Iraqi Weapons Inspections
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GWEN IFILL: Here to shed some light on how the United Nations and the United States assess the success of these new inspections, are Charles William Maynes, assistant secretary of state during the Carter administration — he’s now the president of the Eurasia Foundation, a non-profit group promoting free markets and democracy in Central Asia; and Jeane Kirkpatrick — she was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during the Reagan administration. She’s now a senior fellow and director of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a research organization.
Ambassador Kirkpatrick, the president has been talking tough. We heard him say this week that he won’t accept Saddam Hussein playing hide and seek. We heard him say the signs are not encouraging as he talks about what’s happening with the inspections so far. What is it the White House is attempting to accomplish with this type of talk?
JEANE KIRKPATRICK: I think that talk counted for first of all by the president’s personal style, which he has repeatedly given somewhat tough talk, I think. I think we have heard that a lot of times. Think it’s also given to remind or to restate to the United Nations and in general and Iraq in particular that he’s very serious and the United States very serious and they should be very serious too.
GWEN IFILL: Mr. Maynes on the other hand we have heard Kofi Annan speaking in a much more conciliatory tones talking very much about how he sounds as Colin Powell actually said, but it’s off to a good start. Why are we hearing that tone coming from the Secretary General of the U.N.?
CHARLES WILLIAM MAYNES: Well, I listened very carefully and basically what the president said is Saddam Hussein is a recidivist — he has for many years violated the resolutions of the U.N. and not cooperated with the inspections, and for that reason against that background he is suspicious and Kofi Annan has said we have had five days, it’s gone well for five days but we have just started. I don’t see such a huge contradiction between the two statements; I really don’t. And then I think the president would be foolish — quite honestly — even if he thought we were off to a terrific start if he said, stood up and said particularly to the American military, well, stand down; everything is going well. He has to be prepared for the possibility he may have to order a military campaign.
GWEN IFILL: Doesn’t it sound to you like the White House is assuming the worst?
CHARLES WILLIAM MAYNES: Well, they are… I’m just pointing out, that if you actually parse what was said, he said Mr. Saddam Hussein is a recidivist; he has for years violated the accords. I don’t believe he is going to change. And I don’t see that has necessarily inconsistent with Kofi Annan saying five days, it’s only five days, we’ve got to go ahead. The five days has been off to a good start. Now a lot of it how the headlines get presented but I submit to you there isn’t that big necessarily a difference.
GWEN IFILL: Ambassador Kirkpatrick you hear them virtually saying the same thing?
JEANE KIRKPATRICK: Essentially, I think there are differences in personal style; the personal style of Kofi Annan is somewhat optimistic continually; that’s the personal style of the U.N. Secretariat actually and has been for decades. And I don’t think it has any great significance as a prediction. He hopes things will go well, actually. We all hope things will go well, you know. He would like things to go well, but he’s not saying things will necessarily go well; the five days will necessarily continue.
GWEN IFILL: You were at the United Nations is it also the role of the Secretary General to be more conciliatory; is that his job because he represents more people?
JEANE KIRKPATRICK: No, I don’t think so I think it’s the job of the Secretary General to sort of keep things going and provide some leadership and to — and encouragement you might say if that’s encouragement if you mean by that optimism. I think typically the style of the Secretariat generally and the secretary general generally is somewhat optimistic and encouraging and sort of try and try again, we’ll work this out. But I don’t think it’s very serious as prediction.
GWEN IFILL: To the extent that there is any distinction in the way they approach it even if they end up in the same place do you think this is a matter of personal style or a matter of — an imperative that comes with the jobs that these two men hold?
CHARLES WILLIAM MAYNES: Well, in public policy where you stand is often where you sit and the secretary general isn’t in the business of promoting wars; he is in the position of trying to carry out the resolutions of the Security Council, which in this case asked him to carry out a thorough and professional search of Iraq for weapons of mass destruction. If he carries that out well, which I’m sure he is going to try, and if things go the way we hope they will, we will avoid a war. And certainly that is what he’s trying to do and the tone of everything he says, I think, reinforces that.
I don’t think the two statements by the way are the same as was suggested. I just think that the president is talking about the past and saying that he looks at that and it’s a very negative past and it makes him very suspicious of the future and Kofi Annan isn’t talking about the past but the five days of inspections and so far they have gone well. And he emphasizes that.
GWEN IFILL: Let’s talk about the past as it applies to Kofi Annan for a second. Kofi Annan said after meeting with the president about this U.N. resolution that he understood that the president was engaged in a psychological game. He also said in 1998 when he went to negotiate return of the inspectors at the time that Saddam Hussein was someone he could do business with. Do those kinds of statements put him at odds with this White House?
JEANE KIRKPATRICK: I don’t think so necessarily; I don’t think they’re that serious frankly. I mean, I don’t mean to say what the secretary general says is not important or that he doesn’t mean it but they’re a manner of speaking. I don’t think that they’re substantive declarations putting at odds with the White House frankly.
GWEN IFILL: What do you think about that Mr. Maynes?
CHARLES WILLIAM MAYNES: Well, I think the statement doing business with Kofi Annan… with Saddam Hussein, I mean, was an unfortunate statement given what subsequently happened. I think it was made with the best will in the world but certainly that was an unfortunate statement. But I think that, again, the president is trying to prepare the way for possibly having to engage militarily and the secretary general is trying prepare the way for a professional set of inspections. And so there are different roles being played here and they can be complimentary or there are people of course who want a war, regardless of what the inspections….
GWEN IFILL: Who are those people?
CHARLES WILLIAM MAYNES: Well, there are some people I think who believe that inspections can never work, you see this reflected in articles that appear in the American press by some people. They that a country the size of Texas you would have to have hundreds of thousands of inspectors. I don’t believe that’s true. I think that’s a false statement but there are some people who believe that. If you believe that, then the only thing that will solve the problem is military force going in and taking over the country, changing the regime and therefore, you know, securing your objectives.
GWEN IFILL: Do you think this administration believes that?
CHARLES WILLIAM MAYNES: I think the president made clear when he gave his statement at the U.N. that he was opting for different course. He did not mention regime change in the statement before the United Nations.
GWEN IFILL: Ambassador Kirkpatrick, the relationship between the United States and the United Nations has always been kind of checkered even prior to this administration. Is there a fundamental distrust or conflict between American presidents, American leadership and the United Nations?
JEANE KIRKPATRICK: I don’t think so. I think, though, that American governments… and American administrations, all of them, let me say, more often than not have strong views about what their policies should be, what they want them to be and what they will accept from the Security Council or anyone else. And I think that that fact, the fact United States is the strongest country in the world and that we often take leadership roles in the U.N. as well as elsewhere, sometimes puts us in a kind of an apparent conflict, if you will, particularly with a secretary general who seems to be trying to settle issues himself. It’s not the role of the secretary general, by the way, to settle issues or make decisions; it’s the role of the Security Council to do that. When the secretary general tries to do that, why that leads to kind of an impression of not serious conflict but an impression of unease.
GWEN IFILL: Well as long as we are talking about impressions, let me ask you the question I just asked Mr. Maynes. Is there an impression this administration is using the United Nations process as a pretext to undertake military action no matter what the inspections find?
JEANE KIRKPATRICK: I don’t think that at all. I think that’s not at all true. I think there is no justification for that suggestion if I may say so.
GWEN IFILL: Well, Secretary Powell, he has played an interesting role in this; he seemed to be out of the message loop temporarily yesterday when he was traveling in Colombia and said he thought things were off to a good start at the time that the president was saying otherwise. What do you think his role is in this?
CHARLES WILLIAM MAYNES: I think the achievement at the U.N. was extraordinary to get 15 votes and in particular get the Syrian vote for the resolution was a real triumph for the diplomacy of this administration. I think the secretary obviously played the key role in that. I have talked to people in the State Department who worked on this and they give all the credit to their boss. So he has a big stake in this resolution as does the administration in making it work. If the administration is seen as trying to twist this diplomatic victory in a way in effect to find a pretext for war, which I don’t believe they will do or are trying to do, but if they did, they would not only lose support of all of our allies for any military intervention; there would be a huge disagreement inside the United States.
GWEN IFILL: You don’t think Secretary Powell is out of step at all, do you agree with that?
JEANE KIRKPATRICK: I don’t think Secretary Powell is out of step. Secretary Powell has spent his life in uniform, and he’s a very disciplined military man and leader and I think he is a very… has a very important leadership role in the administration actually and with regard to foreign policy in the administration. I think he deserves a lot of the credit for the resolution. I also think by the way Prime Minister Tony Blair probably deserves some credit for that too.
GWEN IFILL: Let’s move beyond for a moment what’s going on beyond the United Nations and the United States, a larger goal whatever it is the United States is trying to accomplish in Iraq with these inspections. Is there greater meaning that goes beyond whether we go to war or not or other meaning, something greater than war I suppose — is there another way of interpreting what’s at stake in these inspections?
CHARLES WILLIAM MAYNES: Well I think that if the inspections fail, if they fail not because Saddam Hussein doesn’t cooperate, but because either the U.N. does not do a good job or because major states like the United States reject a report, which, in fact, is a professional report, it will have enormous implications for the whole field of diplomacy and basically negotiation rule of law, treaties, and whether we can deal with any of the issues by any means other than military force.
So, I do I this there is tremendous freight that is connected with this issue. And part of the reason is that the entire world has supported this resolution. This is not a resolution that divides people. It’s in effect the entire world against one country. If we can’t do it in this case, it raises serious implications about what’s possible in a whole range of other serious issues.
GWEN IFILL: Like North Korea as we just heard about?
CHARLES WILLIAM MAYNES: Like North Korea; that’s right.
JEANE KIRKPATRICK: It has important implications for non-proliferation too and our efforts at non-proliferation and nuclear weapons and nuclear technology because there has been such a effort with regard to Iraq. And if we fail in Iraq, there is little reason to think we’re ever going to succeed any place or in any country like North Korea for example.
GWEN IFILL: So the next few weeks will tell the tale?
JEANE KIRKPATRICK: And I think it’s very important; this is a very important resolution, I think.
GWEN IFILL: Jeane Kirkpatrick and Bill Maynes, thank you very much for joining us.