Those of us who were around in the 70s remember Bob Woodward from his association with Carl Bernstein and “Deep Throat,” the informer who led to the Watergate scandal that brought down the administration of Richard Nixon. As a nation, we were astonished as layer after layer of deception was uncovered before the eyes the American public. In the middle of the Vietnam era, Watergate was deeply disturbing.
In Plan of Attack, Woodward references a series of extraordinary events: the planning of the Iraq invasion soon after the tragedy of 9/11 under the blind eye of Congress, the pairing of Blair and Bush, Powell's ambivalent dance with the United Nations, the overweening influence of Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, and our shortage of reliable informants inside Iraq. There are no facts to refute the assertions of the Administration; once God nods His seal of approval on Bush's mission, the deal is done.
Woodward is made privy to the decisions that led to this country’s attack on Iraq, in search of weapons of mass destruction. It is hard to imagine a more engaging style than Woodward's, as he relates the very specific conversations and momentous decisions with insight into the personalities involved. These conversations are intimate revelations in planning the war and the move toward the democratization of Iraq. In fact, there is a carefully thought-out master plan for the direction of the Middle East, a plan that places America in a critical position for the coming century.
The principals are quoted extensively and the details well documented both anecdotally and factually. The president is very specific as to his intentions for Iraq, if Messianic in his approach. Clearly, Bush takes the long view, looking to validation through results, the logistics to be worked out as necessary. Above all, the administration expects success in the Iraq endeavor and failure is not an option. That the logistics are fatally flawed is not a factor, since the emphasis is on pre-war planning, not post-war.
Bush is Reagan-like in his approach, leaving the micro-management to the more detail-oriented. In Bush's vision of freedom, naysayers are unacceptable; the most obvious example is Secretary of State Colin Powell, constantly out of step and brought back into the fold by means of convoluted semantics, consistently outflanked and outmaneuvered by the concentrated efforts of Cheney and Rumsfeld. There is a certain inevitability to the mindset of the top dogs in the Bush Administration. Given current events, Rumsfeld's position is telling; the Secretary of Defense performs his duties dispassionately in contrast to Cheney's "fever" and Rice's hovering.
Viewing his mission as a "blueprint for future actions," Bush's willingness to open his office to Woodward is a bold move, as is his determination to change the course of history. As a country, we were unsophisticated, shocked by our government’s actions during Watergate. Now it is another century and, as Bob Dylan sang, so long ago, “the times, they are a’changin’."