Thursday, November 18, 2004

Wolfowitz on the War in Iraq

An interview of Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense, by Radek Sikorski of the American Enterprise Institute, appears in the December issue (105) of Prospect. The interview is well worth reading in full, but here are just a few selections that stand out:

Radek Sikorski
Paul Wolfowitz

Why couldn't we have had Iraqis liberating Baghdad, winning credibility from defeating Saddam and then becoming the new Iraqi government? Why did we have to have US soldiers to do it for them?
Why was it necessary to have such a large US role? This is a point that is totally misunderstood and almost never explained. It allows people to say that I have held the same view on Iraq for the last 10 years. In fact, before 11th September, those of us who said that it was important to end the hypocrisy of saying "we want the liberation of Iraq but we won't do anything about it" were never advocates of invading Baghdad....But 11th September and the anthrax attacks which came immediately after changed the calculation.
The US would have won more support in Europe if it had justified war on humanitarian grounds-Europe accepted war against Serbia on that basis.But we would never have had 15 votes in the UN on that proposition. The UN was what forced us down the WMD path, which was a legitimate argument. When the president first went to the UN, he made three arguments. He talked about terrorism, he talked about WMD and he talked about abuse of the Iraqi people. Even with the UN resolution, we might have pushed harder on this issue. On the other hand, the Syrians weren't going to vote for a resolution that endorsed removing Saddam for the sake of the Iraqis.
Conservatives are suspicious of projects to change human nature. They oppose social engineering in domestic policy. Yet here you are, full of ideological zeal, crafting a new form of government for people very different from us. Is this a contradiction?If you put it that way, you create a contradiction. We're not trying to graft our system of government on to people who are different from us. We're trying to remove shackles that keep them from having what they want. And it's astonishing how many of them want something that's similar to what we in the west have. I was assistant secretary of state for east Asia when we first confronted Marcos under the Reagan administration. People said: "What are you doing? We'll end up with what Carter got in Iran." But we pressed Marcos very hard in the Philippines and I think the proof is in the outcome. The contradiction is to say that allowing people to choose their government freely is to impose our ideas on them. There was a wonderful moment at a conference here in Washington where someone said it's arrogant of us to impose our values on the Arab world, and an Arab got up and said it's arrogant of you to say these are your values because they are universal values.
RS: With the benefit of hindsight and now that the election campaign is over, what would you say could have been done differently in Iraq?People make a lot about the decision to dismiss the Iraqi army. But I don't think people are shooting at Americans and blowing up schools because we dismissed the Iraqi army. When people talk about why Iraq is as difficult as it is, they always start and finish with a list of American mistakes. Nobody ever talks about the enemy. It would be like saying why the battle of the bulge was tough without ever mentioning the German army. Saddam Hussein didn't stop fighting us, at least until he was captured in December last year. Al-Zarqawi didn't surrender when Baghdad fell. He stepped up his efforts. There are all these organisations that are unheard of in Europe and barely known in the US that people ought to know about. There was the M-14 division of the Iraqi intelligence service, its so-called "anti-terrorism" division, which specialised in hijackings and bombings, kidnappings and assassinations. There was the M-16 division, which perfected new bombing techniques. Many of these guys are out in Falluja and Ramadi in the western parts of Iraq today making bombs.

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|| headland, 12:01 AM


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