The failures of process and judgment that help explain the war in Iraq are varied. Established patterns of policy making were overshadowed by mechanisms operating outside the formal system, notably by Vice President Richard Chaney. Also, an arrogant defense secretary overpowered senior military officers as well as the Department of State and its secretary. While it is difficult for Congress to constrain a president once a major military enterprise has been approved, Congress has been even more compliant that usual in this case. There are no panaceas, but manageable changes can strengthen the system and make another Iraq far less likely. The roles of the secretary of state and national security adviser need to be strengthened, and career military officers and civil servants must be encouraged and supported in their efforts to offer independent views to the political leadership. Most important is a policy environment open to varied perspectives rather than driven by narrow dogma.

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