But the way it's been defined in the press, at least to this point, is that
the Wolfowitz folk -- Rumsfeld, to some extent, and Cheney, to some extent --
are believers in the fact that you're missing the point if one doesn't
understand that Iraq is the real focus here, for many reasons, and there's lots
of evidence that is played out. Is that not the case?
There is a feeling that you're not going to be able to resolve this scourge of
terror if you don't deal with Iraq, and there's a particular moment now,
because we're mobilized. Forget the rest of the world; we're mobilized, we
understand the affront is so egregious that we have to act. And underlying this
perception is an assumption that maybe the moment won't last, so you should act
while you have the moment. I think that's what moves them. ...
But doesn't [the multilateral view] also include the idea that, if you lose
your coalition, you lose your ability to fight the fight?
There's a very strong impulse on the part of those who believe in the
multilateral coalition, a multilateral approach, that if we lose the context of
legitimacy in which we act, if we lose an environment where we have very wide
consensus about doing this, we'll find it harder and harder to succeed. That's
why I think that they are inclined not to strain that coalition.
So what is the worry over the idea that the United States might decide to go
after Saddam Hussein and go back to Iraq?
With the broad coalitionists -- for want of a better term -- I think their view
is that you'll lose those in the Arab world who otherwise would be your
partners, because they're not prepared to join with you right now against Iraq.
Those who were prepared to join with you against Iraq a decade ago felt an
immediate threat from Iraq, which is why they were prepared to do so. Today
they don't feel that threat; they don't think their own publics would be with
them, and therefore they're much less inclined to support a move against Iraq
at this point -- at least, certainly, much less inclined to publicly support a
move against Iraq. ...
Are the broad coalitionists correct? What does happen to the coalition if,
indeed, the second target in our war is Iraq, or possibly the first target?
My own view is that you have to look at this with one other factor in mind, and
that's the success of your initial moves. I believe that influences whether or
not the coalition hangs together or not, more so than the target. In other
words, if we succeed in removing the Taliban, if we succeed in getting Osama
bin Laden and his network, then that sends a message to everyone else that
we're serious and we will be successful.
There is, in political science theory, the notion of the bandwagon effect. I
think in the Middle East in particular there's a notion of the bandwagon effect
-- there's a tendency to go with the winner. If we look successful, we're going
to find it's easier to sustain the coalition. If we do not look successful, it
doesn't matter. We're going to find it's much harder to sustain that
There's two parts to this coalition: there's the U.K. and France and Russia
and others, the Western powers, and then there's the Arab allies. Let's talk
first about the Western allies. How does a decision towards Iraq affect that
At this point, it may also strain that coalition. It's not difficult for
everybody to take on the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, because there's a
consensus that they're beyond the pale; they're irrational. Therefore everyone
can understand there's an important need to do something, and if they're the
ones responsible, do it against them.
When it comes to Iraq, there are different agendas that may be at play.
Certainly the French and the Russians in particular have been mindful of
looking at potential economic opportunities down the road with Iraq and feeling
that Iraq can be contained without acting militarily against them. ...
We know where Baghdad is. We don't know where the cave is that bin Laden is
in. How does that affect the debate or the possibilities of making a decision
one way or the other?
I do think that does affect, to some extent, the psychology of those who might
be debating this issue internally, because I think the one thing that unites
both is the premise that we do need to have some demonstrable sign of success
-- not only because of what it means to us psychologically, but because of the
impact it has internationally. You're going to have very few states that
continue to act as sanctuaries for terrorist groups if they see that regimes
fall because of it.
So on both sides of this debate there's an impulse, "Let's be successful." Now,
it may well be that some believe that Iraq is a larger target, both in terms of
its impact, but also the significance of taking out Saddam Hussein would have
that much more of an impact, and it would be easier to do. ...
One wild card in all that, of course, is one of the things you said that
would point us towards Iraq, and possibly even flip priorities: the connection
to biological. Intelligence folks back in Iraq have always talked about the
weaponry as a weapon of last resort. Do they have a blackmail weapon, a
potential very, very damaging weapon that they could use against us in case we
do go full-bore at them?
I don't know the answer to that. But I think that if they were in a position to
do that, they would want us to know. It can't be surprise; otherwise it doesn't
have the effect. It would be designed, as you put it, to inhibit us or
intimidate us from going after them. You can't be intimidated unless you know
there's a factor there that you have to take into account. At this point they
deny it, so rather than trumpeting it, they deny it. ...
We've talked to the INC representative, and there is a feeling that the
Saudis and others are not very interested in us going after Iraq, and would in
fact cause lots of problems for us as far as the coalition, if we decided to go
in that direction. Their feeling, and others that have said this, is that
because they don't particularly want to see a democratic Iraq, because that
causes an example which doesn't make them look very good next to. What's your
take on that?
I don't read it that way. I see it much more driven by the immediacy of a
threat versus what looks to be a more abstract threat, a more distant one. In
1990, the immediacy of the threat was overwhelming. Today, rightly or wrongly,
they don't view him as an immediate threat. They have in the back of their
mind, "If he ever becomes a threat again, we always have you to call on at that
point." Right now, because they feel that there's an image in the Arab world
that we punish the Iraqi people, and that is seen as somehow unacceptable, they
don't want to be associated with that imagery because that, they think, will
put pressure on them.
How much pressure?
Well, you're dealing with regimes that are not exactly comfortable and
confident in their rule. So what we might think objectively speaking isn't
meaningful pressure for them is, because they don't have the kind of
wherewithal to have a cushion, in their eyes. And if they see something that
makes them potentially vulnerable, they don't want to deal with it. ...
In this situation, can we go it alone? Should we go it alone?
It depends on what one means by "going it alone." Certainly if you want to
choke off the money for groups, we can't go it alone. If you want to create
international watch lists so these guys can't travel from one place to another
or they get arrested if they do, you can't go it alone. If you want to get rid
of sanctuaries, you're going to find it pretty difficult to go it alone. When
it comes to the use of force, it's nice to have support. That's where you're
going to find the main tension.
There are points where being prepared to go it alone makes it more likely that
others will take you seriously, and will decide it's less risky to be
associated with you. Part of the problem in the Arab world is also a sense that
we're not serious, that we don't sustain anything we do. If they sign up with
us, we get them out on a limb, but [if] we decide to call it off at a certain
point, they're still out on a limb. So being successful on the one hand,
sending an unmistakable sign of seriousness on the other, is also a way to help
generate a coalition.
That isn't to say you discount sensibilities. But it's also to recognize that
there is a strong impulse to go with this if they're satisfied that we, in
fact, will see this through. ...
As far as you see, does attacking Iraq solve our problem? To what extent
does it solve the big problem?
I think it's part of the solution. If you took care of Iraq but you didn't take
care of the other, you'd still have a problem. If you take care of Osama bin
Laden and his network, but you don't deal with Iraq, you still have a problem.
So I think you are going to have to deal with it one way or the other, and I
don't see Saddam Hussein as being someone who is going to change who he is. I
see very little prospect of that. To think that you won't be able to deal with
Iraq at some point is probably not realistic.
But again, you also have to think about first things first. I don't have a
problem with a comprehensive set of objectives in a sequential approach. I also
don't have a problem with the idea in the sequential approach that, if you
succeed in the early going, you'll find that it becomes easier to do some of
the other things you want to do. ...
If there was one piece of evidence that would turn the tide in the
administration's view of the necessity of turning towards Iraq, what is
There may be two different things that would create that change in direction,
which I think is what you're really asking. One is that it turns out that the
trail of evidence on September 11 leads to a direct Iraqi connection; you know,
the talk about Atta having met with Iraqi intelligence agents. [If] we end up
picking up different threads that make it pretty clear that Iraqis were key to
facilitating movement, organizing the plan and so on, that would have an
electric effect, because given the catastrophe that was here, an Iraqi
connection to that would trigger a direct response. I don't think it would lead
to a lot of discussion.
The other would be if it turns out that the DNA signature of the anthrax
basically corresponds to what we know about what's been developed in the Iraqi
labs. Same thing, because it brings them directly into conflict with us in a
way that can be only described in terms of being terror. ... I suspect, with
regard to the anthrax, there's always going to be a degree of ambiguity that
might tend to militate against as immediate and as pronounced a response as
anything like the Sept. 11 would have. ...
We did an interview with Jim Woolsey the other day, and he stated that,
basically, one of the reasons we're where we are is because of ten years of
"feckless" policies versus Iraq. What's your attitude about the way we have
dealt with Iraq?
I do think there is a problem in terms of what our policy towards Iraq has
been, because there's been a big gap between what our stated objectives were
and what our actually policy was. The efforts made against Iraq didn't fit what
the objective was. As time went by, we scaled down the objective to
containment, but early on, we had a very different kind of objective. It gets
back to a point I made earlier about others, especially in the Middle East. We
talked in a way that suggested we were going to get him. We acted in a way that
made it clear we would not. ...
What was the Arab nations' point of view towards, for instance, President
Clinton's response after the attempted assassination on President Bush?
They might have viewed that as the moment at which we should do something that
was more sustained. What we did was [go] after the intelligence, those we
thought were behind this, and hitting their building. Again, that as a punitive
response as opposed to something that was tied to a longer-term objective.
One of the big pieces of evidence that keeps coming up, and will be coming
up over and over again, is the tie-in to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
That is one of the big pieces of puzzle that people say you must understand if
you understand how we missed Iraq's involvement. What's your take on
I think all of that is linked back to Ramzi Yousef and a strong feeling that we
didn't pursue where that path was going to lead. People like Jim Woolsey say we
didn't pursue it because we didn't want to know where it was going to lead. I
don't tend to view it that way. I tend to view it as being more of a case of,
we had a series of assumptions, and we acted on those assumptions.
I take the view that one of the things that we need to do right now is to have
a very serious post-mortem of what our assumptions had been on terror -- not in
the last year or two, but in the last ten years, across the board. Where have
we been right, and where have we been wrong? When we've been wrong, why have we
been wrong? What is it we didn't pursue that, in retrospect, it now looks like
we should have pursued? What is it that these groups seem to develop about
their understanding of us that we lacked in our understanding of them? ...
We're talking about an event in 1993. Isn't a little late to do a postmortem
after this Sept. 11 event on something that took place after 1993?
You may not start with 1993, but you may have to work back with it. In 1995,
one of those who was originally part of that whole plot was arrested in the
Philippines and turned over to us. And he made it clear that one of their
objectives was to hijack a plane and crash it into the CIA building. That was
something that was, obviously, discounted. Where do you start your postmortem?
That's interesting, especially if that same individual is tied into Iraqi
That's true. But we don't seem to have drawn conclusions like that, and I can't
tell you why. I was not a part of those kinds of explorations or examinations.
But I do think you probably do need an independent group to go and take a look
at everything. ...
There are two exiles from Iraq who state that they were at Salman Pak. The
point that they're making very strongly is that Iraqis, for many, many years,
have been training terrorists -- not only Iraqi terrorists, not only Iranian
terrorists, but other fundamentalists, others from Arab nations. The hint is
perhaps bin Laden's folk. How does that change or add to the debate? And is
evidence like that essential to understand in this debate?
One of our problems is, at this stage, we don't know what we don't know. That's
an endemic problem when you've had a strategic surprise, a colossal failure. At
this stage, there's all sorts of information that's fed in. You don't want to
overreact to a strategic surprise by suddenly embracing things that are also,
frankly, not credible. But you don't want to discount things that were
discounted simply because you operated on a set of assumptions that turned out
to be wrong.
These are the types of things that ought to be pursued. But when it comes to
Iraq, we discovered the biological weapons that they're engaged in because of
the defection of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law. The inspectors didn't turn it up.
So to feel highly confident that we know what we need to know at this stage,
I'd be highly skeptical. Anybody who wants to exude confidence about what we
know after Sept. 11, I think you've got to approach with a reserve of doubt.
When you're at war, you don't need the evidence that you need to bring a
terrorist to a courtroom and convict him. But that also leads to the
possibility of mistakes made -- large mistakes. What is the overview on that
question, and how does one carefully weight this information coming through so
that you end up with the right end?
It's like anything else. When you want to validate a proposition, you want to
see if there's other ways to corroborate it; are there other ways to validate
it? If you're getting one bit of information from only one source and it's not
corroborated from any other source, then at least you have a reason to be
reserved in how you view it.
In almost every case, you're going to find that there are different ways to
connect the threads. I think we're going to find after Sept. 11, as time goes
by and when a serious post-mortem is done, we're going to see -- just like any
case of strategic surprise, whether it was Pearl Harbor or it was the 1973 war
-- we're going to find all the indicators were there that we needed. Maybe not
as many as we would have liked, but all that we needed, but we discounted them
or we misread them based on a set of different assumptions.
You have to also reassess your own assumptions. Which assumptions did we have
that seem to have been borne out, and which assumptions did we have that seemed
to just be wrong? Is there a correlation between some of the wrong assumptions
and some of the people who provided information that we discounted? And if it
turned out that there is, then you go back and you look at those who provided
information and say, "Maybe in fact what they had to say we should have taken
far more seriously."
You've sort of led us back to the importance of the coalition as far as
intelligence, it seems.
When it comes to intelligence, you've got to have a coalition. There's no two
ways about it. But here again, let me make one point that I think is important:
There are some in this coalition who will limit whatever they do no matter what
the circumstances are, for their own reasons. ... So the threshold on how high
they'll go in terms of really being a vocal, visible, overt part of the
coalition is going to be limited regardless.
The threshold below which they go will also be limited, because Osama bin Laden
and this network and other networks that they're related to are a threat to
them. We didn't create that threat; that threat is there, and we know it's a
threat to them. So there's going to be a level of cooperation regardless. Even
if the environment isn't great, they're still going to cooperate at a certain
Certain kinds of cooperation, for example, in the intelligence area, can be
done with no visibility. So, yes, we need the cooperation in intelligence and
law enforcement, but that's not highly visible; that doesn't put them under
stress. And it responds to their own self-interest. When they work with us
against Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban, it's not a favor done to
us, it's an act of self-defense, and we need to understand that. So some
coalitions will exist without enormous effort on our part; some coalitions that
require greater visibility will become much more difficult.
Is it in regard to their own welfare to help us in regards to Iraq?
If they decide that Iraq is becoming more of a threat to them again, yes. If
they decide that they're less certain of that, then they'll be more reserved
and be more distant. On the other hand, none of them would cry crocodile tears
if Saddam Hussein were to disappear. ...
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