The War Behind Closed Doors
homewatch the full program onlineanalysesinterviewschronologydiscussion
join the discussion
photo of the white houseIs a U.S. invasion of Iraq justified? Should America seek to project its power and values throughout the world -- as stated in the Bush administration's new foreign policy strategy ?


I think you used the term "realists" where it would have been more 'ideal', so to speak, to use the term "idealists". I was a bit confused when you said that realists were up against hawks in Washington.

Both deal in realpolitik. If there is a line between the two, it is a fine line at best.

Snarfix G


I find it ironic that the u.s. is considering invading Iraq without the approval of the UN the U.S. & "coalition of the willing" Isn't that what brought us to 2 world war's, and isn't that the reason for the creation of the UN, as an alternative to such hedemony, and wasn't the UN created at the request of the USA?

karen gillespie


I did not see the program,but I have read most of the material on the website.

I can only assume that you pointed out that President Bush makes the decisions,not Paul Wolfowitz,Dick Cheny,Donald Rumsfeld.
I see nothing wrong in putting people you trust and respect on your cabinet. When you look for a cabinet secretary,or under secretary,you probably want someone who has opinions that are different than your own,not a rubber stamp"Yes Man".

What concerns me the most is the number of Americans who are willing to believe that their government has decided to take over the world. The overwhelming propensity to bash George W Bush is truly unbelievable.

If there is a better solution to the Iraq situation I want to hear it,Stop all the fear and panic and think of a better plan.
I think it comes down to one thing , the greater a person's sense of guilt, the greater his or her need to cast blame on others. Is this what the opponets of The Bush Doctrine are up to?

Frank Krise
Lufkin, Tx.


Thanks for the Frontline show on the neoconservatives and Iraq. It was quite fair and portrayed the views of Wolfowitz, Kristol, etc. quite accurately and without hysteria.

One fault, however: by focusing on the invasion of Iraq as an idea produced by the neo-cons you give people the mistaken impression that they alone are the main proponents of invasion. Thus many of your viewers were left with the impression that a tiny cabal steers U.S. foreign policy. Sorry, but that's wrong.

Here in Washington DC there are thousands of people toiling away in various national security bureaucracies, think tanks, etc. Many of them believe that Iraq is an imminent threat, and they do not have any ideological agenda. It is also unfortunate that you fail to mention that many moderate figures - such as James Woolsey, John McCain, and Democratic members of Congress are supportive of war if necessary. In addition, the NSS is only a piece of paper until concrete policies are changed to back it up - this requires the cooperation of thousands of people and numerous, often competing bureaucracies.

In short, the impetus for war with Iraq is not just coming from the top, it is also bubbling up from the bureaucracies and other sources. Your narrow focus has the effect of supporting the views of conspiracy theorists and others of the view that the government has been highjacked, as evidenced by some of the other reader responses to your show. The neocons may be the most vocal proponents of war, but they are definitely not the only ones in this city.

Victor Chudowsky


Frontline has truly moved from journalism to propaganda with The War Behind Closed Doors.

I particularly appreciated labeling those seeking to back up words with force as hawks compared to those more apt to apply intermediate diplomacy as realists. I would assume youd agree that Neville Chamberlain was a realist.

Even the title and music provide a shadowy backdrop: Behind Closed Doors. You managed to convince one writer below that, this president is disregarding the will of the citizens of this nation in favor of a group of power hungry and delusional "hawks."

Im confused. Was the US Congress overwhelming vote to authorize force secret? Ooops! I shouldnt have written that. Maybe I spilled the beans.

Your own program did properly depict the result of not having force behind the previous UN resolutions the inspectors, thwarted and frustrated, ultimately left in 1998, behind a curtain of Clinton Rain cruise missiles in the middle of the night.

And of course you recalled that the inspectors left amidst the backdrop that for ten years the US did nothing while our dead soldiers bodies were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, the WTC was bombed once, our embassies in Africa blown up, and scores of our sailors killed on the Cole in Yemen.

But then you loose your logical mind and conclude that the Reaganite hawks have manipulated this situation all along! Bravo.

I encourage anyone to pick up a Time or Newsweek magazine from 1981-1982 and read about the peace and Nuclear Freeze movement. Read about the German and French protests to Pershing missiles in Western Europe. Read about Reagans ridiculous proposal for a Zero Option. Remember, Reagan was going to incinerate the world with his approach. Now 100s of millions of people in Eastern Europe and Russia are living in freedom and democracy. How will we ever get that off our conscience?

Somewhere the ash heap of history is awaiting Saddam Husseins Iraq.

Dean DeLoe


Very well done Frontline. I was glued to the television from the first minute to the last. There is a time and a place for the " Hawks" and that time is now.

I hope everyone that is concerned about the innocent women and children realise that there are some in this world that would kill all of ours if they had a chance. We are free because were are strong and brave !

Steve Steele
Chino Hills, CA


Although I was glad that you treated the subject, I was disappointed that you did not treat the following aspects of the story in more detail.

1 the role of the desire to control the Iraqi oil 2 the role of the Kurds and the other minorities 3 the role of the Israel lobby money both in Congress and as it is reflected in what you called "the Hawks" and "foreign policy thinkers". 4 the role of the Saudia Arabian royal family, and that of other current Arab governments.

My own feeling is that the war is largely for Israel and for oil, hence the need for a base and an occupation, and not for disarmament or liberation. All that stuff about "freedom loving people's promoting values.." is bull.

Virginia Wall
Albuquerque, New Mexico


Congratulations to PBS and the Frontline team on an excellent documentary. As a former student of strategy and policy making at the Naval War College, I know that this subject is an excellent case study and your material does a great job of education.

By the way, I am not sure where the letterwriter Cindy Miller from WI got the idea that President Bush planned to invade Iraq right after 9-11. Your program shows that this was clearly not the case. However, the program does show that the seeds for formulating the pre-emption strategy originated with Mr. Wolfowitz as far back as 1992 in the wake of the Gulf War.

Again, well done!

John McClure
Orlando, FL


The program, "The War Behind Closed Doors," provided insight into how the 1992 "Defense Policy Guidance" draft, written by Paul Wolfowitz and Lewis Libby, segued into the 2002 Bush administration's National Security Strategy. This document asserts the right of the United States to use pre-emptive force against possible threats, and thus, offers justification for invading Iraq.

However, the program also should have mentioned that the ideology of assertive military power was sustained in the 1990s by the "Project for the New American Century", and included chairman, William Kristol, as well as Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Peter Rodman, and others. It is disturbing to realize how one group of ideologues has managed to permeate the Bush administration and to convince the state department that military strength trumps diplomacy in the "New American Century."

Margaret Valentine
Richland, WA


I believe your documentary was fair to both sides of the argument.

here is clearly a compelling case for a forward-leaning national security policy at this time. I believe the United States has little choice in the face of blatant proliferation of WMD at this stage in history. The US needs to be able to focus on bringing about democratic change in China in order to assure a democratic future for the world and it cannot accomplish this without halting growing distractions in these aggressive rogue states first. Furthermore we cannot accomplish this all at once. It has to be one at a time and I think the administration is going about it in the right way.

Ryan Schneeberger
Gurnee, IL


Frontline did an admirable job in laying out the facts. Anyone who does not see that your treatment was balanced, wouldn't see it that way even if it was on a television set carried by Moses down a mountain. Thank you for your intelligently balanced program. Now I'm more worried than ever.

A. W. Bergeron
New Orleans, LA


Bush in a "blinding glare of certainty", to paraphrase the title of an article by Joe Klein in this week's edition of Time,
of his own moral rectitude, has alienated the world to such an extent, that he, not Saddam, has now become the pariah of the world. It is that same "blinding glare of certainty" that just might turn out to be his undoing.

Florence Kuti-George
Brooklyn, New York


The show last night was extremely informative.

Am I over simplifying it to say, the dispute in the White House is between the concepts, of isolationism verses expansionism? In a way this idea can be construed from your broadcast. The difference being that our country would be using overt military tactics rather than covert military and political tactics to pursue the overthrow or change of a foriegn government?

Larry Nannarello
edgewater, florida


I tuned in about half way through your program & found history being unfolded before my eyes! As a mother of 5 & Grandmother of 3 boys, I feel I have much at stake in our future.

Ia democrate, my husband a republican, never seem to agree on politics, both are not in favor of war at least at this time. In fact, we both went to our local peace rally during the world wide one.

Your show enlightened both myself & my husband! What really sickened & surprised us, was the fact that the President had planned to invade Iraq already right after 9-ll.

Thank you so much for informing us of so much,

Cindy from Wisconsin

Cindy Miller
Hamburg, Wisconsin


Wow - this was an awesome show. The insights into how foreign policy can be formed, and how it changes was amazing to see.

I agree with the Bush doctrine in principal - however executing it deftly will be a diplomatic challenge like none we have ever faced. But no doubt Bush and his team will be up to this challenge. This policy has the power and potential to change the world as it has never been changed before.... my thanks and admiration to FRONTLINE for its tremendous foresight and objectivity in explaning this policy to the American people. A+ television.

Brian G
St Paul, MN



home · introduction · view program · analyses · interviews · chronology · discussion · readings & links
producer's chat · tapes & transcripts · press reaction · credits · privacy policy
FRONTLINE home + wgbh + pbsi

white house photo copyright ©alan schein photography/corbis
web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation - all rights reserved