Kevin Drum and Brad DeLong cite an AP piece that contends the Bush Administration engages in Groupthink:

In the rising controversy over how the Bush administration built its case for war in Iraq, one curious fact stands out. Some who gave President Bush unwelcome information that turned out to be accurate are gone. Those who did the opposite are still around.

Former economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey, retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni and former Army chief of staff Gen. Eric Shinseki voiced concerns about the expense, aftermath and forces that would be needed concerns now proving to be true. These men are no longer in the picture.

While I agree with Kevin that listening to different perspectives is an asset for any president, I am rather dubious of this article:

  • The economy is flaccid and the entire economic team was thrown overboard, Lindsey included.
  • Zinni’s job was a short-term one to begin with.
  • Shinseki was on his way out, anyway. He served his term and retired.

Further, while it’s true that Bush values loyalty highly, it’s not true that he doesn’t have people on board that disagree with him. I’d cite Colin Powell as Exhibit A. Indeed, Powell seems to prevail most of the time, even though Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz have world views much more similar to the president’s.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Matthew says:

    In response to Kevin and Brad, all I can say is holy spurious correlation, Batman!

    With regard to Lindsey, I seem to remember most liberal bloggers and magazines calling for his head. Only a few picked up on Lindsey’s numbers on the war, but even then the reaction was that it was good to see him go.

    You might add that Shinseki, because his plan for LAVs was unpopular with the Pentagon, had no real incentive to seek a re-appointment, and that he also seems poised to pursue a career in Hawaiian politics. (Which almost certainly means Democratic politics.)

  2. James Joyner says:

    True: Both Shinseki and Zinni were holdovers from the Clinton Administration. Yes, they were professional military officers and techically non-partisan. But Clinton’s four stars, especially the ones in sensitive posts, were selected for huing to the party line (peacekeeping, etc.). Which, of course, makes sense–you can’t make policy if your bureaucratic underlings are trying to undermine it.

  3. PG says:

    There’s a difference between bureaucratic underlings’ undermining policy and doing their job.
    If I were president, I wouldn’t be hiring people whose entire philosophies about government were different from mine (no anarchists and few libertarians). But I wouldn’t hire people, or initially keep them on, and then dump them because they voiced valid concerns or gave me unwelcome information.

    An underling is supposed to share the boss’s philosophy, but be able to pick up on the boss’s mistakes and prevent future mistakes from happening, even if this means that the boss no longer will think he’s God.

    At my job, I’m not supposed to challenge whether we do a report on our corporation’s compliance with government regulations. We’re doing it, that’s a given.
    However, I can question what is necessary to the report, whether we are collecting the information most effectively and if it is being reported accurately. To reprimand or fire me for doing these things would be incredibly stupid management.

  4. Matthew says:

    Obviously, the Clinton holdover factor was significant in Zinni and Shinseki, but Shinseki in particular had his own policy axes to grind besides his natural partisanship. The AP piece completely ignores Shinseki’s arguments with Rumsfeld over procurement and overall Army roles (peacekeeping, as you say) were every bit as significant as his opposition to how the war was fought.

    I view the AP story and Kevin and Brad’s promotion of it as a subplot in the “Fire Condi” meme left-liberals are running with right now. “Fire Rice, and if you don’t, we’ll just say you want to be surrounded by yes-men!” (Or yes-women, in Rice’s case.)

  5. Paul says:

    I just wish they could get the spin straight.

    The spin when Bush first took office was that he was too dumb to do anything so Cheney was really in charge. (remember those days?)

    Then Bush just assembeled a good team and let them run things (once again) because he was too dumb.

    Now the libs agrue say that he is firing those that disagree with him.

    How can that be if he was following their lead?

    The TRUTH behind the story is that people will say anything to trash Bush and the war in Iraq.

    It is just more spin.