The Iraq Disconnect
Jude Wanniski
February 2, 1998

 

Memo To: Trent Lott, Senate Majority Leader
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Iraq

I'm pleased and enormously relieved to see that you, Sen. Jesse Helms, and Rep. Dick Armey are all insisting if we are going to start dropping bombs on Iraq that the administration consult the Congress. Armey was exactly right this weekend when he said there must be a detailed rationale and scenario before we proceed. So far, I've heard nothing but the crudest sort of saber rattling, with prominent people who should know better offering their open-ended support for war without thinking through their implications. I was astonished to see Jim Baker on "FoxNewsSunday" announce that we had exhausted all diplomatic moves and now should move on to bombing. The Russians say we have just begun the diplomatic process, which I agree is the correct way to look at it. It is only in the last few weeks that I've seen a few people begin to discuss the possibility that maybe we should act IN GOOD FAITH in dealing with Iraq. Jack Kemp broke the ice a month ago when he told "FoxNewsSunday" that we should give Hussein a specific list of things to do, and when he does them, the sanctions should be lifted. You know as well as anyone that for seven years we have been diddling Baghdad and have never been serious about lifting the sanctions.

"Okay, so what should we bomb?" JBIII was asked. Well, he didn't know, noting that we bombed all the good sites during the Gulf War except we should bomb anyplace we suspect he is holding biological weapons of mass destruction, although JBin acknowledged that you could hide that kind of stuff in a small house and Iraq is great big country. It is obvious that JBin, while an excellent chief of staff to the Gipper, ain't no strategic thinker. There was no consideration of how the Islamic world would react to unilateral action by the U.S. in this situation, when we know the Islamic world knows we have not been acting in Good Faith with our coalition partners and the UN Security Council.

In your State of the Union response last week, you sounded like a BOMBER yourself, which is Colin Powell's generic term for American politicians of both parties who reach for the trigger whenever we become irritated that things are not going our way. My generous assumption, Trent, is that you are forced to reflect the generic view of the Republican Senate on a matter of this importance, but that privately you would like Kemp to succeed to his diplomatic initiative. You should realize, I hope, that there has been little discussion about the consequences of ordering military action against Saddam, without the support of the Gulf coalition, the UN Security Council, the Arab League, or the 1.4 billion Muslims, who may see our bombing as an extension of the policy that has killed 1.4 million Muslim civilians. It does no good for our hawks to argue that Saddam Hussein could end the suffering of his people by committing suicide. It is our actions that have been causing the suffering of his people, because the sole objective of our foreign policy has been to get rid of Saddam - when the sole objective should be the security of the region.

My suggestion, Trent, is that you at least privately inform the other GOP Senators that there is at the moment no seriously developed plan of action by the administration. I'm faxing with this memo a good assessment on the "Iraq Disconnect," by Adam Garfinkle, who is executive editor of the National Interest, Irving Kristol's quarterly. Garfinkle argues that there are no logical linkages between the actions we are proposing and the goals set forth. In response, I sent him my thoughts on how he should proceed. You think through the questions I raise as well:

As far as it goes, this is a welcome assessment by Mr. Garfinkle. There is a disconnect, which is the result of a Beltway policy that has grown from a tainted acorn into a crooked oak. The acorn of an assumption is that we have to get rid of Saddam. The logic leads to ground troops and thousands of lives lost, and maybe we get rid of Saddam. Is that a worthy goal of foreign policy? No. The goal has to be the security of the region. Even Mr. Garfinkle has not sorted any of this out. Does the region become more or less secure if we bomb Iraq and spend several thousand lives tracking down the Despot and incarcerating him for life? How about if we do it without the support of the Security Council? How about without the support of the Arab League? The Islamic world of 1.4 billion people? We need also ask more fundamentally, what motivation Saddam might have to use the biological weapons he says he does not have, if he had them? If he did not use them when we knew he had them, on the Desert Storm troops, why would he use them in the future without any motive? Tell us the motive? Give us the scenario? How would we respond if it came to that? These are the questions that should be examined before we proceed with the disconnect.

In line with some of the questions I raised with the Garfinkle article, I append here an exchange that occurred on the Jim Lehrer "NewsHour" on Friday night, January 30. There was much saber rattling on the show, but I appreciated the contribution of the Deputy Director for Defense Information retired Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll who was on a carrier task force in the Mediterranean. Paul Wolfowitz, a former Pentagon official, Cold Warrior, and now dean of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, is among the "Bombers" who automatically prefer force to diplomacy. Lt. Gen Thomas Kelly was director of operations for the Joint Chiefs during the Gulf War and is now retired. Kelly would like to bomb Iraq to Kingdom Come, but admits even that might not get rid of the biological material we say Saddam is hiding. The following comments are at the very end of the Iraq segment. Phil Ponce is the interviewer:

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: I think we should be wary about figuring out how [Saddam] sees his interest. Remember, in the spring of 1993, when you would have thought everything in his interest said let's try to make peace with the United States, we have a new President, let's have a different approach, he tried to assassinate George Bush on his visit to Kuwait. I mean, this guy has a different calculation from ours, and

 REAR ADMIRAL EUGENE CARROLL: His calculation, however, doesn't extend to the state of irrationality, and he has different values, different priorities

PHIL PONCE: And where would this rationality lead him?

REAR ADMIRAL EUGENE CARROLL: This rationality would lead him to understanding that if he were to loose this chemical and biological weapon, that there would be no restraint whatever on the part of the UN and the United States; we would come together and absolutely crush him. He can hope to survive air bombardments but he can't hope to withstand what would occur if he were to let loose of these weapons through some inhumane

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: What is the rationality of a man who's bent on murdering a former President of the United States, other than the rationality of revenge? And I think this man is bent on revenge, and he's very dangerous because of that.

REAR ADMIRAL EUGENE CARROLL: He can hope to hide an assassination; that's a terrorist action, [that] can't be exactly attributed or traced; but he can't hope to hide the loosing of chemical or biological weapons.

LT. GENERAL THOMAS KELLY: [There] could come the biologicals you know, a terrible flu epidemic breaks out in Tel Aviv, and tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people die. That happened in

REAR ADMIRAL EUGENE CARROLL: But how does he [let] loose those agents there? Does he send 'em in with the weapons that we're afraid of?

LT. GENERAL THOMAS KELLY: You don't even need weapons. All you need is germs, and you can drop 'em off at the airport.

PHIL PONCE: And we're out of time. Sorry. But thank you all very much.