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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And let's briefly go to George Packer, author of "The Assassins' Gate," one of the books that Feith disputes. Mr. Packer, two straight mornings, Feith has suggested to us that this war might have worked out better if only, if only they'd settle on a security plan, if only Iraqis were in charge sooner. Could those tactical changes have produced a very different war?

Mr. GEORGE PACKER (Journalist and Author): You know, I don't think that the changes that Douglas Feith is suggesting would have made a fundamental difference. There had to be some kind of occupation. There was no way security was going to be provided in Iraq by the so-called externals and their followers. Someone had to run the streets. Someone had to take on the militias that immediately filled the vacuum that we left, and that had to be the U.S. Army. There was no way around it, whether Paul Bremer was sitting in the Republican palace, or Ahmed Chalabi or someone else.

INSKEEP: Very briefly, setting aside details, is Feith correct in the broad picture of a Bush administration that just couldn't agree and basically was paralyzed on key decisions?

Mr. PACKER: Yes, he is. They were pulling in different directions and working across purposes. Look, the Iraq War was always a long shot, but it was made immeasurably longer by its principle architects in Washington, including Douglas Feith, who ignored expert advice, reserved most of their effort for fighting each other in ideological battles, and regarded the Iraqi people as an afterthought.

INSKEEP: Thanks very much. That's George Packer. Douglas Feith's book is "War and Decision," and at npr.org, we'll ask him who suddenly altered post-war plans. It's NPR News.

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