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.
I'm talking troops on the ground.
He knew something was coming , and he has nothing to lose.
Recently I've been reading Henry Kissinger's latest book: "Does America Need A Foreign Policy?" Any guesses on Henry's answer? In the article posted above he makes some of the same observations that he makes in his book about the 1648 Treat of Westphalia:
"The new approach (talk about taking out Saddam's regime) 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."
Kissinger here is showing some nostalgia for the good old days of diplomacy (this tone is consistent with the tone he takes in his book...though later in the editorial he becomes down right hawkish). Conservatives are nostalgic and I am a conservative. I am nostalgic for the time when the nations of the earth agreed on treaties such as that of Westphalia. Diplomacy works best in a paradigm where the "players" play by "rules" that are generally observed by all of the "players." The Treaty of Westphalia has stood the test of time. Unfortunately times do change. There are individuals and countries who have shown by their actions that they do not believe that the principles of Westphalia work in their interest. They have taken an interest in our internal affairs, witness the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and an apparent attempt on the White House.
After September of last year, few would deny that there are new "players" on the field that don't intend to play by the rules agreed upon centuries ago by Europeans. People wonder how can this be? Have they not protected the interests of all? And here is the crux of the issue, there are some individuals who maintain a belief system that has no relationship to the interests of others, as is understood in a treaty of Westphalia context.
Even individuals amongst the most pro advocate interventionists are aware that involvement in Iraq will reap a whirlwind of wrath throughout the Middle East, but in a complicated equation of political calculus many (including Kissinger below) are starting to believe that the staggering economic, political and military cost that will have to be born by any serious effort to topple Saddam would be preferable than allowing the US to sustain another 9/11 attack.
Pre 9/11, there was talk about US military action against Osama bin Laden. Last weeks "Time" magazine published a marvelous apologetic for the Clinton Administration detailing a "plan to get bin Laden. It was said that this excellent plan was bequeathed to the Bush Administration. Little note is made in the article about the years Clinton dithered away, nor is there any linkage as to why Clinton dithered and the current criticism of Bushs pre 9/11 actions. The debate in Clintons administration was in many ways similar to the current debate about intervening in Iraq. Though I think the case for going after bin Laden should have been a lot more clear cut, in that it did not involve a regime change in a country.
If there is another 9/11 type attack there isnt a leader worthy of the name who would want to have to answer for failing to do everything it he power to prevent it. Or in the words of Burke, to have been a good man who did nothing. This is the quandary before the Bush administration. It is trying to read the tea leaves on a grand scale but I guess that is what they are getting paid the big bucks for.
Interestingly, l do believe that the chaos that the debate about the proposed intervention is causing in the Middle East is just the sort of thing that bin Laden hoped would transpire from an act like 9/11s. Americas relationship to many countries in the Middle East, can I believe be accurately described as strange. Bin Laden was not stupid. He recognized that he could leverage the weakness of these relationships. The institutes of government of every single Arab country are diametrically opposed to the principles up held in American democracy. They are kingdoms or totalitarian regimes. Sometimes they are both. We have respected the choice of the peoples of these lands to govern themselves in the way of there choosing (adhering to the principles of the Treaty of Westphalia (and our own)), i.e. we have not intervened in their internal affairs (at least not on the grand scale being contemplated with Iraq). Besides that, the only intervention that I believe would have wide support would involve the building of democratic institutions, but democracy can never be forced. It has to come from an internal desire to change. And little to none desire exists in Iraq for any institutes of government in Iraq that an American would recognize as democratic.
Though these regimes are largely totalitarian, many of them have endorsed the principle of free trade. This is another principle of American democracy. It is one of the principles that has made the U.S. the economic world power. Some have argued that trading with totalitarian regimes is hypocritical. Those that do this in my opinion miss understand the principle of free trade that the U.S. is built on. That is not to say that economic embargos dont have a place, but I believe that they should only be used very selectively.
Just as military actions should be used selectively. I think the current actions of the Bush administration are just what the situation calls for. Kissinger doesnt like ambiguity. He states: the time has come to define a comprehensive policy for America and for the rest of the world. I think the Middle East is one place where ambiguity can actually be a friend to peace. I think Clintons amateur amble through the quick sands of the Israeli/Palestinian peace process indicates quite clearly the explosive effects that comprehensive policy can have. There are so many issues in the Middle East that titter on the edge of a finely sharpened sword. Having a comprehensive policy which clearly favored either Israel or the Arab states would surely resolve a lot of ambiguity but would it bring peace?
That said, I agree with Kissinger that debating the policy more in the US public domain is a good thing. This debate will surely only add more ambiguity to any Iraqi observers. Iraq continues a hostile stance towards the U.S. It maintains that the US is the Great Satan. It is building weapons of mass destruction. It has used weapons of mass destruction against its own people, against fellow Muslims. What is to stop Saddam from using them against the Great Satan? Saddam is a tyrant and tyrants understand the rule of brute force. This lesson was taught to him in 1991, yet he sees his own survival as to some extent the result of US military impotency. 9/11 showed US impotency. The political calculus of the Middle East is so unpredictable that one could not discount a scenario where Saddam strikes at a US city with a weapon of mass destruction and then dares the US to do likewise to an Iraqi city of poor third world denizens, who are more political prisoners than supporters of his regime. And if the US did strike, would he shed more crocodile tears than he did when he gassed his own people?
The strong stance that Bush is taking, I think is intended to bring a flush of reality to Saddam. He has an address, bin Laden doesnt. If he pushes the button and the return mail address is Iraq. Iraq will become a complete waste land. This is the message I hope Saddam gets. Its a message I believe he will understand. I hope we dont have to go into Iraq. But I do think it is the right thing to maintain a posture which prepares for it in the hope that Saddam will soften his stance, allow back weapons inspectors (as it agreed to under the terms of its surrender) and start behaving like a semi civilized country. I think the chances are about 50/50, but I hope that it is the case that Iraq shows a modicum of reason and does not give into the tendency of to follow bin Ladens example of a moth to the flame
.because with out a doubt the US will have no choice but to provide a very, very hot fire. But providing the fire is what bin Laden and his ilk want. If we do, they win and the world loses. But by holding an aggressive military posture, Bush is doing something. He is forestalling the whirlwind and hoping the other guy will blink. Lets hope he does, I dont want bin Laden to win. If Saddam doesnt blink, then again I think Kissinger is right, the time for ambiguity will have passed and America will have to search its soul and see if its got the right stuff to embark on what will truly be a colossal endeavor.
And hindsight is a wondeful thing. We should have finished Hussein off during the Gulf War.
Kissinger clearly does wish for the good old days where conduct of nations either fit into established rules or clearly violated them. A pre-emptive strike by a country in self-defense looked entirely like aggression under the old scheme, but seems completely reasonable when a weapon of mass destruction can be delivered silently and without warning today.
Waiting and absorbing the first blow before striking back is not a viable strategy in many cases. Israel, for example, can't absorb such an attack, either as a first or retaliatory strike. It simply isn't large enough.
That has forced them to adopt the same approach to these matters as Kissinger is perhaps reluctantly adopting. Pre-emptive strikes against enemies before they have the ability to destroy us is a complete change to the old rules, but one that imminently makes sense, if only we can determine accurately which threats are real and which are illusory.
Kissinger ISN'T opposed to action in Iraq. Anyone can read this article and see for themselves.
It's just amazing to see this lie repeated over and over in the press.