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 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Policy Planning Staff > Secretary's Open Forum > Proceedings > 2003

Iraq: Confronting the Threat to Regional Stability, U.S. Security, and Global Peace

Kenneth Pollack, Brookings Institution
Remarks to the Open Forum
Washington, DC
March 19, 2003

Opening Remarks and Introduction

Thank you, Bill, for that excessively generous introduction. I hope I live up to my billing. And thank all of you. I really feel privileged actually and flattered that all of you would take the time out from your lunch hour to come hear me speak instead. I hope you will walk away feeling somewhat nourished by the experience.

I felt that I would start by talking about two reasons that I am not going to really discuss for going to war with Iraq, and I explain why that's the case. The first of these is Iraq's connection to terrorism. You were all aware, in some cases probably painfully aware, that the Administration itself has made Iraq's connection to terrorism, particularly to al Qaeda, as a major incentive for war, as a major cause justifying the march to war. And I will start out by laying my cards on the table: this is one area where I am in great disagreement with the Bush Administration. I do not believe that Iraq's links to terrorism justify war. And so that is not the case that I am going to be making here for you today. I will say to you that I believe there is no question that Iraq is a terrorist-sponsoring state. I also think that there is no question the Iraqis have been up to any kind of nefarious activities. And I think that it is probably the case, having listened to Secretary Powell and spoken to any number of my friends around the government, that there has been some deepening of ties between Iraq and al Qaeda since September 11th. But I see no evidence to indicate that Iraq was responsible for September 11th or behind it in any kind of meaningful fashion. Nor do I believe that Iraq's support for terrorism over the course of the last 25 or 30 years justifies a war by itself. If we are going to war with countries that support terrorism, there are other countries that should be ahead of Iraq. And if in fact the only problem that we had with Iraq were its support for terrorism, I actually think that our problems with them would be rather minor. Again, they are terrorist sponsors--there's no question about that--but I don't believe that Iraq's support for terrorism or their ties to al Qaeda before or after September 11th rise to the level of justifying a war.

Another issue I am not going to talk about today is the issue of human rights, although in that case I personally do believe that Iraq's gross human rights abuses by themselves would justify a war.

As a former member of the Clinton administration, it is painfully--it's a painful reminder to me that the Clinton administration did some very good things in terms of human rights interventions, and we missed some opportunities elsewhere. I always remember that President Clinton himself has remarked publicly that he wishes--he regrets not having intervened in Rwanda, but the United States did intervene in Bosnia, in Kosovo, in Haiti, and in Somalia to deal with the gross human rights problems in those countries. It's certainly the case, that as many people suggested, the United States cannot right all of the wrongs in the world. But I think one of the things that the United States has embraced, certainly over the last 13 years, is that sometimes those human rights abuses rise to such grave levels that they do justify international intervention--intervention led by the United States of America. I believe it was right for the United States to intervene in Bosnia and Kosovo and Haiti for all those human rights reasons. I wish we had intervened in Rwanda. And I think that Iraq certainly meets that same threshold.

If memory serves me--and you'll correct me if I'm wrong--there were about 8,000 Kosovar Albanians killed in Kosovo before we intervened there. Well, Saddam Hussein has probably been responsible for the death of as many as a million Iraqis over the last 25 years. And those Iraqis have died in a horrific and grisly fashion. They have been gassed to death; they have been tortured to death. They have been killed in any number of ways that are both humiliating and painful beyond any of our imagining. And I think the human rights situation in Iraq by itself would also justify war.

As I said, that's not my point here today. Instead I thought I would concentrate on weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the threat that Saddam Hussein constitutes by pursuit of those weapons of mass destruction, and the strategic argument for going to war. Because having spent the last few months going around the country, I do hear a lot of people saying: Yeah, we hear you about the human rights, and boy, that's a shame for the Iraqi people. But we aren't necessarily wiling to spend our blood and treasure to fix other people's problems. And that's why I think for most Americans it does come down to the strategic question where Iraq is involved.

Now, let me start by saying that the strategic problem with Iraq is one that we have been dealing with for 12 years. And I think it is important to remember the history when you do start to try to think about what are the policy options that are available to us on Iraq, because we do have a lot of history on the subject.

It's important to go back to 1991 and remember what happened at the end of the Gulf war, because something truly remarkable happened in March 1991. The international community, expressing itself through the vehicle of the Security Council, did something that it has never done before: it decreed that a particular ruler in a particular country was so dangerous that he simply could not be allowed to possess an entire range of weapons, what we now are referring to as weapons of mass destruction. We have never had that happen before, and it marked a truly amazing moment. And it was the Security Council that created the containment regime of Iraq. Containment was not U.S. policy; it was UN policy. And a critical ingredient of containment--a critical element of containment--was that containment was a multilateral approach. It was not the United States and Great Britain saying we are going to do this; it was the world saying this was important. And the panoply of sanctions and inspections and other restrictions on Iraq that were put in place in 1991 were a multinational system that could only be sustained by multinational support. And for a brief period of time in the 1990s, containment worked. And it worked because we had that international support.

But by the mid-1990s we in the Clinton administration--and I know many of you here, and I see friends and colleagues in the audience who suffered through those days with me--we became aware that containment was starting to unravel as early as about 1993-94. There are a lot of reasons for that, and I am not going to go into all of them. But I will touch, I think, what are the two most important, and the two that are still haunting us to this day. The first of these is that the Iraqis got so good at hiding their weapons of mass destruction that we simply couldn't find them. Neither we nor any of the other Western intelligence services, nor the inspectors, could find these weapons. We had plenty of evidence that the Iraqis were continuing to hide them and to procure new weapons, but we couldn't find any of them, because the Iraqis got very, very good at figuring out how we were detecting their weapons, and finding ways to prevent us from finding their weapons.

And you'll remember that in 1994, UNSCOM, the first inspection regime, and the IAEA, believed that they had gotten all of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and they were ready to transition the files, to move from aggressive inspections to passive monitoring. And we--the people in this building, the people in the White House, people elsewhere around Washington--begged and pleaded Rolf Ekeus and Hans Blix not to transition the files. We begged them to keep the inspections going longer. And we were losing ground very quickly. We probably would have lost that battle had it not been for the defection of Hussein Kamel, which was the decisive moment. And as a result of things that Hussein Kamel said, and as a result of the things that the Iraqis turned over to UNSCOM and the IAEA as a way to try to preempt whatever Hussein Kamel might say, the inspectors changed their minds. And Rolf Ekeus has said any number of times, "That's when I realized the perfidy of the Iraqis. That's when I realized the extent of their cheating" -- and he resolved to himself that he would never be duped by them again. But it was a very near miss there. It was a very near wrong thing.

And the second problem that we encountered beginning in the mid-1990s was that the rest of the world simply lost interest in the question of Iraq. And that was the biggest problem that we had. You know, the first Bush Administration, to their great credit, also did something remarkable before the first Gulf War in fashioning a coalition of so many different countries who were willing to set aside their immediate interests and make sacrifices to deal with the threat of Iraq. And it really was amazing, because for so many countries it would have been so easy to say: You know what? You're probably right--he is a problem. The United States, go take care of him. Leave us alone. But the Bush Administration did a wonderful job of convincing these countries that the threat from Iraq was so great that they had to act themselves. And that honeymoon, that glow, the glow from that experience did last for a little while. But it didn't last for very long. And by the mid- 1990s what we found was that all the countries of the world had suddenly rediscovered all of their own priorities. You know, for any country out there, there are always things more important than Iraq, except perhaps if you are Kuwait, maybe Saudi Arabia. But for everybody else there are always higher priorities--your own economy, your relations with your own neighbors, whatever the local trade pact may be. And Iraq and the threat from Iraq is probably number a hundred on that list, maybe even lower. And what we found by the mid-1990s was that while there were plenty of countries who were willing to believe that Saddam was still cheating--in fact, I will say I have never had the experience--I have never met with a single official from France, from China, from Russia, from Germany, who ever insinuated that the Iraqis do not have weapons of mass destruction and that they are not cheating. The only issue that divided us was over how to handle the problem. And for most countries in the world, they, too, were perfectly willing to believe; in fact, they did believe that the Iraqis were cheating and were continuing to possess and develop weapons of mass destruction. They simply didn't care enough to actually be willing to do anything about it. And this was the problem that we had throughout the 1990s, that any time we went to the Security Council for action, they simply weren't interested. And we had smoking-gun evidence. People are saying now: We need the smoking-gun evidence. We had it in the 1990s. Hussein Kemal was the mother of all defectors. And the stuff that was revealed as a result of his defection blew away anything we could have hoped for this time around. And you'll remember that in 1995 the inspectors found Russian ballistic missile gyroscopes which the Iraqis had imported after the Gulf War, which were the key missing ingredient in their own long-range ballistic missile programs, and which we tipped off the inspectors and which they found hidden at the bottom of the Tigris River. The inspectors brought it forward, and the Security Council did nothing.

You'll remember that in 1997 the inspectors found traces of VX nerve agents on Iraqi Scud ballistic missile warheads fragments. At that point in time the Iraqis had insisted they had never produced VX, they had never weaponized it, and certainly they had never loaded it onto Scud missiles. Again they brought it to the Security Council, and again the Security Council did nothing. The fact of the matter is that the policies of France and Russia and China, despite all of their bleating about containment today, throughout the 1990s was a policy of appeasement. And I've had any number of conversations--angry conversations--with French officials, in particular, all through the 1990s where I tried and my colleagues tried to convince them that we had to make containment work, because if we didn't make containment work we were all going to face some very unpleasant choices. And on every occasion the French response was that we needed to appease Saddam. We need to give him benefits. We need to create positive incentives--give him carrots to make him comply. Some of you will remember that we even did that. In 1999, the United States agreed to Resolution 1284, and 1284 included some huge carrots for the Iraqis, in particular, agreeing to suspend all of the economic sanctions on Iraq in return for simply their cooperation on new disarmament measures--not compliance, just cooperation. And, by the way, there is no one in the U.S. Government who didn't believe that suspending the sanctions meant lifting them. And the Iraqis turned away and weren't interested, and the French and the Russians --and the French, in particular--after working with us and promising us that they would go along with the resolution, if we were willing to make these kinds of concessions--turned their backs on it. They abstained and proceeded to tell us we needed to make more concessions to the Iraqis.

The problem we have now with containment is exactly the same one: that the world simply doesn't care enough to make it work. And I think there's no question that right now we've got inspections better than they've been in years. I think there's no question that right now you do have a lot of countries that are focused on this. So I hear a lot of people saying: Well, you know, we've got that kind of international support back, so why can't we make containment work? Well, the problem is I think that there are a lot of people who are under a misimpression, which is that containment is something that needs to last for a few months longer, which is what Hans Blix keeps saying. Nothing could be further from the truth.

First of all, I doubt that we could find all of Iraq's WMD in a few more months. I doubt that we would be able to eradicate them in a few more months. But even if we could--let's assume what I think is absolutely unimaginable--even if you could, the problem with Iraq doesn't end there, because the problem with Iraq is that Saddam Hussein is absolutely determined to acquire these weapons. And the moment that we turn our backs on him, he will go right back to producing these weapons. The problem that we have with Saddam Hussein is that while he's not getting any younger, it's unlikely he's going to be out of power any time soon. He's 65 years old--same age as Secretary Powell, and Secretary Powell has famously remarked that unfortunately the actuarial tables are not yet in our favor. And, what's more, if Saddam Hussein does pass from the scene, his most likely successors are his two sons, about the only two people I can think of in Iraq who might be worse than Saddam Hussein in power. This is the problem we have: containment, if containment is going to work, must work for the lifetime of this regime. That's 10, 20, or 30 years. And the only reason that we have this level of cooperation from the international community right now is because we have 250,000 troops sitting in the Kuwaiti desert poised to invade. And the only reason that the French and the Chinese and the Russians are taking any of this seriously is because we have 250,000 troops sitting in the Kuwaiti desert poised to invade. Our problem is we can't keep those troops there for very long. We might be able to keep them there for 3 months more, maybe 6 months more. If we are willing to gut the military, we might be able to keep them there for a year. But we can't possibly keep them there for 10 or 20 or 30 years. And I think it unlikely that the French or the Germans would be willing to send 250,000 troops to take their place once we have to pull our troops back. This is the fundamental problem with containment: It cannot be made to last for the lifetime of this regime.

Now, of course, this is something that we in the Clinton administration recognized in 1998. And you'll remember it was the Clinton administration that first announced the policy of regime change in Iraq, because we knew that containment was eroding, and we knew that it was simply a matter of time before Saddam was once again free to basically do whatever he wanted to in his country. And that if that was the situation you were facing, and you couldn't contain him, you had to get rid of him. The problem that we had in 1998 was that the one way we knew that we could get rid of him was an invasion, and there was no one in Washington--not in this building, not in the OEOB, not in the White House, not in the Pentagon, not anywhere in town--who thought for a moment that the American people were going to be interested in mounting a fullscale invasion of Iraq in 1998, or 1999, 2000, or 2001 for that matter. Before September 11th it simply was not a possibility. And so, as a result, we went back to the drawing board, and we went back to all of the methods that we had already tried and failed, and tried to see if we couldn't make them work again: covert action, arming the Iraqi opposition--or at least assisting them--propaganda, diplomatic pressure--all of those different methods. And we tried them in 1998 and 1999, and they failed again. And, as I said, we really had very little expectation that they would work, because we've tried all of them before. We have tried to kill Saddam Hussein, we have tried to overthrow him, we have tried to mount popular revolts against his role. And it's not just us. We're not the only ones who have tried. The Israelis, the Syrians, the Iranians, the Kuwaitis, the Saudis, the Jordanians--all of them have tried at different points in time to get rid of this guy, too, and they have all failed also. In fact, for 34 years we have seen this regime face somewhere between two and six coup and assassination attempts every single year. And every single year what we have seen is that this regime snuffs them out long before they ever get close to actually having an impact, because Saddam Hussein is good at one thing in this world, and that's keeping himself alive and in power in Baghdad. And he has built a Stalinist totalitarian system that is so effective that none of these coup attempts get close. He has killed, maimed, raped, and hurt so many people in Iraq that there are still hundreds, if not thousands, of people every year who are willing to risk their lives to try to get rid of him. But, unfortunately, his security services are so all pervasive and so effective that these people just don't get close. And, as a result, it's simply not realistic to believe that there is some other way to remove this man from power other than mounting a fullscale invasion.

Now, there is another option out there that people like to talk about, the policy that's normally called in the Iraq context--deterrence. This is what we used to call containment of the Soviet Union. In the case of Iraq, the two policies are different. In the case of Iraq, containment means trying to prevent Saddam Hussein from getting his weapons of mass destruction, preventing him from ever getting to the position where he might think about threatening the rest of the world. As I said, that was the policy that was adopted by the UN Security Council in 1991. In the context of Iraq though, deterrence actually does mean what we meant it about the Soviet Union: It's a policy that would say, well, you know what? We know we are not going to be able to prevent Saddam Hussein from rebuilding his weapons of mass destruction, and even at some point in time acquiring nuclear weapons. But we can handle Saddam the way that we handled the Russians, which is we will say to him, we don't like what you are doing inside your country; we're not very happy about it, but we are not going to try to stop you. But if you come across your borders, you will be met by the full fury of the United States of America. And the assumption is that Saddam will recognize that there is nothing that would justify that kind of a risk, and so he won't take the risk. That is obviously something that we did look long and hard at in 1998 and 1999. And we all decided in the Clinton administration that this was simply too dangerous a policy to adopt.

Let me talk a little bit about why it is that we all felt that this was simply too dangerous a policy for the United States. The first is that Saddam Hussein has some truly bizarre ideas about the world. Saddam is not your ordinary leader, and there are a lot of people who like to mistakenly say Saddam is rational and he is not suicidal, and, therefore, we can deter him. That's not been our experience with this man. It's true that he is instrumentally rational. He does construct means-ends chains. He does say: Here's where I want to get to, and here's how I am going to get there. And in that narrow sense he is rational. What we found about Saddam Hussein is that he is deeply ignorant about the outside world; he surrounds himself with sycophants who tell him exactly what it is that he wants to hear. Even his intelligence services are mostly useless in this respect, because they spend 80% to 90% of their effort finding out what each other is doing, watching the Iraqi Armed Forces, and keeping an eye on the Iraqi population. And even those intelligence services, which are nominally intended to keep an eye on the rest of the world, spend most of their time on the internal security mission. When they do report to Saddam, every time we’ve seen actual product from Iraqi intelligence services, they, too, tell Saddam exactly what it is that they think he wants to hear. And speaking to defectors from those services, they are very blunt about it: We tell him what he wants to hear, because he has a very bad habit of shooting messengers who bring unpleasant news.

What's more, Saddam is one of these leaders who we have encountered from time to time in history who has a very dangerous pathology, which is when he looks out at the world and assesses the likelihood of something happening, he interprets reality based on what it is that he wants to have happen, and it is not almost never what we or anyone on the outside, or anyone on the inside, would calculate in those same situations. We have countless instances where Saddam has taken some bizarre foreign policy decision, and we have found out that he has concocted almost ludicrous scenarios for how things are going to work out, and found out afterwards that not only did we think they were ludicrous, but everyone around him did as well.

I'll give you an example. Before the Gulf war, before the invasion of Kuwait, I think that the common wisdom out there was that Saddam Hussein didn't believe that the United States would fight for Kuwait, and a lot of people hold our former ambassador, April Glaspie, responsible for not having warned Saddam that if he invaded Kuwait we would go to war with him. That's not the case. What we have found out since--and we now have quite a bit of evidence that this is the case--is that is not what Saddam Hussein believed. Saddam believed that we would fight for Kuwait. He apparently had seen what we did during the Iran-Iraq war, when we reflagged Kuwaiti tankers and were willing to defend them with our own navy, and he apparently concluded that we would be willing to fight for Kuwait. But he apparently convinced himself that the way that we would be willing to fight for Kuwait would be perfectly conducive to his goals. He assumed that we would send small light forces to Kuwait very quickly, and his massive Republican Guard--and you'll remember he launched the entire Republican Guard into Kuwait--we had never seen him do that before. He had never used the entire Republican Guard for an offensive before. He sent the whole Guard, 120,000 men and almost 1,000 tanks, into Kuwait, because he believe that that size force would allow him to obliterate these light, small units that we would send there quickly. And he convinced himself that having suffered several thousand casualties the United States would give up, because his reading of Vietnam and Lebanon was that we wouldn't have the stomach for this kind of a fight. And you'll remember he told Ambassador Joe Wilson that yours, meaning the United States, is not a society that can accept 10,000 casualties.

Now, again, the evidence that we have is that nobody else in Iraq thought that this was what was going to happen. And, in fact, there is a story out there that I have now heard from several different sources that may well be true--that Tariq Aziz apparently tried to convince Saddam that this was a terrible mistake and that this was not going to work out the way that he thought. And apparently what Tariq did was—because, of course, he couldn't say: Boss, I think this is a crazy idea, and we're all going to get killed if you do it. Instead what he did, apparently, was to say to Saddam, why stop at Kuwait? Let's keep going on into Saudi Arabia and take Saudi, too, hoping that this would convince Saddam to maybe rethink this whole idea, that--Gee, if we have got to take Saudi Arabia also, maybe I really don't want to go and do this at all. But apparently what Saddam said to Tariq was something to the effect of, Tariq, you know nothing of politics.

[Short audio break for tape flip.]

. . . tell you, and leave the politics and the strategy to me. But we've seen this from Saddam time and again. On at least five occasions in Iraqi history I can point to events where Saddam Hussein took a wild foreign policy adventure which should have led to the destruction of his own regime. In every one of those instances he survived only through the perfidy of others or through his own luck.

I'll give you another example of one of those. In 1993, most of you are probably aware, Saddam Hussein tried to kill George Bush--George Bush, Sr.--the former president, in 1993. There was no particular strategic reason; in fact, there was no earthly strategic reason for doing so. Killing George Bush served zero purpose for Saddam Hussein. It was an act of sheer revenge, sheer malice, nothing else. All I can say is Saddam Hussein ought to be pretty happy that that operation failed. He ought to consider himself very lucky that it went awry, that his own minions were own incompetent at the operation that we rolled it up easily. Because imagine what the response of the American people would have been in 1993 if Saddam Hussein had killed George Bush. So those who suggest that Saddam Hussein is not suicidal and, therefore, can be deterred, the problem we have with Saddam is he may not be intentionally suicidal, but he is frequently proven to be unintentionally suicidal.

There's another problem we have with Saddam Hussein and that is he thinks about nuclear weapons in a way we have never seen any other leader think about nuclear weapons. And for me it's one of the most dangerous things. It's something that over the course of the 1990s as we started to see the intelligence roll in, I began to get very worried about Saddam Hussein and the prospects for living in a world where Saddam Hussein might have nuclear weapons. Because what we found out about Saddam Hussein, as best we understand it, is that Saddam Hussein alone among world leaders believes that nuclear weapons serve an offense purpose.

One of the things that's most striking to me about the debate over North Korea- and I am not a North Korean expert--I don't even play one on TV. But one of the most interesting things about the North Korean debate right now is that every single one of the North Korean experts seems to be in agreement that North Korea wants nuclear weapons for defensive purposes. They want them to deter an attack by the United States or Russia or China. And about the worst that anyone can suggest--and I am not suggesting that this isn't a problem; I do think North Korea is a tremendous problem for us. But the worst that anyone can suggest is that the North Koreans, once they have nuclear weapons, assuming they do right now, is that they will blackmail us, as they are doing right now, and that once they get enough of them they might sell them to another group or another country. And, of course, it's worth noting that who's top of the list of who they might sell it to, of course, is the Iraqis. That's a very different way of thinking about nuclear weapons from Saddam Hussein.

Our understanding of Saddam Hussein's thinking--and, again, we have it from any number of sources, many of them very good sources--is that Saddam Hussein wants nuclear weapons because he believes that once he has them we will be deterred, the United States. Saddam believes that once he has nuclear weapons we will be so terrified of getting into a nuclear exchange with Iraq that we will not dare to try to stop him, should he attack any other country, should he blackmail them, should he threaten them, should he do anything except actually attack the continental United States. And, as I said, we have never seen another leader like this. It is an incredibly dangerous way to think about nuclear weapons. We always feared--all through the Cold War we feared that the Russians would think about nuclear weapons this way; that they would believe that once they had strategic parity with the United States that they would be free to attack whomever they wanted along their periphery. Of course, what we found out after the Cold War was over was that the Russians never did think this way. Even Khrushchev never thought this way, because the Russians were simply too conservative. Saddam Hussein is not. Saddam is an aggressive, risk-taking gambler who has miscalculated time and again. And, as I said, the best we know about Saddam Hussein is that he believes that once he has nuclear weapons he will be able to resume his, what he believes is his historic destiny. And that historic destiny includes--and he has been very open about this: This is not a man who is shy about talking about what he believes fate has in store for him. He believes that his destiny is to make Iraq into a new superpower, to dominate the Middle East, to control the Persian Gulf's oil resources, to destroy the state of Israel, to have his revenge on Saudi Arabia and Kuwait -- and now the last one that has been added to this list, to drive the United States out of the Middle East. Because he now realizes that the United States is the one country in the world that has the will and the capability to prevent him from achieving these other aspirations. And that is why for me the question of war with Iraq is not a question of war or no war, or pain costs and taking risks, or simply going on with the status quo and suffering none of those cost or risks. For me the issue is, Do we go to war sooner or later? Do we go to war sooner, when Saddam Hussein is still weak, when there will be costs and risks associated with going to war, but those costs and risks are highly unlikely to be catastrophic. Or do we wait and allow Saddam Hussein to acquire nuclear weapons and advanced biological munitions and advanced chemical munitions, and go to war with Saddam at a time and a place of his choosing, when the casualties of doing so would be absolutely unimaginable. Thank you very much. [Applause.]

MR. KEPPLER: And now Dr. Pollack will take your questions. And if you have comments also, we welcome those. Please?

Q: Hi, I was reading the other days one of the talking heads, and there have been hundreds of them, talking about the subject of Iraq. One of the reasons why the French and Germans don't want to go into Iraq is we might discover business dealings they've had under the carpet for the past 10 years. And my other question is--my focus tends to be with this hemisphere--are there any known links between Iraqi intelligence and groups and groups in the Western Hemisphere?

DR. POLLACK: First, on the first question, it's an interesting question. I tried to, at least, in the case of the Germans, give them the benefit of the doubt. My experience with the French has not been very good, to tell you the truth. My experience with the French all through the 1990s is that the French simply don't care about Iraq. In the case of the Germans, I'd like to believe that the Germans are coming at this at least from principle. You are certainly right that there's a lot of stuff out there. I mean, the Germans and the French--while it's certainly true that we looked the other way at Iraq's procurement in the 1990s, the Germans and French were in there with both feet, helping as much--both hands, both feet--helping as much as they possibly could. And I've heard a lot of people raise the suspicion that there are Germans and French who are nervous about what is going to come out. And I have had people raise the suspicion that the French are nervous that Chirac's name is going to show up on some Iraqi pay stubs. Certainly, there are some very senior Russian officials who we have good evidence are on the Iraqi payroll. It's not impossible that the French won't be either. Again, you know, this is pure speculation; it's pure rumor. I simply don't have any information on that. I'm willing to believe it may be true. But you know, as I said, I find France's position on this disgraceful, even without insinuating that there are these dealings going on under the table.

As far as in the Western Hemisphere, context of the Western Hemisphere, I'm not aware of any. The Iraqis do live in this terrorist underworld. I mean, it's one of the ways that--we did see them come into contact with al Qaeda at different points in time over the 1990s. You know, the Iraqis are in there doing their thing, killing their dissidents, supporting different groups--all kinds of other terrorists are living in this world also, and we have seen these weird links show up, Hezbollah and the FARC--you know, all kinds of crazy groups, that you'd never really would think that they have anything in common, but because they live in this communist underworld, they do have these links. So it is possible that Iraq has links to South American groups. It's entirely possible. I've not seen them, and again I would not suggest that those also would be enough to justify a war with Iraq.

It does get to the larger issue though that Saddam Hussein is an evil dictator. I use that word very carefully, but I don't think that there is any other way to look at this. He's engaged in any number of nefarious activities. And I don't think he has any problem supporting any groups around the world that do the most unspeakable things, if it serves his purpose.

Q: This is now our second war that we are about to embark on. It harks back, at least, in my feelings, to World War I and World War II. And we know that largely World War II was caused by the peace of World War I. What is our Marshall Plan?

DR. POLLACK: It's a wonderful question. And actually if I had not been so verbose in my opening statement I was actually going to try to end with something like that, because I think that that is a critical question. It’s a critical question for two reasons, a negative reason and a positive reason. The negative reason is--and I think that everyone in this building, certainly those people who work on Iraq, recognize that if we are not willing to rebuild a stable and prosperous Iraq, all we will be doing is substituting one set of problems in the Persian Gulf for another. Iraq is not a stable country, and left to its own devices I think it will fall into warlordism and chaos. That has been its history. It took the brutality of Saddam Hussein to stop the problems in Iraq. And I don't think any--I think, if actually we could get back to a situation where we were in the 1950s or 1960s, that might actually be good compared to what I think might actually happen there. So that's the first negative reason. And I've actually been heartened that the Bush Administration does seem to be taking that seriously. Increasingly, their statements are moving in the right direction, talking about the need for a long-term presence, for a major effort to rebuild Iraq. They haven't used the word, but they are talking about nation building, and to me that's all very good news.

But I think there's also another issue out there. The positive reason, which is for me one of the greatest elements of the victory in World War II was what we did afterwards, was the Marshall Plan, was NATO, was everything that we did in Europe. I mean, it is true that in the case of World War II, there was the same thing, a negative and a positive victory. The negative victory was we removed Adolf Hitler; we removed the scourge of Nazism from Europe. And that in and of itself, I think, was enough to justify the war. But the greatest victory of World War II was what we did afterwards. We solved the problems of Europe. It sounds a little bit idealist to say it, but we did it. It took us 50 years. But Europe is now by and large peaceful and democratizing. And, yes, the Balkans are still something we need to keep our eyes on. But even the Balkans, these countries are by and large headed in the right direction. And that to me was the greatest victory of World War II. And we will have, I think, the same opportunity in the Middle East. Now, my guess is it will also take 40 or 50 years to realize this vision in the Middle East. And I think that those who are going around suggesting that this is going to be quick or easy--democracy can come like dominoes falling across the table--are fooling themselves. I also actually think that it's incredibly dangerous. The last thing I want is sudden democracy in Jordan or Egypt or any of these countries, because all we are going to get is a bunch of Islamic fundamentalists.

But I think on the other hand, if we miss the opportunity to start a very broad program of political and economic reform, of reaching out to all the people in the region who themselves are pushing for these kind of changes, I think we will miss a tremendous opportunity. And I think if we miss that opportunity, what we are going to find is that 10 or 15 years down the road we are going to be facing a new Saddam and a new al Qaeda, and there will be new Saddams and new al Qaedas after them. And until we are willing to deal with these deeper questions, we are just going to keep going through the same iteration, and it will be like Ground Hog Day, deja vu again and again and again.

Q: [Off mike] -- types of miscalculation he is likely to make as we see this unfold in the next weeks or months?

DR. POLLACK: Yeah, it's a great question. It's a really interesting one. I actually think that he's making two huge miscalculations right now, and they are playing in our favor. The first miscalculation he made--it's over, it's done--is he didn't disarm. And for me this was entirely in keeping. I predicted he would do this. I mean, it's all there in the book. Other people did as well. But think about it: Anyone else, I think, in Saddam Hussein's shoes seeing this massive buildup of troops would have turned their country inside-out to prove that they didn't have any of this stuff. They would have given up everything to demonstrate that they didn't have this stuff. Saddam Hussein calculated that he would be able to so divide international opinion that we wouldn't be able to go to war. He was wrong; miscalculation number one. And I would actually say that was his sixth suicidal miscalculation. And this time around, I think he is actually going to have to pay for this one.

I think there's another miscalculation out there, which again, I think, is working in our favor, which is that he still believes that he is going to win this war in a meaningful sense, and we are seeing it right now. His strategy is that he is going to dig himself into Baghdad, surround himself with Republican Guard, give them weapons of mass destruction, and confront us with what I keep calling a Mesopotamian Stalingrad, in the expectation that the United States will not be willing to take the tens of thousands of casualties he believes that he will be able to inflict on us. The first point I'll make is I don't think he can inflict that many casualties on us, and I know the military is convinced that he can't. I think he is continuing to miscalculate and to assume that this strategy is going to work for him and that we are going to get to Baghdad, and when we see this city bristling with guns and VX nerve gas that we are going to pull up short and say, let's negotiate our way out of it. I think that that actually works very much in our favor, because I think that he is less likely--I won't say he won't, because he is capable of doing all these things--but I think it makes him less likely to do things like use weapons of mass destruction on our troops before we ever get to Baghdad, to use weapons of mass destruction against his neighbors, to preempt us in the desert. I think he realizes that doing any of those things will undermine this political strategy that he's laid out; that if there is anything that would rally the international community around us--and say Saddam has got to go, and you are hearing the French say this even now--it is the use of those things early. And so, instead, I think he will try to wait--my best guess--he will try to wait on using that stuff, and my hope is he will wait too late. And by the time he realizes that there really is no possibility that the strategy is going to work, he won't have the ability to inflict those kinds of casualties on people.

Q: You mentioned that one of Saddam Hussein's goals is the obliteration of the state of Israel. I was wondering if you would give us your views on the likelihood of his attacking Israel in the early days of any coming war, what the Israeli response would be, and what the possible impact that it will have on the rest of the Middle East.

DR. POLLACK: That's actually a very nice follow-up to this last point, because it kind of gets to the same issue. I'm torn there. You know, as an old Iraq analyst it's a tough one for me to predict. On the one hand, for exactly the reasons that I just mentioned, I think there's a strong set of incentives for Saddam not to launch conventional attacks at Israel until the very end, because if he starts lobbing Scuds, again, most likely what will happen is that the rest of the international community will rally around us, and the expectation is that his fate will be sealed. I think that's probably the more likely outcome. That said, there is an alternative scenario which he may be clinging to, which is that if he does strike Israel—and, particularly, if he strikes Israel hard enough, which basically means using weapons of mass destruction--that he might bring Israel in, and that in doing so he could create this new Arab-Israeli war which would in and of itself tear the coalition apart, make it impossible for us to keep prosecuting the war all the way to Baghdad.

So there is that alternative out there. I think it less likely though for two reasons: one, during the Gulf war we learned a couple important things about Saddam, which is he did believe that if he launched a chemical or biological weapon at Israel that there was a real likelihood that Israel would retaliate with a nuclear weapon. And getting a nuclear weapon on Baghdad was clearly a lose, a loss, for Saddam Hussein. That logic still probably applies right now. Therefore, I think he will be somewhat reticent to actually use a chemical or biological weapon against Israel, but knowing that if they use a nuke it's simply game over for him. There's no possible way to win under those circumstances.

Second, he tried using conventional Scuds against Israel, and it didn't work in 1991. It didn't cause the coalition to collapse in 1991. So he has got to keep that in the back of his mind also. The third point out there is one of the reasons we believe he may not have used weapons of mass destruction against Israel in 1991, which was because the warheads that he had for his Scud missiles were horrible. They were about as bad as they could be, and most of the experts looking at them, and the Iraqis understood this, too, their scientists knew this--most of the experts believed that if you launched an anthrax-filled warhead, you might get a tiny little puddle of anthrax sitting on the ground at the end of it, and that actually might be a good result because chances are the anthrax might just get killed on re-entry, and the same thing goes for the chemicals. They just didn't have the right warheads. And as best as we understand they still don't have better chemical or biological warheads for their missiles. So I think Saddam also has to be thinking: If I do this, I may not have any kind of an impact on Israel. All I may be doing is opening myself up to one of two things: galvanizing international support for the United States or maybe still provoking the Israelis to launch that nuclear attack.

I think a conventional attack--as I said, I don't want to rule it out--but I think it's less likely than I think the common wisdom is. I think much more likely is a terrorist attack on Israel, and I think that that is almost a certainty. I think that he will undoubtedly try to provoke, encourage Hamas, PFLP, Hezbollah--everyone of the Palestinian groups to go after Israel as hard as they possibly can, because I think he believes that if Israel and the Palestinians are really brawling, that might make it impossible for the Arab states to continue to support a U.S. military operation against Iraq. I think he might even be willing to use, very likely be willing to use his own terrorist teams against Israel. The advantage we have there is that what we've seen over 15, 20 years is that his own terrorist teams are really very bad, especially compared to Hamas, PFLP, al Qaeda, and these other groups that really are professionals and know what they are doing. I'll tell you that the Israelis, speaking to them on a constant basis, are remarkably confident that they can handle both the conventional and terrorism threats from Israel, for much of the same reasons that I've laid out there, which to me is amazing, because my experience with the Israelis is that they are paranoid, and that they will greatly exaggerate any potential threat to them. I have really been struck by how confident they seem to be that they can deal with this threat.

To kind of wrap it up, because I think your questions still--I mean, at bottom there is still this issue out there of what Israel will do. My guess, speaking to Israelis, is that if Iraq attacks them and they do not suffer catastrophic casualties, I think the Israelis will sit on the sidelines, because I think the Israelis recognize that they will get everything out of this war that they could possibly hope for by simply sitting on the sidelines. The one big risk out there of derailing--that is, if they actually get actively involved. I think the bigger risk is if they do suffer catastrophic casualties, in which case I think there is no question they will want to retaliate. But my hope is that they will find a way to retaliate that will not be catastrophic as well, and will allow the Arab members of the coalition of the willing, such as it is, to continue to support the United States in the war. And my own sense of talking to the Arabs is they do recognize that if Israel gets hit and suffers very serious casualties, Israel will retaliate. And while they may not be happy about it, they are comfortable with it. They recognize that Israel has a right to do so, and they believe that it is something that will be explicable to their population.

Q: [Off mike] -- feeling is in this room about the war, but I know outside the room there is a very divided nation, and around the world more division opinion, too--[inaudible]--members and opinion in the churches. And I think it would be a mistake to believe the division about the war is simply a disagreement over the threat of Saddam Hussein. I found your comments very articulate and compelling. I was in Baghdad at the beginning of the Gulf war--spoke to the cabinet--we had a church leaders delegation trying to persuade him to withdraw from Kuwait before the war would start. My experience was yours: Tthe cabinet was very responsive and reasonable, and he refused even to meet with us.

But I think the churches have been saying, if you read our statements, that as terrible as Saddam is, there is the other issue of how terrible this war at this time fought in this way could be as well. And in the response to the threat of Saddam, which I agree with you on, you simply declared that war right now is the answer. And that is the declaration that needs much more discussion. In the 11th hour--many of us in the churches have offered an 11th-hour initiative, a simple effort--it's not perfect, but it was a serious and compelling six-point plan that received attention in Britain. We met with Tony Blair; we met with British officials; we met at the United Nations. Mr. Bush wouldn't listen to us. I met with Mr. Bush on other occasions about poverty and faith-based initiatives, but he didn't listen this time.

Many of the churches believe that, in fact, war at this point in this way is not the best answer to the real threat posed by Saddam Hussein. And this six-point plan was saying: Let us focus on this --and I'll grant you evil dictator, evil dangerous dictator, but not a full-scale assault on the people of Iraq. I think the threat is real. The response to it, I think, has yet to be discussed at the depth it needs to be in this nation.

I'll just say this, and I'll close, and patiently I want to add a question as well. The churches in our history, the U.S. churches have never been more united, church leaders, to their opposition to any war before it started. And around the world it's even stronger. We should not be thought naive about Saddam or about our world,but about how you respond to these very real threats in our world in a different way, in a better way than as Archbishop Roland Williams of Canterbury said, when all you have is hammers everything looks like a nail. I think that's where we are. And the churches, at least, agree with you on Saddam,but disagree on war being the answer. Bishop Shea may want to add to that.

Q: What I would like to share with you is that we are in constant touch with religious leaders throughout the Middle East, and I just got off the phone this morning with the archbishop of South Africa, also with the archbishop of Cyprus and the Gulf, also the archbishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East. And the concern about the instability in that part of the world and the impact this war would have on that religious instability is unbelievably significant. The question that they keep asking me, and I would ask you as well, is why has it taken so long for the Administration to address and put on the table a roadmap for peace, which was really crafted some time ago, and which really was one of the issues that I think the British Government really wanted the American Government and the American people to be exposed to a lot earlier in the game than right now, because they feel that the roadmap for peace really goes through Jerusalem, and not through Baghdad. And that's their question. [Applause.]

DR. POLLACK: First let me say that I hope that nothing in what I said suggested to you that I don't take those considerations very seriously, that I don't respect them tremendously. And point to fact, I have been trying as hard as I can to suggest that those people who don't support the war are not appeasers, that they are coming at it from noble and patriotic reasons. They simply have a different set of opinions. I acknowledge that. I think it is important. And I think you're absolutely right that it would have been much better to have a much deeper and more meaningful debate in this country.

Second, I don't speak for the Bush Administration. Please do not insinuate in any way, shape, or form that I speak for the Bush Administration. As I said, I am a former Clinton administration official. What I will say to you is that I actually agree wholeheartedly with your points, in particular about the Middle East peace process. For those of you who have not seen my book, it's 400-pages thick, and I spend about the first half to two-thirds of it talking about why it is that I think-- very reluctantly, very grudgingly--that war is the only answer we have. But the rest of that book, the other half to third of that book, is about all of the different things that I think the United States should have, would have, could have, had better have done before we went into Iraq.

I would also say that this issue of timing where I don't necessarily agree wholeheartedly with the Bush Administration--I do believe that war will be necessary. Where I disagree with you, and I think it's just a respectful disagreement of people who can have different views, is I do not see any other way to solve this problem. That said, I don't think that we had to go to war this year. I would have been perfectly willing to have waited another year or two. I would have been perfectly willing to have tried some of these other alternatives, if only so that we could say that we tried every single alternative that any other person suggested and, in particular, because as the bishop suggested, I think that there are a number of things that would have been much better to have had nailed down before we went into Iraq. And the peace process is the top of my list. And all throughout the summer what I heard from my friends in the Gulf--and I meet with officials and businessmen and elites form the Gulf on a regular basis--was, look, we want you to get rid of Saddam Hussein. In fact, all through the 12 years of the 1990s when I was in the U.S. Government, what I constantly heard every time we went to them with a different plan to deal with Saddam was, why won't you just invade? Just invade and get this over with. So they were saying we want you to do this. But what they also said was you have to understand how tense the region is, and you have got to do something on the peace process. I think it was a terrible mistake of this Administration not to have done anything on the peace process. What I heard constantly from the Arabs was that they were not asking us to deliver Israel on a silver platter; they were not asking for a comprehensive peace agreement signed with all members of the Arab League. All that they were asking for is that we got the negotiations going again before we went into Iraq.

And I'll use a phrase that a friend of mine from the Gulf, a senior administration, a senior government official in the Gulf, whom I thought had a wonderful line, which was: Before you go into Iraq, we need you to deal with the peace process, because we need you to get rid of the sense of helplessness that we currently feel and restore the sense of hopefulness that we felt throughout the 1990s. I wish that we had gone to war in a very different fashion than we have.

Q: Thank you very much. I don't want the nature of my question to imply that I don't share the concerns of the previous speakers, but I would like to focus a little bit on the neighborhood and the day after. And that is to say that what we saw in the, after the demise of the Soviet Union, was that the transition for those states that were in pretty good neighborhoods or had an experience themselves with democracy and free market economies, did those transitions much more easily than those that had totalitarian command economies but were in bad neighborhoods. The northern tier countries--Poland, Hungary, the Baltics, did quite well; the southern tier countries much more slowly; the Caucasus have had even more problems; and Central Asia has even more problems. And I wondered if you could comment some on the neighborhood and how that will affect the day after and the post-conflict transition.

DR. POLLACK: Sure. As I said before, I think the reconstruction of Iraq is a critical element of the war itself. You have got to think of these two things as being, as going hand in hand.

I also think that there is no question that building a stable, prosperous, pluralist Iraq is going to be very difficult, and it is going to take a long time. Again, I am gratified to hear Administration officials suggesting that it's going to take 5 or 10 years, because for me that probably means more like 10 or 20, and I think that that's probably much more likely. In fact, the--[short audio break to change tapes]--for us to realize that goal, if we do have that kind of a long-time horizon. When I look at Iraq--and actually I looked at some of the other countries that you talked about in eastern Europe, what we have seen in Sub-Saharan Africa, what we have seen in Latin America and East Asia--there is nothing about Iraq that says to me that this is impossible. There is nothing about Iraq that says to me it is simply a nonstarter--don't even think about it here. Because we have seen too many countries where before--and we did think it was a nonstarter--only to find that it is possible. It clunks along, it's long, it's painful. You know, for every Poland we have a Belarus. For every Estonia we have a Romania. But, you know, listen, if we could get Iraq to the level of Romania in 10 years, I would actually say that'd be a tremendous accomplishment at this point in time. And I think that is feasible, if we are willing to make the efforts.

I think that the region will undoubtedly be part of the problem. This is a region that has little or no experience of democracy. I wouldn't say quite no. There is the example of Lebanon; there is the example of both Jordan and Iraq where during the periods of the British-run monarchies had sham constitutional monarchies that, at least, had some experience of elections. So it's not quite zero. But you are starting from a very low threshold.

Certainly in the Arab world there are all kinds of problems right now because the word "democracy" has become such a dirty word. By and large it's become a dirty word not because they don't like the tenets of what we call democracy, but because for so many Arabs democracy means hip-hugger blue jeans and sex on TV, and it has these cultural connotations for which they have no particular desire.

But, in fact, what I am heartened by in the region--and what does give me hope and reason for optimism, if we are willing to stick out this course and really make the effort to do so--is that you do see the buds of democracy growing everywhere in the region--everywhere in the region you see people talking about what we would call democracy, even though they don't--talking about the need for transparency in government, accountability of government, representation in government, governments that are responsive to the will of the people, that reflect the opinions of the people. This is what's going on everywhere. And I am struck, for example, by Crown Prince Abdullah's program of reform. Crown Prince Abdullah is often considered one of the most conservative of the monarchs in the region. He is considered one of the most pious, one of the rulers who is closest to his religious community. He is one of the rulers who is considered in many ways most medieval in his thinking. And Crown Prince Abdullah has been blazing a path in Saudi Arabia against tremendous resistance by the brothers of the kind and a number of other elements in Saudi Arabia. And if you look at what Crown Prince Abdullah is talking about, it looks pretty democratic to me. It is about transparency and accountability, and about making the Saudi Government give the people a voice--and listen to that voice. And so for all these reasons, as I said, I am optimistic. I don't think it's impossible. I don't think it's going to be easy, I don't think it's going to be quick or cheap, and I think that we need to commit ourselves to that kind of a long-term effort. And, in fact, a different part of my writing--one of the things that I would like to see is that once this war is over that we start to come back together with our allies, with our traditional allies in Europe and East Asia, and start to make the need for reform in the greater Middle East a common goal. I think it is something we can all agree on. I think it is something we have to, because as I said I think if we aren't willing to start dealing with these deeper issues in the Middle East we are never going to deal with the symptoms that we face--the al Qaedas, the Saddams, the Qadhafis, the Algerias that we face. But I don't think that we necessarily have the resources to do it by ourselves. And I think that only acting with our allies do we have a realistic prospect of making these kind of changes in the region.

MR. KEPPLER: We have time for one last question.

Q: Can you comment on – [off mike]?

DR. POLLACK: Yeah, that's one of the $64,000 questions out there, and I don't think any of us really knows the answer to that question. The little bits of evidence that are coming out are suggesting that the Iraqi people are so desperate to be rid of Saddam Hussein that they at this point actually would welcome a war. You know, you saw that in the report of the international crisis group who sent people into Iraq to interview people all over the place and said that they were stunned by how willing people were to say this. And these were people in Baghdad, these were people from even some of the Sunni areas. In fact, you know, as best we can understand Iraqi society, most of the Sunnis of course are urban, they are sophisticated, they are secular, and they don't have any particular love for Saddam Hussein either, because by and large they haven't really benefited from his rule personally. In fact, many of them have had brothers, sons, cousins, fathers, taken away for war, taken away from the Republican Guard, for some of these other organizations, and they haven't really enjoyed the fruits that some others in the special Republican Guard and from the Tikriti clan have. So I think that we--there is reason to believe that even Sunnis will be perfectly amenable to a change of regime.

I will say though that again I try to be very careful with this stuff, because we just don't know what the reality of the situation is. And beyond that, everything that we also hear from Iraqis is that while they are as I said so desperate to be rid of Saddam that they see a war with the United States as being the second worst thing that they can think of, with continuation of his rule being the worst. By the same token, what I am also hearing very loudly is that Iraqis are very concerned about what our intentions are. And they really don't yet buy it, that we are going to come in, get rid of Saddam, and help them build a strong new Iraq, because there are plenty of Iraqis who do seem to be willing to believe in--I don't think there is any particular reason why you can doubt them for believing us that we may just come in part way and then give up, exactly as we did in 1991, as they see it, or that we may come in and install some new dictator who is amenable to our interests, someone from the diaspora whom they have never heard of before, and will simply guarantee us access to their oil.

I think there is a real fear of American colonization in Iraq. And I think that's why it is incumbent upon us that the moment we go in there we start reassuring them. That's one of the reasons why --and I'll just close on this note--while as I said before I am very hopeful about what the Administration is doing -- I think the Administration has actually been moving in terms of the day after, in terms of the reconstruction of Iraq, very much in the right direction. And I'll say I started working with them on this issue at kind of low levels starting back in June of last year, and they have come an enormous distance from some of the terrible ideas that they had in June of last year. They haven't quite come 180<sup>o</sup>, but I think they have come 175. But the one thing that's still out there that I think is very important, and in particular important to the Iraqis and also important to the other countries of the region is hearing the United States say that we are willing to put the reconstruction under the umbrella of the United Nations. Because I think if they see a UN hand on Iraq's oil spigot they are going to be much happier about it, even if the United States is playing the major role. I think we will have to. I think there are plenty of examples out there from other interventions where you have had the United States or NATO or Australia, in the case of East Timor, play a major role in the reconstruction. But by doing it under the rubric of the United Nations I think that we will send the clearest message to Iraqis and to the people of the region that this is a war about liberating Iraq and building a new and better Iraq, not simply going in and colonizing the place and stealing their oil. Thank you all very much. [Applause.]

MR. KEPPLER: You know, Ken began his presentation by saying he thought my comments about him were a little bit too effusive. I think you would all agree, based upon the quality and the content of his presentation there, he fully lived up to our expectations. [Applause.]

Upcoming Events
April 22 we will have an Earth Day program. It will be focused on deforestation. We will have the World Wildlife Fund, the Nature Conservancy, and the World Resources Institute. Senator Chuck Hagel April 30th. And then we are going to have a panel on Islam--it's compatibility with democracy and bringing democracy to Islamic nations and people. That's on May 12th. Hope to see you there, and thank you for your continuing support of the Open Forum.

Released on April 30, 2003

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