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In his comments on the National Security Archives documents concerning the "path to war" with Iraq in 2002, Professor Jervis raises a number of interesting points both about what we might say about the "path to war" and about what evidence we might need into order to sustain, test, and validate arguments about the path to war. As one who was carried along that path (I was an Army officer in Iraq in 2003-2004) and who is now attempting to write in a systematic way about it, I had several reactions to his post and to those of Professors Macdonald and Fraser. Whereas the latter scholars discuss the possible utility of the "Garbage Can Model" for explaining the decision, my own inclination is to frame the decision in a larger political context, in terms of the domestic politics of foreign policy agenda-setting. Unlike, say, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, who credit the influence of the so-called "Israel Lobby" with leading the U.S. down the road to war, I would argue that "Iraq" (as a concept) was simply one more battleground in a partisan contest between the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. government -- in the 1990s. Once the idea of toppling Saddam was, in effect, the foreign policy status quo, to the extent that there were differences in the Bush administration's understanding of the Iraq problem and its solution, these would be differences of degree and not kind. Jervis describes a "strong" version of the path to war story, in which the Bush administration set the "train" of U.S. foreign policy on a track that inevitably led to Baghdad. The strong version, he writes, depends critically upon assumptions about the administration's motivations and wanting to do something is not the same as doing it - nor does wanting to do something tell you how to do it. Jervis suggests instead that a "better case can be made for a weaker version" of the story, in which "from the start the administration saw Saddam as a significant threat and was exploring how to overthrow him." This version of the story, I will argue, is still too focused on the Bush administration. Jervis suggests we need to look at other foreign policies - North Korea policy, for example - to understand Iraq policy, increasing the number of cases. I would argue that we can better understand the Bush policy for Iraq by looking at the within-case variation - how did Iraq policy evolve over time? By controlling for things like W.M.D., Saddam, Israel, oil, and comparing the Bush administration's policy to his predecessors, perhaps we can tease out the those things (if any) that made Bush's policy different. It is true that Bush saw Saddam as a threat, but I have argued elsewhere that there was nothing uniquely "Bush" about that. Perhaps a "weakly strong" or "strongly weak" story is needed, in which there is indeed a kind of inevitability about the confrontation, but it was an inevitability created by domestic politics rather than 9/11. In my estimation, the origins of the "path to war" are found in the Republican Revolution of 1994; I will suggest that from 1996 to 2000, Iraq policy was not about Iraq - it was about an increasingly strident partisan attack on President Bill Clinton in which "Iraq" was not a subject of deliberate policy but was a synecdoche for "Clinton's failure." In a pluralistic policy-making environment, I would expect to observe competition among rival actors to define the policy agenda. As Jeffrey Legro suggests, this is particularly likely when the policy status quo no longer meets the expectations of political elites. Ideally there would be a robust "marketplace" of ideas, but in fact comparatively few ideas about a policy survive the competition, and through sheer repetition certain ideas get "locked-in" - for cognitive misers there is an innate appeal in the familiar. During the 1990s, few foreign policy ideas were repeated more than the need to overthrow Saddam Hussein, and by 2001 the idea that Saddam was a significant threat and had to be overthrown was not only unchallenged -- it was unchallengeable. As Francis Fukuyama notes, during the 1990s the Realist wing of the Republican Party was marginalized by the party's shift to the right on social issues and its embrace of the more assertive American primacy advanced by a hawkish foreign policy community (generically, if incorrectly, called "neoconservatives"). While the hawks themselves evidenced little interest in the social issues that animated the social conservative base, judging by the frequency of their appearances on the FOX News Channel it seems reasonable to conclude they had an interest in the multiplier effect that appearances in front of the base had on the seriousness with which their ideas were taken. Where even just five years earlier the idea of regime change might have gone no further than the pages of low-circulation foreign policy journals, once it became part of the mainstream media discourse and was adopted by an ascendant - and assertive - political movement, it took on a life of its own. Between 1995 and 1998, the debate over Iraq collapsed into two rival positions - maintaining the containment status quo or changing policy by leveraging America's new, post-Cold War primacy and ousting Saddam. The Republicans elected in 1994 were "militantly partisan," an attribute that only deepened over the decade, but largely focused on attacking Clinton's domestic political agenda. Once they started shopping for a foreign policy issue to add to their arsenal, after several abortive starts on Bosnia and Haiti, they found their weapons in the neoconservative discourse on Iraq. The Republicans' timing was fortuitous, because neoconservatives were shopping for patrons. The idea of ousting Saddam was floated just after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait by Jim Hoagland of the _Washington Post_, but it gained little traction among the Republicans then in office largely because (from my point of view) the old "Realist" wing of the G.O.P. was still influential. By 1995, however, those promoting regime change found they had two important new allies: the newly elected Republican majority, which did not have an identifiable cadre of foreign policy experts, and, ironically, Saddam Hussein himself. Saddam did yeoman's work in making the neoconservatives' case on the futility of containment for them - threatening Kuwait in 1994, repeatedly challenging the no-fly zones, repeatedly interfering with and expelling United Nations weapons inspection teams, and so on. As a result, proponents of regime change were able to plausibly claim, and with increasing frequency, that containment was "failing." Between 1996 and 1998 the Republican-dominated Congress convened hearings on Iraq policy with increasing frequency, and the overwhelming majority of witnesses were proponents of regime change - among those most frequently appearing were Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Ahmed Chalabi. For the committee chairs, the repeat appearances were doubly attractive - they could traffic in rank partisan attacks covered in the thin veneer of allegedly serious and unbiased policy evaluations by experts. For example, Paul Wolfwitz told the House National Security Committee, Clinton's policy was "a muddle of confusion and pretense," because Clinton was unable to see that the only "serious policy...would aim at liberating the Iraqi people from Saddam's tyrannical grasp." Clinton, in other words, was confused, phony, and unserious - therefore his policy had to be, too. And though for the time being the Republicans could not achieve their ambition of getting rid of Clinton, they could certainly do away with his policy. By 1998 Republicans were so confident they could redefine the policy agenda that Newt Gingrich, then Speaker of the House, told the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, that the U.S. would demand Saddam "either agree to unlimited United Nations inspections" or else "we'll have to replace him." One could hardly talk about Iraq policy in anything other than the Republicans' terms - even Secretary of State Albright and Secretary of Defense William Cohen adopted them. The Clinton administration vainly tried to defend the containment status quo, essentially trying to punt by declaring a policy of "containment-plus." The "plus," of course, referred to regime change. Defending the policy was made manifestly more difficult once congressional Democrats entered the debate - in the Senate, "foreign policy" senators like John Kerrey of Massachusetts and Bob Kerry of Nebraska sided with the Republicans, while in the House liberal Democrats like John Conyers of Michigan and Cynthia McKinney of Georgia attacked the Clinton policy from a humanitarian perspective. Reports of the human suffering associated with the sanctions regime were made much more salient by Madeleine K. Albright's gaffe on "60 Minutes," in which, responding to a journalist's question about U.N. reports that sanctions led to the deaths of a half-million Iraqi children, "We think the price is worth it." Predictably, calls by the left to ease or end the sanctions fed directly back into the "Saddam-is-winning" discourse of the right. We can only guess at the degree to which Clinton was distracted by his legal troubles. As Republicans convened hearing after hearing on Iraq, in July 1998 Special Prosecutor Kenneth N. Starr offered former White House intern Monica Lewinsky immunity in exchange for her testimony against the president. From my perspective, the Iraq Liberation Act, signed in October 1998, signaled Clinton's surrendering of the Iraq policy initiative to his political adversaries. While it is true that the act was a piece of symbolic legislation, expressing the "sense of the Congress," this is a subtle distinction that was likely lost on most American. From Saddam Hussein's perspective, he simply would have observed the American president signing a document that was, in effect, his death warrant. In my view, the apparent failure to take Saddam's perspective within the strategic interaction into account must stand as the central weakness in U.S. policy at this time. As Saddam himself told George Piro, an F.B.I. Special Agent who interviewed him shortly before his execution, "he was more concerned about Iran discovering Iraq's weaknesses and vulnerabilities than [about] the repercussions [in] the United States." As long as Saddam had some number of undiscovered or uninspected W.M.D. sites, he could afford to tolerate the inspections (though occasionally remonstrating over the violations of Iraqi sovereignty to reassert his domestic bona fides), but as ever more sites were uncovered by inspectors or destroyed by airstrikes, the deterrent value within the Iraq-Iran strategic interaction of those that remained loomed ever larger - and so, therefore, did the seeming payoffs to obstructionism. This time it was Saddam who, metaphorically, discovered he had unexpected allies - American foreign policy-makers themselves. For example, in November 1997, Secretary of Defense William Cohen startled the journalists Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts of ABC News by dumping a 5-pound bag of sugar on the studio desk during a filming of the news program, "This Week." Cohen told the two that if he had dumped anthrax, and not sugar, on the table, that amount alone would have killed half the people in Washington, D.C. - and Saddam had much more than just five pounds of the stuff. If one accepts the idea that deterrence depends, in part, upon the credibility of one's threats, each time an American official declared Saddam Hussein to be a danger to world peace, the credibility of his phantom deterrent force vis-a-vis Iran received a boost. Jervis notes, correctly, that promotion of the idea of regime change did not necessarily imply promotion of an Iraqi Freedom-like war. He is correct that, between 1994 and 1998, most of the attention was on the Iraqi National Congress. He is also correct that strategists and security experts dismissed the idea that the I.N.C. could topple Saddam as a fantasy. However, it bears noting that this was a rejection of the I.N.C. as the force for toppling Saddam - not the idea of toppling him itself. Rejecting the idea that Iraqi exiles could overthrow Saddam did not negate the power of the idea of regime change for Republicans, either; they simply blamed Clinton for not fulfilling the financial commitments of the Iraq Liberation Act and modified their proposals. During the 2000 presidential campaign, for example, Robert Zoellick, then a foreign policy advisor to Bush, told Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy that the I.N.C. could be used to chip away at the regime by occupying small areas of Iraq (which would then be defended by the U.S.), to which other Iraqi "patriots" would then flock. How, then, does this bear on the George W. Bush administration and 9/11? The Bush administration's insistence on ideological purity is well known, as is the Republican Party's insistence on ideological discipline. That characteristic was, in essence, elaborated to the public at large after 9/11 - one was either with "us" or with "the terrorists." In terms of the dominant foreign policy discourse, the Iraq policy status quo after 1998 was "oust Saddam," and while that does not translate directly into "invade Iraq to topple Saddam," it also does not translate into "do not topple Saddam." Likewise, whether or not Donald Rumsfeld's plans for "transformation" would have reached fruition (Jervis believes they would not have done), the shock of 9/11 and the seeming ease of the campaign in Afghanistan surely lowered perceptions about the potential costs associated with using military force. The idea that America would inevitably have battlefield dominance - a recurring element in the security policy discourse of the 1990s - fed into the promotion of American primacy after the Cold War; primacy would be easy because America was militarily preeminent, and the idea of regime change in Iraq was consistent with both. The Bush administration had at its disposal a policy that had already met a partisan litmus test, adopted and endorsed by the Republican Party, which could explain what the National Security Archive found so "revealing" in the declassified record -- the absence of "any indication whatsoever...that top Bush administration officials seriously considered an alternative to war." They didn't need an alternative -- the plan, as it were, had already been vetted. Moreover, they had a pre-existing narrative supported by "experts" and "Iraqis" (exiles like Kanan Makiya) that confirmed to policy-makers (and the public) that the U.S. could invade Iraq but not be anti-Muslim, because this would be a liberation - exactly what the hidden masses of Iraqis were waiting for. As to why an invasion had become necessary, in essence the Republican majority could claim the "real" problem hadn't been Saddam at all - it had been Clinton, unwilling or unable to see that America could, and should, ensure its global primacy through the use of force sooner, rather than later; because "everything changed" after 9/11, and given American military preeminence and national unity, it was simply the case that the commitment of military force was no longer as costly as it might otherwise have been. As Jervis wrote in _Perception and Misperception in International Politics _, policymakers' expectations about an event shape their perceptions. The Bush administration's expectations about the ease with which Saddam could be replaced by (in R. James Woolsey's words) the "true patriots" of the Iraqi National Congress; the ease with which the U.S. could defeat the Iraqi armed forces; and the likelihood that Americans, recovering from the shock of 9/11 would stand behind the commander-in-chief - cannot but have shaped their perception that an invasion and regime change could not be anything other than an American victory. When the Department of State and the U.S. Army War College, war-gaming an invasion as part of the "Future of Iraq Project," concluded that Iraq-after-Saddam would be infinitely more challenging than Americans had been led to believe, at the principals level that "discrepant information simply [was] not noticed." On a final note, I was surprised to see Jervis write, "The bureaucracy, especially the military, knew" that the Bush team had an interest in regime change and was "being pushed to develop a range of plans" for that contingency "from the start." From my point-of-view, scholars, journalists, and political activists all tend to overstate the importance of the Pentagon "develop[ing] a range of plans." Developing a range of plans is what the military does - the U.S. had a war plan for the invasion of Canada until 1939. Operation Plan 1003V, which was the basic document for the 2003 invasion, had been staffed and exercised at various levels within US Central Command for years. Throughout the 1990s, forces were regularly rotated into Kuwait under the rubric of an exercise called "Intrinsic Action" that tested elements of the plan. The mere fact that a war plan existed for the invasion of Iraq has little to do with actual invasion and so, I would argue, has little to do with the path to war - it is correlation, not causation. Jervis' conclusion, that for scholars the key challenge will be determining just how important Iraq really was to the administration, is a trenchant one. Having been on the wrong end of the administration's 6,000-mile-long screwdriver, my gut suggests to me that, Iraq - as a strategic, rather than campaign, problem - was not at the administration's foreign policy center-of-gravity until well after the 2004 elections, when members of the "coalition of the willing" slowly began to pack up and go home. If I were to make an (un)educated guess, I would argue that 2006, when the civil-war-within-the-war became the dominant story in the global media and when the Democratic Party regained the Congress, was the first year in which the Bush administration (that is, at the principals level and not among professional intelligence and military analysts) systematically analyzed Iraq and its effects on America's wider grand strategy - a hunch that would seem to be borne out by the subsequent implementation of the so-called "Surge" strategy which was directed as much at American disengagement as it was at the sectarian strife that harmed so many Iraqis. Russell A. Burgos, Ph.D. Middle East Program Director (Military-Security) Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation NOTES  John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, _The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy_ (NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2008).  Russell A. Burgos, "Origins of Regime Change: Ideapolitik on the Long Road to Baghdad, 1993-2000," _Security Studies _, Vo. 17, No. 2 (April 2008).  David A. Rochefort and Roger W. Cobb, eds., _The Politics of Problem Definition: Shaping the Policy Agenda _ (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1994).  Jeffrey Legro, _Rethinking the World: Great Power Strategies and International Order _ (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005).  Francis Fukuyama, _America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy _ (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006).  Sidney M. Milkis and Jesse H. Rhodes, "George W. Bush, the Republican Party, and the 'New' American Party System," _Perspectives on Politics _, vol. 5, no. 3 (September 2007), p. 468.  United States Congress, House of Representatives, National Security Committee, "U.S. Policy Options on Iraq," 105th Cong., 2nd Sess., September 16, 1998.  Basil Talbott, "Gingrich Looks to Go Beyond Punishment," _Chicago Sun-Times _, February 5, 1998.  Joy Gordon, _Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions _ (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010).  Though one might take it with a grain or two of salt, Saddam himself claimed this rationale for his behavior in the years leading to the invasion in interviews with American intelligence officials. Kevin Woods, James Lacey, and Williamson Murray, "Saddam's Delusions: The View from Inside," _Foreign Affairs_, vol. 85, no. 3 (May-June 2006): pp. 2-26.  Record of conversation, June 11, 2004. http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB279/index.htm  Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Briefing with Leon Furth and Robert Zoellick, Federal News Service, May 19, 2000, via LEXIS/NEXIS  Ronald R. Krebs and Jennifer K. Kobasz, "Fixing the Meaning of 9/11: Hegemony, Coercion, and the Road to War in Iraq," _Security Studies _, Vol. 16, No. 3, July 2007, pp. 409-51.  "The Iraq War -- Part II: Was There Even a Decision?" National Security Archive Update, October 1 2010, http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=H-Diplo&month=1010&week=a&msg=1AfIbwjE/EfUT2Y6NKjUNw&user=&pw=  Robert Jervis, _Perception and Misperception in International Politics _ (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976), p. 143.  Peter Carlson, "Raiding the Icebox," Washington _Post_ , December 30, 2005.