's Magazine:

Dear Paul,

220px-Paul_WolfowitzI have been meaning to write to you for some time, and the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war provides as good an occasion as any to do so. Distracted by other, more recent eruptions of violence, the country has all but forgotten the war. But I won’t and I expect you can’t, although our reasons for remembering may differ.

Twenty years ago, you became dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and hired me as a minor staff functionary. I never thanked you properly. I needed that job. Included in the benefits package was the chance to hobnob with luminaries who gathered at SAIS every few weeks to join Zbigniew Brzezinski for an off-the-record discussion of foreign policy. From five years of listening to these insiders pontificate, I drew one conclusion: people said to be smart — the ones with fancy résumés who get their op-eds published in the New York Times and appear on TVreally aren’t. They excel mostly in recycling bromides. When it came to sustenance, the sandwiches were superior to the chitchat.

You were an exception, however. You had a knack for framing things creatively. No matter how daunting the problem, you contrived a solution. More important, you grasped the big picture. Here, it was apparent, lay your métier. As Saul Bellow wrote of Philip Gorman, your fictionalized double, in Ravelstein, you possessed an aptitude for “Great Politics.” Where others saw complications, you discerned connections. Where others saw constraints, you found possibilities for action.

More here.

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