Stafford, Va.: Where does the crux of the blame for the FIASCO lie? There were a lot of efforts to incorporate lessons learned and new “ways of thinking” into military concepts, doctrine, education and training prior to OIF. Why did these efforts fail to take?
Tom Ricks: I’d say the book argues that you don’t get a mess as big as Iraq from the failings of one or two men, such as President Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.
Rather, I think there was a systemic failure. Sure, the Bush Administration made mistakes, and failed especially to recognized the nature of the conflict in which it was engaged (which as Clausewitz says, is the key task of the supreme leader).
But I would would say the military establishment bears much of the blame, especially for the flawed occupation.
In addition, the media and the intelligence community made mistakes.
Finally, I think that Congress was asleep at the wheel. That’s crucial. Congressional hearings provide oversight and accountability and (when done well) pump information into the American system. In other wars, you had hawks and doves. In this war you had the silence of the lambs. (emphasis added)