The View From 1776

Round Three: Realism in American Foreign Policy

      http://www.thomasbrewton.com/index.php/weblog/round_three_realism_in_american_foreign_policy/

My critic’s next round of reactions to Round Two: Realism in American Foreign Policy.

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My critic responded to the statement “... even the highly partisan 9/11 Commission, whose report confirms that there were connections between Saddam and Al Queda, though no direct link to the 9/11 suicide bombings.?”

READER:  The ‘connections’ are somebody may?have met somebody sometime.  No hint of cooperation. The US State department has a greater ‘connection’ to al-Qaeda on that basis; they?facilitated the hijackers’ visas and let them?in?with incomplete?applications. The ‘connections’ are exactly like Michael Moore’s Saudi/Bush connections, just guilt by association because somebody talked to somebody.

MY ANSWER:  The 9/11 Commission Report (From “Overview of the Enemy,”? Staff Statement no. 15 ) says:

“Bin Ladin also explored possible cooperation with Iraq during his time in Sudan, despite his opposition to Hussein’s secular regime. Bin Ladin had in fact at one time sponsored anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Sudanese, to protect their own ties with Iraq, reportedly persuaded Bin Ladin to cease this support and arranged for contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda. A senior Iraqi intelligence officer reportedly made three visits to Sudan, finally meeting Bin Ladin in 1994. Bin Ladin is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded. There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda also occurred after Bin Ladin had returned to Afghanistan, but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship . Two senior Bin Ladin associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq. We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States.”

The New York Times proclaimed that this paragraph?“sharply contradicted one of President Bush’s central justifications for the Iraq war.” 

Disputing these charges by the New York Times, Lee Hamilton, Democratic Co-Chairman of the 9/11 Commission, said:? “I’ve looked at these statements quite carefully from the administration—they are not claiming that there was a collaborative relationship between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, with regard to the attacks on the United States.? Now all must understand that when you begin to use words like relationship, and ties, and connections and contacts, everybody has a little different view of what those words mean. But if you look at the core statements that we made in the staff statement I don?t think that there?s a difference of opinion with regard to those [the administration’s] statements.”

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Responding to the statement: “As to whether there was “no immediate danger to us or to the oil supply,” that is no more than arm-chair, Monday-morning quarterbacking.? It’s easy to sit back now and to say that we should have been clairvoyant.”? 

READER:  Hmmh, I heard most knowledgeable observers say that war was a choice, not a necessity. Of course?the politicians who?said that were?branded?appeasers, or whatnot. I’ve heard almost everybody including Bush and Kerry?say we needed a plan,?an exit strategy,?and that after Baghdad falls,?comes the hard part.

MY ANSWER:  As to whether the war “was a choice,” Lee Hamilton (co-chair of the 9/11 Commission; see above) wrote in an article published by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, following the President’s State of the Union address in January, 2003:

“The consequences of war can never be foreseen. All of us want a war in Iraq to be swift and bloodless, and want the aftermath to go smoothly. Addressing these challenges is not an argument against war; it is a matter of preparing ourselves and our allies for the risks of war and its aftermath, while acknowledging the immensity of the task.”

Senator Kerry and the Hero of Chappaquiddick now say that the Iraq invasion was a disaster and that the administration had no “plan to win the peace.”  They made no such predictions before the invasion.  In fact, the post-war concerns voiced by prominent liberals, before the war, were limited to what former Congressman Hamilton had to say in the same article:

“The Iraq occupied by victorious American troops may be beset with a humanitarian crisis. We should be prepared for a massive refugee problem, with hundreds of thousands of displaced Iraqis and serious food and water shortages. If Saddam Hussein sets fire to Iraq?s oil fields as he did in Kuwait, an environmental catastrophe will further complicate our efforts. The immediate challenges will thus be severe: American forces will have to secure Iraq?s weapons of mass destruction, manage Iraqi oil fields, prevent an ethnically and religiously divided Iraq from falling into internal conflict, and provide huge amounts of humanitarian aid.

The long-term task of stabilizing and reconstructing Iraq will take more than a mere two years of American involvement ? as the administration has testified; it will require a sustained program of aid and occupation.”

The administration, in fact, was well prepared for all of those contingencies and either prevented them or dealt with them effectively in the weeks after Saddam’s fall. 

It is true that, with the Presidential election coming up, Democrats staked out “I told you so” hedges after the January, 2003, State of the Union message.  These, however, had nothing to do with “plans to win the peace.”  They reflected simply the old liberal faith in oft-failed collective security through the League of Nations and the UN and the corresponding dogma that our foreign policy must meet the test of “world opinion.”

In the left-wing liberal Washington Post, a report by Dan Balz on Wednesday, January 29, 2003, the day after the State of the Union address; Page A01, summed up the reactions of leading Democrats:

“Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) said Bush still must make a “more compelling case” before committing the country to war.

“Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), a Democratic presidential candidate, said Bush has practiced “blustering unilateralism” in his war on terrorism and that instead of holding Hussein accountable has “too often ignored opportunities to unify the world against this brutal dictator.”

[Note this early application of the “global test” and Kerry’s internationalist position that American troops can be committed to action only with the approval of the UN, the only point of consistency in his view of Iraq]

“Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said he would introduce a resolution requiring Bush “to come back to Congress and present convincing evidence of an imminent threat before we sent troops to war in Iraq.” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) dismissed Kennedy’s call, saying the Massachusetts senator had had “ample time” during last fall’s debate to get what he needed.

[The President, of course, never said that Iraq was an imminent threat.  In the State of the Union address, he said, “Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent.  Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike?  If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late.  Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.”]

“And Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), another presidential candidate who has been hawkish on Iraq, said, “The president began to make an effective case tonight in a way that he hasn’t done before.”

“To those who have urged him to spend more time rallying other countries, Bush said, “We will consult, but let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.” ”

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READER:  If you look at the ‘axis of evil’, Iraq was the weakest of the three.  We went after Iraq and are now tied down there, the terrorists are getting stronger and we’re more at risk. Meanwhile Iran, North Korea, and everyone else says, yikes, I’d better get nuclear before they come after me. The disaster on the ground shows the insurmountable common-sense failure of the invasion.

I don’t think it’s a left/right issue,?just common sense.  Everyone saw the risks and we drove over the cliff.

MY ANSWER:  The second part of the reader’s critique implies that Iran and North Korea had no nuclear weapons program before the Iraq invasion, but started such programs in response to the invasion.  That is not correct.

The United States-North Korea nuclear pact was signed on October 21, 1994, by North Korea and the Clinton administration.  North Korea was required to dismantle its nuclear weapons program in return for economic aid from the United States, Japan, and South Korea.  In October, 2002, North Korea admitted to having violated the pact. 

That nuclear pact, of course, is the sort of foreign policy preferred by Senator Kerry, because it gets strong support from “world opinion” and the “community of nations.”  It’s always easier to sweep problems under the rug, as Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright did, and blindly trust that the enemy has been “contained.”

Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  In June 2003, the administration announced significant evidence that Iran was violating its treaty obligations.  Prodded by the United States, IAEA chief Mohammed El Baradei accused Tehran of failing to give notice of certain nuclear material and activities and of hampering IAEA inspectors’ access to its nuclear program.  Since then, Iran has told the world that it is well along on a nuclear weapons development program that began many years ago during the Clinton administration.  When Senator Kerry proposed the standard liberal package of economic bribes for promises to be good, Iranian officials told him to mind his own business; they did not need or want what he proposed to give them.

With regard to the critique that “disaster on the ground shows the insurmountable common-sense failure of the invasion,” disaster is a subjective interpretation.  For those who expected a bed of roses after Saddam’s fall, it has been a disaster.

The administration never made such predictions.  To repeat a pre-invasion quotation from 9/11 Commission co-chair Lee Hamilton, “The long-term task of stabilizing and reconstructing Iraq will take more than a mere two years of American involvement ? as the administration has testified; it will require a sustained program of aid and occupation.”

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I had written: “Had Senator Kerry been President, our “friends” in France would have got the sanctions lifted within months, and Saddam would by now actually have WMD.”

READER:  Last time I checked, the US still had a veto in the Security Council.?Probability sanctions would have been lifted: zero. 

MY ANSWER:  It is clear from the UN blood-money-for-oil scandal that France was being bribed by Saddam to block UN approval of American military action and to get the sanctions lifted.  In addition to Paul Volcker’s investigation and the Congressional inquires, the Duelfer report details massive documentation from Saddam’s archives supporting that allegation.

My critic is making a very large assumption that had Kerry been President, he would not willingly have agreed to France’s initiatives to terminate sanctions.  The Senator repeatedly has stated that French and German approval of our foreign policy is essential, and he has said that French opposition to invasion of Iraq was the correct view. Iraq, he says, was “the wrong war, at the wrong time, and at the wrong place.” 

For a quintessential liberal like Senator Kerry, every instinct would lead him to value international agreement over any unilateral concerns that the United States might have. Like Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in 1939, he would be happy with paper guarantees of “peace in our time.”

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READER:  The Duelfer report says: Weapons, none. Weapons-related program activities, none. But there were ‘notions’ of restarting programs after sanctions were lifted.

Bush says on that basis he would still have gone to war.?So the bar he’s setting is no longer an ‘imminent threat’, or a ‘grave and gathering threat’, but just ‘retaining notions’ of programs in the future. That’s a ridiculously low bar, it means we can do whatever we want whenever we want. The constantly shifting rationale, to?the latest preposterous one,?is a symptom of?the insurmountable failure to?morally justify?the invasion

MY ANSWER:  To contend that there was no basis for deposing Saddam Hussein, because no WMD have been found, is very weak reed to lean on.  Liberals’ denial of moral justification for invading Iraq amounts to saying that we and the world would be better off today with Saddam Hussein still in power.

Theories of “just war” originated with St. Augustine in the last centuries before the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.  He maintained that a legitimate ruler of a political state has the right to declare and wage war, because it is the ruler’s duty to protect his subjects.  Maintaining peace and stability for his subjects was the only legitimate reason for war.

Augustine’s views were modified in the 1200s by St. Thomas Aquinas.  Aquinas agreed that the sovereign could legitimately wage war, provided that the war had just cause and rightful intention.  A just cause is defending the ruler’s subjects against external enemies.  Rightful intention is furthering some good or avoiding an evil.

Such standards, of course, are open to subjective interpretation.  But our deposing Saddam Hussein easily meets these criteria. 

The fully developed, modern theories of just war appeared in the 16th and 17th centuries, during the terrible religious wars in Europe between Protestant and Roman Catholic principalities.  Those theories retained the ideas of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas and modified them by categorizing wars into aggressive and defensive actions.  A defensive war requires no moral justification, but an aggressive war has to meet Aquinas’s conditions of just cause and rightful intention, plus two more conditions: an aggressive war is to be undertaken only as a last resort, and non-combatants are to be spared to the maximum extent possible.

Again, our deposing Saddam meets these tests. 

There was just cause in responding to overt assaults on the peace and rights of other nations.  And there was rightful intention to do good by deposing a murderous tyrant, to bring personal liberties to Iraq’s citizens, and to shore up the chances of peace and stability in the Middle East by denying Iraq’s strategic geoplitical location to terrorists of all stripes.

With regard to just cause, Saddam openly proclaimed his intention to dominate other Middle Eastern countries by amassing overwhelming military strength.  He fought Iran for eight years, albeit unsuccessfully, to get control of their oil reserves; he invaded Kuwait for the same purpose; and he was providing financial support to Palestinian terrorists to destroy Israel.  UN weapons inspectors, after Desert Storm, found stockpiles of poison gasses, biological weapons, and a nuclear weapons development program.  We knew before invading Iraq in 2003 that Saddam had contravened the accepted conventions of warfare, both by slaughtering tens of thousands of his own citizens, and by doing so in some cases with proscribed poison gasses.  Additionally, following Desert Storm, Saddam attempted to assassinate former President George H. W. Bush, which caused President Clinton to declare a state of war and to unleash direct missile attacks on Iraq.

With regard to the condition that war be only a last resort, we and other members of the UN demanded for a dozen years that Saddam meet disarmament conditions imposed after Desert Storm.  Saddam’s reaction was to bar UN weapons inspectors from their task and to refuse to cooperate with them.

As a last-chance measure, the United States worked through the UN Security Council to pass a final resolution that threatened aggressive action if Saddam failed to provide proof that he had destroyed all WMD and dismantled his nuclear weapons program. 

The UN dispatched Hans Blix’s team of inspectors to verify that Saddam Hussein was, as he claimed, in compliance with Security Council sanctions.  Blix’s mission turned into a charade in which inspectors were barred from some locations and permitted to inspect only according to Saddam’s schedule.  No interviews with Iraqui scientists were permitted. 

Liberals in Congress and the media presented an inverted image of the mission to the public.  Everyone kept reporting that Blix’s mission was to try to find WMD.  In fact, he had been sent to Iraq to assess whatever evidence Saddam might provide to document his destruction of WMD.  Over the ensuing months, the public was told by liberals that inspections should continue indefinitely so that Blix could “complete his job of finding WMD.”

There was one very big thing wrong with this liberal projection: finding WMD was never Blix’s job.  He was supposed to verify Saddam’s “proof” that all WMD had been destroyed.

Saddam gave Blix’s inspectors no proof that he had destroyed WMD.  There was no explanation for the whereabouts of huge stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons found just after Desert Storm.  Nor was there any documentation supporting Saddam’s claim to have dismantled his nuclear weapons program.

But the inspectors did find that Saddam had been actively importing sophisticated conventional weaponry barred under UN resolutions, right up to the time of Blix’s inspections, with the connivance of UN officials, France, Russia, China, and other nations in the blood-money-for-oil scam.  Inspectors also discovered that he had developed and deployed long range rockets in direct violation of UN sanctions.  Those rockets were capable of delivering devastating blows, conventional or nuclear, to Israel.

Liberals’ contention that there was no threat to justify invading Iraq is therefore baseless nonsense.  All of the conditions of “just war” theory were met many times over.

What then do liberals mean when they declare that invading Iraq had no moral justification?

The answer is to be found in Senator Kerry’s “global test.”

Under socialism, the existence of independent and timeless moral standards is explicitly denied.  For liberals, the only factors in play are the secular and materialistic forces of the political state.  People are no more than what the structure of the political state makes them.  And that structure is determined by the scientistic theories of liberal intellectuals, who alone “understand” what is good for you and wish to structure government in ways that compel you to behave, for your own good, as they decide.

How is this structured behavior to be imposed, short of a totalitarian police state?  The answer is through propaganda in the media and education and its influence on public opinion.  The only “moral” standard is what public opinion at the moment will allow. 

If public opinion has turned against Israel and looks upon Arab terrorists as “freedom fighters,” as is now the case in Continental Europe, then the only morality is to support terrorists and oppose Israel.  If public opinion in the streets of Europe, for that reason, opposes our preemptive attack against Saddam, then it is “immoral.” 

The effect of this is that United States’s foreign policy potentially becomes brainless, the captive of European propagandists.  No matter what we do, or why we do it, liberals will oppose independent U. S. action.  Only the “global test” can legitimize American foreign policy.

Given Saddam’s long-proclaimed intentions of controlling the Middle East and his vast military build-up in conventional weapons alone; given the knowledge that Chinese, North Korean, and Pakistanian sources were secretly selling WMD technology and long-range rocketry to countries like Iraq, to say piously that Iraq posed no threat to the United States is myopic. 

Given Saddam’s history of attempting to seize Iranian and Kuwaiti oil fields, and his control of the huge oil reserves in Iraq, it is naive in the extreme not to take steps to prevent him from blackmailing the free world by withholding oil and manipulating the price, either on his own, or in concert with Al Queda.

There is a difference of opinion within the 9/11 Commission about the degree of cooperation between Al Queda and Iraq.  But no one disputes Saddam’s direct financial and military connection with terrorism. 

To say that Iraq’s all but certain attacks on Israel would not have affected vital American interests is, at best, ill-informed.  Unless we were prepared, under a President Kerry, to abandon our treaty obligations toward Israel and follow the dictates of anti-Semitic and pro-Arab European public opinion, the United States would inevitably have been drawn into a war spanning the entire Middle East.  But such a war would have been at a time and place of Saddam’s choosing, when his armaments were greater and had been fully deployed.

It’s hard to disagree with the position stated in an Associated Press article dated October 7, 2004: “Faced with a harshly critical new report, President Bush conceded today that Iraq didn’t possess the stockpiles of banned weapons his administration warned of before the invasion last year, but insisted that “we were right to take action” against Saddam Hussein.  “America is safer today with Saddam Hussein in prison,” Mr. Bush said.”