...(Neo-Conservative Richard) Perle and I meet again at his home outside Washington, D.C. It is October, the worst month for U.S. casualties in Iraq in almost two years, and Republicans are bracing for losses in the upcoming midterm elections. As he looks into my eyes, speaking slowly and with obvious deliberation, Perle is unrecognizable as the confident hawk who, as chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, had invited the exiled Iraqi dissident Ahmad Chalabi to its first meeting after 9/11. "The levels of brutality that we've seen are truly horrifying, and I have to say, I underestimated the depravity," Perle says now, adding that total defeat-an American withdrawal that leaves Iraq as an anarchic "failed state"-is not yet inevitable but is becoming more likely. "And then," says Perle, "you'll get all the mayhem that the world is capable of creating."
According to Perle, who left the Defense Policy Board in 2004, this unfolding catastrophe has a central cause: devastating dysfunction within the administration of President George W. Bush.
Perle says, "The decisions did not get made that should have been. They didn't get made in a timely fashion, and the differences were argued out endlessly.... At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible.... I don't think he realized the extent of the opposition within his own administration, and the disloyalty."
Perle goes so far as to say that, if he had his time over, he would not have advocated an invasion of Iraq: "I think if I had been delphic, and had seen where we are today, and people had said, 'Should we go into Iraq?,' I think now I probably would have said, 'No, let's consider other strategies for dealing with the thing that concerns us most, which is Saddam supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.' ... I don't say that because I no longer believe that Saddam had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction, or that he was not in contact with terrorists. I believe those two premises were both correct. Could we have managed that threat by means other than a direct military intervention? Well, maybe we could have."