The following is an edited transcript of the thirty-first in a series of Capitol Hill conferences convened by the Middle East Policy Council. The meeting was held on January 10, 2003, in the Dirksen Senate Office Building with Chas. W. Freeman, Jr., moderating.
CHAS. W. FREEMAN, JR., president, Middle East Policy Council
We are here today to talk about the aftermath of a putative war with Iraq. It is clear that there is a group of people in Washington, some in the administration, who are absolutely determined to have a war. They argued in the beginning that, if Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, that would justify invading Iraq. Then they argued that, if he denied having weapons of mass destruction, that would mean he was lying and therefore we would be justified in invading Iraq. And now they argue that, because the inspectors cannot find weapons of mass destruction, that means they’re so well hidden that the only way we can find them is if we invade Iraq. And so it goes. More likely than not, given the determination of this group and the influence they have in our government, we will invade Iraq.
We don’t know whether such a war will be short or long, smooth or difficult, but we do know that victory is defined as implementation of an open-ended commitment to occupy and reform Iraq.
We have a distinguished group of panelists with us today to talk about four aspects of the aftermath of war with Iraq, but they may be unable to refrain from talking about why invading Iraq ought to be reconsidered. It’s not clear in the absence of U.N. authorization of a war with Iraq that we will obtain logistical support from Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which is fairly crucial for the smooth conduct of military operations. It is not clear how we can avoid the immediate involvement of Israel as Saddam lashes out at the Israelis in response to our invasion. And there are other hurdles to be crossed before victory.
It is clear that this war, unlike the last one, is not intended to restore the status quo or defend traditional principles of international law but to overthrow the status quo and to rearrange the region to our own liking, whether those who live there like that or not. This raises a number of questions. With regard to the war on terrorism, will a war on Iraq help us to sustain our current focus or build additional support among law-enforcement and intelligence officials internationally? This has been crucial in the progress that’s been made against al-Qaeda and others who have actually attacked us – as opposed to Saddam, who has not. Another big question is whether war with Iraq is likely to minimize or to incite further escalation of terrorist threats against the United States.
It’s obvious that when wars occur insurance rates go up, shipping is disrupted, oil production and trade are disrupted. What happens to prices in the short term during a conflict? Will Saddam torch the oil fields as he goes down? If so, what impact might that have? How long would it take Iraqi production to ramp up to normal levels if indeed it can ramp up after a war? And what therefore will be the long-term effects of war with Iraq on oil supply and prices?
Finally, as we continue our apparently inexorable, virtually unopposed march toward war, I look to Ian Lustick to fill the role of loyal opposition. This was a role that was notable mainly by partisan default during the last congressional election, when Democrats ran for cover rather than question the commander-in-chief and his cohort of supporters of war on this issue. What if the war goes badly rather than well? What is the likely domestic political fallout of this? Given the absence of any real debate in the country as we move toward war, where are fingers going to point if things go wrong?
Perhaps more important, do we have sufficient consensus in the United States to sustain a war effort over the time that will be required to achieve victory, or to carry out an occupation for the time that will be required to reeducate and reform Iraq and reshape the region to our liking, regardless of whether those who are being reshaped like it or not?
LEON T. HADAR, research fellow, Cato Institute; Washington correspondent,
Straits Times, Singapore
My last major contribution to the Council was a piece published in Middle East Policy about ten years ago, following the end of the first Gulf war and the Madrid peace conference. I anticipated some of the developments that brought about the Oslo peace process. That process was supposed to lay the foundations for a new Middle East: peace between Israel and a Palestinian state, and the integration of the region into the global economy. Ten years later and it’s the same old Middle East. There is a President Bush.
There is an Assad. He does surf the Internet, so I suppose that globalization did have some effect. The ayatollahs are still around, and so are the Hashemites and the Saudis. The military is still in charge in Egypt, and there is still violence in the Holy Land. There are Sharon and Arafat – older, heavier, ailing. But, just as in Lebanon 20 years ago, they are ready for another gunfight. And, of course, there is Saddam.
Sounds depressing, but it all fits very much with the theme of my comments today: that the Middle East has proven to be, and will prove to be once again, a graveyard of great expectations for outside powers as well as regional players. Since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, they have all been trying again and again to make and remake the Middle East. In the end, in the words of the Rolling Stones, they can’t get no satisfaction, whether it was Peres’ mirage of a new Middle East or Sharon’s fantasy of a new order in the region after the Lebanon War. Or, consider the promise of Nasserism and the ambition of Khomeinism. Recall how the Six-day War or the 1973 War and the Egyptian-Israeli peace accord was supposed to change everything, and the euphoric mood in Washington following the first Gulf war and the Madrid peace conference.
As historian L. Carl Brown proposed, the post-Ottoman Middle East can be compared to a kaleidoscope. Everything is related to everything else. There are no clear boundaries between local, regional and international issues. A powerful outsider enters the picture and hopes to impose its agenda. But that only produces counter efforts by unsatisfied players to form opposing regional alliances and secure the support of other local and international powers. The outside power tilts the Middle East kaleidoscope. But the many tiny pieces of colored glass move to form a new configuration that looks very different from what had been expected.
At the top of the list of unfulfilled expectations was the British imperial project in the Middle East in the early twentieth century. Driven by strategic interests, oil and religious sentiments, the English-speaking people invaded the Middle East and tried to establish a new and stable order. Now, in the early twenty-first century, we seem to be on the eve of a hegemonic American undertaking in the region. The Anglo-Americans are returning to try to set up another new and stable order in the Middle East. It seems to me that we can say about the imperial designs of great powers in the Middle East what George Bernard Show one said about marriage: It is the triumph of hope over experience.
In the old movie, the British created Iraq, put the Hashemites and the Saudis in power, maintained influence in Egypt. They tried to end this or that cycle of violence between Arabs and Jews in the Holy Land. We know how that movie ended. To put it in economic terms, the costs of the British Empire in the Middle East were higher than the expected benefits: resistance – including terrorism – from regional players, challenges from global powers – including the U.S. ally. Economic decline and opposition at home led eventually to a long and painful withdrawal of Britain from the region, culminating in the 1956 Suez debacle.
FRANK ANDERSON, former chief, Near East and South Asia Division, CIA
The number three is extremely important in looking at what’s likely to happen in the coming months. There are three potential scenarios in which terrorism might arise and three kinds of terrorism that we must anticipate. Finally, there are three aspects of terrorism – motive, means and opportunity – under which we can group expected impacts and possible countermeasures.
CSIS did a program on the likely consequences of war and approached it with three potential ranges of outcomes. The first was a “benign” scenario: a rapid war in which, over just a matter of days or weeks, the Iraqi armed forces are quickly defeated with low casualties on both sides, a new administration is set up, and the world begins to adjust in a benign environment.
I’m going to add to that the most benign option: victory without war. I will stick my neck out a little. I believe it is the most likely outcome of the next few months. The United States has placed forces that are ready to go to war with Iraq, credibly creating a threat to the existence of the Iraqi regime. In this case, the rational thing for the Iraqi regime to do is to disarm. Rather than suffer a preemptive attack, they have the option of a preemptive surrender that could leave the regime intact. This may not be a happy thing for the world and certainly for the people of Iraq, but, given the costs of the other options, it is not something to be dismissed as a bad outcome.
The second scenario is a sort of mid-range war that lasts some months, with high casualties on both sides, significant disruption to the energy markets, and rising international rage against the Americans and their allies. The third scenario is one in which we go in there and lose. Not likely, but not to be dismissed. There is no question that the armed forces of the United States, with or without a coalition, could quickly defeat the armed forces of Iraq. Being able to successfully occupy that country over a period of time and establish an administration that anyone would regard as a success is a significantly open question.
Terrorism is three closely related but nevertheless separate phenomena. The first phenomenon is state-supported terrorism, with which we lived for most of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. The organizations involved, like Fatah, the largest group in the PLO, and the Irish Republican Army, have almost become parastatal. But others – the various smaller Palestinian organizations, the Provisional Irish Republican Army, etc. – were able to operate in an environment in which states had the ability and the motivation to provide them support, training areas, documentation, the use of diplomatic channels to ship weapons, and communications. States involved in the Cold War, in the Middle East struggle and in narco-terrorism were able and willing to support and exploit these organizations for their own geopolitical or statecraft purposes.
The second phenomenon is terrorism by organized but non-state actors. The archetype is Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda, which operates without the support of any state, and not to advance the interests of a state, but for a distorted religious and geopolitical motivation. Unfortunately, al-Qaeda is also not constrained by the interests of an organization acting on behalf of a state. Its members have no fear that their terrorist acts might provoke reactions that might damage the interests of their supporters.
The third and final type of terrorist activity doesn’t meet the legal definition in the United States of terrorism (acts of politically premeditated violence against noncombatants by clandestine agents or sub-national groups). This is terrorism by people who are simply whacked out, angry and without direction or support from any organization and commit murder or vandalism.
What is the likely impact on terrorism of a war against Iraq under each of the anticipated scenarios? What will be the impact of this war on the motivation of those three kinds of terrorist organizations? What will be the impact on their means to carry out terrorist acts? And what will be the impact on their opportunity to do so?
How will our government deal with terrorists? There is traditional statecraft, in which you apply against other states or parastatal actors all of the tools of diplomacy, economic aid, information and propaganda, and – at the other end of the continuum – violence. It is in the center, somewhere between diplomacy and open warfare, that law enforcement and intelligence work.
What if we have a war? If we have a quick and benign outcome or victory without war, the war on terrorism will be, at most, marginally affected. Until the mass murder of 9/11, the phenomenon of international terrorism was continuing on a 17-year decline.
Because of 9/11, the degree and effectiveness of international cooperation against terrorist organizations is at an unprecedented peak of effectiveness. It is not unreasonable to expect that we can get back to the historic downward trend in terrorist violence, especially if we can quickly win a war in Iraq and quickly establish a friendly and responsible government there.
I would also argue that worldwide motivation for terrorist acts doesn’t go up under this benign scenario. Opportunities don’t go up, and the means for terrorists to act don’t go up. In the less benign and longer-lasting war scenarios, motivation to act against the United States and its friends and interests goes up significantly. People around the world are going to be increasingly angry. The longer it takes us and any allies to achieve the end of hostilities in Iraq and to set up an acceptable follow-on regime, the more people around the world will be motivated to attack us.
In terms of the availability of means to carry out terrorist violence, no probable scenario is likely to have a significant impact. Iraq is not now and has not been since 1991 a significant state sponsor of terrorism. They tried it in and around the Gulf War, and they failed miserably. They were particularly inept international sponsors of terrorism, and they haven’t gotten any better. So, removing the means at Iraq’s disposal is not going to affect significantly the level of terrorist threat around the world.
Taking an American or coalition force, placing it in Iraq and trying to occupy the country over a long period, I would argue, will create a number of opportunities, but not for the state sponsors of terrorism. States, even those most opposed to us, are not going to take the risk of having their fingerprints on an attack against a U.S. military organization or person. Neither are the non-state actors who are internationally organized. They won’t be motivated or able to get into Iraq. But that whacked out individual who’s enraged, hears either a political or a religious speech and, on that basis, goes and gets a gun, a knife or a Molotov cocktail and finds a target – those opportunities will be greatly increased by tens of thousands of Americans flocking around Iraq.
AMB. FREEMAN: I take it that one of the main variables that you see affecting the future is the character of the American presence or occupation in Iraq after the war. Whether this is like the international presence in Kosovo or like Napoleon’s experience in Spain or the Israeli experience in Lebanon or the French experience in Algeria – to go from the benign to the horrible – will make a huge difference on many levels.
We turn now to the issue of energy and oil. I don’t think this is the issue with Iraq, but it is surely going to be very much affected by what happens in American combat with Iraq and its aftermath.
FAREED MOHAMEDI, chief economist, PFC Energy
During the next several years we’re likely to see momentous changes in the global oil market. The main catalyst of this change will be the rapid rise of Iraqi oil production following the expected invasion of Iraq. Many proponents of the invasion have argued that invading Iraq to “liberate” its oil sector should be one of the goals of the administration. In their logic, this is not so U.S. oil companies can grab Iraqi oil assets, as some detractors of the administration have suggested. In fact, they’re happy to sell it off to anyone of whatever nationality. Their objective is to induce lower oil prices, be less dependent on large Gulf oil producers like Saudi Arabia and Iran, and possibly even trigger an economic collapse in these two countries and bring down what they perceive as regimes hostile to the United States and Israel. On all counts, I believe they may not get their wish, principally because they have not assessed the unintended consequences of bringing on a rapid rise in Iraqi oil.
I will return to this issue in detail later, but first, some short-term oil-market issues. If North Korea’s nuclear shenanigans were not bad enough for an administration trying to prosecute a Gulf war, the loss of nearly 2.5 million barrels a day (b/d) of Venezuelan crude, due to the oil workers’ strike, could not have come at a worse time. Plus, oil demand has started to pick up a little bit, due to a harsh winter and maybe stronger underlying economic growth. These factors have contributed to a current oil price of around $32 a barrel. At least $4 may be attributed to the Venezuela issue and another $4 to the fears about Iraq. So the oil markets are entering the period of a potential shooting war in the Persian Gulf, the most important oil-producing region in the world, with fairly elevated prices.
What happens in the immediate short term depends on three factors: what the U.S. administration does, what OPEC does, and what type of war we ultimately have. The U.S. administration has decided not to use the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to offset Venezuelan supplies. Some have accused the administration of “solving the problem through prayer” (maybe a faith-based oil policy?), but government officials have defended themselves by saying they do not use the SPR for short-term political reasons, unlike the previous administration.
As for OPEC, it is scheduled to hold a producers’ meeting this Sunday and is likely to raise oil production. Much of this new oil will come from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, a not-too-subtle reminder of who really is the producer of last resort, and it is not last year’s favorite candidate, Russia.
How will oil prices behave when the shooting starts? That depends on the extent of the war and the effects of the possible spillover in the region. A quick war limited to Iraq will lead to prices jumping from around $32 a barrel to near $40. A quick victory will then lead to a fairly rapid crash in oil prices. Most of the losses from Iraq, around 2 million b/d, could be easily offset by OPEC, and that’s already being planned for at the OPEC meeting this week.
If Iraq attacks Kuwait and expands the war, leading to the loss of another 2 million b/d, prices are likely to jump well above the $40 range. Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries could raise production further, and they have a certain amount of excess capacity to do that, but surely at that point the United States would trigger the SPR. It contains around 600 million barrels and could easily counter most disruptions.
Finally, the more drastic scenario is an attack on Israel and a bigger disruption of Saudi oil supplies, with an attack on the eastern province. If this scenario leads to more than 3 million b/d of disruption, we could see prices rising well above $50 a barrel, in our estimation. The main line of defense in trying to make up this lost oil would, of course, be consuming-country stockpiles through a coordinated IEA release of stocks around the world, as IEA has already planned for.
Beyond these short-term bullish scenarios, we see a very different picture for the medium term. There is a great possibility for much lower oil prices, especially if the war is confined to Iraq and does not lead to much damage to its fields. The main elements of the medium-term outlook are the following: First, an expected slow and modest economic recovery over the next few years will lead to fairly slow growth in demand. Second, nonOPEC supply will likely pick up over the next few years – new supplies from the Gulf of Mexico, offshore West Africa, Brazil and the accumulation of smaller production increases from around the world, which are a result of the high prices of the last three or four years. OPEC minus Iraq, therefore, will not be able to increase its supplies beyond current levels, pretty much into 2006-07.
What happens when Iraq comes back? Depending on the type of regime in Baghdad and therefore the type of oil sector we have, we expect new Iraqi output to start off by rising back to its 3 million capacity and then, depending on the regime, increase between 1.5 million b/d to 3 million of crude-oil capacity. So a crude-oil capacity of 4.5-6 million b/d is the sort of range we’re expecting by 2006-07 and maybe a little later. For our purposes, let’s work on an increment of around 2 million b/d – I’m being fairly conservative. How will OPEC accommodate this new Iraqi oil?
IAN S. LUSTICK, professor of political science, University of Pennsylvania
I don’t want to give a preemptive victory to those building momentum for the war in Iraq by accepting its inevitability, which I do not. I also believe that the political aftermath of the war in the United States and the struggle over the occupation of Iraq will be greatly affected by the clarity and power of the arguments made against the war before it occurs. So I’m going to talk about those, briefly.
Why the war? Where is the demand for the war? What is the imperative for the war? Why now? Why a full-scale invasion? These are the questions that you ask about any war, and these are the questions that we can hear the American public asking, though we don’t hear them very often, with clarity, on the talk shows. We can hear the questions if we listen; we cannot hear the answers. The usual answers would be sought on the demand side: What is the demand for the war? What has Saddam done to us? What has he done recently that he hadn’t done in the past? Why now? How threatening is he? How much support does he or doesn’t he give to the terrorists who have manifestly made us their enemy? How fast will he have the bomb or really lethal biological and chemical weapons? How much better would a war be as a policy treatment for any of those threats than other possible combinations of policies? Those are the questions that one would need answers for, but none of these questions receive anything like satisfying answers.
Why? Because the war is not developing in response to a demand. It is not a demand side war; it is a supply-side war. What do I mean by a supply-side war? We’ve got to go back to this cabal of neoconservative warriors who’d been around for a decade before 9/11 and who have been fully committed since the early 1990s, as they are now, to an American military-enforced new order in the Middle East with pretensions and fantasies of democratization of the region under American rule. This vision includes the expectation of U.S. exploitation of the oil wealth of Iraq, the establishment of large, semi-permanent military bases in the heart of the region, and the elimination of all pressures on Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza.
- We can’t deter Saddam. What will he do if we attack? Will he use his weapons of mass destruction against us and our troops? No. He will be deterred from doing that.
- One thing we know as Republicans is, big government doesn’t know how to build schools in Peoria. In fact, it doesn’t know how to do much at all. Can you rebuild Iraq? Yes, absolutely.
- The biggest threat to American security is an “axis of evil,” and we know the protagonists in that axis: North Korea, Iran and Iraq. All of a sudden North Korea is someone we can talk to. And Iran – once we’re over there, tangled up with an Iranian supported Hezbollah and Shia guerrillas, tangling with other folks that we’re trying to protect or fight against – will be the next target of the Washington warriors. But virtually nothing is said about this. So either Iran really is a part of the axis of evil that has an even greater weapons-of-mass-destruction capacity than the Iraqis, and we are going to go after them with the same logic, or the whole “axis of evil” principle is a hoax.
- The war on terror is a war on Iraq, the same thing. Then they take our first line of defense, thousands of state troopers and police officers, the first responders in this war on terror, and they put them on ships floating in the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf for months, increasing the vulnerability of the home front in the war against al-Qaeda.
But let’s not only rely for irrationality on the administration’s empty rhetoric. Let’s look at what is regarded as the single best book advocating war against Iraq, Ken Pollack’s The Threatening Storm. It is a very good book; I’m assigning it to my students. This is the best argument available against the war. Because what does it say in the end, after arguing for 400 pages that a full-scale unilateral U.S. invasion, if it has to be unilateral, is the only answer? It says, wait a minute, there are actually several conditions. Only if those conditions are met do I recommend a war. You never hear them discussed.
What are those conditions?
- You have to be willing to pay the cost: billions of dollars a year over ten years. Are you willing? If you’re not, don’t do it.
- Are you willing to stay for a decade, and are you ready to say that the United States will remain united, not enter a Vietnam-era decade of division over how to maintain an occupation? If you can’t, don’t do it.
- Are you willing to be actively involved before the war in ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at least in getting it down to very low levels and perceived by the entire Arab world as on its way to solution? If you can’t, if you won’t, if you don’t, don’t go to war.
- If you have not completely defeated al-Qaeda; if you have not brought an end to monthly warnings of infiltration and possible red or orange alerts; if you’re risking a war on terror at the same time you’re making war on Iraq – in other words, if you have not completely won the war on terror, don’t make war on Iraq.
That’s the best argument available in book form, it is said, for the war against Iraq. That’s why I’m assigning it in my course. It’s such an interesting analysis.
Finally, when people think of an imperial vision in Western civilization, they think of Rome. That’s why the phrase Pax Americana is in all the newspapers. Let’s think about what Mesopotamia meant for Rome. Which Roman emperor conquered Mesopotamia? Trajan. It was a catastrophe for Rome. The Romans were stuck with it on the edge of the Parthian empire for more than half a century before finally one of the great Roman emperors, Hadrian, realizing this was a cancer within the empire and a huge risk to his own future, facing down revolts by patriotic generals, withdrew from Mesopotamia and the highlands of Scotland. These were the parts of the empire he couldn’t handle.
What difficulties it required inside of Rome to correct a drastic mistake made by an expansionist move, a move made because it was possible! But there was one thing Rome did get out of the invasion of Mesopotamia, one thing Trajan and his soldiers brought back to Rome – the plague.
Q: I have the feeling that Saudi Arabia would not like to have Iraq’s oil production increased after a war. Saudi Arabia is in need of money. Their economy is suffering. Secondly, are we capable of supporting a war with Iraq, considering the state of the economy in the United States?
MR. MOHAMEDI: Of course, the Saudis don’t particularly like the prospect of the Iraqis ramping up. They want to maintain fairly orderly oil markets. They’d like to keep prices with OPEC at around $24-$25 a barrel. But to a certain extent it’s inevitable. They understand that this is a country that’s going to come back one day, and they’re hoping that increases in demand will accommodate both non-OPEC oil and new Iraqi oil. But they face a real dilemma. They’ve always said, let’s have orderly oil markets to make sure that we maximize our revenues. But if they continue to, in a sense, subsidize the rest of the world, one day they’re going to find it much harder to control prices. Now they have been given a “means” to deal with and to maintain their dominance in the oil market by what happened in ’99. If you have low oil prices for a short period of 18 months to two years as you had in ’98 and ’99, you can wipe out very expensive oil in North America and other places enough that you can then take over that portion of supply that goes offline. So actually the Saudis should have a policy that is not for orderly markets but for disorderly markets, to threaten not only investment by private oil companies but by non-OPEC countries.
On the financial side, in terms of their economics, their situation has improved enormously. They’ve stabilized their budget and rebuilt a lot of their foreign assets. Recently they partially privatized their telecom industry and used some of the proceeds to pay down some of their domestic debt. So they have the ability to deal with low oil prices for a period of time. It will cost them, there’s no doubt. They’ll have to have some guts to do that, and it’s always risky to trigger a price collapse and then hope that prices go back up. But I think they and the Iranians have never been in a better financial position. Iran is a net creditor to the world right now. Its external assets are higher than its liabilities. It’s got $20 billion in foreign assets now. It had one billion dollars in 1998.
AMB. FREEMAN: I think there was a second part to that, which was the ability of the U.S. economy and the U.S. budget to sustain the war effort.
DR. LUSTICK: I’m not an economist, but I don’t see any problem there in absolute terms. If we see majority support for a war in the polls, it is without reminders of American casualties. Economically, what the government is going to try to do is fight a war that pays for itself by looting the oil and then generating contracts for American companies in Iraq. In any event, the question is not whether the American economy can sustain that kind of an expedition. Over a long period of time, it can; it can borrow from the future. The question is whether the political cost of doing so will be tolerable for those managing it. That I don’t think will be the case.
DR. HADAR: I think in the short term we will be able to sustain a war economically, but we should think more about the long-term. A good analogy would be with the Kennedy Johnson era. The Kennedy presidency actually started with a tax cut; then came military spending, and then inflation. We can see a process like that in the long run. If we have military spending, we have tax cuts, this is going to put pressure on the U.S. economy.
The dollar is going to fall, the Euro is going to go up, the Europeans are going to be in a good position. The Chinese, who are not doing anything, are going to develop economically. So the United States is going to find itself in economic problems vis-à-vis other players.
AMB. FREEMAN: Part of the problem in addressing this, of course, is that we haven’t a clue how much the war is going to cost or how long it’s going to last. I’d say the U.S. economy probably is large enough to sustain a regional war effort for quite a long while before feeling significant economic strain. The key question is, as has been suggested, political. If war turns out to be something other than a videogame in which no real person dies, something that actually affects you and me at home rather than something that’s happening to faraway people on the nightly news, then we have a very different situation. We appear to be going into this war, I’m sorry to say, with a kind of mentality nationally that war is something that happens to other people, and that it doesn’t cost us anything.
Q: I’d be interested to hear the panel’s views on the impact of various war scenarios on the political stability of countries in the region.
MR. ANDERSON: Once again, it depends on the scenario or the range of time and cost of this war. If you have victory without war, this enhances the stability of all the countries in the region and probably will set the scene for as big an opportunity as after the Gulf War. If it goes into the sort of mid-range of six months to a year, I can’t think of a regime that is unlikely to experience regime-change threats. There will be serious pressures.
Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, if we go to war, inevitably will support us to some extent, and inevitably they will be either concealing or minimizing the visibility of that assistance to their own people. To the extent that this later becomes apparent, there will be internal resistance and opposition to it. I don’t see it as threatening to either one of those three countries, however. In Saudi Arabia I don’t see it having an impact. Iran is in the throes of a very important political dynamic right now. If the United States is occupying Iraq, the real instability is right there. It is fundamentally an unstable situation between Iran and Iraq, and we will have a very complicated situation to manage ourselves. But I don’t see it profoundly changing even the dynamic in Iran between moderates and hardliners, between Khatami and Khamenei. But the context in which that domestic political fight will go on will be significantly changed.
MR. MOHAMEDI: We’ll have a concerted attempt by the governments of the region – Saudi Arabia and Iran – to contain the shock of an American presence in Iraq. Just as ’48 led to ’52 and ’67 led to a lot of changes in the Middle East, I think this will lead to longer-term earthquakes, and I think that will come through a longer-term change in popular sentiments. This to a certain extent has already taken place.
In the Iran situation, given the perception of a national-security threat right now at their border, it will help the hardliners against the moderates. In Saudi Arabia, to a certain extent the ruling family has already positioned itself to be distant from the United States, and the crown prince is as popular as any recent monarch has been in Saudi Arabia. But I think that there are longer-term issues to be dealt with and that will complicate succession issues and long-term economic and other structural problems.
The other aspect will be how wide the war is – whether Israel gets involved, whether it invades Lebanon, whether it wants to take on Syria.
DR. HADAR: Usually, if you look at the Middle East, there is a lag between the crisis and the changes that take place; again, I think a good example is the 1947-48 war. It took a while for all the changes to develop, including the changes in Egypt. If you look at the Gulf War, you can make an argument that it’s probably not directly linked to an attack on the World Trade Center, but you had several years in which the hatred and instability developed, and suddenly there was an explosion.
One of the problems we have here is that the good news is the bad news. If the costs of the war are low, if there’s public support for the war, if there are no immediate changes in the Arab world, if the oil prices remain low, there’s probably going to be more support in the United States for doing more in the Middle East, for continuing the occupation, for moving to other places.
So in some respect if the war doesn’t go well, that will probably be a deterrent to support in the United States for a war.
DR. LUSTICK: Remember, the cabal is arguing that there will be enormous destabilization and that that’s a good thing. All the destabilized countries will become liberal democracies.
AMB. FREEMAN: And pro-Israeli, of course.
DR. LUSTICK: Of course. It’s deceiving to go from country to country and say Saudi Arabia 90-95 percent no problem of instability, Syria 90 percent, Jordan 90 percent, no problem, no problem. Take ten places and there’s a 5 percent possibility of catastrophe in some place. That’s a 90-percent chance of catastrophe somewhere. So it’s very difficult to make these kinds of judgments. But one other way to view it is to look at what I would call the iatrogenic character of U.S. policy in the Middle East, where our treatments cause most of the problems we get. We can go back to 1952, when we got rid of Mossadegh in Iran and so ended up with the shah – that is, we ended up with Khomeini. Khomeini was a problem, so we got Saddam to help us with Khomeini. We made Saddam what he is today. We emboldened him. He took Kuwait, brought us the Gulf War. We then applied the treatment of the Gulf War and we got Osama bin Laden along with what we got for treating the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan with an American jihad – namely al-Qaeda and 9/11.
Then I may be asked, “Professor Lustick, are there going to be any bad results from a U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq for ten years?” Absolutely. “Exactly what are they going to be, Professor Lustick?” I can’t tell you that, but I can tell you that there’s a very high likelihood that if the United States invades Iraq there will be an Israeli invasion of Lebanon, so there’s one regime that’s going to be terribly endangered as a result of the war. I think there’s probably an agreement between Sharon and Bush: “I won’t bother you in Iraq,” says Sharon, “if you don’t bother me in southern Lebanon.”
Q: I just returned from the Persian Gulf, and I heard an increasing tide of concern expressed by people who are otherwise supportive of the United States and U.S. objectives in the area. They are increasingly cynical, saying that the real goal of the Bush administration and the U.S. government in a war in Iraq would be the seizure and control of Iraq’s oil capabilities.
MR. MOHAMEDI: I don’t think it’s about oil on the front end. It has enormous consequences for oil on the back end, as was discussed. I don’t think that this administration is just after low-level economic objectives. I think Ian Lustick is right; it’s after a grand scheme. It’s the big-vision thing, a new world order. I think that Iraq was chosen partly because of the pro-Israeli nature of this administration and partly because it’s easier to go after the man with the moustache, rather than the man with the bad haircut.
Then, of course, oil comes into it, and now there’s a lot of discussion on how to structure the oil sector, but these are all issues that have come into the debate later. It’s hard to explain to many people in the region that it’s about a much bigger vision that certain elements of this administration want.
Q: Suppose Saddam Hussein goes down the tubes and Pax Americana is imposed on the Holy Land. What do you see as the outlook, given the fact that the population of the West Bank, Gaza and Israel is 39-percent Palestinian today and in 18 years, according to Israeli demographers, they are going to be a majority? Second, 70 percent of the Arab population today is below age 30; literacy is about 70 percent. What do you see happening if Iraq implodes because of our invasion? Remember that on New Year’s Eve 1978 President Carter went to Iran and called it an island of stability.
DR. LUSTICK: Over the long run, I don’t think that the Israeli rule of the territories is sustainable, whether there’s a war in Iraq or not. Actually, the demographics are more dramatic than you indicated. The figures I would use currently as estimates are: Arabs west of the Jordan River, 42 percent; Jews west of the Jordan River, 50 percent with the rest non-Jewish, non-Arabs, including non-Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union and legal and illegal guest workers.
The larger issue is whether a grand American vision of democratizing the Middle East through war is possible. Such visions have regularly produced disastrous if unintended consequences. Consider, as I suggested, the results of our ousting of Mossadegh, our assistance to the jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, or the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. In the latter case, Begin and Sharon envisioned eliminating the Palestinians as a political factor and putting a puppet Maronite government in Beirut under Bashir Gemayel. He was of course assassinated, producing the Lebanese quagmire, Hezbollah and a damaging Israeli retreat. In 1956 the Israelis, British and French tried reorganizing the region with the Suez War. The result was not the end of Nasser but his apotheosis.
On the other hand, it’s an ill wind that blows no good. Opportunities for progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can emerge in the wake of an Iraq war. If the United States adopts even a halfway rational policy, a tractable government will emerge in Israel. At that point we’d be three months from a negotiated settlement based on the Clinton parameters. Most people in the know in Israel believe that political negotiations will indeed lead to a settlement. Incidentally, that’s why there have been no negotiations.
That’s why Sharon is the first Likud prime minister not to negotiate – because, unlike the prior Likud prime ministers, who knew they could negotiate without having to reach a settlement, Sharon knows that if he starts to negotiate he’ll be faced with a settlement that most Israelis, most Americans, most of the world want to accept. He’ll have to either reject it, accept it – which he won’t do – or go to elections based on the idea that he’s rejected it.
Of course, there are risks associated with a large-scale war in Iraq. People talk about the dangers of mass transfer and so on. I don’t put much credence in those. The only context in which something like that could happen, a repeat of 1948, is if there’s a general conflagration that involves Iraq, Jordan, Israel and Syria, and there’s also fighting inside the territories. But that’s not what keeps me up at night right now.
DR. HADAR: From an Israeli perspective, this idea that in the long run Israel will be able to survive in the Middle East as a crusader outpost of the United States is something that will harm Israeli interests. The argument is, we are going to serve U.S. interests in the Middle East and in return we won’t have to make peace with the Palestinians, and we’ll be able to have a wider security margin and so on. I think after the war there is going to be some pressure from the United States. This violence in the West Bank is not sustainable in the long run. I think what you are going to see after the war probably is that Israel will enter Gaza and turn it into something like Grozny, a bloodbath. Afterwards there will be some pressure, and I think there won’t be a solution but a stalemate along the lines of Cyprus. Israel will withdraw from most of the West Bank and Gaza and you’ll have some international forces – Arab, U.N., NATO – coming in. You won’t have a solution for a long time, but at least there will be some pressure for Israeli withdrawal.
As far as Iraq is concerned, my argument and my biggest fear is that if you want to play in the Middle East – and this is where I disagree with Dr. Lustick – you do have to make deals with Saddam Hussein, with the Mujaheddin. This is part of the cost involved in being in the Middle East. It’s not a nice place, and you have to do those things. I don’t see any substitute for that, at least in the short run.
The best solution for Iraq would be to have what I call a user-friendly Saddam Hussein, an Iraqi leader who would maintain order in Iraq and stabilize it. The minute you have either an invasion or a change of regime in Iraq you open a Pandora’s Box. My guess is that a few years from now, in the same way that we are now seeing the law of unintended consequences with the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan, people will be talking about the support we gave to the Kurds in Iraq, which is probably going to lead to violence there, with or without the Turks.
The only solution I see in the short run to make sure that the kaleidoscope stays stable is to create these protectorates – a Kurdish one, a Shiite Muslim one. I don’t think it’s a good idea; I prefer to see Iraq remain unified. But in terms of maintaining stability, that will be the only solution. Otherwise you are going to get violence and civil war.
Q: There has been very little open and frank discussion of this subject in policy circles. I’ve been amazed that people in government are saying, well, I know this is complete garbage, but we have to proceed ahead. I think there probably is going to have to be some military intervention or involvement by the United States before the Saddam regime goes. But the timetable may be vastly different than what people are thinking. The president is starting to maneuver that way, because it really makes no sense to launch right into war. Secondly, I think that the Hill also has been in deep denial. The staffers that I’ve talked to up here have not the foggiest idea how the war might go.
There are two documents that haven’t come up during this discussion that are worth looking at. One is William Nordhaus’s 50-page piece from Yale University. He gives historical evidence going back to the Revolutionary War, looking at all the wars that America has been involved in, how much they thought it was going to cost and how much it did cost. What’s going to come out of our own pockets starts at $200 billion, not the $80 billion that they’re talking about just to move the troops forward, assuming it all goes well. If there is a huge invasion and disruption to the oil markets, then you can add on half a trillion dollars rapidly. The other thing that hasn’t been looked at conscientiously is the cost of reconstructing Iraq. If we honor their war debts and rebuild the country properly, we’re talking potentially of another half a trillion dollars. We need a much broader coalition of the people that may be affected.
AMB. FREEMAN: As I have said before, the one question we do know the answer to is, who is going to pay. We don’t know how much it will cost, but you and I are going to pay, not the Japanese, Germans, Saudis, Kuwaitis, Emiratis and Qataris.
MR. ANDERSON: If I indicated in my list of scenarios that victory without war would include regime change, that isn’t my view. I don’t believe there’s a user-friendly Saddam Hussein. I am concerned about one direction in which this conversation seems to be going. If you’re not involved in the practice of statecraft and you’re observing it, it’s easy to see a rationality that just isn’t there. Professor Lustick mentioned that our intention with Mossadegh led to the unintended consequence of Khomeini. Our intention with Mossadegh was to respond to an unanticipated opportunity: that the Iranian generals were getting ready to get rid of him. They were going to mount a countercoup. In terms of unintended consequences I would argue – and we shouldn’t take credit for it – that the real issue at the time (1953) was the bipolar struggle. Iran was a significant part of it.
And Mossadegh’s only base of power by the time he was removed was the Tudeh party, which was not an enlightened socialist group independent of the Soviet Union; it was Stalin’s tool. What we got was two and a half decades of Iran on our side in that bipolar struggle. We may have ended up with unanticipated costs related to it. We were certainly too indulgent of a repressive regime. But we got a pretty good deal out of it.
But when the questions come – is this about oil or is this about the cabal’s vision, and where are they going – it is never that simple. This is a town that is part of a very complex democracy, in which no fight ever ends and people are always conducting them. Rather than look at the fight as one inside the administration between the visionaries and the pragmatists, my line is that this is a fight between workers and wonks. The workers are those in the administration who in their previous government experience had jobs: the responsibility to achieve an end, a set of resources and authorities to deploy to achieve that end, and then an evaluation of accomplishment.
Colin Powell, even Richard Armitage, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and others have always had this kind of experience. The “visionaries” come from a background in which they’ve never had that. In their education and in their public experience these people have always been analysts and critics. They have spent years in the government and outside, frustratingly pursuing a policy battle. They came into the government and, with 9/11 as an opportunity, won the policy battle. Now we’ve had 18 months of their terrible frustration in which they say: We won the policy battle, but you, the Department of State, can’t make the rest of the world line up with this, and you, the Departments of the Army and Navy and Air Force, can’t come up with a plan that will achieve a victory without casualties on either side, and maybe you, the Department of Energy, haven’t come up with a repeal of Newton’s Law. This fight is likely to continue.
The reason I put victory without war not only as the most attractive option but as the most likely is that the internal fight is never going to end. February 15 is apparently, from everything I read and see, an ideal window for starting the war, but the likelihood that the fight between the workers and the wonks will be won by then is, I would say, subject to significant question.
AMB. FREEMAN: You’re reminding us in a way of an incredible difference between this putative war, which hasn’t really yet begun, and, for example, the Vietnam War. The Washington establishment marched fairly united into the Vietnam War, with strong pressure from Congress to do so and very little dissent in Washington. The dissent was mostly outside Washington. This is different. The dissent seems to be largely inside the permanent government establishment. The wonks, as you put it, or the cabal, as Ian put it, are the ones who are pressing the case.
DR. LUSTICK: I think you’re giving a bad name to the word wonk, but I do agree with the way you are lining up the workers, including the vast majority of analysts. In every single part of the government that has anything to do with this, analysts are at their wits’ end because of the inability of rationality and evidence to make a dent in policy considerations. I think that’s consistent with what you’re arguing.
But I would like to respond briefly to the question about whether Israelis really don’t want this war. Israelis are no better than anybody else at knowing what they actually want. It all depends on what you ask them, exactly how you ask them, when you ask them, and if they’re forced to answer and in what terms. So I don’t go by this or that poll.
Surprisingly to me, I have found very little press discussion in Israel that is opposed to the war. Just as Americans have a kind of visceral need or instinctual orientation towards wreaking havoc somewhere else because of the way they feel, this is something that Israelis are feeling. Also, they can feel less isolated and more vindicated in the state of siege within which they are living by feeling that they are a part of an alliance against evil organized by the United States. So you don’t find much vociferous opposition or critique of the war except on the extreme left, where I can quote a remarkable comment by a critic, Roni Ben-Efrat, who wrote an article in which she said: “We know what happens when you sow the wind: you reap the whirlwind. But what happens when you sow the whirlwind?”
But I would like to take off the wonk hat and put on my political science hat for a moment to address the unintended-consequence issue. What Frank has said about the way government works in Washington is absolutely correct. Everyone is out to get as much as they can at all times, knowing that they’re going to be countered by folks on the other side with other agendas. If they don’t fight bitterly for their interests, they’re not going to even get a piece of what they deserve. That’s the way Madison and company set the country up, so that the government wouldn’t make large errors of one particular kind; it wouldn’t make mistakes that would be very costly because it wouldn’t be able to do very much. Normally it would be more or less paralyzed. It would make the mistake of not doing things which perhaps ought to have been done, but it wouldn’t make the mistake of doing things which shouldn’t have been done. So we get gridlock constantly, thanks to our founding fathers. That’s been more or less fine for us because we’re so rich that we can afford not to be efficient in the way we use our resources.
It doesn’t work so well in foreign policy. What happens is that the system produces presidents and foreign-policy leaders who came out of the kind of politics that Frank was describing, not only inside the State Department, the CIA and the Pentagon, but in Tammany Hall and in every state legislature in the country. Politicians recruited in this way are prepared to slit the other guy’s throat for a mess of potage and expect that the other guy is going to do the same thing and everything will kind of be kept in order by that competition. But when one of these politicians gets to the White House, he projects power overseas, where there are fewer countervailing pressures. No one over there can fight back effectively without a lag of 10 or 15 years.
So behaviors and institutions rational for domestic-policy questions tend to become irrational overseas. These are problems that tend to bite back much harder but farther down the road. That was true of Vietnam, and it will be true of the war and the occupation in Iraq.
DR. HADAR: I would strike a note of optimism. If you read the Bob Woodward book (Bush at War) on the war in Afghanistan, this administration, like most administrations, is muddling through under pressure from different groups. You have to recall that before 9/11 this administration was actually planning to put pressure on Israel and do something about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. There were plans for the very same week in which 9/11 took place. There is a lot of pressure on this administration, and I think that it really depends on the political pressures at home, the changes abroad. I’ll give you one example. During the war in Lebanon, President Reagan sent U.S. troops there. There was a lot of expectation for change. Of course, after the attack on the U.S. Marine barracks, they cut their losses, fired Alexander Haig, and there was immediately a change in U.S. policy. Something like that can happen under this administration.
Q: I want to come back to a comment of Fareed Mohamedi, that we might have a democratic regime change in Iraq, which could make for revenue distribution. How exactly would it happen? What sort of precedent do we have in the Middle East for revenue distribution with any degree of success, and what are the implications for both U.S. foreign policy and world oil markets?
MR. MOHAMEDI: I wanted to throw this issue out because I think there has been very little discussion of it. Oil in many ways, especially in the Gulf, has created the current authoritarian regimes. It has given them an ability to get an external income, with which they’ve bought popular support and external protection. Saddam would not have been sustainable for five days if he hadn’t had oil wealth, especially the rising oil income in the ’70s, which he used for two enormous wars.
So, before you talk about a future state, you have to talk about the oil sector. Do you either sterilize revenues or distribute them to empower the people, and then create an administration that taxes them and becomes beholden to the people? Or do you go back to the current system – another dictator? I’m a bit deterministic on that level. The World Bank, for example, in Chad, has come up with a mechanism where some funds are put into accounts that are used for developing the country – not as in Angola, where a handful of the leaders have just stolen the money, which is a typical pattern in oil-producing countries.
AMB. FREEMAN: This is a vital issue, because if the state is independent of taxation, if it doesn’t depend on its citizens for support, then by definition it’s able to act in very different ways than if it relies on taxation. No taxation without representation is a familiar principle in North America. No representation without taxation is a familiar principle in the Middle East. Traditionally, patronage from whoever is in charge, otherwise known as resource recycling through corruption, is the system. No one complains about corruption unless they’re not getting their piece of it.
Q: How are the administration and other decision makers considering the response of al-Qaeda and a looser terrorist network to the difference in our policy towards North Korea and Iraq. What might be the response in the Arab world among international terrorist networks? Is the United States considering that in our policy decisions in Iraq?
DR. LUSTICK: The North Korea situation has created an enormous problem for the administration. They must be tearing their hair out. What this fellow in North Korea is doing is showing that there’s one way definitely to get off the “axis of evil” list: get nuclear weapons. That has a tremendous message for Iran. It is creating an incentive, especially if you imagine hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops on their border, to rush toward a deliverable nuclear capacity. There’s just no question that we treat anybody who can kill tens of thousands of people in a very short time as civilized enough to talk to. If they can’t, and they’re tagged as evil, then we’re liable to attack. This message undermines our credibility and gives Saddam a propaganda bonanza.
In terms of the general appeal of al-Qaeda and the like, they’re our enemies. They’re spread around the world, and we have to deal with them as a chronic terrorist threat, but not one that is likely to be integrally linked to a state. After all, we showed in Afghanistan that we can break states. But that is not the kind of problem al-Qaeda poses.However, what Saddam can do is implicitly threaten the use of weapons of mass destruction by portraying the American attack on Iraq as a war of “survival.” After all, there’s one situation in which Saddam will definitely use his weapons of mass destruction or disperse them to people who will, and that’s when he believes he’s being attacked for real, when his regime and his own personal survival is at stake. The administration can say Saddam is not deterrable, but we act and we have acted as if he is deterrable. Jim Baker told him, “Don’t you do certain things with your weapons of mass destruction or we will incinerate you,” and he listened. He hit Israel with scuds, but there was nothing on the scuds. He’s definitely deterrable, but nobody is deterrable if you’re about to kill him. That’s part of the theory of deterrence. And that’s what Saddam is doing when he’s telling the rest of the Arab world, this is a fight for your survival.
DR. HADAR: I think that the axis-of-evil strategy and its nuclear component in the long run is going to collapse. There are other comparisons between that and the containment policy in the 1940s. But when George Kennan wrote his famous piece recommending containment, the Soviet Union still didn’t have nuclear weapons. Our nuclear strategy developed afterwards as part of the political strategy. This administration seems to be putting the cart before the horse, developing a nuclear strategy before they tell us exactly what the political strategy is. You have to ask yourself, what would happen under an Iraqi nationalist government. The development of Iran’s nuclear military power started under the shah because it was in the Iranian national interest. Any Iraqi government, unless the United States provides it with a nuclear umbrella, will move toward the development of nuclear weapons, because it’s in their national interest. It has nothing to do with Islamic fundamentalism. We have a problem here, and I’m not sure that the administration’s policy as they have stated it responds to that.
MR. ANDERSON: The coincidence of problems with North Korea and Iraq is a particular embarrassment to this administration. The difference with North Korea is not that it has a nuclear deterrent, but that it has 15,000-20,000 artillery tubes within range of Seoul and 300,000-500,000 infantry within range of 30,000 or so American troops, who at best would become prisoners in the early hours of a war between North and South Korea or between us and North Korea. This greatly complicates our ability to deal with the nuclear threat in Korea the way we could deal with it in Iraq, if it existed, or in Iran, if it existed, and that’s just to take it out.
Q: We now have underway a massive military deployment, reaching 100,000 people both prepositioned and notified to go. If we suddenly come to our collective senses and decide we don’t really want to do this, is it going to be possible to stop the momentum? Second, for Mr. Mohamedi, how much unutilized but installed oil-production capacity exists now outside of the Gulf. In the first Gulf War, once it became apparent that Saudi Arabia’s industry was not going to be destroyed by the Iraqis, prices went back down again, and the IEA’s stock release really didn’t amount to much. It didn’t have to. There was communication between the producers and the consumers. Is there enough spare capacity outside of the Gulf, should something go wrong, to really make up that difference?
MR. MOHAMEDI: Half a million barrels, if that. It’s all in the Gulf.
DR. LUSTICK: This is in part a question about the likelihood of “Tonkin Gulf incidents” and how easy they will be to generate. Yes, they are. Remember what President Kennedy warned when the quarantine was imposed: that it’s very easy once you get forward deployments like that to get dragged into something by a small incident. Mostly those incidents are not by accident. They are the result of calculated provocations (as in the Tonkin Gulf), or studied exploitations of technical violations, as in regard to Israel and the ceasefire agreements in 1948 in the Negev or in Lebanon before the ’82 invasion.
That’s what I’m concerned about, and I think it’s the reason why we have to, all things being equal, expect a war – because of the size of the buildup. I still don’t think it’s inevitable, and I think one of the crucial issues is how vociferous, clear and compelling are the arguments against the war now. CNN and FOX are pushing “showdown with Iraq, tune in again in 15 minutes for the next installment;” they are trying to train the American people to accept this narrative as the actual story. This effort needs to be interrupted by compelling critiques that reach not only the editorial pages of the main newspapers but reach into talk shows throughout the country. I don’t know how to do that exactly, but it’s got to be done. Only then will a decision to pull back be possible – a decision that will be an embarrassment to those in power, but not to the United States.
It was fascinating to see Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post today resorting to an argument that it took the hawks in Vietnam a decade to make: even if we shouldn’t be here, we’ve committed ourselves, so we have to fight. It’s a sign of weakness that they’re already making this argument. It’s a sign of vulnerability.
AMB. FREEMAN: Arguments about the requirement to sustain credibility by doing things that one understands to be stupid are the last refuge of political scoundrels.
Q: My question is about the opposition movement here in the American society to war in Iraq. How much can it achieve? Do you see a role for the Congress to play in this movement? Who are the main players? Can it really shape the current debate about the policy towards Iraq?
DR. LUSTICK: The polls show that you can manipulate questions with framing to get extremely high levels of doubt, skepticism, even opposition, registered among the public. That suggests political opportunities. But until recently, we did not see Democrats exploiting this opportunity, whether inside Congress or out. The one place you ought to expect to see it is on the campaign trail among some presidential candidates who otherwise don’t think they’re going to make their mark. On this issue they have an opportunity to be the hero and to be brought into the center stage of political debate. So one of the things I’m going to be doing is to approach these presidential candidates to ask who is willing to be a profile in courage.
In general, there is a lot of grass-roots unrest and fear that hasn’t been organized.
There were some underreported demonstrations. On my own campus there’s quite a bit. We had one meeting on this. I didn’t organize it, but I spoke at it, and there were 500 people; 200 of them couldn’t even get into the room. So there is the potential for not only an immediate but certainly a sustained anti-war movement in the country, but we’re not seeing it develop as quickly as I’d like to or that I would expect to.
AMB. FREEMAN: I think this is at present still an abstract and hypothetical question. Nobody is getting killed on our side.
DR. LUSTICK: And there’s no draft.
AMB. FREEMAN: There’s no draft. It doesn’t touch our lives as Americans at the grass roots. When it does, in whatever manner it does, we will have a very different situation. It’s clear that there is an implicit explosion of latent opposition out there in the country, possibly to be experienced later.
DR. HADAR: If we have a prolonged war and casualties and so on, I think you are going to see a very interesting development in the Democratic party. Its political base is Blacks, Hispanics and so on, and I think there’s a lot of opposition towards this war, if you look at some of the public opinion polls. At the same time, I think there will be tensions between those groups and a lot of the Jewish contributors and supporters of the party, the political bigwigs who support Israel and would continue to support this war. It will be interesting to see what people like John Kerry and others are going to do and what decision they will make during the campaign.
Q: My understanding of the news coming out of Israel is that they’re expecting this war and preparing for some sort of attack. What compromises do you see emerging between President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon, between U.S. support of Israel in case of an attack and U.S. aid to Israel, and what possible compromises you see between the Israelis and Palestinians because of this war?
DR. LUSTICK: I think the key thing that’s been happening between Sharon and Bush is that there was an oscillation in the American administration over whether the Palestine problem is important. Should we talk about a Palestinian state? Should we forget about it? The policy was batted back and forth every two months, depending on pressures arising from very specific incidents. And what Sharon did is, he struck a deal with Bush, the basis of which is “I will behave myself within certain limits, and I will not surprise you badly. I know your advisers have been warning you that I tend to do that, but I’m not going to do it. In return you’re going to allow me to play pretty rough, and you’re not going to put pressure on me to actually carry out the “road map” plan or to do things that are going to move me toward negotiations.”
This extends into the Iraq war, which Sharon definitely wants. Remember, it was Sharon who had a vision for reorganizing the Middle East. The Lebanon war was the first step, but that was part of a grand scheme within which Israel was to play the role of a regional Great Power. I believe, by the way, that the activities giving rise to the Pollard Affair were parts of Sharon’s attempt to put that vision into effect. So I think that Sharon sees the southern Lebanon situation, where Hezbollah really has built up an enormous and threatening base, as a target to be hit fairly hard.
I think the most probable deal is that the United States will get from Israel almost a commitment not to come into an Iraqi war, and the United States will promise to quickly go into the Western desert and make sure there are no scuds there. In the final analysis, the United States may under certain circumstances provide Israel with the kind of tactical information it needs to carry out strikes. But the basic thing is, Israel will stay out of Iraq when the United States goes in, and the United States will stay out of southern Lebanon when Sharon goes in.
I don’t think the war has a particular implication for the character of the compromise that will occur as the basis of the settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. That’s more or less determined by facts on the ground and the long history of negotiations. The contours of that settlement ultimately will be the Clinton parameters. I don’t agree that Gaza is likely to be turned into Grozny. Maybe that’s wishful thinking, but I don’t think so. I do think that a settlement is possible, based in part on the threat of unilateral separation. But it will occur after a new Israeli government is formed, not under Ariel Sharon.
It’s the oscillation inside of Israel between more or less extreme left and extreme right-wing governments that gives this whole relationship between the Israelis and the Palestinians the distinctive character that it’s had for 25 years. In the last two years, the entire Israeli political spectrum has lurched to the left in what it’s willing to accept. I don’t mean that Israeli hatred for Arabs has decreased, but what most Israeli Jews are willing to accept is a political settlement that is much more generous than any it has ever supported in the past. You can see this direction of change in the National Religious party and the Likud, as well as in the Labor party and in Meretz, all the way across the spectrum apart from the extremes.
The other thing that’s happened is that the United States has moved, not lurched, so that even this administration talks about the absolute necessity for a Palestinian state.
Remember, the leadership of the Likud was captured by Sharon, who says he supports a Palestinian state, as against his opponent – Netanyahu – who said he did not.
We know what the settlement is going to look like. It’s not going to be affected by the war, though the timing might be.
DR. HADAR: As to Israeli reaction, there are three probable scenarios. The Sharon government might at least take advantage of the fact that Christiane Amanpour is in Baghdad (and cannot go to Gaza) to attack the radical Islamic infrastructure in Gaza. Whether that will lead to Grozny or not, it’s going to be a bloodbath, with many more casualties than expected. I think if there’s a war, the probability for that is quite high – I would say 80 percent.
Second, I don’t think there’s going to be an invasion of southern Lebanon. There’s no support for that in Israel. I think there’s going to be an attempt to attack specifically the Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon and to humiliate Syria. I think that will be part of the strategy of Sharon. I would give that about 60-percent probability. The last thing, which I give about 40-percent probability, is an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear installations, which could take place during a war. Not a lot of people are talking about that, but it’s a possibility.
I think there’s going to be some pressure for a settlement. After the war, I don’t think you are going to see a final settlement along the lines of the Clinton proposal. I don’t think that’s viable at this point. You will see some interim solution, as I said earlier, which will look like Cyprus, with all the Israeli troops. Eventually there’s going to be a long-term solution very much like the Clinton plan, but it’s not the short-term solution.
Q: What happens after the removal of Saddam Hussein? Do we have Shiite reprisals? Do we have an inter-ethnic council that forms a democratic government? What occurs with Iran’s political power in the region, given that it’s the sole Shiite nation in the region, and 70 percent of Iraq is Shiite?
DR. HADAR: Under any scenario, including the user-friendly Saddam Hussein – a military coup – ethnic pressure that developed in Iraq in recent years with the Kurds and Shiites is going to explode in some way or another. At the minimum there could be massacres, and the United States is going to pay a price, because people are going to accuse the United States of being there but not doing something about it. It would be very interesting to know what is going to happen with the oil resources that are under Kurdish control.
There will be an attempt to take control of the Kirkuk oil fields by Kurdish, Turkish or American troops. I think that’s going to be a major issue.
DR. LUSTICK: Two historical analogies, because I don’t know enough about Iraq to make predictions, even if I thought these kinds of predictions, tactical as they are, were theoretically possible. When the United States liberated France, people were putting roses in our rifles (this is not going to be the way we come into Baghdad). Twelve thousand Frenchmen were killed as collaborators while we were there. So the idea that there’s going to be no bloodbath or no attempt at a very significant bloodbath against the Tikritis and the Sunnis who have been torturing the rest of the population for decades is difficult to accept.
What we’re really doing is an Israeli Lebanon in Iraq. Israel entered Lebanon with the slogan, “Bang and we finish with it.” That was the idea, to use massive force to finish this annoying problem once and for all. But it doesn’t work. You go in there militarily, and it seems to be working, but then the complexities arise. Israel’s chosen leader was killed. They were left with refereeing a bloody fight among a wild array of factions. After fifteen years of casualties, they withdrew with nothing to show for it but embarrassment and encouragement to terrorism.
MR. ANDERSON: The difference between what we were able to do in Germany or Japan, for example, and what we might be able to do in Iraq arises from the very different levels of inter-ethnic conflict. You could take a Hessian, a Saxon, a Bavarian and an Alsatian picked at random in 1945 and bring them into an office and put them to work on the administration of the new Germany. They’d work according to orders, but they would begin on a basis of German interests. They would work as Germans. It is not true that there is no Iraqi nationalism, but in a new situation where it’s all broken open and there are opportunities and threats, randomly selected southern Shia, Arab Sunni, Kurds and Turkmen will default to their ethnic position.
In terms of neighbors, Turkey does have a serious interest and a growing problem with Turkmen. Interestingly, I don’t think the Agency ever knew the truth of how many Turkmen live in Kirkuk. The official numbers are not to be trusted because the Iraqis since the establishment of the state have had an interest in diminishing that number. The Turkmen argument that they’re really the majority is equally suspect because they’ve got an interest in becoming that when somebody starts dividing the spoils.
And we have far fewer resources for addressing the problem. When we went into Japan and Germany, we had started in 1941 and early ’42 stripping out from all the draftees who showed up at induction centers German and Japanese speakers. We sent them off to camps, where they spent the war preparing to occupy Japan and Germany. When we won that war, there was a postmaster for Essen; he’d been picked and trained. I don’t think we’ve got the postmaster in this case.
MR. MOHAMEDI: I’d like to approach this from the economic angle, in terms of competition and reprisal. This regime in many ways is based on both terror and patronage. After the Gulf War, Saddam elevated the status of the tribes. He had tried to destroy the tribes prior to the ’80s. Now, in elevating them, he changed land ownership so there are winners of land and losers of land. He expelled a large number of Shia during the Iran-Iraq War, and many of them are in Iran. There will be security forces who have extorted money and who are vulnerable to revenge. You will see a lot of this taking place, and people trying to reclaim their assets to a certain extent.
After the U.S. attack, it also depends on the central authority that is left intact and the ability to get basic supplies to population centers. If that falters, there will be a competition for those basic foodstuffs. Depending again on the central authority, you could get external incursions from Iran and other places.
On the issue of Kirkuk, I think there is a great fear by the Turks that the Kurds will move and take over the oil fields. The Turks have demanded from the United States that there be early moves to try to forestall that.
Lastly, on the issue of whether Saddam will torch the oil fields, we at PFC Energy have thought a lot about this. Generally we have come to the conclusion that, even if he has such intentions, they will not be carried out by his troops. It’s one thing to torch Kuwait, but this is Iraq’s national patrimony.
AMB. FREEMAN: I’d like to bring this to a close by reiterating a point that several of the speakers made earlier. There is no doubt whatsoever about the enormous capacities of the U.S. armed forces and their ability to prevail in any battle in Iraq. And there is no doubt, therefore, that our armed forces can go in any direction to any location we wish in Iraq, except for one – out. Once we’re in, we don’t come out. The biggest problem with this, as has been alluded to in the final words of this discussion, is that, at present, things happening in and around Iraq are someone else’s problem and someone else’s fault. But when the United States is there, we will be accountable for what happens, and what will happen in Iraq and to us in the early days after the war is very hard to foresee.