Richard Armitage is an unusual guy
in Washington -- both candid and well-spoken. He also has a talent for making the
right enemies. Now he of thick neck and broad shoulders has given an
to Prism, which is some sort of new publication at the National Defense
At first, the U.S. government was able to keep Pakistani
intelligence from meddling in Afghanistan. "The second surprise was frankly how successful we were for
the first 4 years-almost 5 years-at keeping the ISI [Pakistan's Inter-Service
Intelligence] relatively out of it. They were so shocked with the speed at
which we invaded Afghanistan that I think the ISI felt it was only a matter of
time until we prevailed." Armitage's timeline here suggests to me that
Afghanistan started really falling apart when the ISI went back in. That's an
He says Bush and his war cabinet never formally
considered whether to invade Iraq. "Never to my knowledge, and I'm pretty sure I'm right on
this, did the President ever sit around with his advisors and say, 'Should we
do this or not?' He never did it."
The Bush administration didn't
understand democracy and how to encourage it. "The Bush administration's push
for votes as though voting equals democracy was wrong-headed because a vote is
something that happens inside a democracy, but is not necessary for a democracy.
You can have a democratic system without having people raise their hands and
have a secret ballot. Loya jirgas to some extent are these."
He believes Bush administration actions undercut the
American position abroad. "It's harder and made more complex when we abuse the
writ of habeas corpus here or when we torture people."
Reading he recommends, and why: "Have you read the novels of Naguib Mahfouz?
They're great, and through them all you get a couple of things, I think. First,
the good humor of Egyptians; they have enormous good humor. Second, patience
and long suffering, but you realize that at some point in time you can't joke
something away. You can't outwait it. I would be afraid the tipping point is
going to come, and particularly now that the strategic center of gravity in the
Middle East has shifted to Riyadh and away from Cairo."