My Discussion of Iraq Framed By Dick Cheney’s April, 1991 Policy Speech, and “The (Bernard) Lewis Doctrine”

Here is the audio of my discussion this morning (6/24/14) with BloomDaddy 104.7 FM (the first 11 minutes of the 8-9 am hour):

I referred to then Secretary Richard Cheney’s (Secretary of Defense of the United States), April 29, 1991, presentation, “The Gulf War: A First Assessment—The Difficulties Encountered in the Gulf Crisis,” Soref Symposium at The Washington Institute For Near East Policy. Quoth Dick Cheney, circa April 29, 1991:

What kind of government? Should it be a Sunni government or Shi’i government or a Kurdish government or Ba’athist regime? Or maybe we want to bring in some of the Islamic fundamentalists? How long would we have had to stay in Baghdad to keep that government in place? What would happen to the government once U.S. forces withdrew? How many casualties should the United States accept in that effort to try to create clarity and stability in a situation that is inherently unstable? I think it is vitally important for a President to know when to use military force. I think it is also very important for him to know when not to commit U.S. military force. And it’s my view that the President got it right both times, that it would have been a mistake for us to get bogged down in the quagmire inside Iraq.

All recriminations aside—a morbid partisan Left et al obsession—how did Cheney’s measured, sober outlook morph so dramatically—indeed irrationally, just over a decade after this 1991 policy speech?

My hypothesis is that Cheney was unduly smitten by the utopian nonsense of his “Svengali,” historian Bernard Lewis, whose own stunning (and inexplicable) 180 degree volte face on “Islamic democracy” I have discussed at length, here (“Bernard Lewis: Pied Piper of Islamic Confusion”); and here (“What Went Wrong With Bernard Lewis?”).

The Wall Street Journal’s Peter Waldman, February 3, 2004, in describing the aptly termed, “Lewis Doctrine,” and one its most prominent gulled acolytes, Dick Cheney, noted:

Call it the Lewis Doctrine. [emphasis added] Though never debated in Congress or sanctified by presidential decree, Mr. Lewis’s diagnosis of the Muslim world’s malaise, and his call for a U.S. military invasion to seed democracy in the Mideast… As mentor and informal adviser to some top U.S. officials, Mr. Lewis has helped coax the White House to shed decades of thinking about Arab regimes and the use of military power. Gone is the notion that U.S. policy in the oil-rich region should promote stability above all, even if it means taking tyrants as friends. Also gone is the corollary notion that fostering democratic values in these lands risks destabilizing them. Instead, the Lewis Doctrine says fostering Mideast democracy is not only wise but imperative. [emphasis added]…Eight days after the Sept. 11 attacks, with the Pentagon still smoldering, Mr. Lewis addressed the U.S. Defense Policy Board. Mr. Lewis and a friend, Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi—now a member of the interim Iraqi Governing Council—argued for a military takeover of Iraq to avert still-worse terrorism in the future, says Mr. Perle, who then headed the policy board. [emphases added]…A few months later, in a private dinner with Dick Cheney at the vice president’s residence, Mr. Lewis explained why he was cautiously optimistic the U.S. could gradually build democracy in Iraq, say others who attended. Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press” just before the invasion of Iraq, Mr. Cheney said: “I firmly believe, along with men like Bernard Lewis, who is one of the great students of that part of the world, that strong, firm U.S. response to terror and to threats to the United States would go a long way, frankly, toward calming things in that part of the world.”…When told his political influence was a focus of this article, he turned down an interview request. “It’s still too early,” he said. “Let’s see how things turn out” in Iraq. In speeches and articles, Mr. Lewis continues to advocate assertive U.S. actions in the Mideast, but his long-term influence is likely to turn on whether his neoconservative acolytes retain their power in Washington in years to come. [emphases added]


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