- The failure to take on Saddam after what the president said would produce such a collapse in confidence in the president that it would set back the war on terrorism.
This is a marvelous turn of logic. Some might say that if we need bad policy to back up Dubya's ill-considered, bellicose rhetoric, that would be a sign that the wrong guy is in the Oval Office. But to Perle, it's failure to follow up the ill-considered, bellicose rhetoric --- no matter what the consequences --- that makes for bad policy.
Those with long memories may hear echoes of the end of the Vietnam war, which was delayed for years while Henry Kissinger looked for some kind of diplomatic fig leaf to cover the naked fact that the North had won, and the US and its puppets had lost. Acknowledging the truth, he said, would leave the United States reduced to the status of a "pitiful, helpless giant". In the event, the truth became manifest to all as (if not before) the tanks of the North rolled into the newly rechristened Ho Chi Minh City --- and the United States now has to deal with the consequences of that, as the world's sole superpower and the most fearsome military force in the history of the planet.
(There are differences of course --- like the stakes: the honor of tens of thousands of Americans who gave their lives to keep the Johnson and Nixon administrations from having to 'fess up to their mistakes, as opposed to the honor of one feckless national guard flyboy named Bush who kept the skies of Texas free of all invaders for a year or so, and then mysteriously disappears from his squadron's records with his term not yet up. But the logic in both cases is the same).
By the way, one of the leading members of the loose coalition trying to muffle Dubya's war drums is Henry Kissinger...
(By the way, Perle likes it made clear that he is not an administration official, but rather an independant voice which is choosing, after careful, considered judgment, to endorse administration policy. The mere fact that he regularly briefs officials formulating policy, and prepares those briefings from his office is in the Pentagon, shouldn't change that picture in the least).