This is a rush transcript from "The Journal Editorial Report," April 5, 2008.
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: Up next on the "Journal Editorial Report," the war of words over Iraq escalates as President Bush says he will follow his top general's recommendation on troop withdrawals. Former Pentagon insider Doug Feith is here with reaction.
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All of that, and a preview of Pope Benedict's U.S. trip, but first, these headlines.
GIGOT: Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
President Bush said late this week he would follow the recommendations of his top general in Iraq and continue the draw down of surge forces through July. But he would also give General Petraeus, quote, "all the time he needs," after that to determine when future withdrawals would come.
Petraeus, testifying this week on Capitol Hill, told lawmakers he would use that time to evaluate conditions on the ground before making any decision on further troop cuts.
Douglas Feith, the former undersecretary of defense, was a chief strategist on Donald Rumsfeld's policy team in the run up to the Iraq war. He is the author the new book "War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism."
Doug Feith, thank you for being here.
DOUGLAS FEITH, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Glad to be with you.
GIGOT: The fascinating thing with your book is the way it disagrees with the conventional wisdom we've read about decision-making in the Bush administration. For example, it is said the president discouraged different points of view leading up to the war. Your book says, quote, "he encouraged an excessive tolerance sometimes in discipline even disloyalty from his own officials," unquote. Can you give me an example where that was the case?
FEITH: Well, what I am talking about in there is that one of the principle problems I think this administration had was divided government. When I reviewed the debates in my book that occurred about Iraq policy, what struck me was how the president did not have the whole hearted support of the State Department and the CIA.
And the point I make is that Secretary Powell I think would have done the country a much greater service if he -- since he didn't quite agree with the president's policy, as he made clear, if he actually debated it had and put forward an alternative strategy, but he didn't do that, nor after the president made his decision did he wholeheartedly support it.
I think that the country would have been better off if he had either thrown in completely behind the policy or stepped aside in favor of somebody who would have.
GIGOT: So in a season, not the administration was entirely behind it as we got into the occupation period and the war in Iraq -- and after the Saddam Hussein was deposed in trying to develop a government there. Is that what you are saying? And that lack of support undermined the evident?
FEITH: I think that's true. It is true, after Saddam Hussein was overthrown there was -- it was actually a reversal of the policy that the president had adopted to put Iraqis in charge of their own government early on and we wound up having a 14-month occupation where we ran the country. And I think that was a costly error.
Then also before the war -- we actually lost ground diplomatically in the six months or so before the war, even though we took Secretary Powell's suggestion to go to the U.N. as the main vehicle for diplomacy.
GIGOT: Do you think the president -- because what you are describing is really a failure of leadership at the top, not being able to impose discipline on his team. Do you think the president should have fired a couple people to send a message?
FEITH: Well that's -- those are very hard judgments. What I'm mainly interested, in my book, is providing information. I go through and I provide the nature of the debate based on notes I took at the meetings and the actual memoranda we exchanged among each other between Secretary Rumsfeld and the vice president and president and Secretary Powell and Condi Rice and others.