"Stuff Happens"

That was Donald Rumsfeld's shrug when his army invaded a country, toppled a dictatorship, and then watched as anarchy spread. In retrospect, it was the first clear sign of the near-pathological recklessness with which this administration conducted a war vital to this country's security. But it also may have made a transition to a normal society impossible. Here's a fascinating interview between Carol Iannone, vice president of the conservative National Association of Scholars, and John Agresto, a former university president who went to Iraq after the invasion to help restore its educational system. Money quote:

Could you describe more specifically the effect of the looting on the institutions of higher education particularly?

Except for the three universities in the Kurdish region and a very few others, the universities were fundamentally stripped bareno desks, chairs, equipment, computers, typewriters, copiers, lecterns, paper, pencils, blackboards, fans, wiring, plumbing, or books. And what couldn't’t be stolen, like libraries, was generally burned.

So what were the primary needs in beginning to rebuild and reconstitute higher education in Iraq?

They had nothing. A needs assessment we conducted concluded that simply to rebuild and re-supply the classrooms, dorms, bathrooms, labs, and libraries would run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

And the students. Were they eager to see reform of the educational system?

At first, yes, but over time we began to see more and more students, primarily male, turning to religious extremism.

There was a chance. Bush threw it away.