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and America: Ten
Years After Desert Storm
A Brookings Forum
February 21, 2001
RON NESSEN (Vice president, communications, Brookings): Good morning. I'm Ron Nessen. I want to welcome you to this Brookings Forum titled, "Iraq and America: Ten Years After Desert Storm." And what our panelists will do this morning is to give you the benefit of their own expertise and answer your questions about what we have learned in this past 10 years about the relationship between the U.S. and Iraq, and what we should do in the future about this relationship.
Today's forum, I think, is very timely, given the recent U.S.- British air strikes near Baghdad; the serious questions about the effectiveness of the continuing sanctions; and thirdly, because the new Bush administration has made a review of U.S. policy toward Iraq one of its first priorities.
Our panel today consists of five Brookings scholars: Jim Lindsay, Michael O'Hanlon, Suzanne Maloney, Meghan L. O'Sullivan and Phil Gordon. You'll find full biographies of all the panelists in your packets, and our moderator will introduce them more fully in just a moment.
The moderator today is Loren Jenkins. He is the senior editor of National Public Radio's foreign desk. He spent 25 years overseas as a foreign correspondent for UPI, Newsweek and the Washington Post. During his time overseas, he was based at various times in London, Madrid, Paris, Beirut, Hong Kong, Saigon and Rome. He—(stops for ringing of cellular phone.) I hate those people who bring their cellular phone! (Laughter.) He covered assorted conflicts in the Middle East, including the war between Iraq and Iran. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1983 for international reporting for his Washington Post coverage of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and its aftermath. He also won an Overseas Press Club Award for his coverage of the Lebanese civil war when he was with Newsweek.
Loren joined NPR in 1996 as senior foreign editor in charge of the network's award-winning international coverage. Now, between the time that he left the Washington Post and joined NPR, he went back to his hometown and was publisher and editor-in-chief of his hometown newspaper, the Aspen Times in Colorado.
So the first question today, Loren, is why in the world did you ever leave Aspen? (Laughs.)
MR. JENKINS: I'm going there tomorrow! (Laughs.)
MR. NESSEN: Any how, as our moderator this morning, I'm happy to introduce Loren Jenkins.
MR. JENKINS: Hi. Thank you.
I think you have all the bios in your packets, so we're not going to go into extensively giving the rundown on everybody. You can—you know most of the scholars here on the panel.
Ron has asked that instead of presenting opening statements, we just really jump right in this and just pass it around and talk about—and get into a discussion about the current policy in Iraq, looking backwards and forwards, I would hope. And then we'll open it up to questions when everyone here starts running out of steam.
Just to identify everyone, James Lindsay, Meghan O'Sullivan, Dr. Philip Gordon, Suzanne Maloney, and Michael O'Hanlon.
Just to start it off, I was sort of struck last Friday when news came out of Baghdad of another round of strikes at missile sites. It reminded me of nothing so much as one of the opening scenes in Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," where, when Conrad's narrator is on his way to the Congo, he passes and he sees this British man o'war anchored off the West Coast of Africa, off a verdant jungle, firing shots into the green jungle, seemingly with no purpose and no effect.
And I must say, having followed the Iraq-Iran relations and the struggles since the Gulf War, I'm left sort of with the same feeling about the current policy of bombing targets on the periphery of Baghdad; that it seems more like sort of posturing, rather than having any serious effect or being a real policy that the United States government should be pursuing, because I don't think it has any end in sight.
Just with that, I'd like to turn to you, and since—discuss—maybe you could present what you think the options are that we're facing today. Are there any options?
MR. GORDON: I'd say this. We have a new administration coming to power 10 years after the Gulf War, facing several distinct policy options, all of which are very bad.
They're all very bad because if you look at the situation now compared to 10 years ago and our expectations 10 years ago, the policy that we founded immediately after the Gulf War is crumbling. It's crumbling because Saddam Hussein has outlasted yet another American president. We thought, and all experts predicted, he would be gone six months after the Gulf War, because of the humiliation that he suffered.
You have sanctions, which were meant to be our tool either to change the regime or at least keep it in a box, crumbling in the sense that you have countries reestablishing relations with Iraq. Turkey just sent an ambassador to Iraq. Syria has now opened a pipeline which would dramatically increase the exports of oil for Saddam. Some oil companies have been paying a surtax on the oil he's permitted to sell in the oil-for-food program. So the main core of our policy, sanctions, is starting to fall apart all around us.
And then you had other ideas about how to get rid of Saddam with means for regime change and aid to Iraqi opposition that we haven't fully tried yet. But there are a host of problems with that, which I'm sure we'll come to in the discussion, but the point being we have this new administration coming in—and let me add, on top of the factors that I just mentioned, of diplomatic relations and sanctions crumbling and Saddam outlasting, we have the other factor of the Israeli-Arab peace process falling apart, which in turn raises a lot of Arab hostility towards the United States and its policies towards Iraq, and sympathy to Saddam Hussein, making it all the more difficult to do the things I began by saying—sanctions, diplomatic isolation, and so on.
That's why I think you have this administration coming to power having said a lot about what it might do in Iraq, but the truth is, the fact of the matter is, every option facing them is bad.
Just one final word on those options. They were very hard during this campaign on how their policy would differ from the Clinton administration's. It would be much more aggressive, either militarily or through aid to the opposition, and on top of that, reenergizing sanctions, to use Secretary of State Powell's phrase. I think all of those things are going to be difficult. And again, that's what we can talk about here. As he goes to the region to talk about sanctions, he's going to hear a lot of countries telling him they don't want to reenergize sanctions, it's time to move on.
And in terms of the military aid to the opposition that we heard so much about during the campaign, I think they're going to find that it's a lot harder to bring about regime change through the Iraqi opposition in power than it was to talk about it in theory.
MR. JENKINS: Meghan, you've written a lot about sanctions, and this is one of the areas you've specialized in. What do you think are the possibilities of reenergizing changing sanctions? The current ones don't seem to be working. Is there really a way one could go that would make them actually effective?
MS. O'SULLIVAN: Well, as Phil pointed out, quite rightly, there's a lot of pessimism surrounding this idea of reenergizing sanctions. But we don't really know what Secretary Powell means by reenergizing sanctions. That has been yet to be seen.
I think that there is a strong case for reenergizing sanctions in this way. I think we can move—we can show some American willingness to move away from a comprehensive sanctions regime and move towards one that might be more narrower and that might actually elicit more multilateral support from both countries in the region and from our allies in Europe and Asia.
And I think the key here is really retooling the sanctions regime in a way that makes it more enticing or more appealing for countries to support a narrower sanctions effort around the sanctions that have worked. And what I mean by that, I mean the financial controls on Saddam Hussein and his oil exports, and also another sanctions, what has worked, has been the arms embargo. Those are the two things we should be focusing on. And if we have to scale back sanctions in other parts, then we should be willing to do that. And we need to show some flexibility there. And I think that actually will go a long way towards bringing some more parties on board to this idea of reenergizing sanctions.
MR. JENKINS: I guess the question I have on this is if, after 10 years where we had once a large coalition that included neighboring countries in the Arab world, as well as the whole world, on board to support sanctions, and we've seen most of these countries fall away and being against them, at what point—how would you begin to assemble a new coalition around sanctions when the will doesn't seem to be there with the rest of the world?
MS. O'SULLIVAN: Well, I think the important thing to note is that most countries still support the general goal of keeping military hardware and technology away from Iraq.
And where countries' support has fallen away has been around two issues, and the first is increasing commercial pressures to interact economically with Iraq, and the second has been on the humanitarian issue. And countries have come under real pressure for lifting sanctions on a humanitarian basis. And I think if we retool a sanctions regime that allows us to do all three things—that is contain Saddam, alleviate humanitarian pressures, and alleviate commercial pressures—then you can have a sanctions regime that has more support. And that is the challenge to the Bush administration; to show that it is possible to have a sanctions regime that will continue to contain Saddam in a more limited way, but can alleviate humanitarian and commercial pressures that have been so successful at chipping away at the sanctions.
MR. GORDON: Can I add just a word to that?
MR. JENKINS: Sure.
MR. GORDON: I think a lot of people don't really see clearly the essential point about sanctions. In fact, Meghan has written about this in a recent policy brief that I think people should really look at, making the essential point that what really matters when you're talking about sanctions—and I think Powell has a chance to reenergize this—is does he control his own money from oil sales, and does he have access to military means and dual-use items? All of the rest of the stuff is—it's not immaterial, but it's far less important than those fundamental elements. And if you could—and Secretary Powell is about as good a salesman as we could imagine—if you could, and in his interactions with the regional countries focus on the core elements and maybe be more flexible on the less essential elements, then we could have a new sanctions regime that might actually be supported by more countries.
MR. JENKINS: Michael, you've written a lot about and focused on the military aspects of Iraq. Obviously, U.S. policy had two goals at the beginning with sanctions; the main one was to topple Saddam Hussein, which clearly hasn't worked; the other one was to contain him so he wouldn't threaten his neighbors. Have these sanctions worked enough to contain him so he's not a threat to his neighbors? What is the state of the Iraq military today, 10 years after the war?
MR. O'HANLON: Well, provided that we stay there, we're in good shape on containment. In other words, Iraq's military is only half the size it was in 1990. It's still a lot bigger than Kuwait's. It would probably take Saudi Arabia in a head-to-head confrontation as well. So it's not as if we're in a position to back away and have the United States withdraw militarily from the region. That remains the linchpin of deterrence. But given that we are in position, I think deterrence is quite solid.
And I think as much as I agree with Phil that there are no good options, we also have to take a step back and say that in broad terms, our core interests of protecting Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States are probably going to continue to be met.
And I think there is—again, as Meghan's emphasized, and as Phil has pointed out, there is support for a certain core package of sanctions. There's also support for the core idea of maintaining deterrence against Saddam.
And even if there will be some dispute about the no-fly zones, which of course are not specifically authorized by the U.N. Security Council resolutions that ended the Gulf War—even if there is going to be debate about that, I don't believe there will be debate about the basic idea of keeping U.S. forces forward-deployed and British forces forward-deployed to maintain deterrence. So I feel pretty confident in that regard.
MR. JENKINS: Well, that would seem to work for the short term, but does it work for the long term? As we all know, Iraq has worked on development of weapons of mass destruction. Part of the whole sanctions regime was about containing it, inspecting it. And there haven't been any inspections for two years. It doesn't seem likely there are going to be more inspections. What does this bode for the future?
MR. O'HANLON: Well, of course, Iraq had chemical and biological weapons during the Gulf War. And I believe that for one reason or another, perhaps the deterrent effect of the U.S. capability either to respond with nuclear weapons or to march on Baghdad and overthrow Saddam—Iraq chose not to use those weapons. So the fact that Iraq may have a few more or a few less chemical and biological arms does not concern me greatly.
The nuclear issue is a bigger one, and we don't have a good handle on exactly what Iraq is able to do clandestinely.
The IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, is still inspecting Iraq's big nuclear facilities, but we don't know what's going on in various basements and research labs around the country. And that does certainly concern me.
But again, the basic point is that Saddam knows if he makes a blatant use of any of these weapons, it could exact a great price in American lives or in regional lives, but he will almost certainly be overthrown as a result. And my guess is, therefore, that deterrence will work.
MR. JENKINS: When I was in the Middle East, journalists used to say that the minute you start thinking logically about the situation, you're probably going astray; that there's a logic, often a dynamic, that happens, that defies sort of Western thinking of "If you do this, this happens." Things tip over. Things—mistakes are made. Things get out of hand. And that's—I guess that's my question. Isn't this something we have to factor in?
MR. O'HANLON: Yes, we have to factor it in. But I would, for the most part, disagree with that argument. Saddam has been deterred for 10 years. Ever since we proved we're prepared to fight to defend our friends in the region, he has tested our resolve at various points, but he's always backed off. And I think as long as we continue to show resolve, he will do what he can get away with. And he may develop nuclear weapons, and I'm not—I don't feel good about that at all.
However, the basic idea that he's going to march again on Kuwait, when he thinks that Americans will respond militarily—I think he's very, very logical about not doing that.
MR. JENKINS: James, you've written a lot about sort of American support and the internal domestic reaction to the policy from the very beginning. What are your feelings about the resolve of the United States and its ability of the government to find support for policies that would continue?
MR. LINDSAY: Well, I think if you look at it, it's pretty clear that resolve really inheres in the president, and that's where it comes down to in the last instance, whether the president is willing to order U.S. military forces into action.
In terms of the broader political context, I would say the wind is at the president's back. If you look at public opinion polls and public attitudes toward Iraq, a majority of Americans are unhappy that Saddam Hussein is still in power. They consider that to have tainted the so-called "victory" in the Gulf War. And they have been pretty supportive of using more forceful actions against Saddam Hussein. To go back to December of 1998 when Bill Clinton, in the midst of his impeachment trials, orders bombing, a four-day bombing of Iraqi, three out of every four Americans applaud the decision, even as Washington pundits are decrying his motives for doing so.
So I think that in terms of looking forward, that the Bush administration, if it decides to act more forcefully, will at least initially have the public on its side. The real question will be, if it does decide on more forceful responses toward Iraq, can they do it at an acceptable cost, and that takes you back to the whole series of issues that Phil raised about you can do these things, it's easy to say, you know, we should drop bombs on Baghdad, but are you prepared to live with the fallout politically from that.
And of course, one of the domestic political hindrances that the Bush administration may find in pursuing a more aggressive policy will be that at the end of the day, Americans really like their use of military force to be conducted multilaterally, to have our allies on board. And if it ends up being in a major use of military force, much more significant than we've seen in the last couple of years, just United States and Britain, then you could see some fissures developing in the political coalition here at home.
MR. JENKINS: Suzanne Maloney, you've really concentrated on the other side of the Gulf, on Iran and that factor. Iraq's first—Saddam Hussein's first great mistake was to invade Iran in 1980 and fought a very ugly war for eight years. Is it still a factor? I mean, there's always enmity between Iran and Iraq, but even Iran seems to be helping with the Iraqi smuggling of oil and breaking sanctions.
MS. MALONEY: Well, Iran has been both, I think, a buster of sanctions and an adherent to the sanctions policy. They very recently refused fly-over permission for a Russian flight, humanitarian flight to Baghdad, citing the U.N. sanctions on such flights. Obviously, throughout the years they've benefited from the smuggling in the southern part of the Gulf of Iraqi oil, although that has intermittently gotten better and worse as Iranian opinions toward the United States and efforts to potentially engage the world community have changed.
Certainly the Iranians are concerned about the Iraqi threat, but they also recognize, in fact, that they are not going to be a direct beneficiary from U.S. deterrent. They are a free rider, to a large degree, in fact. The Iranians recognize that U.S. containment of Saddam has mitigated the threat to their own regime and to their own territory over the past 10 years. But they recognize that inevitably, a direct Iraqi threat to Iran would probably not meet with the same sort of response from Washington that such a threat to Kuwait or Saudi Arabia might meet with.
And so, fundamentally, the Iranians are always going to rely on their own ability to deter Saddam and that, to some degree, drives their quest to develop weapons of mass destruction and also, I think, to reach out to their neighbors in the region. There's been a large- scale Iranian rapprochement with the southern Gulf states, particularly with Saudi Arabia, that has benefited both the Iranian economy and the Iranian political stability of the region.
MR. JENKINS: Philip, you brought up the opposition. Obviously, the American Congress has seen that that's one lever to be used. We voted, what, $100 million just to arm the opposition, the Iraqi opposition. Is that a viable option?
MR. GORDON: I am skeptical of using the Iraqi opposition as a tool for a regime change. I think there's a lot of reason to be skeptical and a lot of reason to acknowledge, as I said before, that it's easier to—it was easier to use this as a hammer with which to beat the Clinton administration for not getting rid of Saddam than it is to use the hammer to get rid of Saddam.
Iraq is a police state. Saddam Hussein is arguably much more strongly in power now than he has been for years. He controls everything that goes on in the country. So it's not as if you have easy access to a lot of people through intelligence networks and other ways who you can work with. I mean, how do you start finding enough people within the country who can do something, especially given the brutality of the regime willing to stamp this out, as it has done on several occasions in the last 10 years?
You also don't have, even in a military sense—you know, advocates of overthrow, through the opposition, point to previous successes, like Afghanistan or the Contras in Nicaragua. Well, the Contras in—and there are several things to say about that. I mean, first of all, jungles are a lot easier to work in, and mountains are a lot easier to work in, in a military sense, than the flat desert, the flat area of Iraq. You also don't have in any way the regional support that you had in those cases—Pakistan for Afghanistan and other neighboring countries in Central America—that are going to help you militarily with this opposition. So where are you going to train it and where are you going to deploy it from?
Turkey is totally—Turkey is our best friend on the borders of Iraq, and I don't think we're going to do it in Iran. I don't think we're going to do it in Syria. I don't think we'd do it in Jordan. Turkey is totally hostile to providing aid to opposition groups to overthrow Saddam. It's going to be Kurds, they're worried about the breakup of Iraq, and so on.
So there are all sorts of problems with this, it seems to me. It was easy to say—to point to something that the Clinton administration wasn't doing sufficiently. But now that these advocates of "aid to the opposition regime change" are in power, I really wonder.
Last thing about it. If you ask, you know, how these other things worked, how, for example, were the countries successful, well, if you remember, the Sandinistas organized elections at the end of the process. Milosevic was also toppled from power when he organized elections. I don't think any of the proponents of regime change think that Saddam is going to hold a two-round election, and in the second round he's going to go down to defeat and this policy will have worked.
So it seems to me there's all sorts of grounds to be skeptical about this process.
MR. JENKINS: So how does one envisage a change of regime there? Dying of old age or—
MR. GORDON: If you had to bet, that would probably be the most likely outcome, because unless you have your own military force that's going to go in and get him—and we decided not to do that when we had a half a million soldiers with their hands around his neck—we decided not to do it then, it seems to me unlikely that we're going to do it with our forces now. None of the neighboring countries seem to be ready to invade and overthrow him with force. The opposition isn't going to work that way.
The only thing internally, other than, you know, natural causes, is something from within the military, and that seems to be the more likely way that Saddam is going to go; if it's not from natural causes, it's if someone within the Iraqi military decides that they're both willing and able—and I put the stress on "able" because it wouldn't be easy, given the way he runs his security apparatus with three different things, and his sons and so on—were going to do that.
And to be fair to the proponents of using the opposition to get rid of Saddam, I think that's the mechanism they have in mind. I don't think they think this is going to be Afghanistan where you just take the country apart and the government is chased out. And I don't think—when I was being facetious before about organizing elections—they think it's going to be like the contras and Milosevic. I think what they think could happen is the opposition creates enough support that someone within the military decides to deal with Saddam by himself and then maintain control through the military.
MS. O'SULLIVAN: If I could just add one thing about the opposition to Phil's comments. I think despite all the skepticism around whether or not the opposition can be a viable force for overthrow, to abandon them entirely I think would be foregoing some potentially useful leverage. And what I mean by that is that there is conceivably a role for the United States to help prepare the opposition for a better role in a post-Saddam society. What I mean by that is investing in the Iraqi opposition to conduct things like—to teach them how to conduct things like elections, war crimes tribunals, these kinds of—running judiciaries, these kinds of things. As it's not possible to create a civil society in Iraq, it may be possible to create a civil opposition that will play a more constructive post- Saddam role.
MS. MALONEY: If I could actually jump in on that as well. I tend to dissent with that opinion simply because I think that it's highly difficult for an opposition that exists entirely external to a country to actually play a credible role in creating a civil society or actually operating as such once, presumably, something opens up with Iraq. We've seen similar proposals made, although advanced less forcefully nowadays, toward Iran that potentially by supporting outside external oppositions, that we can create the basis for a secular government in the aftermath of an Islamic republic.
I think what happens within a country, particularly a country like Iraq, which has experienced, effectively, several decades of war and—constant war and hardship, is that a civil society, however limited, grows within the country and must grow within the country if we are to foresee a more stable regime in the aftermath of any Saddam Hussein regime. And it's going to be very difficult for an opposition to walk into the country in the aftermath of that regime and to actually be considered credible by the population, by the people who have suffered throughout the past 10, 20, 30 years under Saddam's rule.
MR. JENKINS: Thank you, Suzanne.
Anyone want to add something to that before—I'd like to open it up and maybe get some questions from the audience. I think you've all given us some very thought-provoking statements. Is there anyone from the audience who would like—do you want to start?
QUESTION: I think maybe this is something that Jim could answer or—
MR. JENKINS: Would you identify yourself?
QUESTION: Oh, sure. I'm Elise Labott with CNN. One of the things that you said that you might be able to discuss today was what lessons you think the American military learned from the Gulf War, Secretary of State Powell going back to Kuwait for the 10th anniversary of the liberation of Kuwait. And I was wondering what lessons you think they might have learned, you know, especially with the strikes this week, and what lessons they might take forward.
MR. JENKINS: Do you have anyone in particular—do you want Michael to address that one?
QUESTION: No, to the panel.
MR. O'HANLON: I'll start. I think there are some areas where the U.S. military has improved. One, we want to be able to react more quickly, and so we have put more supplies into the Persian Gulf. We have the ability to essentially fly in people to man at least a division's worth of troops, not to mention the battalion-plus of Army forces we still have in Kuwait and all the air power in the region. So one thing is rapid response. And we also bought more fast sealift, to be able to move in to a region like the Persian Gulf quickly.
But we've also assumed that next time around, an adversary may not play to our strengths quite the way Saddam plus the deserts of Southwest Asia collectively did. This was in many ways a tailor-made conflict for a military that had been getting ready for war in Germany. And in fact, in some ways the desert of Southwest Asia was an even better place for us to fight than Germany, in the sense that the weather's better, laser-guided bombs work more effectively, there are a lot of deep-water ports immediately contiguous to the countries at issue. And in some ways, we've had to realize that may not be the case next time around because we may have to fight somewhere else or an adversary may try to find our weak spots and conduct so-called "asymmetric warfare."
Now, I don't think we've gone nearly far enough in countering those sorts of vulnerabilities, but we have all witnessed several of the steps that the secretaries of Defense since then have taken, starting with, of course, missile defense and also improving our ability to clear out mines from water, assuming that a future adversary may try to prevent us from getting our supplies into ports in the first place.
Bill Cohen made that a big priority. And of course also worrying about chemical and biological attack; improving our ability to detect those sorts of munitions on the battlefield, vaccinating soldiers against anthrax, as controversial as that has been, buying better chemical protective gear. So there have been a lot of steps taken or, perhaps I should say, that are generally now under way. Most of them have not been completed.
But our overall ability to wage the kind of war we did in 1991 I would actually say is better than it was 10 years ago; that's in contrast to many defense critics who have decried a so-called deterioration of the military under Bill Clinton.
But the question is, are we really going to be able to fight that same kind of war next time? Is an adversary really going to present us with the same sort of challenges, or maybe more difficult ones, and of course, I would guess they would probably be more difficult.
Final point would be, if we ever do fight Saddam again, I think the war will inherently be more difficult, because I think we would elect to overthrow him and therefore even though, as Phil points out, it's not going into jungles and mountains, it is going into forests and a river valley and a city—or at least one city, perhaps several. That sort of warfare, as we've seen in Somalia and in other places since Desert Storm, is not an easy place for us to fight with the same sort of stand-off precision, low-casualty warfare, and we haven't found any technological panaceas to storm a city with low casualties.
So if we fight again, because Saddam will use different tactics—or some other adversary will use different tactics—and because our goals may be more ambitious, I would expect that, on balance, the mission will be more difficult, even though we've made some progress in terms of addressing our vulnerabilities.
MR. JENKINS: James, do you want to add something to that?
MR. LINDSAY: There is one thing that I would add to it, besides Mike's very apt point that one of the lessons learned from the Gulf War is it's better to fight in deserts than in jungles, is I think the relationship with the news media. And I think for many military people, the lesson they're going to take away from or have taken away from the Persian Gulf War is "control your message."
I mean, for many military people, going back to the Vietnam War, the lesson they took away from it was that the news media helped us lose this war by undercutting public support. And quite clearly, in the Gulf War there was a great effort to control how the media portrayed the war—pool reporting; restricting ability of journalists to go to the front, though a few unilaterals were able to do so; controlled briefings back at the Pentagon. They tried, in essence, as they say in politics, "stay on message" and get your message out to the media clutter. And I think that's sort of something that's going to continue.
And I know after the war was over, a lot of journalistic organizations complained "foul" and cried about censorship. I don't think you're going to see the military change the way it approaches media relations in trying to control the message, though I would argue that actually both in Vietnam and in the Gulf War, it wasn't the messenger that mattered, it was the message; that in Vietnam, the public soured on Vietnam because the war didn't go well, not how the media covered it, and public reaction was very positive to the Gulf War because we won rather convincingly, rather quickly, with relatively few casualties.
But I think that the message the military will draw is, "Control your message. Bring back General Kelly and have him give the briefing."
MR. JENKINS: Having been at the blunt end of both Vietnam and the Middle East, I think you're right. I think the military certainly learned or thought they learned a lesson in Vietnam that they were never going to allow free, open coverage of a conflict again. I think they were totally wrong. You're right; it wasn't the press that lost Vietnam, it was the policies and the fact that the war didn't succeed, and it was perhaps folly.
I think it raises an interesting question about the future, though. In a democratic society where we value a free press, at what point does this country accept that the press will be curbed and that what you'll get is only the official line of a government—which is, after all, what the Soviet Union does with its press—and not allow open discussion and a free analysis of objective observers? I think it's a real—it's a dilemma about the future and a free press and a society.
MR. LINDSAY: But it's also an issue that many average Americans debate. I mean, in one of the classic cases, you have Peter Arnett reporting, CNN reporting, from Baghdad, and many Americans thought that that was an act of disloyalty. And I mean, for journalists it was just reporting the news, and that's what journalists do. They go out and get the news and report it. But for many Americans, it raised the issue of, in essence, which team do you belong to? If you are a true patriot, you wouldn't do that. And you can get into rather protracted debates over where to draw that line.
I think many here would argue that in wartime different rules apply, and that's where you get, I think, a rather lively debate among average Americans as to what's proper news media coverage.
MR. JENKINS: A question? You, sir. Would you identify yourself?
QUESTION: Hi. Otto Kreisher, Copley News Service. With the panel here, we ought to be discussing Northern Ireland, instead of Iraq, with all the good Irish solidarity.
I want to go back to the issue of whether the sanctions are working, particularly Mike's comment on Iraq's military being less powerful than it was before. You know, clearly their ability to reconstitute their air defense assets and the parade that they held a couple weeks ago, where they—you know, supposedly the count was at most a thousand up-to-date tanks—you know, it looks like the military sanctions part is leaking like a sieve. So the question is, you know, are we really doing anything to contain his military rebuilding, with, you know, what he's been able to do?
MR. O'HANLON: I would say, overall, we're in quite good shape. Let me give you one indication on air defenses.
In the war itself, we lost about 40 airplanes, about 40 coalition airplanes. Since that time, we've lost zero. It's remarkable.
People talked about how remarkable it was that we could fly 37,000, 38,000 NATO sorties in Operation Allied Force against Serbia and only lose three planes, two shot down. It's at least as remarkable that we've now flown over Iraq for 10 years since the Gulf War, and they try to shoot at us, and they miss. It makes me nervous that we're still in a position where we're vulnerable, and heaven forbid Saddam get a Western pilot as a hostage. But nonetheless, it's remarkable the degree to which we dominate his airspace.
And he may have a thousand tanks that can drive around Baghdad without being fired upon after having had a week to prepare for the parade, but those are not very good tanks, and they're certainly not very functional in combat in a place where he might want to use them. They're good enough, unfortunately, to oppress his own population, and I don't believe the no-fly zone really prevents us from—really allows us to protect the Shi'a in southern Iraq in particular. And we should be a little bit humble about our ability there.
But nonetheless, his overall military, while it's still strong vis-a-vis Kuwait, and probably stronger than Saudi Arabia, is definitely only half the strength that it was 10 years ago or, I should say, 10 years and three months ago. And that's a good thing, and I think it's likely to continue.
MR. JENKINS: Just add, if you want to add.
MR. GORDON: Yeah, in response to the metaphor of the sanctions leaking like a sieve, I don't really know how a sieve leaks. But I think it's better to say—it's actually—it's leaking like a faucet dripping. I mean, you know, we focus on what's getting in and out, but not on what's not getting in and out. And what's not getting out is millions of barrels of Iraqi oil. I mean, if you look back over the past 10 years since we had Resolution 687, basically, you know, banning the export of oil from Iraq, Saddam Hussein has foregone about $150 billion of potential income that he would have had in his coffers to spend on, you know, all the weapons of mass destruction, tanks, conventional force—$150 billion worth. What could have been done with that over the past 10 years is enormous.
So it's true that things are trickling in and out, and the smuggling on the edges of sanctions and so on—they're starting to break down. But—and it takes me back to my first point about all the options being bad, all the policies being bad. The sanctions is—you know, again, to paraphrase another quote, it's the worst possible policy, except for all the others. It has succeeded in keeping him relatively in a box. And I would argue he has far less WMD potential than he would have had without the sanctions, and far less conventional military power than he would have had with[out] the sanctions, and far less of a budget to do mischief in other places, like in Israel and against other Arab regimes, than he would have.
So I think this needs to be put in perspective. Sanctions are not horribly failing.
MR. JENKINS: Anyone want to add something to that?
MR. LINDSAY: Phil is wise.
MR. JENKINS: Okay. A question back there?
QUESTION: Good morning. My name is Vince Sinning, executive director of the Council on Diplomacy. This question is for the panel, but I would appreciate if my—two of my most admired policy experts, Philip and Michael, can answer this.
I totally agree with what Philip wrote in his conclusive remark in his American primacy article, in which he said that the Middle East may be on the road to peace or may be on the road to war, but one unmistakable conclusion that we can make is that the U.S. will always be on the road with it.
In the past 10 years we have spent so much money, time, energy, and efforts, risking American lives, patrolling the no-fly zone over Iraq. Looking at the situation now, do you think it's worth the effort?
My second point is, what is the purpose of that policy where many of those members in the region are opposed to—if not all; some of them are critical in last Friday's attack—if it is, in fact, to protect them?
MR. JENKINS: Who wants to start on that? Does anyone want to—you're going to start.
MR. GORDON: I'll start but I'll be brief. The short answer is yes, it's worth the effort. I mean, partly it derives—what I've just been saying—it derives from—if you look back—I mean, the point I was making that you cite is that it's taking issue with the idea that the U.S. could somehow back out of this region. And the incoming administration, in a way, hinted at that towards the Middle East peace process, not towards the Gulf.
Clearly the Clinton policies were failing; things were falling apart and there was a tendency to say, "Well, we're going to sort of step back and not invest all of the president's time and the secretary of State's time and all of that; downgrade the peace process more to a, sort of, an assistant secretary level with obvious attention from the top but not full time attention." I don't even think that's possible because the issues are too important.
And we like to think that we sort of control the agenda. "Well, we're going to work on the Syria track first; we're going to work on the Gulf first." We don't do that at all. We work on whatever jumps up into our face. And that's what I'm certain is going to happen with this administration as well. If violence erupts between Palestinians and Israelis, that's going to be at the top of the agenda. If there's something going on with the Syrians and if there's something going on with Iraq, it will be that, as we saw just a few days ago.
And so I don't think we have a choice but to be engaged. And I also think it's right that we be engaged because the issues are important. If you take it back to 10 years ago, and if we had taken the attitude that, you know, these issues really aren't for us, and you could argue that, you know, we implied that attitude in fact, then you get failures of deterrence, you get potential for one country invading another. And with our relationships with important countries in the region at stake; with oil and energy prices and availability at stake, and with issues like weapons of mass destruction at stake where, if you don't pay attention and do something about it, these things can spread elsewhere in the world—the technologies and the chemical and biological weapons and so on—sure, it takes a lot of time and political capital and money, but it's worth it and that's why we do it.
MR. O'HANLON: Very quickly, I agree with Phil's broad argument. I'd give a specific policy alternative we may have to modify, not the broad thrust of American policy, but the way in which we carry out the no-fly zone. And I do think, when you look at the strain on the U.S. Air Force that this mission has produced over a decade—and by the way, it's really this mission that causes the Air Force and the Navy problems. There's a lot of talk about peacekeeping being the bane of the U.S. military's existence; that's really not true for the Air Force and for the Navy.
But to the extent that we want to reduce the operational demands on the Air Force and Navy without reducing our ability to protect the Kurds and the Shi'a, I think we could reduce the number of airplanes enforcing the no-fly zone in the Southern Watch area. And this not necessarily going to please the regional countries, because one of the ways I would propose doing this is instead of trying to prevent each and every airplane on the Iraqi side from flying, if they do mobilize and marshal 10 airplanes to fly at once, what you do is afterwards you bomb the airfield, rather than trying to make sure that 24 hours a day you can prevent any of those flights in the first place.
You may want to have the ability to stop a large assault against the Shi'a, for example, but I don't think it's essential to maintain 24-hour vigilance quite the way we do. It's become more of a punishment for the Air Force than a punishment for Saddam. So on that specific point, I would consider reducing the size of the Southern Watch operation by at least 50, it not more, airplanes, and prepositioning more advanced precision strike munitions in the region so we still maintain a robust military deterrent.
MR. JENKINS: Yes, sir?
QUESTION: I'm Christian Loeb (sp) from Defense Week. You all have talked about keeping Saddam in the box and, you know, how to get rid of him and all this sort of stuff. But does anyone really want him to go? I mean, I've heard the argument that it keeps us in the region. Potential adversaries of the U.S. believe that well, it keeps the U.S. occupied. Is there really an end game?
This is to all of you.
MR. JENKINS: James, do you want to jump in on that one?
MR. LINDSAY: Oh, thank you. [Laughter.] I mean, I think everybody would like Saddam Hussein to go because Saddam Hussein is an evil man, and the hope is that something good will come after him. And the problem is—and I think Suzanne has touched on it earlier—something good may not follow him. It's even possible it would be something much worse.
And I think that's sort of the dilemma, and it was one of the arguments against going down the road to Baghdad back in February of 1991. The concern was that if you, in fact, sort of went on to Baghdad and overthrew Saddam Hussein that what you might not get is a peaceful, democratic Iraq, but, rather, you would get an absolute, total mess; you would get a dysfunctional country that may in fact become a failed state.
I mean, if you look—Phil mentioned earlier about Afghanistan as a potential parallel there, where in Afghanistan the Soviets are out, but we're not left with either a progressive or a terribly well- functioning government in Kabul, and fighting continues in Afghanistan to this day, and it's a source of problems. And indeed, one of the ways it affects Americans directly is through the export of opium for heroin.
And so I think everyone wants him to go because Saddam Hussein is evil, but there's no guarantee that what will follow will make us all happy.
MS. MALONEY: I'll just jump in on that and perhaps once again be a little bit contrarian and agree with you and disagree just a little bit with Jim. Just to say that throughout the region, I think we underestimate the degree to which—the stability that Saddam Hussein's presence creates for the regional states and for all of the other major actors.
As you suggested that the—certain of the Gulf states are quite happy to have the guarantee of American deterrence that Saddam personally and that his regime institutionally creates for us, as I mentioned, the Iranians certainly benefit from the extent to which it denies a U.S. presence on their border and yet maintains the U.S. presence in the Gulf and protects them to a certain degree from a potential resurgent Iraqi threat.
I think the other regional states have also benefited from the larger situation, whether it or not we can cite specific cases of countries—Syria most particularly, Jordan historically—benefiting from some of the leakage in sanctions and smuggling that goes on along the borders. But I think more generally the region tends to go with what is known, as opposed to what—the devil you know is always a little bit better than the devil you don't know, as Jim—I guess I'm coming back to agree with him full circle—cited.
And I think that one of the things that we have to think about in terms of trying to reconstitute this Gulf War coalition that we had 10 years ago is the way in which the U.S. can project a new vision for the Middle East, that in fact brings in all of the states of the region and has a more forward-looking approach to the region itself, that does not simply settle upon who is the enemy of the day. It's one of the real challenges for America. We had a historic moment, I think, 10 years ago, where, you know, children in Kuwait were being named George Bush. I'm not so certain today that there will be children born next week who will be named George W. anywhere in the region. And one of the real creative challenges, I think, to the new administration is to find a way that we can project a very positive image of America in the region and to build a coalition which is based on common interests, because I think that they certainly do exist.
MR. JENKINS: Philip, you want to add something?
MR. GORDON: Yeah, just to take issue with the notion—Suzanne and Jim are both right that we don't know what could come after Saddam. It could be a big mess, and almost certainly will be a big a mess. And it's not going to be Jeffersonian democracy.
But I would take issue with the notion that, you know, what follows could or even is likely to be much worse. It's hard to get much worse than Saddam Hussein and this regime. I mean, he started a war against Iran, sustained it for eight years, exchanging missiles against cities. He's fired Scud missiles against Israel and Saudi
Arabia. He's invaded Kuwait and wanted to erase it from the map. He's sought to foment unrest in Jordan. He gives money to Palestinians or their families who commit violence and acts of terrorism in Israel. He's developing weapons of mass destruction.
It is hard to imagine—he's shown in his actions, he's used poison gas against his own people, brutally repressed the entire country and regime. Sure, it's not going to be a pro-Western democrat who follows him, but it's just hard physically to imagine that it could be much worse.
MR. LINDSAY: Well, I would just say a Saddam Hussein who actually understood public relations was much more diplomatically skilled.
MS. O'SULLIVAN: I think that one of the other—one of the things that Phil's comments really point out is simply the paradox that is Saddam's great popularity on the Arab street. And I think that to some extent we may overstate that occasionally with very popular media images. But one has to question why it is that a man who commits all these acts of aggression against neighbors on several borders and against his own population is able to generate so much credibility and so much—a certain degree of respect among the average citizen of many of these Arab countries. And the fundamental reason for that is that he has stood up to the United States. And I think that that calls into question what our role has been in the region over the past eight to 10 years and how it is we might present ourselves in the region under this new administration.
MS. MALONEY: If I could just chime in here very briefly, I think the scenario we really want to focus on is what happens if we get an Uday, we get Saddam's son in power, who maybe isn't quite as bad as Saddam but actually is putting forward the same kinds of policies and the same kinds of threats. The real problem there will be that the rest of the world will turn to America and say, "You've got regime change; what do you think?" Now there's no support for sanctions and even a very robust deterrent policy.
So what the United States, I think, should be focusing on now is saying that we're looking for a regime that adheres to certain international norms and lay out some verbal incentives for it, such as relieving or lobbying for debt relief; if a new regime comes in, that subscribes to certain international norms; that that distinction needs to be made up front and clear and often.
MR. JENKINS: Right there.
QUESTION: My name is Mohammed Shinnawi from the Voice of America. If the United States is reviewing its policy toward Iraq, what would be your advice with regard to two humanitarian issues, the Kuwaiti prisoners of war and the Iraqi children? Thank you.
MR. JENKINS: Do you want to take that on?
MS. O'SULLIVAN: Sure. I'd just like to reiterate that one of the most forceful arguments for rethinking the sanctions is this humanitarian issue and the issue of Iraqi children, and who is exactly responsible for the deaths of so many children.
I think it's a good time to emphasize that we have a lot of evidence that Saddam Hussein could have done a lot to alleviate the plight of Iraqi civilians, and that by—you know, his first act, of refusing to implement an oil-for-food program for about five years, during which the U.N., in the early '90s, was trying to promote it, that's the first starting place to show where Saddam's sympathies really lie in regards to his citizens.
But since that time, Saddam has not tried to implement this program to its fullest capability. As of right now, I think there's close to $14 billion in the U.N. escrow account that Saddam has not indicated should be put towards any food and medicine purchases.
So there is—a lot of the blame for the humanitarian situation in Iraq rests on Saddam Hussein.
Having said that, there is the compelling argument to make changes in the sanctions regime to address this issue, in part because it has become such a divisive one in the region and in the world and it has contributed so solidly to the deterioration of sanctions, to the deterioration of their ability to keep Saddam Hussein in a box. So I think that certainly the humanitarian issue should be at the forefront of this crafting of a new sanctions regime.
MR. JENKINS: Anyone else want to jump in on that?
MS. MALONEY: Well, you mentioned the issue of the Kuwaiti prisoners of war, and I think that's always been very high on the agenda for the international community in working with Saddam, but I also would like to simply point out that, in fact, Iran and Iraq still routinely trade prisoners of war left over from that conflict, which has been over for quite a bit of time now. So I think it should remain high on the agenda. I'm sure that it will, and I know that the Kuwaiti government has been very effective in communicating that, but I don't think that we can expect a resolution to that issue any time in the near future.
MR. GORDON: I completely agree with what Meghan said about this, and only add to it the rhetorical question of what makes anyone think that if Saddam had all of the access to his oil money he would spend it on the Iraqi children and the population of Iraq? I mean, he has, as Meghan pointed out, billions of dollars he could spend on food and medicine and all of that, and chooses not to do so. And sadly, we've seen in history there have been dictators who choose to ignore the plight of their own people, and sadly, there is no evidence that if we completely lifted sanctions and he had even more money that he would use any of it to alleviate their plight.
MR. JENKINS: I would like to say something. As someone who was in Iraq a lot before the Gulf War, I think—or, before the war with the Iran, actually—he was very lavish with spending his money in trying to build up the country, its infrastructure, benefits, medical care. There was a lot of spending. He had a lot of money. He was spending a lot on the military, but there was a lot that was spent. And I think it started with the war against Iran, where he started spending everything on the military and less on the domestic front, but I think, given peace, he probably would spend money on the domestic front as well.
MS. O'SULLIVAN: I think you need to look at what would probably be his spending priorities in a post-sanction situation and certainly, as Mike has pointed out, there's a lot of investment that he'd want to make in his military, and that would probably be his first priority.
His second priority might be the fact that he has tens of billions of dollars of debt that he needs to service, and that would come into play in a post-sanctions environment. So the combination of those two things might mean that in an economy where you have $15 billion of oil exports in a given good year, that there wouldn't be a lot left over for rebuilding infrastructure and tending to the needs of Iraqi children.
MR. JENKINS: Sir, you had a question?
QUESTION: Yes. Thank you. The name is John Leigh; I'm the ambassador from Sierra Leone. My question is for the entire panel. What lessons have the United States learned from its difficult dealings with Saddam Hussein over a period of 10 years or so that could be applied to current world problems involving regimes similar to Hussein's—regimes that commit crimes against his own population, like poison gas used in northern Iraq, or crimes against neighbors, like invading neighbors? For example, in the Balkans, three methods were used: sanctions, military and legal approaches. In East Timor, peacekeeping. In Iraq, military. Are any of these applicable to Saddam Hussein that has not been used against him—for example, crimes against humanity in northern Iraq, using poison gas and so forth? Is there one standard for one part of the world, a different standard for a different part of the world?
MR. JENKINS: Thank you. Well, Mike, do you want to answer that?
MR. O'HANLON: Well, I'll begin. I'm sure we've all thought about this. It's a very important question. I think you were focusing more on other parts of the world, less on what else we could do with Saddam. I don't think declaring Saddam a war criminal would make a big difference, for example; one of the few things we haven't done formally, because people recognize him as such and he's not going to leave his country voluntarily in any case.
So the real question for me is, What could we do in other parts of the world more effectively? And clearly, the dichotomy between what we've done in the Balkans and Persian Gulf on the one hand and much of Africa on the other hand could not be more stark, where we've basically done very little and only the Brits, out of the Western powers, have shown much of a willingness to contribute to helping reduce conflict in Africa, in the case of your country, in particular.
So I hope very much that the Bush team, which has said that it doesn't want to do a lot of peacekeeping and exaggerated the extent to which the Clinton administration really did, I hope they will at least look for ways to help the region; help—for example, in Africa, help countries develop better capability for their own military forces, whether it be to put down a resistance such as the brutal RUF in your country, whether it be to be able to deal with extremist groups such as the Hutu "genociders" from Rwanda in 1994.
I think if the United States is not going to take more military responsibility for those sorts of problems itself, at a minimum it has to be much more assertive about how it helps countries in the region prepare, in terms of training, military equipment and financial support so that we can reduce conflict because, again, as you know better than most of us here, Africa, for example, accounts for far more in the way of human tragedy and human death toll from conflict than the Persian Gulf or the Balkans. And I think it's—it's incumbent upon us to think of ways to address these problems, even if we don't want to do it through military force, first and foremost in the case of a place like Africa.
MR. JENKINS: Does anyone else on the panel want to add to that? Yes?
MS. O'SULLIVAN: If I could just address the broader issue of some lessons that we may take away, I think there are two areas. One is how the U.S. uses its engagement strategies and how it uses its sanction strategies. First, on the sanctions, I think one of the lessons that the international community has walked away with is that there's really been a rethinking about how sanctions worked. Before, there was the hope that if you put enough pressure on a population, that this could bring about things such as regime change or things just like changes in policies; that this kind of bottom-up pressure would work. I think the case of Iraq has shown quite clearly that this is definitely not a route to pursue in authoritarian regimes.
On the issue of engagement, as you all know, before the invasion of Kuwait, the United States was actually engaging Saddam Hussein, and that was obviously a miserable—you know, it was quite a failure, as shown by the invasion of Kuwait. And I think what we learned from that episode is that if we do engage regimes with which we have some serious concerns about, we need to set more specific benchmarks for their behavior. And if we do that, then we have a better way of estimating whether or not the country with which the United States is engaging and America are moving down the same path or in fact if there is a fork in the road. Maybe we would have recognized that Saddam Hussein was not interested in a more constructive relationship with the United States before he invaded Kuwait had our engagement policy been more structured.
MR. JENKINS: Back there.
QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Frank Smyth. I'm a free-lance journalist. I'd like to ask a question that I think has framed much of the discussion, though no one has yet to address it correctly, and that is the fact that most Iraqis are Shi'a Arabs, between 55 and 65 percent, practicing the same religion as the Shi'a Persians that dominate neighboring Iran. And this has implications, of course, for regime change as well as a post-Saddam Iraq.
In terms of the Iraqi opposition, I wonder if the panelists believe it would be feasible or within the U.S. interest to incorporate the Shi'a rebels into the opposition. Now I think they're nominally part of the Iraqi opposition, but they really aren't integrated into that effort, and whether or not that would make sense.
And then also, and related to that, in a post-Saddam Iraq, would it be feasible to have a democratic or some kind of participatory structure that would give the Shi'a majority their fair share of power? Because I think ultimately if the—and this ultimately leads to the question, do the panelists believe it's in U.S. interest to keep Iraq's Shi'a majority repressed, to keep them out of power? And if so, what does that say about our overall policy.
MR. JENKINS: Suzanne?
MS. MALONEY: Well, you know, you raise an interesting issue, but I think perhaps it's a little bit misconstrued. In fact, the Shi'a opposition have not been part of the INC and not been part of our larger strategy of engaging the opposition, but that hasn't necessarily, I think, translated into complete U.S. abandonment of the Shi'a group, which is in fact sponsored by the Iranian government.
I think that historically there's been a certain amount of concern about extensive U.S. involvement from both the group itself as well as from the U.S. government. But I don't think, effectively, that sponsoring any particular outside group is going to be the way to change the regime in Iraq. So fundamentally, you know, your question about opposition groups probably comes back to my bias and perspective on what the long-term solution is toward—for the future of Iraq.
In terms of how we might envision a post-Saddam Iraq and what the concerns are in terms of creating a more democratic structure which might create opportunities for a Shi'a majority to in fact have a more dominant role, what that would mean with respect to Iran, one of the fundamental lessons of the Iran-Iraq war was in fact that both Iranians and Iraqis consider themselves to be members of their own national country first and members of particular sect or particular group of religious affiliation very much secondly. In fact, the appeal by Ayatollah Khomeini had very limited effect in southern Iraq on the Shi'a population, as did some appeals across the border from the Iraqi Shi'a to Iranians. So I think in fact that there's very little likelihood of a pan-Shi'a state emerging from any post-Saddam scenario.
There has been talk, I think some writing in this country, about the prospect of a dismembered Iraq that might consist of a northern enclave that was Kurdish, a central Baghdad province, and a southern Shi'a enclave. I think that that would obviously raise lots of concern among all of the regional states, including some of our very important allies. And so I think even a less dire version of what you suggest is highly unlikely to come to pass.
Whether or not we might find a way to use the issue of Iraq to engage the Iranian government more directly is something that also has been discussed a great deal here in Washington, as we've all noticed that, you know, the Iranian government and the U.S. government have a very common interest when it comes to Iraq. We're both interested in containing the regime of Saddam Hussein, and we're both interested in creating a more stable future for the country.
While I think that we have some common interests, I suspect that we might have some very different ways of approaching both that future and the mechanism toward which to get there. So I tend to think the idea of engaging Iran over the issue of Iraq falls apart when we look at how we might do that structurally.
It's a bit more possible, when we look at the issue of Afghanistan, that in fact the U.S. and Iran might find a way to engage more directly over the future of that country. When it comes to Iraq, I think for at least the near to medium-term, the U.S. and Iran are going to continue to share some interests but are going to continue to refuse to deal with one another on that issue.
MR. GORDON: I completely agree with Suzanne. Let me just add one thought.
I mean, the kernel of truth in your question seems to me that our interest in stability implies, in this case and many others in the region, supporting a regime that is not necessarily a majority regime and is certainly not a democratic regime. So that sort of essential critique is right. However, the alternative to it would be to make "the best the enemy of the good." We can't go down a path that would say we are no longer going to support stability when it's based on anything other than democracy and the right of all people to express themselves, or the majority ethnic group ruling the country. We would get no support for that. And it can never stop. I mean, if you say let's base the opposition to Saddam on Shi'a in Iraq, then what happens to the rest of Iraq? And if you're going to support Shi'a ruling Iraq, what about the other minorities in Iraq, and what about the Kurds, and then the Kurds in Turkey, the Kurds in Iran, the Azeris in Iran, and you would never stop.
So I think we should be very clear that we do support the territorial integrity of Iraq. It's not going to be a democratic majority regime, but much better to have that sort of stability and possible support in the region than to go down the path that leads to the "Afghanistanization," to use a newer word for "Balkanization," of that part of the world.
MS. O'SULLIVAN: If I can just maybe add just one more comment, because I think Phil's comments, and your question, actually, point to the issue of democratization in the region. And this, of course, has been secondary, at best, among our policy priorities in the region. And there have been over the years, I think, some concern from certain populations within various Gulf countries—Persian Gulf, Arab Gulf, depending on who you're talking to—that in fact we haven't placed enough priority on this.
I think what's been very interesting, and one of the unsung stories in the 10 years after the Gulf war scenario that we're looking at, is the small but important steps that many of the Arab Gulf states of the region are taking toward a more democratic future. And they're doing that fundamentally at their own pace and on their own terms without the mandate or dictate of a foreign government trying to impose it upon them. We've seen this very clearly in the case of Kuwait, which has a very long-standing tradition of democracy. We've also seen it in Qatar and Bahrain, where the emergence of new rulers have in fact opened up new opportunities for legislative democracy in those two countries. We've also seen lesser and greater degrees in some of the other Arab Gulf states.
But I think this is a very important story, one that the U.S. ought to be very supportive of. And when and if the time comes, we ought to be looking toward a long-term future in Iraq that is democratic.
MR. JENKINS: Over there.
QUESTION: Thank you. John Wanders, Netherlands Press Association. Maybe it's because I'm European, but I had several times a thought that this is a very American panel, especially when Michael O'Hanlon was talking about bombing Iraqi airfields.
I'd like the panel to elaborate a little bit more if possible on the point that Suzanne raised on the changed political environment. Ten years after the Gulf War, the political environment, internationally, has very much changed. It's a point that raises eyebrows. I mean, we're talking about the latest attack on Iraq that had some repercussions in the Arabic world, and, you know, how Turkey reacted to that; the ramifications it has for the Middle East peace process. What would the panel advise to the Bush administration under all this? Thank you.
MR. JENKINS: Advice the Bush administration? [Scattered laughter.] I think— yeah, for you—
MR. GORDON: Well, the Bush administration is doing the right thing in sending Colin Powell to the region to talk to all of these countries, gather their views, and try to reestablish a new basis for moving forward in Iraq. I don't think that implies, and it shouldn't imply, sort of giving up, because there are countries out there in Europe or in the region that are uncomfortable with the course.
But the fact is—and you're right, the panel may sound American, and Americans start to verge towards a, sort of, indispensable nation rhetoric when they take this point of view. But that doesn't make it less true, on a specific point that, at least militarily and largely diplomatically, it is an American responsibility. And the United States doesn't have the luxury of saying, "Well, look, we did our decade, let someone else contain Saddam Hussein in the next decade."
So Powell can't be going to the region with the idea that this is just too tough or we're going to give up or we're going to defer to others. What he can do is go to the region and hear other countries' concerns; try to remind them of why we care about this; remind them of all the things we've been talking about—Saddam and his dangers to the neighbors, weapons of mass destruction and all of that—and try to see if there's a basis for moving forward.
I suspect in the region as well, particularly in the private rooms with which he'll be having discussions—that is to say not in the glare of the media or, in particular, the public opinion in that part of the world—he's going to hear a lot more consensus than we hear from those leaders when they're on TV or when they're speaking to their own populations because they understand the threat from Saddam Hussein's Iraq as much as anyone.
And I actually think there is a possible basis for moving forward. We alluded to it earlier in talking about sanctions and military containment. So, in short, I think they are doing the right thing.
Some of the critiques we heard—I mean, you mentioned Turkey specifically—Turkey's complaint, and I think it's a justifiable one, about these air strikes is that it wasn't consulted. They play a fundamental role in the no-fly zones, Operation Northern Watch, and even though this was from the south, they would have liked to have known. But what they didn't say is that somehow it was illegitimate for the United States to defend its airplanes, with which they cooperate.
So I think Powell's mission is the right way to start. Try to explain to them the way we look at the region, listen to them about their concerns in countries like Turkey and Jordan that are being hurt, talk frankly to the Syrians about their role in this and how their pipeline, in particular, cannot be tolerated if we're going to maintain the U.N. Security Council resolutions on Iraq, and take it from there. But there is a basis for moving forward, based on that.
MR. JENKINS: James?
MR. O'HANLON: If I may—
MR. JENKINS: Yeah.
MR. O'HANLON: The gentleman's—the premise of the gentleman's question is quite correct in terms of the European attitudes. Many European countries are very unhappy with U.S. policy and would like to see it pursued differently, and that raises a fundamental problem for the Bush administration that Phil outlined at the beginning. I mean, General Powell has talked about revitalizing the sanctions effort and the question is, how can you do that when a number of our leading allies, the French and the Germans, are rather tepid toward that effort? And that is one of the diplomatic challenges the Bush people are going to have to overcome. And the answer that Bush gave during the campaign when asked this question is, you know, How are you going to do it? And he goes, "Just watch me." And so I guess we're going to have a chance now to watch him try to do this.
MR. GORDON: What we can't do, and I don't think this administration will do, will say, "We don't like Saddam, we're going to overthrow this guy and we don't really care what you think." They're not doing that, and they can't do that. They need to go and talk to the French about their views about the best way to deal with Saddam, or listen—
MR. O'HANLON: But we're also not going to simply leave the Persian Gulf because what we're doing now makes the Germans or the French or the Dutch unhappy.
MS. O'SULLIVAN: I think, just to clarify a point that I think Phil was making, there's a role not only for Secretary Powell to go and listen and hear what others have to say; there's also an importance in having Secretary Powell show some willingness to have some American flexibility on this point, particularly on the point of sanctions. I think that's a message that will be welcome in other countries and one that might not even be—that other countries might not even expect at this point.
I know when I have spoken to people about sanctions in other countries, they have often been surprised that perhaps the United States might be willing to take a more flexible approach, at least on some issues of sanctions, and I think if that message can be put out there, then that can form a solid basis for moving forward.
MR. JENKINS: Way in the back?
QUESTION: Steve Dolley, Nuclear Control Institute. I think we've moved a little bit quickly past the weapons of mass destruction issue, most particularly nuclear weapons and, especially, in light of the few disturbing indications we have of what's going on in that box that we all seem to be reasonably satisfied he's contained in right now.
Mike O'Hanlon misspoke a little bit a moment ago when he said that there are routine inspections on the facilities, if not the undeclared facilities, that—the inspectors have been in Iraq exactly twice since Desert Fox, both times to look at very limited and prescribed amounts of nuclear materials that are at least pro forma under safeguards.
Late last year Saddam recalled a number of members of his nuclear weapons team who had been working on other projects. He made a speech that was made public to his nuclear scientists and personnel, saying they were integral to the struggle against the enemy. And there have been disturbing reports from defectors this year that not only has he reinvigorated the program since '98, but that he may in fact have three complete nuclear weapons, possibly lacking only the fissile material.
In light of that and the possibility to blow the box open at any moment, my question for everyone on the panel would be, how can the United States or how can the United States and a broader coalition prevent Saddam from declaring himself a nuclear weapons power, possibly even testing a nuclear weapon, and how might the United States respond if that in fact occurs?
MR. JENKINS: Michael, do you want to start with that?
MR. O'HANLON: Yeah. Good question. Thank you.
Well, of course, first, one little caveat, although I don't mean to trivialize the concern by any means, but three nuclear bombs without the fissile material is not three nuclear bombs. As you know at least as well as I, that's the hardest part to obtain.
But we both share the concern—and I'm glad you underlined it—that there is no way to be confident, just based on these IAEA inspections, that Saddam is not producing fissile materials somewhere else. I'm reasonably confident he's not using the inspected facilities to produce fissile material for weapons, but that raises the question—I'll be quick and let you follow up in just a second—raises the question of where else he may be doing this.
And I think there are only two military ways to stop it, and the most compelling and the most—the only one guaranteed to work—and even this may not be guaranteed to work—is to march on Baghdad, overthrow the regime, and occupy the country.
And the second thing you can try—and I think the Bush team will consider this option, but I think they'll rule it out, because it'll be too hard to sustain support in the region, and it's not guaranteed to work—is to tell Saddam, "We're going to bomb the Republican Guard until you let inspectors back in and until these inspectors can do real work." And even then, of course, you have the question of, do you get enough leads on the ground to go find the facilities where he may be trying to produce fissile material by the grams, rather than by the kilogram?
The good news is, that's hard to do. And Saddam may not have succeeded, and we're trying to watch his dual-use imports so he can't produce the sorts of devices that were used in the 1980s in Iraq.
The bad news, again, as your institute has often underscored, these are very hard technologies to monitor, and I have no confidence that we will be able to prevent Saddam from obtaining them, given the current sanctions regime. The chances are not necessarily bad, but they're not really good, either.
So at the end of the day I have to ask myself, am I prepared to live with the possibility that Saddam Hussein can have a nuclear bomb? If the possibility itself is too much to bear, we should have a debate in this country about overthrowing Saddam, our European friends' protestations notwithstanding, and Kuwait's and Saudi Arabia's—well, I shouldn't say Kuwait—but Saudi Arabia's and Turkey's and everyone else's protestations notwithstanding. But my guess is that we can deter Saddam even if he has a nuclear weapon, plus these countries are not going to support any U.S. overthrow decision absent a major provocation by Saddam.
So this is a reason to be ready to overthrow him if he does something egregious again, but in the meantime, I think we have to essentially confront the possibility our only real choice is to threaten protracted air strikes, and even that will be tough to sustain in the region, until he lets weapons inspectors back in. That option is the best hope we have of trying to get a grip on making sure he can't produce fissile material. And at the end of the day, I'm not even sure it's a good option.
MR. JENKINS: Do you want to add—
MR. LINDSAY: The only thing I would add is that even if Hussein does acquire the fissile material to build two or three nuclear weapons or nuclear devices, it's important to keep in mind his means of delivery of those weapons are quite limited. He does not possess ICBMs, so there's no fear that these are going to be launched at the United States. His ability to use them in suit-case bombs is easier sort of dreamed up in Hollywood movies than actually done in the real world. So I think it's important, it's a very real threat, we don't have good bounds of it, in that sense, in Phil's metaphor of, you know, drops getting through. Some drops that get through could be very lethal. But it's also important not to exaggerate the extent of that threat.
MR. JENKINS: Do you want a follow-up question?
QUESTION: Very briefly, yeah. As Mike said, the nuclear facilities in Iraq, even the declared ones, are not routinely inspected. They've been there twice to look at specific piles of uranium. As far as the fissile material goes, they're one black-market purchase away, and I don't want to bank the entire future of the region on that. And as far as the means of delivery goes, you know, one cargo freighter going into Haifa harbor, a truck, a suitcase, none of those modalities require a nuclear missile delivery system. So I think more attention needs to a be paid to this issue. And a lot of the fire breaks we've depended on in the past are not going to be sufficient in the future.
MR. LINDSAY: But do you see an option apart from the ones I've laid out? I mean, I think the only two options are overthrow Saddam or bomb him for weeks in the hope that he will let inspectors back in, because otherwise, he'll see we're not going to stop. Do you see a third option?
QUESTION: No. That's why I was taking a step forward and asking what we should do if he does—(off mike).
MR. JENKINS: Other questions? Here?
QUESTION: Thank you. I'm Jacques Beltran from the French Institute of International Relations. I was actually quite surprised until recently because very little had been said on how to get the inspection team back to Iraq.
And a lot had been said on how to topple Saddam Hussein, whereas the actual objective of the U.N. resolutions, including 1284, is about the inspection commission.
Now, my question, and I think Michael answered a little bit, is what do you think are the conditions under which Saddam Hussein will accept the return, the resume of the inspections? And if we are to move towards smart sanctions as opposed as comprehensive embargo, what is the timing for that? How will you present it to Saddam Hussein so that it doesn't appear as a reward for his behavior? Thank you.
MR. JENKINS: Does anyone here think he will—there are conditions in which he would accept a return of inspectors?
MR. GORDON: No, I don't think so. I mean, the question is still out there and, you know, it could always turn around, but I don't think so. I think Jacques' question gets at a fundamental issue that's absolutely right to raise. Someone raised before the sort of cynical notion that we actually want Saddam in power for stability, which I don't think is right. What I do think is right—there are a lot of people that hope he does not accept 1284 and inspectors going in because they think, as past history has shown, that even with inspectors you can still pursue weapons of mass destruction. And that where actually the best of all possible worlds—again, this is not my view, but some people hold this view—because we have these U.N. Security Council resolutions that can keep him in a box and deny him all of this money; whereas, if he accepted 1284 or 687, we would have to send the inspectors back in and then he would get to sell all this oil, have all this cash, and we still wouldn't know what's going on. So I think that cynical view actually exists for a lot of people, including in the incoming administration.
Now, the question is, you know, is it right? and, What should our policy be? and our difference, particularly with the French, on how clean do they have to come before we uphold our end of the bargain? I mean, our end of the bargain is, if he accepts inspections in all of the facilities, and what was then UNSCOM and, if you apply 1284, UNMOVIC, certifies that he has met these conditions, then we suspend sanctions. And Jacques is right to suggest that a lot of people in this administration probably don't want that to happen.
I think so long as we are—I think we need to uphold our end of the bargain, so long as the compliance is serious. And what I'm concerned about is, some countries want to wink and nod and say, "All right, he hasn't really complied, but look, we're looking for a way to get out of this mess. What we really want to do is lift sanctions. So let's just accept it. He's pretty close, and we'll say he's done, and then the problem is done with." I would worry about that.
I think we can't go to the point that we got to a few years ago, and which I think was wrong, of saying, "You know what? No matter what he does, we're not going to complete this deal, and we're going to keep sanctions on as long as he is in power. We want regime change and he's got to go." I think that's wrong rhetorically and it loses us support in the region, and I think it's wrong in fact. If we could get to the point where he's actually allowing serious and long-term inspections and monitoring, then we should uphold our end of the deal and lift the sanctions.
But I also think that's a highly theoretical point, because he shows no sign of being willing to do so.
MS. O'SULLIVAN: I completely agree that we—the United States really needs to underline its commitment to U.N. resolutions and 1284, and that it also should try to see that 1284 is implemented in its most stringent interpretation.
However, this question raises an additional point about how do we present this new package of sanctions. I think it's a really critical issue.
And I'd like to underline one very important way in which this new package of sanctions would be different from other past attempts to present a new sanctions regime. In the past, last—December of '99, 1284 came about out of an effort to recraft the sanctions in a way that might entice Saddam to cooperate with weapons inspectors. That was the idea of putting in new clauses to allow for suspensions of sanctions, opposed to lifting of sanctions. These types of things were geared at changing the underlying calculus that Saddam had for engaging with the United Nations.
This new proposal or this new idea of recrafting or reenergizing sanctions would have a completely different objective. It's not geared at getting cooperation from Saddam Hussein. It is geared at getting more multilateral support for prolonging the sanctions that have worked and that have stayed in place, that we've talked about today. That is the rationale for scaling back some of the sanctions, and it needs to be presented as such.
MS. MALONEY: Can I just speak back to the issue of proliferation? Because I think that the past couple of questions have really gotten to the fundamental conundrum that is U.S. policy toward Iraq and perhaps toward the entire Persian Gulf region, which is that as long as Saddam Hussein is in power—and effectively, I think, we can predict that any rational successor regime might pursue similar policies—the Iraqi government is likely to be pursuing acquisition of weapons of mass destruction as a deterrent, offensive weapons. And one of the fundamental conundrums that we have is, if we are not willing to effectively preclude that by military action, how do we manage proliferation in this region? It speaks not only to the problem that we have with Iraq at the moment, but the problem that we are effectively going to have somewhere in the next decade with the Iranian government.
MR. JENKINS: Michael, do you want to add anything to this?
MR. O'HANLON: [Inaudible.]
MR. JENKINS: I think we have time for about two more questions. Let's take one from over there.
QUESTION: I'm Al Millikan with Washington Independent Writers. Does anyone detect with the American players that have returned from Desert Storm to power any personal or professional determination to make sure that Saddam Hussein leaves power before they do?
MR. JENKINS: James, don't you do domestic politics?
MR. LINDSAY: I'm not a psychologist, so, I mean, right now you're getting down to motives, and I'm sure—and it's easiest thing in the world to speculate about people's motives. I'm sure they would love to see—love to be the people who were there when Saddam left, just like I'm sure the Clinton people were very happy to be in power when Milosevic left.
I think at the end of the day, though, that those sort of personal motivations are going to play second fiddle to the basic strategic, political, and diplomatic realities that we've laid out here.
They would clearly like to do something, but they are—they face a considerable number of obstacles, both here and at home.
MR. JENKINS: One more—one final question? Sir?
QUESTION: Thank you. I'm Iranian, and I am Shi'a. I'm not a friend of Saddam Hussein. But a couple of years ago, I met an Iraqi student in your city of Pennsylvania. He realized I'm Iranian, and he said—I said, "Well, how do you feel, what do you feel about—what's your thinking about Saddam Hussein?" He said, "Well, we know Saddam Hussein is son of a gun, but Saddam Hussein is Iraqis' son of a gun. We know he will go away. We are not going to let America to tell us what they told you in the coup of 1953, toppling the national government of Iran, helping the regime finally to fall 28 days later in the hands of mullahs.
This is something that is missing. I always hear from the scholars, and I know the description of scholars was supposedly to observe the scientist and explain. Now, the problem is that the scholars have become the policymakers. Look at the past 22 years of the upheavals of the Persian Gulf region, and you see always all these strange fantasies and prophecies of self-appointed experts on this, on that nation, on this part and that part, has apparently found its way into the minds of the policymakers; otherwise, we wouldn't be in these circumstances, why Saddam Hussein still is in power.
You see, the existence of a political, social activist, indigenous from the area is missing in all of these kind of discussions. These are American point of view when we talk this. Ms. Maloney! Hi....
MS. MALONEY: Hello.
QUESTION: ...The nations, dictatorial nations have been overthrown from outside—there is a history about it, including—I don't want to go too far—Iran. Just 22 years ago, this—22 years ago, this man Khomeini went to Iran and toppled the shah of Iran, who was in charge of the most—the sixth most powerful armed forces of the world. It could be done. And then there was not the means of communication around.
I think, my question is, don't you all think, you scholars think, that there should be, there should be ideas of some of the indigenous people, democracy seeking groups of individuals of Iraqis to be taken into the account? This is my questions to anyone.
MR. JENKINS: Should we be taking more account of the opinions—
MS. MALONEY: I think you raise a number of issues that are very good points. We of course inevitably present a fundamentally American point of view. I think at the same time I know I certainly spend a lot of time talking to people from the region, in the region, living in the region now, whether it's Iran or whether it's the various states of the Persian Gulf, and their opinions on the situation I think have had a formative effect on my own opinions.
So I would take issue in fact—and I know that's true for all members of this panel. We spend a lot of time talking to people and reading what other people have to say and hearing from people and so I think that our views in fact do reflect a wide diversity of opinions on the situation.
You also raise the point, though, of this whole issue of should change come from within or without, and I would be happy to spend hours debating the real nature of the Iranian revolution with you and the nature of the changes that have taken place within Iran over the past 22 years.
But I think for me that experience fundamentally demonstrates as do some of the more recent events throughout the world—several have pointed to Serbia—that change inevitably does have to come from within and I believe change inevitably will come from within. It may move more slowly and it may be subject to more backlash and obstacles than perhaps a group of American policymakers or scholars sitting up here with the world in the abstract might like to envision.
But in fact the most stable and the most enduring change will come if it is effected by the people of the region. And I think that's quite demonstrable in the Iranian situation over the past 22 years and particularly since the election of a moderate president.
It continues to be true despite the backlash that has occurred over the past 6-8 months in Iran which is very severe but in fact has not entirely derailed the process of reform.
And I think that it's also demonstrated by the countries, the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf which, despite the fact that we tend to think of them as very static and very monoculture, are diverse places with a great deal of change, economic change, as they become part of the global economic community, join organizations such as the World Trade Organization that create the need for economic and political reform in all of these countries.
So I think that, in fact, the most stable long-term future for Iraq will come from the Iraqi people, and fundamentally, the United States policy has to be looking toward a day that we might be dealing with the true representative of the Iraq people, rather than Saddam Hussein.
MR. JENKINS: Does anyone want to add anything to that? Any closing remarks? Well, thank you for coming.
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