|ON THE BRINK|
January 30, 1998
The United States and Russia are at odds over what to do next in the standoff with Iraq. But France, Great Britain, Germany and Sweden have expressed cautious support for the tough military stance advocated by the Clinton administration. After a background report, four experts debate how wise a military strike would be.
PHIL PONCE: For more now we go to Lt. General Thomas Kelly, who was director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War. He is retired now and in the private sector. Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll was on the carrier's striking task force in the Mediterranean. He's now the Deputy Director of the Center for Defense Information. Paul Wolfowitz was Undersecretary of Defense for Policy in the Bush administration. He's now the dean of Johns Hopkins University's Paul Nitze's School of Advanced International Studies. And Richard Murphy was Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs from 1983 to 1989. He's now a senior fellow for the Mid East at the Council on Foreign Relations. And, welcome all.
General Kelly, your reaction to the prospect of using military force in Iraq.
|The argument in favor of using military force.|
LT. GENERAL THOMAS KELLY, U.S. Army (Ret.): Well, right now I think we are in a position where we have Saddam Hussein tweaking our nose. Our intelligence says he's building weapons of mass destruction. I worry, especially about the biological, because you don't need a delivery system to get them here. You know, they can come in an envelope, or they can come in a small bottle. So we've got to do something about it. Your decision tree says he's making them or not. If he is, you do something. And that something should be air strikes. And the air strikes, in my view, should be soon, and they should be robust. We can't put in 41 Tomahawks and say we did the job. He has to feel sufficient pain to come around. And, incidentally, I think he will come around pretty early on if we do the job with the proper level of force.
PHIL PONCE: But you think it would take that proper level of force, in your opinion, for the United States to get Iraq's attention?
LT. GENERAL THOMAS KELLY: I sure do. We haven't gotten their attention by not using force.
PHIL PONCE: Admiral Carroll.
|Concern over the objective.|
REAR ADMIRAL EUGENE CARROLL, U.S. Navy (Ret.): I'm an aviator, and I'm very concerned what our objective is by sending in air strikes. We can only do so much from the air. It's limited by what intelligence we have, how accurate our targeting information is. Comparing, for example, Desert Storm, where we dropped 88,000 tons of bombs and only destroyed about 10 to 15 percent of their chemical, biological, and nuclear warfare capability, how much are we going to put in this time and what expectation do we have that we will really reduce this threat that we say he presents to us? Then there's of course the question of the political reaction to the U.S. leading an offensive program against Saddam Hussein when the problem really is a U.N. problem.
PHIL PONCE: Paul Wolfowitz, your reaction to the possibility of military action.
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, Former Defense Department Official: Well, I think Saddam has put us in a position where, as Gen. Kelly says, I think we're going to have to use force. It demonstrates his powerful commitment to developing these weapons. And I think it demonstrates that we really can't live with them. I mean, as long as he's around he's going to be back doing this, and we're going to have to be back doing it over and over again. So I believe that if he comes to the point of using force, we need to make sure that we don't simply go back to the status quo as it was before and wait for him to defy the inspectors again six months from now or twelve months from now. I think we really have to develop a new political strategy that's aimed really at liberating Iraq from this tyrannical monster.
PHIL PONCE: So, in other words, getting rid of Saddam Hussein would--would be your position as the ultimate goal?
PAUL WOLFOWITZ: At a minimum, seriously stripping away his power and ultimately getting rid of him, yes.
PHIL PONCE: Richard Murphy, your reaction to the prospect of military action?
|"We've talked ourselves into an awkward position."|
RICHARD MURPHY, Former State Department Official: I think we've talked ourselves into an awkward position by having as our stated goal that we were going to deny Saddam Hussein weapons of mass destruction. I don't think that's possible. As long as he's president I think that man will cling to weapons of mass destruction. He's already spent years evading the inspectors. He's foregone maybe a hundred, a hundred and twenty billion dollars in oil revenues that he might have had. So I think he'll continue to evade. I think we have to, as Paul Wolfowitz was saying, a new diplomatic strategy because personally I don't think we're going to succeed militarily. And the diplomatic strategy, I think, means looking at our alliance in the Security Council, which is not in the best repair.
PHIL PONCE: So, Mr. Murphy, are you saying that at this point the saber rattling is, what, premature?
RICHARD MURPHY: The way I'm hearing it, it sounds like we're almost committed to going ahead. The French have moved slightly towards us, if we understand from the press reports today of Mrs. Albright's meeting. The Russians have not moved. At least so far, they're not trumpeting any succeed, and we've said we don't rule out the use of force. I think we're talking ourselves into that position.
|Should the target be Saddam, or his weapons of mass destruction?|
PHIL PONCE: General Kelly, what would be the odds that the bombing of the kind that you spoke about earlier would actually be successful in getting rid of weapons of mass destruction?
LT. GENERAL THOMAS KELLY: One never knows. You're dependent on intelligence. We, of course, during the Persian Gulf War weren't specifically targeting those things. We were targeting his army in the field. But if you had an escalating series of strikes that started out with the suspected locations of all of the chemical weapons and biological and anything else that we know of and ran all the way up through taking his oil wells out, at some point along that continuum I think he might come around and begin to let the inspectors back in. Now, as Paul said, you know, six months, a year from now he might do the same thing again. I think that needs to be accompanied by another strategy which says we need to get rid of Saddam Hussein.
PHIL PONCE: Adm. Carroll.
REAR ADMIRAL EUGENE CARROLL: I agree, as long as Saddam Hussein is there, we're going to have problems with a tyrant, a vicious, brutal tyrant. The question, however, is, as long as you confine your military pressure on him to air strikes, he can ride it out. He rode it out during Desert Storm when we put in an armada of aircraft, clouds of bombs. We took away 2/3 of his military forces and devastated his economy. He was still there. If we go in even with robust strikes, they're going to be at a much lower scale than they were during Desert Storm. We had the assistance of more than 500 combat aircraft from our allies in Desert Storm. We're not going to get any such support if we elect to strike Iraq.
PHIL PONCE: Paul Wolfowitz--
LT. GENERAL THOMAS KELLY: Let me interject here. I agree with you, however, number one, the technology has improved since Desert Storm. Number two, as you continue this pattern through his Republican Guard, through his Air Force, through his ammunition depots, through his repair ports depots. You have the corollary benefit of weakening his army further and restricting his ability to project power and making him weaker vis-a-vis Iran, which is not necessarily a bad thing. And then when I said get rid of Saddam Hussein, I mean go in there and get rid of him.
|Are ground troops necessary?|
PHIL PONCE: Richard Murphy, let's get your reaction to the--question, and that is, do you believe that if the military option were actually exercised, that air strikes would be sufficient, or do you think ground troops would be necessary too?
RICHARD MURPHY: I assume ground troops will be necessary if we stick to our stated goal denying him weapons of mass destruction. And my question for the other gentleman is, even if our weapons, our technology has improved since Desert Storm, has our intelligence improved, are we that sure of our targets, more sure in '91?
PHIL PONCE: Paul Wolfowitz.
PAUL WOLFOWITZ: I think the key here is to helping the Iraqi people liberate themselves. After the Gulf War, when President Bush decided to help the Kurds in Northern Iraq, it took, I think--Tom, you'll remember--I think it two American battalions and one British battalion and a miscellaneous collection of four or five others to expel the entire Iraqi from Northern Iraq. The combination of American air power, Kurdish resistance, and a very small American force was enough to take away half, a third of his country from him. Oh, this man is a tyrant. He is a war criminal. He is committed to getting weapons of mass destruction and, believe me, his people would like to be rid of him.
PHIL PONCE: But following up on that, Paul Wolfowitz--
PAUL WOLFOWITZ: I remember at the end of the Gulf War--
PHIL PONCE: --how does one actually get rid of a person? I mean, do you go in physically track him down, find him?
PAUL WOLFOWITZ: The first thing is you make clear that you will support the people who oppose him, something that we failed miserably at doing in 1996. And, just to be fair about it, I think we also failed in a critical period at the end of the Gulf War because we really weren't ready for this uprising that took place. But I think we should have supported it. At the end of the Gulf War, I remember reading a report about an American who was on a U.N. inspection team, relief team, and he was in a car at an Iraqi roadblock. The Iraqi soldier looked at the passport, saw one American passport, motioned with his AK-47 to get out of the car, motioned the guy to the back of the car. The American by this time was terrified. The Iraqi looked over both shoulders and said, "George Bush No. 1." The Iraqis were hoping to be liberated from this mad man, and I think there would be--if they felt there was backing from the United States, a lot could be done. Remember, the Soviets were kicked out of Afghanistan without even a single American airplane, much less a single American ground troop.
PHIL PONCE: Richard Murphy, is that a realistic goal, to get rid of Saddam Hussein in the way that Paul Wolfowitz was talking about?
RICHARD MURPHY: Perhaps we've been working at it in an inadequate way these last several years, but I'm not impressed by the quality or the tenacity of the Iraqi opposition. I agree, we let them down in '91. Maybe more could have been done in '96, but Saddam is awfully good with his counter-intelligence at spotting would-be dissidents. They're dead before they think about it twice.
PHIL PONCE: Gen. Kelly--
PAUL WOLFOWITZ: You're dead if you try the route of coup plots in Baghdad, that's absolutely true, but look, he still doesn't really control the northern third of his country. It wouldn't be that hard to deprive him of control of the southern third of his country. And he becomes the mayor of Baghdad, and I don't think he'd last long--
|Saddam's demise would start a dangerous power struggle.|
REAR ADMIRAL EUGENE CARROLL: That's a very important point. U.S. interests in the region require a stable state of Iraq. We need that particular area under a central government. If we are capable--and I'm not sure we are--of getting rid of Saddam Hussein, who comes in? Who takes his place, how much central control can he exercise, and what do we do about ambitions positions in the south, Turkish actions in the North, Syria, greater Syria is going to be on the move--how long are we prepared to stay in there and protect this state of Iraq that we think we can create?
PAUL WOLFOWITZ: A unified stable Iraq is in our interest, but we don't have a unified Iraq right now. We have Iraq that's been hijacked by a war criminal. And if the way you have a stable Iraq is by murdering tens of thousands of your own people periodically, that's not a solution. What you need, I think, is an Iraqi government that's based much more on representation of the three major groupings in the country, the Kurds in the North, the Sunni in the center, the Shiite in the South. Saddam's an obstacle to that; he's not the solution to that.
PHIL PONCE: Gen. Kelly, Amb. Butler of the United Nations who is in charge of weapons inspections in Iraq made the statement that in his opinion Iraq may have had--may have enough biological, chemical weapons to wipe out Tel Aviv. Is that a reasonable fear, in your opinion?
LT. GENERAL THOMAS KELLY: It certainly is. And that's why I think we've got to do something, and we've got to do it quickly. There's always a million reasons not to go, but we can't take the chance that he's going to release something that will kill many millions of people. So we start bombing 'em; that's the first step. We try to get rid of him; that's the second step. And by trying to get rid of him, I don't mean with bombs, I mean with every single weapon at our disposal. I don't see at this stage, Mr. Murphy, ground troops going over there. I'm not sure they'd be necessary, but I very much agree with what you and the others said in terms of getting rid of Saddam and having a country that has representation from all three sectors, and we should help the Iraqi people do that. I think bomb is one way to do it. The Republican Guard is another way to do it, and not bombing the Iraqi army. I would go up to his hometown--and I'd take that out, and just lower his profile.
PHIL PONCE: Richard Murphy, your take on the so-called Tel Aviv threat?
RICHARD MURPHY: Well, Butler could have spoken of the danger to Riyadh or Kuwait. I don't know why he picked Tel Aviv. I don't know how potent his germ warfare materials are, and I don't understand that much about chemical or biological warfare so I--
PHIL PONCE: Would it be in Saddam Hussein's interest to contemplate that kind of an attack on a neighbor?
RICHARD MURPHY: I think it's only in his interest perhaps if he was convinced that that might be all that stood between him and his extinction, a sort of--
|Trying to read Saddam's mind.|
PAUL WOLFOWITZ: I think we should be wary about figuring out how he sees his interest. Remember, in the spring of 1993, when you would have thought everything in his interest said let's try to make peace with the United States, we have a new President, let's have a different approach, he tried to assassinate George Bush on his visit to Kuwait. I mean, this guy has a different calculation from ours, and--
REAR ADMIRAL EUGENE CARROLL: His calculation, however, doesn't extend to the state of irrationality, and he has different values, different priorities--
PHIL PONCE: And where would this rationality lead him?
REAR ADMIRAL EUGENE CARROLL: This rationality would lead him to understanding that if he were to loose this chemical and biological weapon, that there would be no restraint whatever on the part of the U.N. and the United States; we would come together and absolutely crush him. He can hope to survive air bombardments but he can't hope to withstand what would occur if he were to let loose of these weapons through some inhumane--
PAUL WOLFOWITZ: What is the rationality of a man who's bent on murdering a former President of the United States, other than the rationality of revenge? And I think this man is bent on revenge, and he's very dangerous because of that.
REAR ADMIRAL EUGENE CARROLL: He can hope to hide an assassination; that's a terrorist action, and can't be exactly attributed or traced; but he can't hope to hide the loosing of chemical or biological weapons.
LT. GENERAL THOMAS KELLY: He could come--the biologicals--you know, a terrible flu epidemic breaks out in Tel Aviv, and tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people die. That happened in--
REAR ADMIRAL EUGENE CARROLL: But how does he loose those agents there? Does he send 'em in with the weapons that we're afraid of?
LT. GENERAL THOMAS KELLY: You don't even need weapons. All you need is germs, and you can drop 'em off at the airport.
PHIL PONCE: And we're out of time. Sorry. But thank you all very much.