Were the Neocons Conned?

A reader adds to the debate on the real motives for the Iraq war for Cheney and Rumsfeld:

The funny thing about your speculative theory is that it doesn't really make the duped neo-cons look any better. After all Rumsfeld was quite upfront about the troop strength that would be used. The administration did nothing to free up money for the building of democracy or for maintaining troop strength during lengthy nation building. The neo-cons cannot claim they were lied to. They have to claim that they were told the truth which was unfair because it was unreasonable to expect them to have believed it.

My own guess is that Cheney and Rumsfeld did not care much about whether democracy arose, and certainly had no interest in the nation building required to bring it about. They thought the invasion would make a statement to the world and that is what justified it. That statement included the ability of the US to depose Hussein without great expense or great troop numbers. This was a misguided idea, but in some sense at least coherent. Contrast it with the people who wanted to do things that required great resources and great numbers of troops but supported the war anyway when it was clear that that wasn't what we were doing. Such people existed both to the right and left. Friedman might be the clearest example of someone who was defending a completely different invasion than the one that was clearly going to be waged.

I plead guilty too. I bought the democratization line and the WMD threat and was passionately pro-war. My only defense is that within days of the invasion, I started to worry about the troop levels, and the dissonance between what I had been told and what was actually being done opened up. Then Abu Ghraib; then the refusal to add more troops; well, you get the picture. The bad news is: in a long, dangerous war of ideas, the Bush administration has somehow managed to muddy the moral high-ground against the evil of Islamism. It will take decades and countless innocent lives for us to recover.