TOPICS > Politics

New Security Strategy

September 20, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT


MARGARET WARNER: To explain and debate the administration’s new national security strategy, we’re joined by Kenneth Adelman, former director of the arms control and disarmament agency during the Reagan Administration. He now sits on the Defense Policy Board, a group of private citizens who advise the pentagon. And Lawrence Korb, vice-president of the Council on Foreign Relations. A longtime professor at Georgetown University and the National War College, he served as Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan Administration. Welcome to you all.

This, of course, really is just laying out on paper what we’ve seen the Bush Administration, the strategy they have been pursuing since 11. But Larry Korb, seeing it all laid out like this in writing, what is your overall reaction?

LAWRENCE KORB: My overall reaction is the whole thrust of it will set a new standard in international relations because if we can decide to preempt as the first option, what keeps India, for example, from saying there are terrorists in Pakistan, they have nuclear weapons, we need to do it; the Chinese say well Taiwan is a threat to us, so we’ll preempt. I think as Colin Powell said, preemption has always been an option, but what they’re doing is putting it front and center as the main component of American defense policy.

MARGARET WARNER: Do you see it that way?

KENNETH ADELMAN: I think it’s awfully important, and I think it is common sense. I don’t see as Larry Korb does that this is going to be a big problem around the world. I think it’s going to be part of a big solution around the world. What has really changed in the years is weapons of mass destruction, so that any attack has devastating, devastating effects on the people being attacked. And, as Colin Powell said, that you have a lot of non-state actors. And what is the difference of non-state actors? They just don’t have any responsibility. They have no address so that you don’t know even know who is getting it. You have no way to have deterrence because they can move around. You have no real fixed assets to go back and hit them with. So I see that this is a new era. I think that you have to adjust to the new era and that the Bush Administration is absolutely right to point it out and to make it a doctrine of the United States.

MARGARET WARNER: Larry Korb, do you disagree with the premise that precedes this argument for preemption, which is that is because the nature of the adversary has changed, that deterrence doesn’t work anymore?

LAWRENCE KORB: Well, they’re arguing not only against non-state actors but – if you read the document — against rogue states that in fact it doesn’t work against states. And I don’t think that’s true.


LAWRENCE KORB: Iraq was deterred during the Persian Gulf War. They’ve continued to be deterred in terms of using their biological and chemical weapons. I think deterrence could work against North Korea. I think that deterrence could work against any of the state actors. Non-state actors is a different situation, but they don’t make any differentiation in there. In fact, there is a whole long session devoted to the rogue states and they say states that harbor terrorists. They don’t make a distinction between terrorists and terrorists with a global reach, which is a big, big difference.

KENNETH ADELMAN: But it’s not a big difference. I mean, you look at Iraq. Larry is right saying that Iraq was– Iraq did not use chemical weapons after it used it against its neighbor Iran, causing almost a million deaths in the whole war there, and against its own people in 1998. But the fact is that it has not been deterred from nasty things and terrorism. It has not been deterred from, to take the easiest example, trying to kill an ex-President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush in 1993. It was not deterred in 1993 at all from trying to below up the World Trade Center the first time that it was done. So I think that you have to say oh, my gosh it’s deterred even though it is a rogue state, that’s questionable. Deterred from what? Maybe it’s not going to invade Kuwait again but that’s slim pickings. I mean, it’s up to nasty things.

LAWRENCE KORB: Well, I think that’s an important point. I mean, you talked about the World Trade Center in 1993. There is no evidence linking them to that or the September 11 attacks.

KENNETH ADELMAN: There’s lots of evidence.

LAWRENCE KORB: No there isn’t. I mean, people have talked about it, they’ve speculated about it but they’ve never been able to get the so-called smoking gun. And we do know that Saddam Hussein didn’t get along very much with bin Laden and that crowd. They come from–.

KENNETH ADELMAN: I’m not saying they love each other but the two points that would I make on this is, the only indicted fugitive from 1993 World Trade Center attack which really only blew up the centers — is now living in Baghdad and fled to Baghdad and number two, the main FBI Investigator said that Iraq was behind it.

MARGARET WARNER: Let’s go back to the new strategy though because the other main thread is unilateral unilateralism, the right to act unilaterally. Now, on the one hand there is a whole section that talks about the title of strengthening our relationship with allies but every sentence then– not every sentence but it frequently ends with “but we will act preemptively if we have to.” How new is this?

LAWRENCE KORB: Well, again, it’s the emphasis. We have always tried to work with our allies to achieve common objectives. And if you look at the way this is written, it’s sort of the– you need us more than we need you and we’ll ask you; if you want to come along, fine, and if not, we don’t have to worry about it. And it ignores the fact that you are not going to win the war on terrorism without cooperation from other nations sharing intelligence, helping dry up the financial assets, doing law enforcement. But the attitude there seems to be, you know, we make the rules, we decide and it’s no real, let’s work together and solve this common–.

MARGARET WARNER: So do you think this will damage U.S. alliances?

LAWRENCE KORB: I think so because there’s another section in there that says we’re not going to go along with the international criminal court. We don’t think much of any of the treaties, we’re not going to do anything with Kyoto. It’s all, we make no compromises. We expect you to make them all. And I think in the long run, that will hurt us.

MARGARET WARNER: Pretty one sided?

KENNETH ADELMAN: I think Larry’s explanation is pretty one sided if that’s what you mean. But the fact is that Kyoto was agreed to by the Clinton administration — was never sent up to the Senate because 99 Senators said they were against it. The fact is two things to be saying about going it alone: In the Gulf War 11 years ago, there was no international coalition between before George W. Bush — George Herbert Walker Bush said this will not stand, drew a line in the sand and sent 540,000 Americans into the Gulf. Before that time there was no coalition. It is only after the United States started to move that others joined the international coalition. Second point would I make, Margaret, real fast, at times if you’re doing the right thing, it’s important to do it whether people are with you or not. When the United States was formed in 1776, we were the only democracy in the world. Our forefathers said we are standing alone for freedom. Others will soon join. When Winston Churchill 1940-41 said we will stand alone and we will act so that in a thousand years people will look back and say this was our finest hour, and it was.

MARGARET WARNER: So you don’t think this will damage U.S. alliances?

KENNETH ADELMAN: No, not at all. What damages U.S. alliances is uncertainty in a world of danger without United States leadership. That’s what damages– when, and I have been critical of this administration, although I’m very positive mostly on it when the debate on Iraq over the last six months was not guided by the administration, it was– everybody was doing their own thing and a thousand flowers were blossoming. Once the President says this is what we’re doing, other countries can get on board and the United States can move in a way that is an international way; it’s a way of law; and it’s a right way to proceed.

LAWRENCE KORB: But it’s not because if you go, for example, to Iraq with no allies, more Americans will die. You are not going to have the right allies unless you do it correctly. You are going to have to stay there and rebuild the state all by yourself. We are going to have to bear the costs, which Larry Lindsay said could be $100 to $200 billion. Whereas with no imminent threat– and that’s the big thing, without an imminent threat, if you go and you do it right, in the long run, it will be better for you. The first Persian Gulf War, not only did we get allies, they picked up the cost for us.



KENNETH ADELMAN: We are not going to go it alone. That’s important. Kuwait, Britain, Turkey, Qatar, Spain, Italy.

LAWRENCE KORB: You are not sure we are going to get all those people.

KENNETH ADELMAN: I’m pretty sure on that.

LAWRENCE KORB: We should do it right.

MARGARET WARNER: One other thing, at least to a lay person that seemed new, is essentially the U.S. is going to insist on having global military superiority forever. As a former Assistant Secretary of Defense, what do you think of that?

LAWRENCE KORB: Well, the problem with that is there’s no end to what then you can spend on defense because you say we’re going to maintain superiority against everybody forever in every category, then there’s no limit on what you spend for defense. You ought to figure out what are your threats, what are you trying to accomplish and spend enough to do that. We already spend more than almost the rest of the world combined: The next 15 leading nations. And the idea that somehow or another you have to keep doing that forever just doesn’t put a lid on defense.

MARGARET WARNER: What’s the purpose of this part?

KENNETH ADELMAN: The purpose of this, I think, is a very clever thing–.

MARGARET WARNER: To announce it.

KENNETH ADELMAN: It’s very clever to announce it so that other countries like China don’t get into a situation of saying oh, my God, the United States is real close to us and so we are going to spend more on defense. It will save defense spending for countries that can better use to it serve their own people as China and other countries like that. Let me just say–.

MARGARET WARNER: What about Larry Korb’s point that we will be spending a lot?

KENNETH ADELMAN: When Larry Korb was sitting in the Pentagon, we were spending about 7 percent of our GDP on defense. Today, when Larry Korb is worried about our spending ourselves silly, we are spending slightly over 3 percent. We are spending less-

LAWRENCE KORB: 3.5 percent.

KENNETH ADELMAN: Whatever. We are spending half of what we spent when Larry Korb was in the Pentagon. That doesn’t seem like it’s breaking us. Under John F. Kennedy we were spending about 9 to 10 percent of defense. Under Eisenhower we were spendingabout13 percent.

LAWRENCE KORB: It was different. The economy grew tremendously in the 90s. That’s why the percentage is smaller but if you take– and the threat was also much bigger back then. The Soviet Union was a formidable military power so we needed to spend more. What we have a situation now is we’re in deficit. So if you want to spend more on defense and the President wants to spend more and he wants to get rid of his tax cut, that’s fine but he doesn’t want to do that. He wants to do both.

KENNETH ADELMAN: And I don’t want do that either. But I do want to recognize that we are spending half what we did 20 years ago as a percentage of GDP –


KENNETH ADELMAN: — which is a very important measure.

MARGARET WARNER: Gentlemen, we’ll have to continue this off the set, thank you both.