TECHNOLOGY & CULTURE FORUM AT MIT
September 26, 2002
McCreath: Good Evening.My name is Amy McCreath.I am the coordinator of the Technology and Culture program at MIT, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to this very special event this evening. As someone remarked when they were arriving tonight, this is unfortunately a timely event, and I'm glad that the Technology and Culture Forum is able to present it to you this evening. I'd like to thank our co-sponsors of this event, without whom we could not have put this together. They are the Science, Technology, and Society program at MIT, the Department of Political Science at MIT, and the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.I also want to thank a few students who came to us in late August, put a bee in our bonnet, and said, "You have to do something on this topic, " and they were right.They are Julia Steinberger, Stephanie Wang, and Eric Downs, so thank you to you. <applause>
I also want to draw your attention to the fact that, next week, the Technology and Culture Forum begins two series of forums that will continue throughout the fall.One is on the politics and technology of motherhood, and the other is on energy, the environment, and global politics, and you can find out more about both of those series by going to our web site.
Our focus here at the Technology and Culture Forum is on addressing the critical issues of our day, and I think that you will agree with me that the issue we are addressing this evening is the critical issue of our day.Simply a glance at the newspapers in the last few weeks has made it clear that the critical question before not just our nation but the whole world is, "do we have cause for war against Iraq?"And that's going to be our focus tonight, taking a look at that question. Our format is that we have a moderator who will begin the evening by giving us an overview of the question and situation at hand, and then he will introduce the two speakers, both of whom will offer their remarks, and, following that, we hope to have plenty of time for questions from you, and we hope that you will feel free to ask your question.
I'm very glad to be able to introduce our moderator to you. He is Kenneth Oye. Ken is an associate professor of political science at MIT working in the fields of American foreign policy, international political economy, international relations theory, and technology policy. A former director of the Center for International Studies at MIT, he has also served on the faculties of Harvard University, the University of California, Princeton University, and Swarthmore College, and he has been a guest scholar of the Brookings Institute. He has edited and contributed to a series of four volumes on US foreign policy: "Eagle in a New World: American Grand Strategy in the Post-Cold War Era", "Eagle Resurgent: The Reagan Era and U.S. Foreign Policy", "Eagle Defiant: U.S. Foreign Policy in the 1980's", and "Eagle Entangled: U.S. Foreign Policy in a Complex World."So, I'm very happy to hand this event over to Ken Oye.*applause*
Oye: Our topic tonight is cause of war: assessing the Bush administration's case against Iraq. It's a difficult task that we have before us, both to lay out the elements of the Bush administration's case, and then to probe its case point by point, some of the key assumptions, some of the logic behind the Bush strategy.We're very fortunate indeed to have Scott Ritter and Steve Walt to help us in this task, and I'd like to first ask you to join me in welcoming them to MIT. *applause*
They have unusual attributes or skills that they bring to this enterprise.As most of you know, Scott was the chief inspector on Iraq. Between 1991 and 1998, he spent over 50 trips back and forth assessing the weapons capabilities, the status of weapons of mass destruction. I should also note that he probably has more firsthand experience dealing with Saddam Hussein than any and all people in this room; indeed, probably most of the administration added together. And these attributes and skills cause him to be an extremely useful asset as we probe these issues this evening. Now Steve Walt, of course, comes out of the world of the academy.You might assume that that would not prepare him to adequately assess or evaluate the difficult and controversial and dangerous topics that we have in front of us. But I should note that, in addition to writing, and he has a wonderful book on the origins of alliances and on revolutionary regimes in wear that we'll turn to in a second, but his real qualification for this is that Steve is a new academic dean at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. And anyone that can survive the interplay of conflicting forces when you look to students, faculty, and central administration within that setting, is probably as skilled and adept at dealing with problems like this as anyone in the world.So I think they're both equally qualified.*laughter and applause*
Now let's move into a quick review of the issues, and I don't want to take too much time on this because we obviously want to allow time for our speakers, but, to set the stage for this, let's go back a few years. If we go back to 1998, at the time when Scott was last in Iraq conducting inspection, one set of issues or concerns is, "What did you know then, and how did you know it with reference to weapons of mass destruction (biological, chemical, and nuclear capabilities," and, even more critically and centrally, "from your experience as an inspector at that time, what can you now tell us about the current status of Iraqi biological, chemical, and nuclear systems?" This is now four years after the inspections stopped. And the question at hand here, and they're central to the Bush administration's case against Iraq, are with reference to chemical, to what extent in these intervening years have the Iraqis managed to put together either a small or a large chemical weapons capability with reference to mustard gas, Tabun, Sarin, and VX, and they obviously have the capacity to produce; to what extent, in the absence of inspections, is there reason to be concerned, and in what quantities? With reference to biological, there are plenty of dual-use systems that can or are often times used for the production of biological agents.Something as simple as fermentation on through the various laboratories one could find perhaps on the MIT campus.And the question here is again, given what was going on way back in '98 and the capabilities they probably have had in the interim period, to what extent have they been able to, or do you believe that it is possible that they have had developed, stabilized, and weaponized strains of biological agents? In reference to nuclear, it's been a few years. There is a pretty rigorous regime in place externally, but the issue of the extent to which, through black market means, 20 to 30 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium could have been obtained, or whether centrifuge technologies could have been used, or other technologies used to separate and create fissile materials for weapons programs at home, whether those are, indeed, likely or unlikely, possible or impossible. And, if fissile materials are available, to what extent is Iraq capable of fashioning them into an implosion or a gun device?
Now, these technical issues, and they are largely technical issues, based in part on an assessment of the status of the Iraqi economic and technical infrastructure as well as the credibility of external efforts to limit access to critical sources of supply, are obviously only part of the picture.The technical concerns start us in our evening, but obviously doesn't take us to the answers. There is also the issue of what capabilities are tolerable.And when I say tolerable, I don't mean tolerable in the sense of being welcomed, but tolerable in the sense of producing or yielding significant security threats. Zero is a very hard number to defend or justify when we're talking about biological and chemical. And in current context, with an administration that has been focusing often times on terrorism and unconventional threats, to what extent are relatively small quantities of biological or chemical agents something for the United States to fear?
The second big question, and it is an extremely large question, centers on the issue of inspections. The alternative, or one alternative I should say, to going to war, is to turn to and rely on an updated or modified version of the inspection regime that Scott was part and parcel of back in 1998. The question, simply put, is how effective will inspection or would inspection be?With what levels of cooperation on the part of two Presidents that may not be entirely enthusiastic about inspections.Saddam Hussein was not entirely cooperative during the last vacation periods in Iraq, and I dear say that George Bush is not wildly optimistic or enthusiastic about inspections, and this matters.It matters because the character and quality of the intelligence provided by the US administration might be useful or critical in terms of conducting inspections in an effective way.So a sucking issue to Scott and to Steve is really the extent to which inspections present a viable means of addressing and improving U.S. national security.
A third set of issues and concerns really would focus on economic and political instruments, and this is something that isn't much discussed in the current context.But we have, out there in the real world, a variety of programs, some of which are under funded and neglected, that are designed to try to advance American security not through military means but through other channels. Nunn-Lugar, for example, is a program that aims at purchasing and buying up, securing black market uranium and plutonium and thereby limiting access to fissile materials.There is a sanctions regime in effect, and here I am not talking about sanctions against Iraqi water fluorination equipment but limitations on access to critical military technologies.And so one set of issues or concerns would be the extent to which economic and political instruments might, particularly taken in conjunction with inspection, produce a viable path to limiting or eliminating Iraqi capabilities.
Finally, we turn to the administration's chosen instrument, preventive war and regime change.let's sit back and examine and talk about this. Let's talk about it an analyze it in terms of up side and down side.What is the best case that they're advancing to us that we hear, day after day, and week after week, but, also, what are the down-side risks associated with turning in relatively short order to a military option?What are the risks to American troops?What are the risks to Israel?A potential attack if, in fact, we succeed in pushing Iraq to the wall? What would the Israeli response likely be if they were attacked with chemical or biological agents?And what are the risks to us of potential terrorist use of small quantities of weapons in the event that the situation spins out and peoples' backs are pushed to the wall?Are we talking here potentially about a threat of terrorist use of biological agents as a self-fulfilling prophecy where the actions that are undertaken by the administration yield the result they most dread? And, finally, to look beyond the Middle East, to look to the broader structure of American foreign policy, to what extent is this new doctrine of preventive war which has been advanced with such fervor by the administration something which is disturbing in terms of the precedents that it sets for US foreign policy?Had we adopted or acted on these precepts or principals toward China, for example, we probably would have launched or wiped out elements of China back in the 60's.India might well have destroyed Pakistan.But some discussion, systematic discussion, of what happens should preventive war become our doctrine and become accepted as a principle in international relations? Where does that take us?
Again, we're fortunate that we have both Scott, with his experience in inspection, and Steve, with his extensive writings on alliance politics, the key issue in terms of responses, and on radical and revolutionary regimes, with insights into Iraq, as our panelists this evening.
Ritter: First of all, I want to say how appreciative I am to have the opportunity to be here tonight to speak with you because, as is all too obvious, we truly live in a very dangerous time, where we are speaking about our country going to war, and you've outlined some important issues that need to be addressed.Let me start out by explaining where I'm coming from as I talk about this. If you check out my resume, you aren't going to find "nuclear physicist," "biologist," "chemist," or "rocket scientist" anywhere in that resume.SO I seem to be the most unlikely of people to sit here and talk to you today about the technologies of weapons of mass destruction.What you will find is "intelligence officer," "operator," "leader," "marine." That's my perspective.My perspective is going into Iraq and doing a task. I view myself as someone sort of like a beat cop, out there on the street implementing and enforcing the law. And this is an important concept because I think it's going to underscore everything I'm going to talk about tonight and how I answer every one of your questions you put forward.
Law.Law. Why do I do what I do? Why was I in Iraq to begin with? Because the Security Council passed a resolution saying Iraq can't have weapons of mass destruction. That's why. Now what gives the Security Council the authority to pass that resolution?The United Nations charter, of which the United States of America is a signatory. And what makes the United Nations charter so important to us as Americans?Because it's an agreement that we've entered into as a nation, and our constitution says that when we enter into an international agreement and treaties, those agreements carry the force of law here in America.So I'm coming down to the basic issue here that underscores everything I'm going to talk about; the constitution of the United States of America. And it has to play a role in everything we discuss vis a vis Iraq.
Now, in 1998, what was the situation? The situation was the international community said Iraq must be disarmed to 100%.They could have no chemical, biological, nuclear, or long-range ballistic missiles. By 1998, we had achieved a very advanced degree of disarmament. These aren't my words.These are the words of Walter Kayes, the Swedish diplomat who ran the program from 1991 to 1997. He says that, by 1996, Iraq had been fundamentally disarmed, that we had accounted for 95% of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, and this included all the factors that were used to produce the weapons of mass destruction, all the associated production equipment, and the vast majority of the product produced. But the law says 100%. Therefore, fundamental disarmament isn't enough according to the law.It says 100%, and we have to force that issue.We have to find the unaccounted-for material.And that's what I and other inspectors were seeking to do, find out the final disposition of the un-accounted-for material.
What was unaccounted for? No weapons factories were unaccounted for. Not that we knew of; you can always drop the hypothetical of "well, Scott, you said you got them all, but what about the ones you don't know of?"That's an important factor.I say we got all the production equipment.Well, Scott, wait a minute.What about the production equipment you didn't know about?That's a good issue; that's a good point.And I say that we accounted for most of the product produced by these factories, but I just acknowledged that there could be factories and production equipment we didn't know about, so what about the product they produced that you don't know about?Good point. All are good points.
Now we come to one of the issues I'll talk about. How good are inspections? How good are the inspections? Especially when you are confronted with the situation that we ran into in Iraq where the Iraqis made a decision from the very beginning to lie about their weapons capabilities, to fail to declare entire nuclear programs, biological programs, under-declare their chemical programs, under-declare their ballistic missile programs, that made the task of disarming Iraq, already a difficult task from a basic scientific and technical perspective, extremely difficult, because now we had to go into a nation which was not cooperative.We had to conduct operations in a hostile environment. And, again, this would seem to degrade confidence in what we were able to achieve.But, as I told you, I'm not a physicist, biologist, chemist, or rocket scientist. I'm an intelligence officer, and I'm a marine. I love challenges like that, and I'll tell you what.All the inspectors who work for the special commission, we love challenges like that, too.
Our job was to implement the law, to hold Iraq fully accountable to the rule of law as set forth by the Security Council, and that meant that we were going to find out what these capabilities were regardless of Iraq's obstruction.And we prosecuted the case in that manner.Now I need to say right up front that myself and the other inspectors prosecuted the case against Iraq not only in terms of holding Iraq accountable to the law but ensuring that we ourselves did not deviate from the rule of law in doing our jobs. I should underscore from the very start that our mission in Iraq revolved around disarming Iraq's chemical, biological, nuclear, and long-range ballistic missile capabilities. That's what the law said; Resolution 687. The law also said that economic sanctions imposed on Iraq in August, 1990, when they invaded Kuwait and continued through Resolution 687 in April, 1991, were linked to Iraq's compliance with its obligation to disarm, that if Iraq was found to be in compliance, then these sanctions would be lifted.That's the law. You will not find any law, in terms of a Security Council resolution, that talks about regime removal. You simply will not. Furthermore, you will find that the concept of regime removal is in itself a violation of international law as set forth by United Nations charter, which clearly states that no nation has the right to pick the leadership of a sovereign state. That is the soul prerogative of that nation. Regime removal is not part of these resolutions. And, yet, from the very beginning, as this beat cop out there doing my job and trying to hold Iraq accountable for the law, our process of investigation was corrupted by the fact that the United States had a policy of regime removal in place from the very beginning. The United States, a member of the Security Council that passed this resolution, went on record through their then secretary of state James Baker in 1991 who said that, even if Iraq complies with its obligation under international law to disarm, economic sanctions will never be lifted until at which time Saddam Hussein is removed from power. So, from the beginning, we didn't just have obstruction on the part of Iraq, but we had this inherent pollution of the process of this investigation imposed by my own country, the United States of America, which said that we don't care what the law says. We're going to hold Iraq accountable to a different standard.A standard that is unilateral in nature, which deviates from the rule of law. This complicated our process as well. Imagine me and other inspectors standing before the Iraqis and saying, "You have to comply. You have to comply." And they said, "Why? We're damned if we do, and we're damned if we don't."It complicated our task.It complicated the integrity of the process of investigation.But we still did a good job.We broke through the walls of Iraqi deceit.We brought to bear the powers of determination, intelligence, science, and just darn good police work in breaking through and finding out what the Iraqis had.
Let's understand that when we talk about weapons of mass destruction, we're not talking about a magic hat. You don't pull a weapon of mass destruction out of thin air like you do a white rabbit out of black-hatted magic. It just doesn't work that way. Weapons of mass destruction are a product of science and technology.You don't produce them in a hole in the ground.You don't produce them in a basement.You produce them in an industrial facility.Now, these industrial facilities can be small, they can be big, whatever. But there is science and technology involved.The Iraqis have to procure equipment.That means there's a trace of this procuring effort.They have to have scientists to work on the equipment. That is also a piece of evidence that could be investigated. What I'm getting at here is that, through the process of a detailed forensic investigation similar to what a police would do at a crime scene, we were very capable of cutting through Iraq's deceit, through their lies.I'll make a statement of fact.After the summer of 1991, weapons inspections never found a single weapon of mass destruction in Iraq.Never found one. And yet, Scott, you just said you had fundamental disarmament, 95% accountability. We got to where we got in regards to accounting because the Iraqis were compelled to confess in the same manner that a criminal confesses to a police officer when confronted with overwhelming evidence. We went to Europe, the nations that sold Iraq this technology. We got the bills of laden(sp?), the letters of credit.We got the invoices, and we confronted the Iraqis with these, and they had to confess having capabilities that they had denied having.We confronted them with the inconsistencies in their testimony when we would interrogate them for hour after hour. We confronted them with the inconsistencies until they were compelled to confess.We blanketed Iraq with inspectors equipped with the highest technology who went forward and corrected forensic evidence which was used to confront the Iraqis and compel them to change their story.In this manner, we got Iraq to admit having a nuclear weapons program, although they said they'd never had one.In this manner, we got Iraq to admit having a biological weapons program, although they said they'd never had one.In this manner, we got Iraq to admit having advanced chemical weapons capability, VX Nerve Agent, although they said they'd never had one.In this manner, we got Iraq to admit having indigenous ballistic missile manufacturing capability, although they said they'd never had one. Ladies and gentlemen, we did a good job as inspectors. We did a darn good job. Not good enough, though. The law said 100%, and 95% didn't hack it.And at the end, in 1998, we were attempting to achieve that final closure on that remaining 5%.
But understand what we're talking about here; unaccounted for material, not retained material.You will not find a single document pertaining to weapons inspection that says that Iraq retains prohibited capability, that Iraq is known to retain a weapon of mass destruction.We have documents that say that we cannot account for anything. But because we can't account for it does not automatically translate into retention on the part of Iraq.Big difference.And you mitigate this further when I tell you that, from 1994 to 1998, weapons inspectors in Iraq monitored with the most intrusive, capable on-site inspection regime in the history of arms control, monitored Iraq's industrial infrastructure 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no notice inspections, remote camera, sensors, etc, and we never once detected retained prohibited capability or efforts by Iraq to reconstitute.So we had Iraq pretty much bottled up.There was unaccounted-for material, which was of great concern, but we had put an umbrella of monitoring inspections over Iraq, which meant that, if they ever tried to do something with this unaccounted material, the likelihood of our detection was quite high.And, yet, that wasn't good enough, and the reason that wasn't good enough comes back to the pollution of the integrity of the process, because the United States didn't care about the disarmament of Iraq.The United States cares about the elimination of Saddam Hussein from power. And that the inspection process is only convenient to the United States in so far as it facilitates the containment and destabilization of Saddam Hussein, leading to his removal from power. But the second the inspection regime starts to come up close to that concept of compliance, it becomes a threat to the United States because compliance means that economic sanctions have to be lifted.Compliance means that containment is broken.Compliance means that Iraq comes back into the full international community with Saddam Hussein still at the helm, which, of course, is the last thing the United States wants.So the United States killed the inspection process by using the inspectors to deliberately provoke a crisis that lead to the triggering of a military action, Operation Desert Fox of December, 1998, which then went after Saddam Hussein using data collected by the inspectors about the security of Saddam Hussein. We were there to collect data about weapons of mass destruction, not the security of Saddam Hussein.The American government ordered the inspectors out two days before they began bombing Iraq in December, 1998.There is a lot of mythology that somehow the Iraqis kicked the inspectors out. Think again. The United States ordered the inspectors out, and the Iraqis said that the inspectors are not welcome to return. And they haven't been there for four years.
So now comes the question, what has transpired in those four years.I told you there is a lot of concern about un-accounted-for capability. Frankly speaking, don't worry about that. The people to point back can talk about Iraq's anthrax capability and say, because we couldn't account for everything in 1991 on, they have an anthrax capability today.This is false.Iraq produced liquid bulk anthrax, the factory that produced it was eliminated, and, even if they held onto liquid bulk anthrax, within three years, it germinates and becomes sludge.So the only way Iraq could have anthrax today is if it reconstituted a manufacturing base since the time inspectors left, since December, 1998. Can they do that?Yes. They have inherent, indigenous capability that can be reconfigured to produce small amounts of biological agent. Should we be concerned? Yes, very concerned.
Chemical weapons.We destroyed a huge ??? establishment and other chemical facilities that were used to produce chemical weapons.Iraq did not have a capacity in 1998 to produce chemical weapons, thanks to the inspectors.You remove the inspectors, Iraq within a period of two weeks can reconstitute a mustard production capability.Iraq within a period of two months can reproduce a Sarin and Tabun nerve agent production capability. Iraq within a period of four to six months can reconstitute a VX Nerve Agent production capability. Should we be concerned? Yes, very concerned.
Nuclear Weapons, completely different proposition. We eradicated Iraq's ability to enrich uranium.Eradicated it. And for Iraq to reconstitute it would require an investment of time and money and reacquisition of technology that, frankly speaking, cannot be accomplished without detection. That's my assessment. Even if they have required this, to actually rebuild it and get it up and functioning, again undetected, in a manner which would produce highly-enriched uranium would take a considerable amount of time.So, in terms of an Iraqi nuclear threat, and regarding any reacquisition of highly enriched uranium production capability, don't worry about it. Should we be concerned?No. Not at this point in time.
Concerning Iraq's ability to produce a nuclear device minus a fissile core, ladies and gentlemen, they solved that problem. They had that problem solved in 1991, and they have all the means and materials today to build a nuclear device minus the fissile core.So if we're worried about a nuclear weapons capability in Iraq, we should be focused on the concept of fissile material.This is where the Nunn-Lugar issues come up.How could Iraq acquire fissile material?Should we be concerned about it?Absolutely.
Ballistic missiles is another issue. Can Iraq do things to reconstitute a long-range missile force?Yes. Should we be concerned about it? Not too much, because a missile doesn't work unless they test it, and if they test it, we find out about it, and, to date, no one has detected a test of a long-range ballistic missile.So minimize that concern.
But we should be very concerned about a biological, chemical, and nuclear capability in Iraq today. Inspectors haven't been there for four years. Now the question is, does this concern translate into a cause for war?Do we go to war because we're concerned about Iraq having this capability? I would say to you that, if Iraq continued not to allow inspectors to come in, we would have more reason to be concerned and more reason to consider the prospect of military action to bring to an end this issue of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.That has all been mooted by the fact that Iraq has recently said "We will allow for the unconditional return of inspectors and give them unfettered access." Do I believe they will? No. But it doesn't matter what I believe. They're on the hook.They've committed, and there's not going to be a second chance. This is it. Saddam's used his nine lives.
So now, when I talk about biological weapons, chemical weapons, and nuclear weapons that are of great concern, and I share this concern, how do we resolve this issue short of war?And I will put forward that sending inspectors back in, especially given the record of effectiveness that the inspectors had from 1991 to 1998 in disarming Iraq, is the best venue to come to closure on the weapons inspections issues. We were the best forensic investigators the world has ever seen.If Iraq has done something of a prescribed nature in the four years since inspectors got out, I'll put my reputation on the line to say "we'll find it." We'll find trace evidence of it. That they couldn't hide every trace. So let's get inspectors in and give inspectors a chance to do their job, because it does allow us the alternative to war to resolve this issue.If Saddam Hussein chooses not to cooperate, I think we'll be right to presume ill intent and, therefore, treat him as a pariah leader, a head of a rogue nation deserving of harsh punishment from the international community. But, as someone who wants to prosecute a clean case against a criminal named Saddam Hussein, we cannot pre-judge the situation. We must run a clean investigation of Saddam Hussein, and the investigators are the vehicles as set forth by international law to do this.So let the inspectors in.Let them have their chance. But, in addition to Iraq's obligation to disarm, to do what the world community says, to be held accountable to law, we must likewise understand that the previous inspectors had been corrupted. They're bad cops. Can't trust them.Can't trust the inspection process.What are we going to do to ensure that future inspectors don't again deviate off course?The first thing is to address the issue of regime removal.This American policy of regime removal. What's its legality?What's its viability?How does it damage the issue of arms control?Because if the United States still promotes a policy of regime removal above disarmament, then, ladies and gentlemen, I'll tell you that the issue isn't Iraq's weapons of mass destruction or any threat coming from the weapons of mass destruction. The issue is, rather, the ideology behind the concept of regime removal to begin with, an ideology that has been further defined by the American national security strategy document put out last week, which talks of unilateralism, American unilateralism. I will say that Iraq is the case study, the first case study for the implementation of this policy of unilateralism. This has to call to question everything we just talked about, because going to war with Iraq, if it's about the threat posed by Iraq, about the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction, then shouldn't we give inspections a chance to resolve that? If we're not willing to give inspections a chance, then why are we talking about going to war?What is the threat posed by Iraq?These are questions I think have to be asked, have to be addressed, especially when we consider our role as American citizens.
I'll bring up, as I close, the concept of the Constitution of the United States of America.We're a nation of laws.We are a nation of laws.We, the people of the United States, cannot sit by while our government implements a policy in our name, which operates outside the framework of law. And I'm afraid right now, in talking about Iraq, that is, indeed, what the case is.Thank you very much. *applause*
Walt: That was terrific.I feel a little bit sheepish or guilty being here because this event has been co-sponsored by at least two institutions that I've disappointed in my life.The first is MIT because MIT first admitted me to graduate school and I went to Berkeley instead. And then the Political Science department offered me a job, and I went to the University of Chicago instead. The other institution is the Episcopal Church *laughter* in which I was raise and, let's just say my attendance for the past 27 years hasn't been very high. Despite my misgivings, I'm delighted to be here because I'm delighted to see people taking this issue as seriously as they are. I think that nation-wide, and especially in Washington, the absence of real debate on what we're up to as a country has been quite striking despite the importance of this issue. This is not the sort of decision we should make blindly, that we should stumble into, or that we should be lead into by a rather small cabal within the administration. And I want to lay out why I think that is not a good idea as briefly as I can.
Let me start by making clear my biography, or, at least, where I come from.I am not a pacifist. In the international relations world, I am regarded as a realist.I think the world is, in fact, a nasty, dangerous place, and that, sometimes, using military force, even in large quantities, is justified. In some circumstances, I think it is the right thing to do, but I don't think it is always the right thing to do, always prudent, and always in our best interest, and it should never be used casually or carelessly.And let me lay out one sort of introductory point, and then I'll lay out why it's not a good idea in this case.The overarching point I want to make to all of us here is basically an argument about humility. I believe, and I'll say why in a moment, that a war against Iraq is a very bad idea. But we all want to start by recognizing that we could be wrong about this.War itself is inherently uncertain, and it's possible that a military campaign would go very well. It's possible that costs would be low for us and for Iraqi society.It's possible that, after such a war, Iraq would stabilize rather quickly, and a reasonable and just regime might emerge.It's possible that that would trigger reform throughout parts of the Arab world.it's possible that the rest of the world would see this display of American principle and power and then be even more willing to help us fight terrorism and other things. And it's possible, of course, that this would also hasten the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle on fair terms. *laughter*I can't be certain that all of those things won't happen. it's also possible, and I mean this sincerely, it's possible that not acting now could lead to something very bad. It's possible that he might get, say, a nuclear weapon at some point in the future and then do very bad things with it. All of those things are possible, but there is a lot of uncertainty about all of those things I just said, and our task as citizens is to use what we know and use our reason to try and figure out what we regard as most likely and what the alternative courses of action are. Reasonable people may disagree about some of these issues, but we all aught to start by recognizing we could be wrong. We don't know.
Having said that, let me lay out my views on why I think it's a bad idea.The debate here is not about whether Saddam Hussein is an evil man, an evil leader, or whether Iraq has defied prior U.N. resolutions.I thought the President's speech in the United Nations was very convincing on both points.He's a bad guy, and he's defied the U.N., I'm convinced, but this is not news. Most governments and most people around the world, I think, probably share that view.Neither point makes him unique, and the real question, the real question before us, is whether going to war with Iraq is the best thing to do right now. In other words, is it in our national interest?Will it leave us better off in the future than we are today?Do we have alternatives that look better?I think we do, so I'm going to give you six big reasons why it's a bad idea.
Reason #1.There is no credible evidence between a link between Iraq and Al Quaeda. In the last 48 hours, there have been a couple of fresh accusations, one from Don Rumsfeld and one from Condoleezza Rice, suggesting that, in fact, there is a link, we've got the goods now. The timing of this revelation is somewhat suspect.The word that people love to use now is link, that there is a link now between Al Quaeda and Baghdad. Well, there are links between the United States and every government on the planet. They're called diplomats.They meet all the time.Link is a very vague word.What you're looking for is deliberate and willful and active cooperation between these two things, and no credible evidence has yet been presented. I regret to say that governments that want to go to war are often very good at putting things together and fabricating things, and, unfortunately, if you look at American history, the American government, Democratic and Republican, are no exceptions there. Governments do lie, or governments convince themselves that they have evidence when they really don't.So, no link between Iraq and Al Quaeda, and, boy, have they looked for it.
Reason #2.Even if Saddam Hussein has large quantities of weapons of mass destruction, and even if he got nuclear weapons down the road, sort of worst case, he could not use them without triggering massive American or, conceivably, Israeli retaliation. That's why he couldn't use them, as some fear, to intimidate others or as an umbrella for conventional war. We can defeat any conventional force he could possibly put in the field today. Any threat he might have to escalate, to use this handful of weapons he might get, would be deterred, of course, by our threat to retaliate, if still not usable.And, remember, we have a pretty good track record of deterring other murderous tyrants in the past. Joseph Stalin had nuclear weapons and never did anything with them.People in the United States worried a lot that Mao Zedong, a mass murderer, was going to get nuclear weapons, and we even contemplated preventive war in the 1950's and the 1960's, worrying about both of those. It turned out that both of those tyrants were deterrable as well. it's also worth remembering that Saddam Hussein has never used weapons of mass destruction against anyone who could retaliate.He has always used them against people he could be quite confident would not. So I don't see the big threat there. I don't like the idea of him looking for weapons, but I don't consider it a sufficient fear to warrant going to war today. Remember what Bismarck said about preventive war; it's committing suicide for fear of death.
Reason #3.War with Iraq would trigger serious regional instability, including, by creating a power vacuum within Iraq itself, by spilling over into the Kurdish regions in Turkey and Iran.One can invent other scenarios for how instability might spread. And this is, it's important to remember, a major reason why the first Bush administration didn't "go to Baghdad" in 1991. They understood that that might actually cause us more trouble in the long run than leaving Saddam Hussein in place.As much as we disliked the Iraqi regime, taking it apart could leave us worse off.
Reason #4.We will almost certainly win a war against Iraq, but he does have some options, and those options could make it a lot more expensive than we think. For example, if he does have any weapons of mass destruction that he's able to use, there's no reason for him not to use them if we've invaded his country with the purpose of overthrowing his regime and probably killing him in the process. It's the one circumstance where it's quite credible for someone to use weapons of mass destruction.The most likely scenario for any government to use such weaponry would be when it's about to fall, when it's about to collapse. And, after all, if he's as much of a blood-thirsty tyrant as we have been lead to believe, it's hard to believe he would feel restrained at that moment. Second point is he has some military options even at the conventional level, and I'm not sure what he's planning, but one obvious possible is simply take the troops that might be loyal to him (and there's good reason to believe that some of them would be), put them in Baghdad, and say, "no one goes out, and no one comes in without a fight."That gives the United States some interesting options.We can bomb Baghdad and let that be watched worldwide on Al-Gazeera and CNN. We can starve out the population and let that get watched worldwide, or we can go in and wage urban combat, which is very difficult, even for a military as competent as ours is, and, of course, tends to kill a lot of civilians if they're in the neighborhood as well. Would he do it? I don't see why he wouldn't. Now, again, we may have some clever strategy we've worked out to defeat that problem.I'm only suggesting here is he does have some military options. He might be able to use them.It would complicate our efforts considerably. Oh, and by the way, remember, we've sort of sacrificed the element of surprise here, which means he's had a lot of time to get ready and consider possibilities.
Reason #5.Once we win, we have no exit strategy.Everybody remember how long we were going to be in Bosnia? 12 months.Oh, I'm sorry, 18 months.That was six years ago, and Bosnia is a very small country, when we think about it. Iraq has a history of instability beginning prior to the revolution in 1958, then a series of coups and revolts from 1958 to 1970.The Gulf War itself, once we had blown away part of his drooling apparatus, was accompanied by lots of internecine fighting between lots of different groups in Iraq. Civil society within Iraq has been largely decimated by his rule.And, as I think we should be learning from places such as Bosnia, Afghanistan, and a number of other places, it's much easier to get into these places than it is to get out, and putting societies back together after a war or after large periods of dictatorship when there are deep divisions in the society on both ethnic and religious lines is not easy.Furthermore, this is just not a society we understand particularly well, so the belief that we can blow the regime apart and then design a government that will work, or pick the people that are likely to lead it well, I think, is overly optimistic. One final point on this: Our presence in this part of the world helped create Al Quaeda in the first place, and do we really want to increase the long-term American military presence in large chunks of the Arab and Islamic world.My view is not if we can help it.
And that leads me to reason #6. A war on Iraq will distract us from the more serious challenge of Al Quaeda.We're already not very popular in that part of the world.As I just mentioned, some of the regimes there like us, at least somewhat, because we have reasonably good relations with them, but a lot of the people don't, for a variety of complicated reasons.Beating up another Arab state is not going to help. And military force, remember, is a crude instrument. You always hit some things you didn't mean to hit.You always have some accidents.You always have some people who don't quite get the word.And the victims of our mistakes tend not to say "oh, that's alright, we understand."Staying there for a long time won't help.And this rather bellicose enthusiasm for using American power is not going to make the rest of the world particularly happy, either. They may go along because we are the 800-pound gorillas and we're pretty hard to stand up to.We can twist a lot of arms, as you've been seeing for the past several months, but I think it's instructive to compare 1990-1991, the first Gulf War, or, for that matter, the war over Kosovo, with our situation today. In 1991, it was relatively easy, not entirely easy, but relatively easy for the United States to assemble a large, diverse coalition. A coalition that, in fact, included a whole bunch of countries you wouldn't have expected to be joining us. Why? Because he had clearly committed aggression, and lots of other countries shared our perception that he had to be dealt with in military terms. Now, we're having a great deal of difficulty doing it.We're having to twist a lot of arms.We're having to invent a lot of stories.We're having to put lots of pressure on a lot of different countries. And, if you look at what happened in Germany, a very loyal ally for 40 or 50 years, a country that backed us up in the war over Kosovo, the Green Party backed us up over the war in Kosovo, and, suddenly, a couple weeks ago, German politicians realized they could improve their electoral chances by distancing themselves as much as possible from Washington, D.C. That should be a warning sign, not that there is going to be a giant rift between us and the rest of the world, but the rest of the world is not happy with the way we're behaving. And that's going to undermine our efforts to get sustained and enthusiastic cooperation against international terrorism. Moreover, I don't know what this war is going to cost, but estimates have ranged anywhere from 50 billion to 200 billion.I think 50 billion is a lower bound.Well, as I look out, there are really an awful lot of expensive things that we aught to be doing. Homeland security, that's not going to be cheap if we actually take it seriously. We're currently spending about a billion dollars a year, only a billion dollars a year, to try and tie up loose nuclear material, one of the sources of fissile material that Saddam Hussein would love to get his hands on. A billion dollars a year trying to tie up loose nuclear material in the former Soviet Union, and yet we've got 50 billion dollars to go spend on a war with Iraq? It'll make it very difficult to get adequate funds to that program. What about stabilizing Afghanistan so that Al Quaeda doesn't come back there?And, for that matter, what about helping Pakistan hold itself together? A nuclear-armed country where Al Quaeda is; there may be fundamentalists in the government. If Musharraf falls, do we really know? Do we want to spend 50 to 200 billion dollars knocking off Saddam Hussein if we can't work and try to stabilize Pakistan? Moreover, doing anything requires time and attention, high-level attention, spending political capital. This will be an enormous distraction. Bottom line here is there is sort of a rule of strategy.You don't start a new fight until you've finished the old one.
Now, in fairness, the advocates of war have a very different theory, and I sort of articulated it at the beginning, that one sharp rap, a knock at the front door, and the regime will collapse quickly, and all the other dominos in the regime will start falling. Everything becomes easier if we just do this. But, you know, we've seen this move time and time again, of countries who believe that there's one short, quick, easy victory that will solve all of their problems. If we only defeat the Soviet Union, everything's going to be fine. The Cold War is over; now we're going to have peace.That's not the way it seems to have worked.I don't think that's the way it would work even if the most optimistic scenarios came true. So my bottom line here is there's no imminent need to attack Iraq and much at risk by doing so. I'm not 100% certain, but the costs strike me as significant and serious.War with Iraq, in a sense, is a big, large-scale social science experiment, and people at MIT aught to know that, when you do a genuine experiment, you can't be sure how it's going to turn out.
So what do we do instead? We maintain very vigilant containment of Iraq, which we've done quite successfully for the last ten years or more. We use the United Nations inspection regime as vigorously as possible the way Scott outlined.We find as much as we can through that mechanism and, even if we don't find everything, boy, we make it a lot more difficult.Trying to develop and reconstitute a wmd capability when you've got to keep running around dodging people like him.Much, much harder.Forth element of our strategy, we wait for him to die.Not a young man, not the world's healthiest life style, I suspect. And, by the way, that's one thing we can predict; not exactly when, but we know what the upper bound is. And, finally, we focus our main effort on defeating Al Quaeda.Remember, we do know that there is an organization out there that wants to attack the United States, has martyrs willing to die in order to do it, and it is still out there, still active, and still looking for opportunities. That's the threat we should be focusing on, not Saddam Hussein.Thank you. *applause*
QUESTION & ANSWER SESSION
QUESTION: This is a question for both of our speakers tonight.When I talk to my friends and colleagues about this looming war, a lot of things that I hear are, "yeah, but he's a lunatic [Saddam Hussein]", like this is some exception that we need to take into account.Could you guys talk a little bit about how that might affect how we deal with international law in this particular situation?
Oye: If I could just add to that question, in today's New York Times, there was an op-ed by Kenneth Pollack, which took that very same question you are proposing and spent a lot more time making the same point.But it's effectively the same question: he's a lunatic; he can't be deterred, therefore...
Walt: I'll be very brief; Scott has more experience with the man than I do.One can make that argument; it's an irrefutable argument, to say that someone who is sufficiently psychotic, they can't respond at all to any threat, sanctions, or punishment that you might put on them.It's sort of an undefeatable argument.But we can look at the historical record, as I alluded to. There are some pretty vivid personalities that have had access to weapons of mass destruction, and they've used them very cautiously; that is to say, not at all.And one of the reasons for that is: you don't have to be very smart or very rational to realize what may happen to you if you use the weapon of mass destruction against anyone who had the capacity to retaliate.And I have an enormous amount of faith in that. Also, Saddam Hussein has blundered in a number of occasions, but he's also been, I think, reasonably shrewd in remaining in power. How long has he been in power in Iraq now?Thirty-two years, running a fairly despotic regime with a lot of people who probably don't like him very much.That suggests a certain capacity for rational calculation and planning that could ask itself the question, "well, gee, if I launched something at, say, the United States, or, say, Israel, do I think they will retaliate, and do they have the capacity? And what would happen to my day if I did that?"It doesn't require very much rationality.The same arguments were used every time we worried about a country acquiring weapons of mass destruction, and, so far, rationality of a minimal sort is winning out.
Ritter: What I'll say is this. For those who try and get into the mindset of Saddam Hussein, don't.We don't know this man. We can't even begin to understand him. And I have trouble with any American, any foreigner who says that they do know what he's thinking, that they do understand where he's at.To call him a lunatic is irresponsible on the highest order. He's not a lunatic.He may be evil, but he's been around for some time now. The fact that he's still in power today, more than a decade after the United States has embraced a regime removal policy, is a clear indication he's got something going on upstairs.I think we do a great disservice to our own national security by underestimating or oversimplifying any potential adversary. Saddam Hussein is a survivalist. He's all about the survival of Saddam Hussein, and I just simply cannot buy into any scenario that says that, if he gained access to weapons of mass destruction, that he would preemptively strike us, unless, of course, we had a policy of preemptively striking him first. But the bottom line is yet I just second everything Professor Walt said, that he's not an irrational person.He has exhibited a track record of rational thinking. He thinks about the world in a way that we don't. He's a tribal leader of a country that is very difficult to rule, and he lives in a very difficult neighborhood, and he has to negotiate those waters, and he has done so in his way, not our way. He's still in power, so he does have a good success rate.
Oye: I should note that the New York Times op-ed that I was referring to made a specific allegation, and the specific allegation that it made was that Saddam Hussein had set up a special scud unit with chemical and biological warheads ordered to launch its missiles against Israel in the event of a nuclear attack or coalition march on Baghdad. Is that report accurate, and, if it is accurate, it doesn't necessarily mean that he's irrational. Does this suggest that we aught to or aught not go to war?
Ritter: First of all, the report's accurate. I vouch for that accuracy because I've seen the documentation, and I lead the interrogation of the Iraqi ballistic missile officers who revealed the strategy to us. I believe Mr. Pollack goes on to say that Iraq did not publicly declare this force, that it was not a force of deterrence but rather a capability of launching a unilateral strike, and I disagree with this. Saddam made it clear in April of 1990 that, should Israel strike Iraq's nuclear capability, that he would burn half of Israel with a binary weapon.The binary weapon was mounted on seven ballistic missiles in western Iraq. So I believe Iraq did use weapons as a weapon of deterrence, and the fact that they had seven chemical armed weapons in western Iraq on launch standby and didn't launch those weapons is reflective of the rational character of this leader.
QUESTION: I'd like to ask both the speakers: Do you think that the U.S. could be, perhaps, persuaded into reconsidering their policy of regime change in Iraq, and, if so, how?
Walt; I'm by nature an optimist, so I'd like to think so. I do not believe the current American administration is going to abandon that goal at any point. They will still favor a policy of regime change. If it turns out they are unable to get the domestic and international stars to line up in a way that allows them to use military force, I believe they will still attempt to promote regime change there, and it's worth remembering that this policy is not unique to the Bush administration.This has been our policy for quite some time.The first Bush administration had it, and it was the policy of the Clinton administration as well.It is not a partisan issue.But I don't think the Bush administration is going to give it up. I think they're going to continue to press it. They may decide not to go to war at this point if they can't get the right set of political conditions or if there's a sufficient degree of domestic political reservation.If it turns out that the Democratic leadership continues to grow some backbone, which I've seen signs of in the last couple of days, it's possible that it will slow off, but I wouldn't bet much on it.
Ritter: I would say, first of all, I don't want the Bush administration to adopt a policy opposed to regime change in Iraq. I want regime change in Iraq. It's just the methodologies that need to be re-examined.You see, regime change doesn't have to come at the point of a bayonet or from a bomb from above. The problem with the way the Bush administration is formulating regime change is that they focus on an individual named Saddam Hussein, which is a fantastic concept since Iraq is a nation of 23 or 24 million people, to try and quantify that nation, as diverse as it is, in the personage of one man, Saddam Hussein. Regime change has to be about changing the internal dynamic of Iraq so that it doesn't produce a leader like Saddam Hussein, and that's not going to happen by trying to impose American-style western liberal democracy on Iraq.It's only going to happen when Iraq undergoes the kind of internal changes where it will evolve as a nation-state to the point where it doesn't have someone like Saddam. The best way to achieve regime change is to lift economic sanctions against Iraq and return control of the Iraqi economy to the Iraqi government so that they can seek to do things such as privatize industry, which the Baath Party has said must happen if the economy is to be reconstituted.When you privatize industry, something amazing happens. Not only do Saddam Hussein's cronies get rich (and we know that will happen), but you will develop a viable middle class. And I'm not an MIT student, but I do know, in studying the history of democracies, one of the basic building blocks in democracies is the existence of a viable middle class.So I want a policy of regime change.I just oppose the tactics.
QUESTION: Basically, there are weapons of mass destruction in the area being used right now.There are the sanctions.They're killing 5,000 people per month, and that may be an old figure and may not be absolutely precise, but young and old people are dying in Iraq because we are not allowing the supplies for the water conditioning systems and all the other things that keep a basic society running.And the question is, what are we going to do about it as American citizens?
Walt: Here I think I disagree in part. I think we set up, along with our partners in the United Nations, mechanisms by which Iraq could, in fact, get much more of what it needed to keep the economy running in a way to avoid the human cost of the sanctions, and here, I think, the blame does rest with Saddam Hussein. That he has sufficiently perverted, I guess, the Oil for Food program and others and kept much of that traffic for his own purposes, I would want to hold him responsible for those deaths as well, not put all the blame on the outside world.
Ritter: I couldn't agree more. I'm a pretty simple person; I view this like a beat cop. What happens when you have a situation where, like in sanctions, all these people die, and there are a lot of people, what the figures are.Some figures say 300,000, some say 1.5 million.The bottom line is that a lot of people have died in Iraq as a direct result of economic sanctions.Who's to blame?Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein holds the key to solving this problem.But, putting on my beat cop hat, if I pick to of you guys, and you go riding around Cambridge and stop off at a bank, someone's at the wheel of the car, the other one goes into the bank, robs the bank, pops the teller, pops the guard, kills them both, gets back in the car and drives off, who pulled the trigger? The guy who killed them. Who's accountable for murder? Both of them.We have a situation here where Saddam Hussein is the trigger man. He's killing the people of Iraq. But do you know who else is accountable under law for the deaths of these people?We, the people of the United States of America.Why? Because we have imposed a policy of economic sanctions that we know kill people.We know it kills people, and we know that it doesn't affect Saddam Hussein, and we have said these sanctions will continue regardless of the mechanism for lifting sanctions.So we are accountable under law as well, so I hold my government, I hold you (remember, we are a government by the people, of the people, for the people; we're the government); you're the murderers as well.I'm the murderer.Every one of us who calls himself an American citizen is a murderer, and we share the guilt for the death of the Iraqi people.So what do we do to solve this problem?We apply international law that says "get the inspectors back to work in Iraq, complete the task of disarmament, and lift the economic sanctions." We also have to understand that economic sanctions, we have a problem here.We impose sanctions on Iraq for the purpose of creating suffering so that we can pressure Saddam to do something we want. We recognize afterward that the suffering is happening, but Saddam's not changing.So what do we do? We put oil for food resolution on to alleviate the suffering.My god, what a stupid way to do business.Have sanctions that cause suffering and other resolutions to alleviate suffering.Why not just get rid of the sanctions altogether?We don't need sanctions to disarm Iraq.It's a bad policy and should be done away with as soon as possible. *applause*
Oye: A point of clarification on this. The sanctions imposed against Iraq have a number of components.One part consists of restrictions or restraints on importation of equipment of genuine military significance.Another component, until recently, were prohibitions or restrictions through refusal to grant licenses for equipment that isn't of military significance; chlorination equipment, for example, to purify the water supply. The question that I have really takes us back to sanctions and to your views on them.When you say that you're opposed to sanctions in this larger sense, are you opposing let's call them legitimate sanctions that limit access to military capabilities, or are we talking about, perhaps, throwing away those elements of the sanctions regime that are, in fact, killing innocent people? Now, there's been a modification or an adjustment in the regime (the sanctions regime, not the Iraqi regime) that may have diminished somewhat the effects of sanctions on the innocents. What's your read on the change in sanctions policy announced a couple months ago?
Ritter: First of all, let me address it this way. My big concern basically revolves around the sale of oil and the income generated from the sale of oil and the Iraqi government's ability to take that income and go out and procure the material needed to run a modern society.There are some sanctions in place that give Iraq the ability to get certain commodities in, but have the 661 Committee which America sits on, and we've hold up a lot of contracts.Smart sanctions are in place today.Smart sanctions are designed allegedly to help the Iraqi people get more of what they need, but we should understand the politics of smart sanctions. Smart sanctions are really nothing more than a diplomatic smokescreen designed to get the humanitarian monkey off America's back so we could focus on going to war against Iraq without a bunch of you tree-huggers getting in the way. *laughter* So we say we have smart sanctions, we're helping the Iraqi people get away, we're going to go to war. The fact is, you know what the best sanctions are for Iraq?The best sanctions are Resolution 715, which is the on-going monitoring and verification regime.There is a huge annex at the end of it, which restricts technologies related to weapons of mass destruction.The best sanctions are Resolution 1051, which, again, has an annex on controlled material. It governs how Iraq can export and import material of a sensitive nature.The beauty of these two is that both are the law. The Security Council has passed these, and Iraq has accepted them, and they were successfully implemented until inspectors were kicked out. So, again, we don't need economic sanctions.We don't need to continue punishing the people of Iraq.We can actually turn control of Iraq's economy back to the Iraqi government because we have a sanctions regime in place called on-going monitoring and verification that will prevent Iraq from acquiring the technology needed for weapons of mass destruction and control that technology which could be converted for weapons of mass destruction through the process of weapons inspections.
Walt: I just second that, and note the distinction here, though.It's the distinction between sanctions that are designed to deny a capability; for example, the United States had various trade restrictions on the Soviet Union throughout the cold war designed to prevent them from getting advanced computers and a variety of things that we thought had a possible military use. That's very different than sanctions imposed for the explicit purpose of coercing or compelling a government into alternate policies. We want to draw a sharp distinction there, which is what Scott just did.
QUESTION: This is for both the speakers. I happen to agree that our standard system of deterrence would be quite effective against Saddam Hussein, and I also believe it's quite suspect that these allegations of links between the Iraqi regime and Al Quaeda, whether or not they exist.My question is, since that seems to be the most compelling reason for me with going ahead with any sort of preemptive action, what do you see as the probability that Saddam Hussein might decide to pursue such a transfer of arms or weapons of mass destruction to groups such as Al Quaeda or other terrorist groups that might, through other means, decide to use them, even if we can't deter him directly?
Walt: That's a very good question. It's an important concern that's often used to justify it. I don't think it's very worrisome. Again, you can never be sure what someone will do.But, first thing to recognize is Bin Laden and Al Quaeda have a very, very different agenda than Saddam Hussein has.Saddam Hussein is a secular individual, not a religious leader at all. Osama Bin Laden has declared war on secular regimes throughout the Middle East, in addition to us.So they don't have any real ideological agreement, and what occasionally worries me is that we may, in fact, be providing them with a reason for collaborating that never existed before.After all, they're both on our hit list, what do you expect them to do? You expect them to join forces if they can help each other out.Just a couple of other reasons.If Saddam Hussein has worked incredibly hard over a 20-year period to get a hold of a handful (and that's all we're talking about, a handful) of weapons of mass destruction, the first thing he does with them is to hand them off to somebody else who might use them in a way he can't control? And, furthermore, where he knows the fingerprints might come back to him.We're not a very nice country, and, if someone ever did, in fact, detonate a weapon of mass destruction on American soil, I don't think we would be particularly restrained about responding, and I think that's known. So here's Saddam Hussein: "Do I really want to take this very rare thing I've got, hand it off to someone I don't like whose agenda is entirely different from mine, in the hopes that they'll use it in a time and a place that I'll approve of, and, yet, no one will ever suspect I might have done it?"Maybe, but I don't think it's very likely.
Ritter: I have to second everything that Professor Walt just said, and I'll throw in my own experience on this. Through my work as an inspector, I had the opportunity to basically gain access to almost every sensitive site in Iraq, including their intelligence services.In particular, one organization, called Directorate IM21, which is the special operations directorate (that's a euphemism for political assassination and terror), and I am probably the only American who has seen these documents, the documents of assassination, the documents of terror. We talk about Saddam being a state sponsor of terror. here's the proof. Here's Iraq, who has an organization that has plans for going into Iran and blowing things up.They have plans for going into Kurdistan and blowing things up. They have plans to go into Syria and blow things up, to go into Turkey and blow things up. They have plans of going around the world and killing opponents of Saddam Hussein.So, on the one hand, we know that he has this kind of capability, to export terror, and we should always be alert to that fact.The other thing that this Im21 did is it had plans to go in and destroy Islamic fundamentalists in Iraq and elsewhere, and I want to highlight that point because Osama Bin Laden is an Islamic fundamentalist terrorist who has nothing in common with Iraq.In fact, Iraq is at war with Islamic fundamentalism. Another document I saw is an Iraqi law for the security services that says it's the automatic death penalty for anybody proselytizing in the name of Wahabism inside Iraq.Wahabism, of course, being the sect of Islam that is espoused by Osama Bin Laden. So my experience with Iraq is not to minimize the potential for terror.I understand the real potential for terror.But to say that the likelihood of Saddam Hussein cooperating with a terror organization like Al Quaeda and Osama Bin Laden is minimal to none. Now, you mentioned the possibility, though, of Iraq using weapons of mass destruction in terrorist outlet, and what I'll tell you is this.As long as Saddam Hussein has the potential of life, or his successors have potential of life, you don't need to worry about that for the exact reasons that Professor Walt just said.However, if we push him to the wall, if we say "you're a dead man no matter what," this is the guy who issued orders during the Gulf War that, if he was killed, they will automatically launch seven ballistic missiles tipped with chemical weapons against Israel.Automatically. They will go down in flames. If we continue to push this policy of regime removal, ladies and gentlemen, I think I told you when I spoke that Iraq rapidly reconstituted aspects of their weapons of mass destruction programs.I don't believe they're doing so now because to open the door to inspectors means you open the door to discovery, and they know how good we were, and they know if they were doing something, we'd find trace element.But if we shut the door on inspections and we shut the door on any resolution that has the problem that it allows Saddam Hussein to stay in power, and we say "we're coming after you," and if you predict it like we have, I mean, this isn't a secret attack.We've actually laid out the time on him.He knows that in January, the bombing is going to start. If I were Saddam Hussein, I would then reconstitute whatever I could. And Saddam Hussein has spent a lot of time in the past months developing links with Palestinians in Palestine and elsewhere.And I guarantee you this.If Saddam Hussein goes down, he's going to go down taking down as many people as possible, and he will use terrorists equipped with whatever he can get to them, including chemical and biological weapons.So it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy in a way, and I would caution against that, because, right now I don't believe he has it, but if we push his back to the wall, I do believe the scenario you just laid out is going to become reality.
QUESTION: First, I just wanted to thank both speakers and say that I'm grateful for this forum.My question to Scott is for you.I think if I have this right, I saw on CNN a couple weeks ago that you had addressed a legislative assembly in Iraq and had mentioned the 95% statistic. It seems to me that sanity, if not constitutional principal, would say that our own congress would want to hear the same information before declaring war on Saddam Hussein. So my question is two-fold. First, what did you hope to accomplish by addressing a body in Iraq, and, secondly, have you been given the opportunity to address our congress, and, if not, why not?
Ritter: I'll reverse that by saying that I've actually been ignored by congress on this issue.I've been pushing for hearings for some time now, and, when the hearings came forward, it's not about me.The first thing you have to understand is that it's not about me or me promoting a personal agenda.This is about generating debate and a discussion and getting a point of view out there. And I was stiffed by congress. I was stiffed by the senate, and I continue to be so, and I think the reason why is that what I bring to the table is very uncomfortable for them to consider since they have a foregone conclusion of going to war.But that seems to be their policy.They are going to support a policy of regime removal.Remember, it's the United States congress, not the Bush administration, which has passed a public law called the Iraqi Liberation Act. And the people who signed that act are still in congress today. So they don't want to hear from someone who is going to argue against that.And it's because the congress did this, because there wasn't a way to get this dissenting point of view to the American public to generate the kind of debate that I think we all agree is necessary if we're going to move forward on this as a nation, that I decided there is a need for dramatic intervention. Dramatic intervention wasn't to go make an appeal to a democratic institution in Iraq, but rather to seize the bully pulpit at a critical time in American history. September 8 was picked on purpose because George Bush was speaking with Tony Blair in Crawford, Texas, where they were bringing together their war plans.In that afternoon, George Bush was going to flood the American airwaves with talking heads, the National Security Advisor, the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, etc. who were going to make the case for war to the American people, and, three days later, we'd have the horrible one-year anniversary of September 11, which could then be exploited by the politics of fear and ignorance followed up by George Bush's presentation on September 12 to the United Nations, in which we suddenly propel ourselves into war.And I felt that there was a need to preemptively attack this. *applause* And I chose to do so by going to Baghdad and addressing the Iraqi national assembly, not because they're democratic and they're going to do anything, but because that allowed you to see me on CNN.That got every media outlet in America suddenly wanting to talk to me. Again, it's not about me. But, suddenly, I'm there on camera able to inject a dissenting point of view that cannot be ignored. So that's why I went to Baghdad. I think it was a good job, and, you know, congress has to take into account what is going on. *applause*
Oye: A quick follow-up on that. Scott, the press reports on what you were saying in Baghdad were not entirely accurate.I just want you to know that, when Amy asked me to moderate the panel, I actually was planning to ask a series of tough questions on why you believe that Iraq did not have biological and chemical capabilities at this time, after four years, after the lag.And the answer is that that wasn't said.But, again, there has been a significant amount of distorting in terms of the messages that you can deliver.
QUESTION: I think Scott put his finger on it when he said that we have a responsibility.My name is John Britely(sp?), I'm an anti-Vietnam War protestor. And look what's happened between. What we have now will repeat. We have the Gulf of Tonkin resolution before the congress, and we're probably going to war.Let's look at the source of the problem.The American people don't understand U.S. complicity with Saddam. The U.N. doesn't understand that we helped Saddam when he attacked Iran.Why did we help him?Well, because we didn't like Iran.Well, why didn't Iran like us?Because we had overthrown their government and installed the Shah.I think the problem we have to deal with is United States foreign policy. I think we have to start thinking long-term.I think we should sign the petitions, we should talk about regime change in Washington in 2004. *applause* I think we have to start becoming responsible for American foreign policy. Since Vietnam, we've had Guatemala, Nicaragua, you name it.We have the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.All of this we are complicit.And so I'd like to get the response of the speakers, but I'd really like to know is, as an audience, are we all prepared right now to come back again as a group and start discussing what we're going to do, how we're going to spread the word about U.S. complicity, the problems with U.S. foreign policy. If we don't do that, I think if I have the opportunity to come back in another thirty years, we'll just be in another war.This war seems imminent. Are we going to deal with it and also think about the very next one?
Walt: I suspect if the person who just spoke and I had a two-hour discussion on the history of American foreign policy, we would not agree on everything.But we'd probably agree on some things, and I guess that my reaction to try to answer him, my reaction is I'm not sure how constructive it is to tackle the entire spectrum of things that the United States is doing in the world because, again, we wouldn't retain much unity by the time we'd gotten to various issues. I do think, on this particular issue, this is one that lots of Americans who might disagree on a variety of elements in American foreign or domestic policy can unite around, that a war with Iraq is not in our national interest, and we can save for the next day whether we agree about globalization or our role in Latin America or our policies towards Russia or what we're doing with Taiwan or whatever.And I guess the instructive example is I think people who want to influence American foreign policy tend to pick a single issue or two and then pound it over and over and over and over again.We are a democratic society, and, in democratic societies, interest groups get a lot of what they want by focusing on particular issues and then never letting up on those issues.Most people don't care about their particular issue, they get heard, and everyone else gets ignored. On this particular issue, we aught to try to have as many people in our group and try to make it as active as possible. And, you know, if we have some success here, then we may be able to move on to the next item on the agenda. So, I guess, I don't disagree with you, but I don't want us to get too distracted because, while we're busy organizing to try to revolutionize American foreign policy, we'll also be sending the troops in.
Ritter: The fact is, I'm a simple military man, and it's focus of effort. I mean, you want to go to war, you want to win a fight, focus, focus, focus. What are we talking about?Iraq. Focus on Iraq. Focus it.And here's the other thing I want to throw out there. Regime change is unconstitutional, okay? let's remember the constitution. let's have fair elections.But let's understand how we're going to achieve that part. But what I'm getting at is that the fact is, we have a vehicle for stopping this war with Iraq, and it's called the Constitution of the United States of America. It's called the power in the people. And I see a lot of desire.I mean, I've spoken around the country, and I see a lot of desire for peace. I see an awful lot of desire for peace. I see a lot of desire for people to do the right thing.You know what desire gets you?Nothing. How much will do you have? Where's the will?Where's the will for peace?What are you going to do when you leave here tonight?Where's the will power?You've got to start challenging yourself, ladies and gentlemen, because if you don't show the will that reflects the desire, we're going to war. Bottom line. *applause*
QUESTION: You both stated very clearly the missing logic that they've been presenting for attacking Iraq. Would you please share your personal thoughts about why Washington is pressing so hard? *applause*
Ritter: I'll lead off on this because I think this is the perfect way for somebody with Professor Walt's experience to wrap this up, and I'm not the one to do it.My feeling is that this is about ideology, plain and simple. This is about neo-conservatives who have sat in frustration through eight years of the Clinton administration, many of whom rejected what the first President Bush was doing, many of whom rejected the final four years of the Reagan administration in terms of multilateral approach to the world's problems. These are people who have rejected the very notion of arms control, who reject the concept of binding international treaties, who view the United States as being solely in power to do whatever it wants around the world, to take advantage of our unmatched political and military power, economic power.And, prior to September 11, this was not a philosophy that was going to be endorsed by the American public, because it rejects everything American, I believe. It's not only a flagrant violation of international law, a frontal assault on the Constitution, but it's an insult to what we stand for as a people.But after September 11, we were pretty much cowed into submission by the politics of fear and ignorance.And this is where the neo-conservatives pounced, and they've been promoting this policy aggressively.They now articulated it in a document, and Iraq is the case study. I believe that war with Iraq is about implementing American unilateralist policy of domination as articulated by the document. And the reason why they're pushing for it so quickly is that they don't want the American public to do what we're doing here today: discuss this issue, come to grips with the horrific reality of what this document stands for and thereby inject the power of American democracy to stop it.The rush for war is about pulling a quick one on the American people. *applause*
Walt: I agree with most of that. I want to add a little bit to it. I think that I could develop a strategic logic for this, but one way of thinking through this is that the United States likes to be able to act in the international system with a sense of impunity. We have a very high standard we now set for our own freedom of action, and we don't like the idea of anybody being able to thwart something we might want to try at some point down the road. So the concern, remember, is not really that Hussein will do something that we can't stop, as we probably can. It's that he might be able to stop us from doing something we might like to try.Overthrowing him is a lot more dangerous once he does have a significant weapons of mass destruction capability.So that's one element, and it sort of echoes what Scott said.I think there's another part, and this is going to be much more controversial, and I want to be very clear about what I'm saying here. I think this has also been driven very heavily by a small group of people, mostly inside the beltway, some of them in the administration, some of them not. They are neo-conservatives.And I think the other part of the agenda, non inconsistent with this, is the belief that Iraq is fundamentally a threat to Israel, and that is a large part of what inspires them.Some of these people are Jewish Americans, some of them are not. This is not something that is a Jewish conspiracy or anything like that.But there are neo-conservatives outside and inside the administration, some of them very closely linked to the Sharon government who have worked in collaboration with the Sharon government in a variety of ways in the past, and they have, I think, been the principal advocates of a war against Iraq, going long before, going back to before the Gulf War, in fact, before the invasion of Kuwait, who believed that Iraq's acquisition of weapons of mass destruction was fundamentally a threat to Israel and, therefore, had to be dealt with. And this is again before the invasion of Kuwait way back 10 or 12 years ago.So I think there's another dimension to this, which never gets talked about openly, and it has to do with the belief that this is something that aught to be done to enhance the security of Israel.Now, I think Israel has a right to exist, and a right to exist and be very, very secure. I actually believe Israel's policies are not making Israel more secure.They are not in Israel's over-all national interest. *applause* Reasonable people can disagree about this.This is not about Israeli identity, Israel's right to exist, but it's not a war I want to fight on behalf of another country.This is something the United States should do if it's in our interest to do it, not whether it's in the interest of anyone else. Now I think that's the other dimension to this that is part of what's been closer to the brink.Not the whole thing, by any means, but part of it as well.
Transcript volunteered by Mike Gorse [email@example.com]