On the heels of last Monday's WSJ resusciation of Khurmalgate comes Daniel Benjamin's "Holy Zarqawi" in Slate. Benjamin argues that the administration's passing on Zarqawi was an artefact of its regime fetish. It's a decent reading of the tea leaves, but a bit unpersuasive, if only because I can't fathom the contours of the fetish.
The charitable reading is that the scientific and technical ability to threaten the United States is located mostly in states, and that we can not trust certain regimes to operate according to classical deterrence models in their disposition of those materials. But Bush couldn't be bothered to secure al Qaqaa or a number of other sites that were supposedly the meat of the regime conception of terrorism.
Bush couldn't have passed on Zarqawi because he was concerned about state threats because he is not concerned about state threats. As usual, I am left without an explanation for Bush's behavior (Katherine R. maybe?).
LA Times: For myself and other reporters who were on the ground in Baghdad during those days, this oversight does not seem surprising. Coinciding with the arrival of the Americans, Baghdad succumbed to an orgy of looting and, eventually, to wholesale sabotage, all of which took place under the tolerant and overwhelmed gaze of the newly arrived U.S. soldiers. That U.S. troops could have visited Al Qaqaa, inspected the explosives and then moved on without securing them — evidently unaware of the high-level importance of the site — seems completely in keeping with the extraordinary lack of coordination between senior commanders and their troops in the field that we witnessed on a daily basis.Kevin Drum; Delong; Justin Logan; Yglesias.