In June, Northern Ireland Secretary of State Peter Hain endorsed a Northern Ireland-style political process for Iraq involving Sunni and Shi'ite leaders. Since taking over as commander of American ground forces in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus too has repeatedly trotted out the British counterinsurgency effort in Northern Ireland as an example of a successful campaign that offers hope for the American enterprise in Iraq, and as support for a long-term military commitment. Recently, he told a U.S. News & World Report journalist that the "Northern Ireland experience" of his British deputy commander was "really quite instructive," and cited that experience to point out that the Iraq challenge could take a decade to meet.
In July 2002, a RAND corporation research analyst named Laurent Murawiec gave a briefing on Saudi Arabia to the Defense Policy Board, a blue-ribbon group of former secretaries of defense, chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and an assortment of nongovernmental experts. The meeting was chaired by Richard Perle.
Murawiec was one of the itinerant peddlers of the national-security world, an authority on everything and nothing. He was, however, at one with the zeitgeist. His PowerPoint presentation that day began with the conventional wisdom about the Arab world: Centuries of failure had driven Arabs to the depths of despair and the heights of envy; humiliated, with nothing to show for themselves since the golden age of medieval Islam, they had lashed out against the West.