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Neo-Cons "Out?" Realists "In?"

January 13, 2004

by Leon Hadar

American Pundits have been speculating recently that the neoconservative intellectuals who were the driving force behind the Bush Administrationís Iraq adventure, its alliance with Israel's Likud government and the ambitious U.S.-led Democratic Empire project, are being forced to play defense these days in the bureaucratic-political game in Washington.

Indeed, the grand designs that the neocons had cooked up in their Washington think tanks, and the expectations raised by the editorials published in their glossy magazines--that American would be welcomed as "liberators" in Iraq, that Mesopotamia would be transformed into a liberal democracy and that it would be become to be a model for the entire Arab Middle East--are proving to be nothing more than intellectual fantasies. According to press reports, the escalating attacks by insurgents against U.S. troops have forced the Bush Administration to back away from several of its more ambitious initiatives to remake Iraqís political and economic system and to accelerate the timetable for ending the civil occupation of that country. Hence, the Americans have dropped plans to privatize Iraq's state-owned businesses and to write a constitution before a transfer of sovereignty.

Moreover, the demands by the Kurds in northern Iraq for the creation of a semiautonomous governing body to represent them and the expectations that a general election in the country would bring to power Shiite Islamic figures hostile towards the West, suggest that Iraq could be drawn into a bloody civil war and be torn into three separate mini states, representing the Arab Shiites, the Sunni Arabs and the Kurds.

The mess that the neocons, led by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, have created in Iraq explains the reemergence in Washington of the Realpolitik types that had played the leading role in the making of foreign policy of the Elder George Bush. "The grown-ups are being recalled to clean up the put things back in order," is the way one Washington "insider" puts it, referring to the decision by the White House to send former Secretary of State James Baker on a diplomatic mission to persuade America's allies to agree to forgive tens of billions of dollars of Iraq's foreign debt.

Another foreign policy "realist" who came back to Washington is former U.S. Ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, who has been asked to serve as the National Security Council's (NSC) Coordinator for Strategic Planning, with his chief responsibility being U.S. policy in Iraq. There are also some indication that the Iraqís Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) chief, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, has been distancing himself from the neoconservative cadre in the administration. At the same time, Wolfowitz is planning to leave the administration and return to academia early next year, according to Newsweek magazine.

But the collapse of the neoconservative project goes beyond Iraq. After all, the pundits from the American Enterprise Institute and the Weekly Standard, and their ideological allies who now dominate top foreign policy jobs in the Pentagon and the Vice President's office, have proposed that 9/11 and the ensuing war on terrorism would permit the United States to formalize its dominant position around the globe. Hence, the establishment of the Democratic Empire in the Middle East would lay the foundations for a global imperial scheme in which U.S. military power would leave other players, ranging from "rogue states" like North Korea and Iran, to major powers like the European Union (EU) and China, with no choice but to bow to American dictates. Even before 9/11, the neocons were arguing that Washington should adopt a strategy of "containing" China and forcing it to accept the reality of an independent and democratic Taiwan.

But the reality is turning out to be quite different. Just recently, President Bush rolled out the red carpet in Washington for Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao and warned Taiwan to refrain from antagonizing Beijing by challenging the "One China" policy. China has also been playing a leading role in a multilateral effort to diffuse the North Korean nuclear crisis. And a similar multilateral strategy has been advanced by Washington in dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions. That is, when it comes to the other two members of the "Axis of Evil" President Bush has rejected the neoconservative confrontational approach. Or, to put it differently, the White House is recognizing the limits of the U.S. military and is not prepared to execute a "regime change" in Tehran, Pyongyang or Damascus.

And while the neocons are "spinning" the recent move by Libya's Muhammar Khaddafi to open its weapons-production facilities to international inspections, that development should be regarded as just another example of the Bushies adopting a more realistic foreign policy by agreeing to make a deal with a military dictator committed to radical Arab nationalism.

Against the backdrop of the earthquake in Iran, the Bushies have been sending signals that they were ready to pursue a policy of detente with the fundamentalist Islamic leaders in Teheran. In short, the model of military confrontation that was employed in Iraq (and Afghanistan) is turning out to be the exception to the rule. Diplomatic engagement is the norm for advancing U.S. security interests abroad.

But those elements in the Bush Administration and Congress who are encouraged by the signs that the White House is re-embracing a more realistic approach to world affairs recognize that there are powerful forces in Washington, including the neoconservative officials in the Pentagon, who will resist the new trends.

Indeed, the neocons are not "out" yet. They are certainly starting to lose some of the political battles in the U.S. capital. But the only person who could strike a real and final blow to their influence in Washington is the occupant of the Oval Office. Whether he decided to do that would be the most important move he will make in 2004, and one that could determine his chances to get to spend four more years as President.

Leon Hadar is a research fellow in foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute and a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy.

Posted by coalition at 10:11 PM | Comments (0)

Happier, not Safer

January 06, 2004

by Doug Bandow

All America seemed to celebrate Saddam Hussein's capture, but not former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who declared: "The capture of Saddam Hussein has not made America safer."

His competitors for the Democratic nomination, not to mention Republican apparatchiks, were livid. Despite the rain of denunciations, Dean has been proved right: "The capture of Saddam does not end our difficulties from the aftermath of the administration's war to oust him."

Hussein's capture was good news, especially for the Iraqis. A monstrous brute will now face justice. People in undemocratic countries will see another dictator held accountable for his crimes.

But the seizure of Hussein has not made America safer. Just consider the elevated terrorism alert over the holidays. The parade of security forces on streets and rivers. And the delayed and cancelled airline flights.

The point goes deeper, however. "Saddam Hussein is a homicidal maniac, brutal dictator, supporter of terrorism and enemy of the United States, and there should be no doubt that America and the world are safer with him captured," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Ct.). Actually, Hussein was all of those things.

But if Hussein threatened America's security, it was as a brutal dictator dedicated to wreaking revenge on America whose country was making weapons of mass destruction and trafficking
with terrorists. Perhaps Sen. Lieberman missed it, but Hussein was ousted as Iraq's president months ago. The pitiful thug hiding in a small, underground chamber had no ability to threaten
the U.S.

With but two bodyguards and no satellite phone, he wasn't even the center of the resistance. Some arrests were made based on intelligence gleaned from papers in his possession, but they
didn't seem to change the fight on the ground. Americans and Iraqis continued to die in guerrilla attacks.

His capture may have disheartened some occupation opponents, but evidence so far suggests that most insurgents are not fighting for him. Moreover, the U.S. may face increased pressure from Iraqis who, freed from any fear of a Hussein restoration, begin pushing the U.S. more forcefully to hold elections and yield control.

In short, as Dean argued, the serious problems facing the U.S. in Iraq will continue, perhaps unabated.

Ironically, Hussein's arrest highlights the fact that he doesn't appear to have ever threatened America's security. For all of the pontificating that his capture justified the war, it appears that he never possessed the kind of weapons that would have endangered America.

Embarrassed by the failure to find any weapons of mass destruction, the administration has simply attempted to shift gears. Now, officials emphasize, Hussein is a bad guy--true, along with North Korea's Kim jong-il, Iran's passel of Mullahs, and quite a few other dictators around the world.

But President George W. Bush's claim that Hussein's capture "means America's a more secure country" presumes that Hussein was capable of threatening America. And even before he was ousted that depended on his possession of WMD, since Iraq had no serious conventional capability--as evidenced by its quick collapse when attacked by the U.S.

Before the war, President Bush said that "the threat from Iraq stands alone," since that nation's "weapons of mass destruction are controlled by a murderous tyrant." Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz pointed to WMD as the critical issue--in contrast to human rights or terrorism--about which the entire administration could rally around.

Secretary of State Colin Powell's was quite specific in his lengthy presentation to the UN Security Council. "Saddam Hussein could have produced 25,000 liters" of anthrax and had accounted for none of it. "Saddam Hussein has never accounted for vast amounts of chemical weaponry: 550 artillery shells with mustard [gas], 30,000 empty munitions and enough precursors to increase his stockpile to as much as 500 tons of chemical agents."

Added Secretary Powell, Washington estimated that Iraq had stockpiled "between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agent. That is enough agent to fill 16,000 battlefield rockets."

Secretary Powell calmly asserted "Saddam Hussein has chemical weapons" and asked: "when will we see the rest of the submerged iceberg?"

Probably not soon, since we haven't yet seen the visible part of the iceberg. Alas, not one thimbleful of these materials has turned up.

Same with the "large, unaccounted-for stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons--including VX, sarin, cyclosarin and mustard gas; anthrax, botulism, and possibly smallpox," of which Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke. None of these biological and chemical weapons have been discovered. Reported David Kay, who headed America's Iraq Survey Group, which has been searching for WMD: "information found to date suggests that Iraq's large-scale capability to develop, produce, and fill new CW munitions was reduced--if not entirely destroyedóduring Operations Desert Storm and Desert Fox, 13 years of U.N. sanctions, and U.N. inspections."

President Bush claimed "we found biological laboratories." But where are they? ìWe have not yet been able to corroborate the existence of a mobile biological weapons production effort," admitted Kay. "Technical limitations would prevent any of these processes from being ideally suited to these trailers."

Finally, Secretary Powell pointed to unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, which "are well suited for dispensing chemical and biological weapons." In fact, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fl.) says that the administration used a classified briefing to claim that Iraq had the capability of hitting American cities with UAVs. A threatening weapon, to be sure, but hardly more frightening than thousands of Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles topped with nuclear weapons. In any case, no ocean-spanning UAVs have been discovered.

Of course, maybe someone will eventually find something. But with this much time, seizure of Iraqi government files, capture of hundreds of Baathist officials, and a professed willingness to pay big bucks for information, the cupboard has remained surprisingly bare.

Hussein seemed to preserve program elements in the hopes of a future revival, but that isn't the same thing. Said Kay: "It clearly does not look like a massive, resurgent program, based on what we discovered." Charles Duelfer, former deputy director of the UN inspections program, said: "It will probably turn out, in my judgment, that there are no existing weapons in Iraq, and that mildly surprises me."

President Bush has taken a different tack. When pressed by ABC's Diane Sawyer on the issue, Bush responded that there was a "possibility" Hussein could acquire them. "So what's the
difference," asked Bush? It's a big difference. Any number of governments on earth could do any number of bad things. That doesn't mean that you have to bomb them today.

Nevertheless, the administration has never retreated from its claim. In July, after the war had ended, Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz testified that what the U.S. had done was "remove a regime that was a threat to the United States." But in a unipolar world dominated by the U.S., which possesses the military capacity to destroy any antagonist, and especially in impoverished, isolated Iraq, Saddam Hussein threatened what exactly?

Even if Iraq had WMD--a reasonable assumption, actuallyóno one explained why Saddam Hussein could not be deterred, just as Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, the two greatest mass murderers in human history (based on simple numbers) had been. In fact, Gen. Waffic al Sammarai, head of Iraqi military intelligence during the first Gulf War, reported that implicit U.S. nuclear threats deterred Hussein from using WMD: "the warning was quite severe, and quite effective. The allied troops were certain to use nuclear arms and the price will be too dear and too high."

However, it turns out Iraq apparently had no WMD. It is impossible to deny that the war was based on an error, if not a lie. There apparently weren't any WMD. So Hussein wasn't much of a threat when he was dictator of Iraq. He certainly wasn't much of a threat while running from occupation authorities.

The world is a better place with Hussein out-of-power. It's even better with him in custody, facing trial. But that doesn't retrospectively justify the conflict. In fact, we may have to wait years to discover whether America really is safer after having loosed the Dogs of War in the Mideast.

Doug Bandow is a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan.

Posted by coalition at 10:10 PM | Comments (0)