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Changing Course in Iraq

September 3, 2003 at 12:00 AM EST
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JIM LEHRER: More on this now from Morton Halperin, who held various Pentagon and State Department positions, his last being director of policy planning at the State Department under President Clinton; and Kenneth Adelman, who was director of the arms control and disarmament agency at the State Department during the Reagan administration. He’s now a member of the defense policy board, which advises the secretary of state.

Mort Halperin, is this the right thing to do, to go to the U.N. Security Council?

MORTON HALPERIN: I think it is the right thing to do. I think we should have done it in this form or some version of this form right after the war. The question is whether we’re going to go far enough to have a resolution which actually establishes the kind of legitimacy that will make it possible to get the other troops in there that we want.

JIM LEHRER: But in simple terms, why is it the right thing to do? Why is this the course the U.S. should be taking right now?

MORTON HALPERIN: Because we need the support of other nations to provide troops to provide help for reconstruction, and in order to do so, we have to do something that makes what we’re doing legitimate in the eyes of the rest of world.

We may believe that we had a security interest that required us to do this, the rest of the world believes that, given the structure of United Nations, only the U.N. Security Council can authorize the running of a country until its people are ready to resume their sovereignty, and that’s the key here, that the U.N. assumes the responsibility.

JIM LEHRER: Do you agree this is correct?

KENNETH ADELMAN: No, I certainly don’t, and I don’t believe that the U.N. gives any legitimacy. It’s just hard to see that an organization where Iraq was scheduled to be in charge of the Human Rights Commission or the Commission on Disarmament, and Libya’s in charge of the Human Rights Commission, Syria’s on the Security Council, gives any legitimacy.

What is important is that there be a successful, democratic, prosperous Iraq. And I think that the chances are better for that if we get more countries to contribute troops and money for that. Whether the U.N. imprimatur will do that or not is the question. I hope it does. And if it does, I’m willing to pay the price, but that’s not legitimacy. What that is…

MORTON HALPERIN: It’s legitimacy in their eyes.

KENNETH ADELMAN: It’s a way of getting more money and more troops.

JIM LEHRER: You don’t mind they are doing… you don’t agree with Morton Halperin that it’s going to legitimatize it.

KENNETH ADELMAN: I don’t believe it.

JIM LEHRER: Do you believe it’s the right thing to do?

KENNETH ADELMAN: Jim, if they come through with more money and boots on the ground, then it will be a good thing to do. I personally doubt whether these countries will do so.

JIM LEHRER: Why?

KENNETH ADELMAN: Because France is against it. Because France was on the side of Saddam Hussein for all these years, because Germany had a lot of business interests with Saddam Hussein there.

They are not about to get into a situation and try to make Iraq successful. They were happy with the old Iraq. I was not happy with the old Iraq, and President Bush wasn’t happy, and most Americans were not happy with the old Iraq.

JIM LEHRER: Do you think this is a sham that will come as a result of that?

MORTON HALPERIN: I think it depends on how far we go with the resolution. The U.S. Has not made the resolution public yet, but as I read what Powell said, we’re not ready to go far enough. The key is to follow the Kosovo resolution, and that puts the military force under the control of an American military commander. That’s not in debate. I don’t think anybody suggests an alternative to that. The issue in contention is the political control, whether Bremer continues to be…

JIM LEHRER: That’s Paul Bremer, who is now the U.S. overseer.

MORTON HALPERIN: Right. Or whether, as in Kosovo, the person who has that role of making decisions until there is a new Iraqi government and helping to form the new Iraqi government is the representative of the secretary-general, appointed with the consent of the Security Council.

JIM LEHRER: That’s important, you think?

MORTON HALPERIN: That’s critical, in my view, to getting the kind of help from other countries we want. I don’t see why we’re against it.

JIM LEHRER: Are you against it? Do you think that that is a bad idea?

KENNETH ADELMAN: (A), I agree with Mort, that it has to be Americans in charge of security.

JIM LEHRER: That’s not an issue, is it?

KENNETH ADELMAN: I hope that’s not an issue, although people have been talking about that and kind of fuzzing that issue. I don’t believe that it would be a good idea right now to switch and to have Jerry Bremer, out who has just been there a few months, and have somebody new from the U.N. I just don’t think that –

JIM LEHRER: What would be the problem?

KENNETH ADELMAN: The problem is it takes a long time to gin up a job like this and to get your relationships, and to know who the players are. And I think by all accounts Jerry Bremer is doing a fine job. Now, if he wears a blue hat as well as a red, white, and blue hat, that’s fine with me.

JIM LEHRER: What about Mort Halperin’s point that in order to get the things that you think should come with this — in other words, troops from France and Germany and all of that — you are going to have to have civil control under the U.N.?

KENNETH ADELMAN: (A), I don’t believe that that is the reason they are not giving troops. And I believe that no matter — if they wrote the resolution themselves, they wouldn’t give troops to go into Iraq.

JIM LEHRER: Why?

KENNETH ADELMAN: Because they don’t want it to succeed, because the United States liberated Iraq, because what they want to do is they want to see this as…a… I don’t want to say to see it as a failure, but they were not behind this.

They are quite happy to say, “I told you so,” and to the extent that we have a prosperous and democratic and legitimate Arab country, the first one among the 22 in the Arab League, then that makes France and Germany’s policies seem like they were shortsighted and selfish.

JIM LEHRER: What do you make of that argument?

MORTON HALPERIN: I did not come here to defend the French government, but I think the question is whether Jordan, India, Turkey, Bangladesh, to name four, all are countries that said they are ready to send forces — I all think they don’t fit Ken’s description of what the French may be up to. Those countries, I believe, will send forces if we have a resolution like the Kosovo resolution, and I think those countries will make an enormous difference to succeeding in what we must succeed in, which is establishing a democratic Iraq.

JIM LEHRER: Now, why? What would motivate them to come in and help now?

MORTON HALPERIN: Because they are coming in, if they are coming in, as something sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council. The U.N. has the faults that Ken suggested, but the charter of the U.N., which we — the principle drafters of — established the Security Council when it acts under chapter 7 to, in effect, establish legitimacy for what it decides to do.

And if there’s a resolution under chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter by the Security Council, as there was in Kosovo, creating this military force, letting us run it, and then having a U.N.-appointed representative working for the secretary-general and the Security Council, in the eyes of the rest of the world they are then participating in a legitimate activity, and they will contribute to it.

KENNETH ADELMAN: When you say “the eyes of the rest of the world,” you really… you know there’s a world that hangs around the U.N. and sees things through the U.N., but, you know, let’s not say… what will be legitimate in the eyes of the rest of the world is a prosperous Iraqi government that succeeds.

MORTON HALPERIN: Absolutely, and if we want to do it by…

KENNETH ADELMAN: That’s what I want to happen, okay?

MORTON HALPERIN: I think that’s what we all want. The U.N., at our request, passed a resolution in effect saying, “if you want to do it by yourself, go ahead; we’ll bless you to do it by yourself; we’ll protect the oil revenues so you can do it by yourself.” And that’s the first resolution we got. Then we went to countries like India and said, “come help us.” And they said, “no, we want this resolution if you want us to help you.”

KENNETH ADELMAN: Jim, all I will say is, we’ll see if these countries cough up or not.

JIM LEHRER: Let me ask you this, Mr. Adelman. You’re plugged in, into the highest reaches of Bush administration…

KENNETH ADELMAN: Not to the Bangladesh government. (laughter

JIM LEHRER: All right, but the Bush administration resisted this. They didn’t want this. It was very clear this was not the route they wanted to go. What caused them to decide what they did today?

KENNETH ADELMAN: I think because they could see that you can have it both ways, to tell you the truth. You can have a U.N. resolution, that’s kind of fuzzy and — I don’t want to say fuzzy math, but fuzzy words in this — and have an imprimatur of the U.N. with the United States keeping the security, which is all important, and Mort agrees, and we all agree on that, and with some kind of cooperation from the rest of world encouraged.

JIM LEHRER: You don’t think what was going on on the ground has anything to do with this?

KENNETH ADELMAN: In what way?

JIM LEHRER: Well, I mean, bombings, U.S. soldiers being shot at and killed and that sort of thing.

KENNETH ADELMAN: I think the point you are making is a good one, Jim. That it has been tougher to stabilize Iraq than we expected when we liberated Iraq. And, therefore, the pressure has been for more outside troops. Now, generally in the United States, it’s interesting that this pressure has been for more American troops. Senators who come back always say that — I think there should be more Iraqi troops, but in the interim, if there are more Bangladesh, India and I don’t know who else you recommend –

MORTON HALPERIN: Jordan –

KENNETH ADELMAN: Jordan and others, that’s fine with me.

JIM LEHRER: But if things were going more smoothly than they are, this would never have happened? Is that a fair statement?

KENNETH ADELMAN: I think that is fair. I think it’s been tougher than we expected.

JIM LEHRER: Do you agree with that?

MORTON HALPERIN: Yeah, but my point is, we still have not made a sufficient concession. We haven’t gone far enough. And that’s going to be the debate over the next few weeks, whether we are prepared to let a civilian appointed by the Security Council control the country.

KENNETH ADELMAN: I don’t want to change civilians at this point. Are you recommending that?

MORTON HALPERIN: I think that’s the only way we’re going to get this done.

KENNETH ADELMAN: I don’t know what we’re going to get done. Jerry Bremer is doing a fine job right now.

MORTON HALPERIN: He is doing a fine job, but he is appointed by the president and that’s not going to work.

KENNETH ADELMAN: OK then put on a blue helmet right now on his head and that’s fine with me…

MORTON HALPERIN: Well, if we can get the Security Council to support him…and have him be the secretary-general’s representative–

JIM LEHRER: Is that possible, is that remotely possible?

MORTON HALPERIN: I think that may in the end be the compromise.

JIM LEHRER: In other words — so say… okay, you keep calling him Jerry Bremer and I keep calling him Paul Bremer. Jerry Bremer is his nickname and his official name is Paul. I don’t want make people think one of us is crazy here.

KENNETH ADELMAN: They’re not brothers.

JIM LEHRER: They are not brothers. They’re the same guy.

JIM LEHRER: Is there any precedent for that, that they would suddenly just anoint this guy as a U.N. official?

MORTON HALPERIN: Well, normally the U.N. comes in from the beginning, but, for example, in Kosovo we just had a change in the administrator. We vetoed somebody that others wanted, and it was finally somebody appointed, a former I think Finnish official, who was satisfactory to everybody. So if this resolutions passes in the form I’m suggesting, you would have to find somebody that was satisfactory to everybody, and it may well be Bremer.

JIM LEHRER: You don’t care as long as it’s an American, is that what you’re saying?

KENNETH ADELMAN: I would not want to switch…

JIM LEHRER: You want it to be Bremer, you want it to be Jerry Paul Bremer, right?

KENNETH ADELMAN: That’s right Jerry Bremer, and because he has been doing it. He has built up the relationships now. By all accounts he is doing a fine job and now is not the time to change that — and he is transitioning nicely to more and more Iraqi power which is what you want.

JIM LEHRER: You know what it is time to do? It’s time to go. Thank you both very much.

KENNETH ADELMAN: Thank you.

MORTON HALPERIN: Thank you.