Skip to comments.Kissinger: Steps on the way to ousting Saddam from Iraq
Posted on 08/11/2002 9:24:03 AM PDT by Dog Gone
As the anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center draws near, the administration is facing the most consequential foreign policy decision of the George W. Bush presidency. The president and Secretary of State Colin Powell have repeatedly stated that the United States insists on regime change in Iraq. In an eloquent address in June at West Point, President Bush stressed that new weapons of mass destruction no longer permit America the luxury of waiting for an attack, that we must "be ready for pre-emptive action when necessary to defend our liberty."
At the same time, the administration's formal position is that no decision to resort to force has yet been taken. Ambiguity often can help create awareness without encumbering the discussion with the need for decision. But when ambiguity reaches the point of inviting leaks concerning military planning, congressional debate and allied pressures, the time has come to define a comprehensive policy for America and for the rest of the world.
The new approach is revolutionary. Regime change as a goal for military intervention challenges the international system established by the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which, after the carnage of the religious wars, established the principle of nonintervention in the domestic affairs of other states. And the notion of justified pre-emption runs counter to modern international law, which sanctions the use of force in self-defense only against actual, not potential, threats.
Therefore, an American military intervention in Iraq will be supported only grudgingly, if at all, by most European allies. The Middle East will be split into an inarticulate group, which will be weighing relief from radical pressures authored by Baghdad against the rising dangers from the local Arab street, and radical Islamists, already enraged by the American presence in the region. As for other nations, Russia will balance the blow to Arab radicalism against its economic stake in Iraq and the benefits of American good will against its fear of being marginalized. China will view pre-emptive action in terms of its reluctance to justify intervention in its own country against its desire for a cooperative relationship with the United States during a period of political succession and integration into the world economy via the World Trade Organization. The most interesting, and potentially fateful, reaction may well be India's, which will be tempted to apply the new principle of pre-emption against Pakistan.
To find our way through this thicket, the administration needs to establish a comprehensive strategy for itself and a clear declaratory policy for the rest of the world. Nor can a conflict of such import be sustained as an expression of executive power alone. A way must be found to obtain adequate congressional and public support for the chosen course.
The administration should be prepared to undertake a national debate because the case for removing Iraq's capacity of mass destruction is extremely strong. The international regimen following the Treaty of Westphalia was based on the concept of an impermeable nation-state and a limited military technology which generally permitted a nation to run the risk of awaiting an unambiguous challenge.
But the terrorist threat transcends the nation-state; it derives in large part from transnational groups that, if they acquire weapons of mass destruction, could inflict catastrophic, even irretrievable, damage. That threat is compounded when these weapons are being built in direct violation of U.N. resolutions by a ruthless autocrat who sought to annex one of his neighbors and attacked another, with a demonstrated record of hostility toward America and the existing international system. The case is all the stronger because Saddam expelled U.N. inspectors installed as part of the settlement of the Persian Gulf War and has used these weapons both against his own population and against a foreign adversary.
This is why policies that deterred the Soviet Union for 50 years are unlikely to work against Iraq's capacity to cooperate with terrorist groups. Suicide bombing has shown that the calculations of jihad fighters are not those of the Cold War principals. And the terrorists have no national base to protect. Therefore, the concern that war with Iraq could unleash Iraqi weapons of mass destruction on Israel and Saudi Arabia is a demonstration of self-deterrence. If the danger exists today, waiting will only magnify possibilities for blackmail.
There is another, generally unstated, reason for bringing matters to a head with Iraq. The attack on the World Trade Center had roots in many parts of the Islamic, and especially the Arab, world. It would not have been possible but for the tacit cooperation of societies that, in the words of George W. Bush, "oppose terror but tolerate the hatred that produces terror." While long-range American strategy must try to overcome legitimate causes of those resentments, immediate policy must demonstrate that a terrorist challenge or a systemic attack on the international order produces catastrophic consequences for the perpetrators, as well as their supporters, tacit or explicit.
The campaign in Afghanistan was an important first step. But if it remains the principal move in the war against terrorism, it runs the risk of petering out into an intelligence operation while the rest of the region gradually slides back to the pre-9/11 pattern, with radicals encouraged by the demonstration of American hesitation and moderates demoralized by the continuation of an unimpaired Iraq as an aggressive regional power.
The overthrow of the Iraq regime and, at a minimum, the eradication of its weapons of mass destruction would have potentially beneficent political consequences, as well: the so-called Arab street may conclude that the negative consequences of jihad outweigh any potential benefits. It could encourage a new approach in Syria; strengthen moderate forces in Saudi Arabia; multiply pressures for a democratic evolution in Iran; demonstrate to the Palestinian Authority that America is serious about overcoming corrupt tyrannies; and bring about a better balance in oil policy within OPEC.
At the same time, intervention in Iraq must be conceived as part of a continuum whose ultimate success depends both on the strategy that precedes and follows it. America's special responsibility, as the most powerful nation in the world, is to work toward an international system that rests on more than military power -- indeed, that strives to translate power into cooperation. Any other attitude will gradually isolate and exhaust us. Even when, on issues of ultimate national security such as Iraq, America acts alone, it is in our national interest to couple it with a program of postwar reconstruction, conveying to the rest of the world that our first pre-emptive war has been imposed by necessity and that we seek the world's interests, not exclusively our own.
For this reason, the objective of regime change should be subordinated in American declaratory policy to the need to eliminate weapons of mass destruction from Iraq as required by the U.N. resolutions. The restoration of the inspection system existing before its expulsion by Saddam is clearly inadequate. It is necessary to propose a stringent inspection system that achieves substantial transparency of Iraqi institutions. Since the consequences of simply letting the diplomacy run into the ground are so serious, a time limit should be set. The case for military intervention will then have been made in the context of seeking a common approach.
At that point, too, America's allies will be obliged to face the choice they have thus far evaded: between their domestic opposition or estrangement from the United States. Dissociation from U.S. actions will not save the allies from the consequences of abdication in a world of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction and distancing themselves from an ally of half a century.
Special attention must be paid to the political and psychological framework vis-a-vis the Arab world. An explanation is needed of why Iraqi weapons of mass destruction impede the solution of all matters of concern in the area -- not in Western categories of security but in terms relevant to upheavals in the region. This is why it is so important to couple military pressures with a program of economic and social reconstruction in which allies and moderate Arab regimes should be invited to participate.
At the same time, the administration should reject the siren song that an Iraqi intervention should be preceded by a solution of the Palestine issue. It is not true that the road to Baghdad leads through Jerusalem. Much more likely, the road to Jerusalem will lead through Baghdad. The president has committed his administration to a three-year program for the creation of a Palestinian state. He has left no doubt about his determination to bring progress on this timetable. But that timetable should not be used to defer decisions that cannot wait.
The complexity of the international environment must affect the design of military operations. If war should prove unavoidable, it will not be a time for experiments. The longer military operations last, the greater the danger of upheavals in the region, dissociation by other nations and American isolation. In all probability, Iraq is much weaker and America orders of magnitude stronger than in the Persian Gulf War of 1991. But planning should be based on the visible availability of an overwhelming force capable of dealing with all contingencies, and not on the expectation of a quick Iraqi collapse. Principal reliance on airpower and local indigenous opposition forces is too dangerous, for it leaves no margin for error or miscalculation. And it may place these local forces in a predominant political position, foreclosing other political options. A conspicuous American deployment in the region is therefore necessary to support the diplomacy to destroy weapons of mass destruction and to provide a margin for quick victory if military action proves the only recourse. It may also serve to motivate Iraqi leaders considering the overthrow of Saddam.
In the end, however, Iraq policy will be judged by the way the aftermath of military operations is handled politically. Precisely because of the precedent-setting nature of this war, its outcome will determine the way American actions will be viewed internationally far more than the way we entered it. And we may find many more nations willing to cooperate in reconstruction than in warfare if only because no country wants to see an exclusive position for America in a region so central to energy supplies and international stability. This could be the way to relate unilateral American action to an international system.
Military intervention will confront the United States with how to preserve the unity and ensure the territorial integrity of a country that is an essential component of any Persian Gulf equilibrium. The conventional answer of a federal solution to enable the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish ethnic groups of Iraq to live together without domination by one of them is surely appropriate. But any serious planning would have to consider the means to prevent autonomy from turning to independence, which, in the case of the Kurds, would risk Turkish support for the military phase. And all this will have to take place in the context of a government with participants capable of resisting pressures from the remnants of the old regime or from neighboring countries determined to destabilize the emerging system.
Military intervention should be attempted only if we are willing to sustain such an effort for however long it is needed. For, in the end, the task is to translate intervention in Iraq into terms of general applicability for an international system. The imminence of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the huge dangers it involves, the rejection of a viable inspection system, the demonstrated hostility of Saddam combine to produce an imperative for pre-emptive action. But it is not in the American national interest to establish pre-emption as a universal principle available to every nation. And we are only at the beginning of the threat of global proliferation. Whatever the views regarding Iraq, the nations of the world must face the impossibility of letting such a process run unchecked. The United States would contribute much to a new international order if it invited the rest of the world, and especially the major nuclear powers, to cooperate in creating a system to deal with this challenge to humanity on a more institutional basis.
" ... planning should be based on the visible availability of an overwhelming force capable of dealing with all contingencies, and not on the expectation of a quick Iraqi collapse ... "
Was supposed to be the challenge to the United Nations.
He doesn't elaborate, but it seems as if he's suggesting that a "nuclear club," comprised of responsible nuclear countries, act in concert to deal with future threats. Sort of a Nuclear Nato, I guess.
This should shut Brent Scowcroft up. It has also helped to lay the intellectual framework for the postwar world.
His explanation of the Peace of Westphalia was instructive.
Be Seeing You,
What does "radical pressures authored by Baghdad" mean?
As far as I can tell, no country in the Middle East other than Israel actually fears Iraq. Iran fought Iraq to a draw back in the '80s, when Iraq was supported by the Reagan administration. Kuwait is now well protected by US and UK forces. Saudi Arabia has sufficient air power to demolish any Iraqi attack. Syria has had friendly relations with Iraq, a similar Baathist tradition, and roughly equivalent military power. Turkey has greater military power. Jordan, like Kuwait is still functionally a UK/US protectorate.
They can't be terribly pleased that Saddam is building nukes, as well as chemical and bio weapons. His wanton destruction of the Kuwaiti oilfields upon withdrawing from Kuwait demonstrate a willingness to destroy for destruction's sake.
Saddam's weapons may be meant only for Israel, but nobody can be sure that some won't find its way into the radical terrorist organizations. In reality, there is nothing good that come out of Iraq's efforts to perfect weapons of mass destruction, even for Saudi Arabia.
The only reason we have a presence in the Middle East is because of Iraq. We weren't there to any extent before the Gulf War. Containment, as a strategy, has been successful in terms of protecting the region from Saddam so far, but it has been a total failure in terms of preventing the creation of WMD.
Why does Saddam want them so badly if he doesn't intend on using them for leverage, at a minimum, and to destroy entire populations, at worst?
Do you disagree with what he wrote here, or did you skip reading it because you don't like him?
Certainly could happen, but that assumes the hardline Islamists don't take control before or during the Iraq regime change.
A genuine, functioning democracy in the Gulf is a threat to all autocratic rulers there. The Saudi Royal family is hanging on by a thread as it is, with both radical Islamists (like bin Laden) threatening it from one side, and those who chafe under the strict religious rule from the other.
Sorry Henry, but "to the victor go the spoils".
Overwhelming force is meaningless in this context, when all Saddam has to do is send a single e-mail to bring about the death of millions of Americans and the total economic loss of cities like NYC and Washington, DC, just as he promised us in the wake of his strike against the WTC:
THIS IS NEXTThe problem will not be solved by brute force. Anybody who thinks otherwise probably also still thinks we let Saddam off the hook in 1991 because we didn't have a UN mandate, or because we didn't want to offend our Arab buddies. (Think again!) Anyway, George Bush has a different plan. Wait and see.
WE HAVE THIS ANTHRAX
YOU CAN NOT STOP US
ARE YOU AFRAID?
But, if you are correct, that fact will come out, probably just before we move militarily. I'm still holding out hope for a US-sponsored coup that would avoid the campaign and the fairly high chance of WMD being deployed by Saddam.
The fact of the matter is that Saddam doesn't have the slightest reason to refrain from using everything in his arsenal this time. With the US already on record as seeking his removal as the goal, the best he could hope for is a prison cell with Manuel Noriega. More likely his future would look like Mussolini's, hanging upside down from a gas station sign. No reason for him to hold back.
The oil field concessions in Saudi Arabia date from meetings between FDR and Ibn Saud during WW II. We overthrew Mossadegh in Iran and installed the Shah. There was heavy influence over Iran until the Revolution. Turkey has been part of NATO since it was formed and had a large US presence.