- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Recently, my name has been in the press on matters not related to my professional activities. I will deal with those issues separately. But, intentionally or not, these accounts have also misrepresented my professional standing.

Specifically, numerous statements and media reports have credited me with being a “neoconservative,” a strong supporter of the Bush administration’s Iraq policies and a key “architect of the Iraq war” through the doctrine of “shock and awe.” It is time to correct the record.

The phrase “shock and awe” is mine. But the label of neoconservative could not be further from the truth. I opposed the war from the outset and particularly the assertion that democratization of the greater Middle East was achievable. I played no role whatsoever in any aspect of that war’s planning or execution. And shock and awe, as originally conceived, were not used in toppling Saddam Hussein and his army other than briefly as a slogan.

By mid-2002, it was obvious to many that war with Iraq was inevitable. During those months, I repeatedly argued in print and on many television interviews, particularly Fox News Channel, where I was a contributor, against war. Saddam, however evil, was contained.

From my analysis, I concluded Iraq possessed no nuclear weapons and at best a minimum amount of chemical and biological materials, probably unweaponized. Beyond that, there were no real links between Saddam and al Qaeda. Indeed, secular Saddam had every reason to fear radical Sunnis and Wahhabis inside al Qaeda as threats to his rule and to Sunni dominance in Iraq.

My WMD assessment came from three sources. U.N. and IAEA inspectors made convincing cases that much of Iraqi WMD had been destroyed or did not exist. Foreign intelligence agencies, at certain levels, were skeptical, although it is true that most concluded Saddam had some WMD. Finally, senior U.S. military were not entirely convinced.

In December 1998, the United States conducted a massive three-day campaign against Iraq called Desert Fox. A misquote attributed to me then prompted subsequent conversations with the Central Command commander, Marine Gen. Tony Zinni, a brilliantly competent officer. The general inferred to me that whatever WMD Saddam might have had, Desert Fox finished the job.

In October 2002, after then-CIA head George Tenet briefed the Joint Chiefs on Iraqi WMD, it was reported to me that one of the chiefs asked, “is that all you got, George?” Perhaps, if the chiefs had been made to testify under oath on Iraqi WMD — and they were not — the case for war would have been greatly weakened.

About shock and awe, a dozen years ago, I had the privilege of co-chairing a distinguished group of retired flag officers and former senior government officials. Our aim was to develop an alternative concept for national security. The forcing function was a shared and instinctive discontent with where American defense policy was heading.

Relying on the wisdom of Sun Tzu and Karl von Clausewitz, we fashioned a strategy based on the simple principle of getting people to do what we wanted, and, conversely, to stop doing things we did not want done. The goal was to affect, influence and potentially control will and perception. The means were shock and awe.

Shock and awe were derived from all of the physical and psychological elements of power to convince, cajole or coerce an adversary to accept our will with minimum or perhaps even no use of force, following Sun Tzu’s advice that the best way to win a war was by not fighting.

My first alert to the use of shock and awe came from David Martin of CBS News in mid-March 2003, just before the war started. Surprised by his statement, I used saltier words to say “no kidding.” When the war began, it was ballyhooed as “shock and awe.” Two days later, London’s Daily Telegraph ran a front-page color photo of a huge explosion in Baghdad under the headline “Baghdad Blitz.” Shock and awe immediately sunk without a trace. The military assault was many things and often brilliant. But shock and awe it was not.

Had the actual concept of shock and awe been applied with focus on starting with the end state or results to be achieved, such as a peaceful and stable Iraq rather on the rapid neutralization of the Iraqi army, who knows what would have happened. But we surely would have planned for the postwar period with far more care and understanding of Iraqi and Islamic culture.

Despite a consistent and voluminous public record of columns, media appearances and three recent books, these factually wrong labels still stuck. There is no need to sermonize. But this should be a useful caution for reporters, pundits and others who, in the age of the Internet and instant communications, can too easily accept faulty information at face value and without hesitation.

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