U.S. Delays a Vote in the U.N. Security Council
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MARGARET WARNER: How should the U.S. play out this diplomatic end game and for how long? We get two views on that. Republican Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. Charles William Maynes was assistant secretary of state for international organizations during the Carter administration.
Welcome to you both.
Sen. Brownback, as we just heard today, the president is now willing to let these negotiations continue through the weekend into next week. Is it worth the wait, and if so, for how long?
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK: Well, I think the president is clearly signaling that what he wants to do here is push to the nth degree, to the final day, to the final possibility to get some sort of U.N. resolution, to get the world community to pull together about the issue of Saddam Hussein. And he’s going beyond any sort of efforts I think he probably contemplated at the outset to see if he can pull that together. The French have made this extraordinarily difficult. And they have actually perhaps short-circuited the process by their statements of saying virtually regardless of what the United States does they’re going to veto this.
MARGARET WARNER: But how long do you think the president should wait?
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK: I don’t think he can wait much longer. You’ve really come to about the end of the string here, that further efforts aren’t going to move much more, that you do have a coalition of the willing that exists that’s ready to go, that’s substantial, that people from the region by and large other than Turkey are very supportive and they’re ready. I met with people from Saudi Arabia just today, ready, willing to move on forward. And if you wait too much longer, this thing gets overripe and it starts moving backward on you. I think the time is pretty short.
MARGARET WARNER: Bill Maynes, in danger of getting “overripe”?
CHARLES WILLIAM MAYNES: Well, I don’t think we should criticize the administration for the maneuvering it’s trying to do to get the best resolution possible. The president’s going to be judged by the final product, not whether he contradicted on Wednesday what he said on Monday, because what he’s really trying to do and what everybody is trying to do is bring maximum pressure on all sides to try to move this process forward.
I think that if we can get European support on this, it is worth working for. We’re going to win the first battle in this struggle, but there are going to be many chapters to this, and we’re going to need outside support. We’re going to need outside support for rebuilding. We’re going to need outside support in coalitions for the struggles that will come after that. And if there’s any possibility of moving the French and the Germans, I think we should make an effort to do that. I think the administration is trying that. I probably would go longer than others on that because I’m… I not only feel that the coalition is important; I feel that U.S. interests in Europe could be severely damaged depending on how this all falls out, and a lot of that depends, of course, on how the war goes.
MARGARET WARNER: You mean severely damaged if the U.S. were to go ahead without a resolution.
CHARLES WILLIAM MAYNES: Yes, because the Europeans have said they won’t pay a penny on this if we go ahead without a resolution. If the war doesn’t go as we expect, there will be a lot of recriminations here. The time to get them on the… you know, on our side is now. But I think they have to make a gesture towards us. I think, you know, they’ve painted themselves in the corner. We’re painted in a corner. It’s very hard to get out unless both sides try to reach out to one another to see if it’s possible to reach some kind of agreement.
MARGARET WARNER: Sen. Brownback, as you know, to entice the six undecided countries, or the countries believed to be undecided, the British did propose these specific benchmarks: Saddam Hussein could meet and avert war. Secretary Powell was a little non-committal about that today in the hearing. He said something like, “Well, not all of us bought all the elements, but we’re looking at it.” If Britain felt they could round up the necessary nine votes with something like that, is that something the U.S. should also support?
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK: Well, I think if it’s a possibility, a strong possibility that we could round up the votes with that, I think you’d see the administration readily look at that. But, again, I think you’re looking at a situation now where you’ve got a number of countries, particularly in the region that have been hanging out there for a period of time, in a very delicate and difficult situation, whether it’s Jordan or Saudi Arabia or even Kuwait, and even some of the negotiations with other countries in that region. And I don’t think you can wait forever for this.
If we can and we can do it fairly concisely and quickly, I think you could see the administration move forward, but we have tried. The administration has really tried and pushed and pushed on this. They’ve gone to the U.N. for a resolution last year. A number of people are questioning whether they need to get another one. I do agree that the time to get people on board is now, but I don’t know that any stone is left unturned now. We’ve turned about every one of them over.
MARGARET WARNER: Are you suggesting that if the U.S. waits too long that some of the other countries willing to help will be less willing to help?
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK: I just think it gets more and more difficult for them. And they are right there in the neighborhood. I’ve traveled through the region; many people have. And they don’t want Saddam Hussein in power, and they haven’t wanted him in power for a long period of time, but they’ve been waiting for a situation where the United States is clearly committed to move, and then they said, “We’ll be there.”
Now they’re saying the United States clearly wanted to move, we’re there, but it puts them in difficulty and in jeopardy with their own population. And the longer that situation sits that way, I think it makes it very difficult for a lot of those countries, particularly like a Saudi Arabia or a Jordan, to continue to hang in there with us so aggressively and so openly and boldly.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you agree with that, Bill Maynes, that there’s a political… we can put some potential allies in the region in political jeopardy if we wait too much longer?
CHARLES WILLIAM MAYNES: If the current checkers are on the board and those are the only ones there, I agree with what the senator said. I think one of the issues here is whether other checkers can be put on the board. For example, one weakness I think in the French position is they agree Saddam Hussein should go. They agree that the American troops in the region provide pressure for him to make concessions. They want more concessions, and they say that if the concessions stop, they would participate in a war.
Logically it seems to me the French should offer to put some troops in the Gulf to bring pressure on Saddam Hussein. That’s the kind of additional checker that I think could be put on the table if the two sides were to reach out to one another. And that would, I think, reduce some of the pressure on — the political pressure on the United States and others. That kind of gesture hasn’t been made. I think it still could, but time is very short.
MARGARET WARNER: Sen. Brownback, the other issue that came up today was whether the U.S. should pursue this as the president said last week, whatever the vote count looks like it’s going to be, to make everyone put their cards on the table, or whether it’s better to pull the resolution if it looks like it’s going down to defeat. What is your view on that?
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK: Well, I’ve been one all along for some period of time that has felt if the French were going to dig in so hard and say that “regardless of what you do, we’re going to veto this in the Security Council,” that I really question whether it was worthwhile for us to go forward and get an 18th resolution in front of the United Nations regarding Iraq. That’s where we’re at with this. Now I think it’s worthy and it’s the right thing to do to try to pursue that at this point in time, but I really question if they’ve decided, period, “we are going to veto this.” It is worth some benefit if we have a majority that’s a vote there and then we go forward and the French veto it, we can say we have absolutely done everything we can.
But I think the French are putting that strategy into question for us. I think if we can get a majority and we can do so fairly soon, it can’t wait for a long period of time, we should pursue that, but I wouldn’t spend a great deal more time on it. We’ve really worked this very hard, and I don’t know if there’s much more to be gained by working it much longer.
MARGARET WARNER: And what’s your view of that, Bill Maynes, in terms of whether it’s worth pursuing?
CHARLES WILLIAM MAYNES: As I indicated before, it would be very valuable to us if we could bring others on, in particular the Europeans– not simply for the Gulf War, but for other reasons. And the French, there are a couple of views that have come out of France on this.
MARGARET WARNER: But I guess the question I’m really asking, because it’s what was raised by Sec. Powell today: If the U.S. takes a hard vote count privately and it looks like, one, the French are going to veto, and, two, maybe they can’t even get the nine super majority, should they still push it to a vote just to say they went for a vote or not?
CHARLES WILLIAM MAYNES: Well, I think the administration argues that it would have a certain moral authority if they went to war and they had a majority of the Security Council even though the resolution had no legal standing according to the rules of the council, and that’s a political judgment. Of course, we don’t take that view when we veto resolutions. We insist they should have no operational effect whatsoever. But I think in terms of the politics of it, there’s something that could be said to that regard, but our problem so far is that we’ve had trouble getting the nine.
MARGARET WARNER: Would you… and finally, what is your view of the British role in this and whether it’s… I mean, the conventional wisdom and the truth of it is that the U.S. has pursued this resolution in good part because Tony Blair really needed it. At this point, do you think that the British want to push it even if it looks like it will go down to defeat?
CHARLES WILLIAM MAYNES: Well, I think, you know, we have been living in a cocoon in this country about what the problems are for the British government. I travel a lot, and months ago, it was clear that Blair was in trouble, and it just really hadn’t filtered home here. He’s in grave trouble. The establishment in Britain if you want to call it… I watched a program recently in Europe several months ago, and the former chief of staff, the former foreign minister, a bishop of the Church of England who’s considered the military’s bishop, they all are denouncing the war, and so he’s got a very, very serious problem. And I think the administration is right to try to protect their allies, somebody who has been very loyal to them and to see if they can help him out on this.
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK: If I could jump in on this real quickly…
MARGARET WARNER: Yeah, please.
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK: …Because I think you’re seeing historic realignments taking place since Sept. 11thAfter Sept. 11, our relationships into Central Asia matured and grew into countries that people hadn’t even really heard of much– Uzbekistan, Pakistan back with the United States and working in a very difficult situation. I’m afraid what you’re seeing now as well are historic realignments as well. You’re seeing countries that have recently grown, joined NATO, or seek to join NATO, strongly supporting the United States, others really questioning. I mean, this is a very fluid time that I think is going to have a long tail to it afterwards beyond this instance, and I don’t know that all of it’s positive. Some of it’s very positive, of new people stepping forward to work with us and to work towards liberty around the world. But we are going to have consequences from this debate, I think, for a number of years to come.
MARGARET WARNER: All right, thank you both. Sen. Brownback and Bill Maynes, thank you.