...the administration told us that this was a critical venture for our very survival. If it is that critical, why take the kind of under-manning risks we've taken? If it isn't critical, then why did you tell us it was? My only fear all along is that we might fail. I cannot understand why this administration would have made decisions that made this process so much harder than it might have been.And the truth is, of course he can't understand. You can't understand if you take as axiomatic the good faith of the administration -- not in the details of planning and execution (Sullivan has abandoned that), but in their overall intentions. But if you are willing to consider that the administration was not acting in good faith -- a proposition for which there has long been substantial evidence, and for which the evidence continues to mount -- then the two questions Sullivan asks have simple enough answers.
"If it is that critical, why take the kind of under-manning risks we've taken?" Because it was not that critical: they were simply lying about that.
"If it isn't critical, then why did you tell us it was?" To get us to go along, of course: they knewn very well that the American people would only support the war (to the extent they did) if they thought it critical. So they lied; and most people bought it. Lots of people still do.
Of course one might ask why they would risk under-manning the war even if it wasn't critical. Surely they wanted it to go well? The answer to that one is a bit more complicated. Some of it, almost certainly, was a genuine belief in their own propaganda: they really thought the war would be a cakewalk, and that we would be welcomed as liberators. Some of it may well have been a desire to prove Rumsfeld's theories about a reformed military that can do more with less (a belief convenient to a desire to use military force early and often, of course). But for the most part -- as has been frequently pointed out -- it was because the troops were never there to begin with. We didn't have enough people to do it properly. So if they'd tried, their motives would have been questioned more deeply; the war's being not "critical" (indeed, drastically counterproductive) would have come out. And while the American people might have supported what would have been really required (serious mobilization, possibly even a draft) for a genuine threat, they would not have for Bush's imperialistic adventure.
Ok: so why did we go at all? The answer to this, of course, is that we don't know. We won't know until we look at the interior documents of the Bush administration: which can either be decades from now, when it is far too late to do any practical good, or now... if the Congress decides to fulfill its constitutional responsibility and hold hearings and issue subpoenas.
Sullivan and the rest of the wingnuts had their reasons for supporting the war: some of which were noble (Hussein was a murderous tyrant), some of which were false (WMD), some of which were clearly false at the time (any threat to the U.S.), some of which were -- at best -- deeply misguided (creating a democracy as a model for the Arab world.) But these weren't the real reasons. What those are, we don't yet know. Someday -- eventually -- we will. Hopefully it will be sooner rather than later.