Monday, March 05, 2007

"We Can't Assume What We Don't Believe"

During a White House meeting last week, a group of governors asked President Bush and Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about their backup plan for Iraq. What would the administration do if its new strategy didn't work?

The conclusion they took away, the governors later said, was that there is no Plan B. "I'm a Marine," Pace told them, "and Marines don't talk about failure. They talk about victory."

Pace had a simple way of summarizing the administration's position, Gov. Phil Bredesen (D-Tenn.) recalled. "Plan B was to make Plan A work."

Pressed to specify U.S. limits, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice promised the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that there would be ample opportunity "to see whether or not in fact the Iraqis are living up to the assurances they gave us."

"And what if they don't?" Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) asked.

"I don't think you go to Plan B," Rice replied. "You work with Plan A."

Washington Post 3/5/07

Mac Bundy and the others had all been partner to so precious little failure in their lives that there was always a sense that no matter what, it could be avoided, deflected, and this as much as anything else was the bane of George Ball's existence in those weeks. In the debate Ball kept concentrating on the fact that they had no real contingency plans for failure; he warned them how large the price might be, and he kept suggesting that they stop and think, and then, rather than flirt with the enormity of greater input and greater failure, they cut their losses. Ball sensed that if they reached a higher plateau of violence with no tangible benefits, they would be forced to go even higher. Nor was Ball the only one frightened by the way they were plunging ahead, and in early March of 1965, Emmett John Hughes, a former White House aide under Eisenhower, a man who had always been at loggerheads with Dulles and who was now terrified that the Johnson Administration was taking a course in Southeast Asia that Dulles had wanted and Ike had avoided, went to see Bundy, an old friend. Hughes, who like Bundy was a member of the insiders' club, was worried about how much control there was, and he would find little reassurance at the White House. He talked for some time with Bundy, and his questions clearly reflected the enormity of his doubts. "We're just not as pessimistic as you are," Bundy told him. But what, Hughes asked, if the North Vietnamese retaliate by matching the American air escalation with their own ground escalation? Hughes would long remember the answer and the cool smile: "We just don't think that's going to happen." Just suppose it happens, Hughes persisted, just make an assumption of the worst that could happen. "We can't assume what we don't believe," Bundy answered, chilling Hughes so much that five years later he could recall every word of the conversation.

David Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest, pp. 527-528


Blogger Grodge said...

Mac Bundy may not have known failure in his early life, but that cannot be said of George W. Bush.

Bush should be quite used to the failure that Iraq has become. Whether you look at Arbusto's bankruptcy or Harken Energy or his mismanagement of the Texas Rangers or his poor academic career, Bush is well- acquainted with failure.

"Plan B" for "Plan Bush" has always been for Daddy to bail him out; unfortunately, even Jimmy Baker couldn't convince Shrub to dothe right thing and cut his losses.

Being Prez'nit has given Boy Bush a puffed up chest and even more stubborn hubris than ever.

3/05/2007 5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Plan B is hard when the mission has already been accomplished.

3/05/2007 5:49 PM  
Anonymous Mr. Hedley Bowes said...

I'll guess there were some familiar names in the background then too: Podhoretz and Kristol to name two.

3/05/2007 5:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never read anything so stupid in my life. Either they are so stupid or they think we are.

3/05/2007 8:09 PM  
Anonymous rapier said...

The surge is not plan A. The surge isn't the plan at all. Hasn't everyone read Hersh's latest.

The surge is a feint. Something to occupy everyone minds, and stall. It's real enough if you happen to be someone who gets stuck in Bagdad on the non mission but other than them it's a mirage.

We are still on plan A, revision 29.3. Or better put no plan but you can't have no plan so whatever you happen to be thinking on any given day is the plan, and always was the plan.

Note the surge isn't mentioned by Hersh. The plan now is to kill a whole lot of Iranians and Shite Iraqis, to put it bluntly. Death has always been the root of the plan. Death to just about anyone but the guys manning the spigot in Saudi Arabia.

3/05/2007 8:37 PM  
Blogger Jimmy the Saint said...

Anon 8:09,
Read the book. I have finished about 200 pages so far(CR's incessant quoting made me go and buy it). You wouldn't be saying what you did if you read it. Those guys believed the shit they were shoveling. It corrupted their thinking. It is obvious the military did not learn from Vietnam at all as regards the present ill-advised venture.

3/06/2007 12:19 AM  
Anonymous goldhorder said...

They think we are. And we are that stupid. American's have never been a that bright. Watch prime time TV lately? We did invade Iraq. It is not like they haven't been successful.

3/06/2007 12:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course there is no Plan B. Thinking about this war in another way -- it was originally conceived and produced to 1)rearrange the dynamic in the Middle East and with any luck, give us control of the oil in Iran....and 2)and even more importantly, provide our military industrial complex with a huge and ever expanding market for their products and services.

Looking at Number One, well, so it didn't go as well as planned...but whatever, in terms of #2, this war has succeeded beyond the corporate elite's wildest expectations.

Now they're just running out the string as long as they can. Think of it entirely in dollars == at $2 Billion a week, you run this out another six months, you're talking 48B spent with Halliburton et al.

Who needs a Plan B when you're succeeding beyond all expectations?

follow the money. follow the money.

3/06/2007 12:30 AM  
Blogger t.a.m.s.y. said...

I have little trouble believing that Bush himself avoids considering the possibility of failure; and I have little trouble believing that no one with the keys to his reality-deprivation tank raises the issue with him directly.

But I do suspect that Rice and Pace, unlike Bundy in '65, are privately well aware of the need for a Plan B. Despite her inane and constant cheerleadering, Rice is too much of a strategy geek not to consider Plan A's fallibility. Meanwhile, over at the Pentagon, Plan A is expected to fail, at least according to Salon's coverage from last month.

But the best reason to believe that Plan B exists? The fact that the administration claims it doesn't.

3/06/2007 1:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Plan B must have something to do with Iran. Actually the Iran issue may be the real plan A.

3/06/2007 6:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The prevailing lesson in W's life has been that failure isn't such a bad thing. Poor academics didn't keep him out of Yale. Failure in the oil business actually resulting in making him and his dad's buddies money and failure in baseball resulted in a new stadium and more piles of money.

How could one learn from failure if one never pays a price. I think that this is the class divide. Most suffer failure (their own or their company's)however elites enjoy the benefits of failure.

3/06/2007 11:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose this level of breath-taking hubris is much more likely
to occur when one is to the manor
born, or maybe its inculcated during those Skull and Bones intiation rites.
However, while George W. Bush SHOULD be familiar with failure, he's never known or felt the consequences of failure, so no learning ocurred.
I wonder if Bundy ever felt the humiliation and remorse at having
been so wrong and having played a
part in the deaths of US soldiers at the time.

3/06/2007 11:45 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Plan B is simple.

Leave and tell everyone that Plan A succeeded.

Who is going to question them? The media? Ha ha ha.

The only people that will question them are the EVIL liberal blogs.

Up is down, black is the new white.

3/06/2007 10:02 PM  
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