http://www.ceip.org/files/Publications/nyt0130.asp?from=pubdate CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT for international peace Op-Ed by Robert Kagan Senior Associate writes that rather than impose a hand-picked government in Iraq, the U.S. should follow its military campaign with a smart political and diplomatic effort. Il testo di vari articoli di Kagan & Co in cui si anticipa l’invasione dell’Iraq (e non solo) a partire dal gennaio 1998. Ne ha fatto cenno Franco Cardini, storico di destra nella trasmissione “Ballarò” dell’8 aprile 2003, smentito dallo stesso Kagan in diretta. Bugiardi per mestiere, al servizio dell’Impero.
William Kristol and Robert KaganReprinted with permission of the New York Times, January 30, 1998Saddam Hussein must go. This imperative may seem too simple for some experts and too daunting for the Clinton Administration. But if the United States is committed, as the President said in his State of the Union Message, to insuring that the Iraqi leader never again uses weapons of mass destruction, the only way to achieve that goal is to remove Mr. Hussein and his regime from power. Any policy short of that will fail.The good news is this: The Administration has abandoned efforts to win over the Iraqi leader with various carrots. It is clear that Mr. Hussein wants his weapons of mass destruction more than he wants oil revenue or relief for hungry Iraqi children. Now the Administration is reportedly planning military action – a three- or four-day bombing campaign against Iraqi weapons sites and other strategic targets. But the bad news is that this too will fail. In fact, when the dust settles, we may be in worse shape than we are today.Think about what the world will look like the day after the bombing ends. Mr. Hussein will still be in power – if five weeks of heavy bombing in 1991 failed to knock him out, five days of bombing won’t either. Can the air attacks insure that he will never be able to use weapons of mass destruction again? The answer, unfortunately, is no. Even our smart bombs cannot reliably hit and destroy every weapons and storage site in Iraq, for the simple reason that we do not know where all the sites are. After the bombing stops, Mr. Hussein will still be able to manufacture weapons of mass destruction. Pentagon officials admit this.What will President Clinton do then? Administration officials talk of further punitive measures, like declaring a no-fly zone over all of Iraq, or even more bombing. But the fact is that the United States will have shot its bolt. Mr. Hussein will have proved the futility of American air power. The United Nations inspection regime will have collapsed; American diplomacy will be in disarray. Those who opposed military action all along – the Russians, French and Chinese – will demand the lifting of sanctions, and Mr. Hussein will be out of his box, free to terrorize our allies and threaten our interests.Mr. Hussein has obviously thought through this scenario, and he likes his chances. That is why he provoked the present crisis, fully aware that it could lead to American bombing strikes. He has survived them before, and he is confident he can survive them again. They will not succeed in forcing him to abandon his efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction. The only way to remove the threat of those weapons is to remove him, and that means using air power and ground forces, and finishing the task left undone in 1991.We can do this job. Mr. Hussein’s army is much weaker than before the Persian Gulf war. He has no political support beyond his own bodyguards and generals. An effective military campaign combined with a political strategy to support the broad opposition forces in Iraq could well bring his regime down faster than many imagine. And Iraq’s Arab neighbors are more likely to support a military effort to remove him than an ineffectual bombing raid that leaves a dangerous man in power.Does the United States really have to bear this burden? Yes. Unless we act, Saddam Hussein will prevail, the Middle East will be destabilized, other aggressors around the world will follow his example, and American soldiers will have to pay a far heavier price when the international peace sustained by American leadership begins to collapse.If Mr. Clinton is serious about protecting us and our allies from Iraqi biological and chemical weapons, he will order ground forces to the gulf. Four heavy divisions and two airborne divisions are available for deployment. The President should act, and Congress should support him in the only policy that can succeed.
Saddam’s Impending Victory
Reprinted from the Weekly Standard, February 2, 1998“With dictators, nothing succeeds like success.” That observation, by Adolf Hitler, is not as trite as it sounds. Hitler was referring to his own successful remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936. Before he moved into the Rhineland, Hitler was securely “in his box,” as the Clinton administration would say. Pursuant to the Versailles Treaty and the Locarno pact of 1926, Germany had been forced to keep this territory demilitarized as a guarantee against renewed aggression: An unguarded Rhineland left Germany naked to a French attack. From the German point of view, this was not “fair”; it violated German sovereignty. But it was the price Germany paid for invading France and the low countries in 1914. And it was the lid on the box that contained Hitler’s grand strategic ambitions.Hitler was determined to remove it. To do so, however, required an enormous gamble. Hitler was weak. Germany was still struggling through the Depression. And Germany’s armed forces were still in pitiful shape, hopelessly outgunned by the French. Had the French army responded in force to the remilitarization, had it simply marched into the Rhineland, Hitler would have had to retreat. As he later recalled, “a retreat on our part would have spelled collapse” — the collapse, that is, of Hitler’s rule. “The forty-eight hours after the march into the Rhineland were the most nerve-wracking in my life.”But, of course, the French did not respond militarily. For a variety of reasons, including a significant overestimation of Hitler’s military strength, the French government and armed forces had decided that an invasion of the Rhineland was too risky. Instead, when Hitler made his move, the French sent a formal protest to the League of Nations. The British government, for its part, urged the French “not to make the situation more difficult.” Seventeen years after the Versailles Treaty, many people had forgotten why it was so important to keep German troops out of the Rhineland. The British foreign minister said the best course of action was to “conclude with [Germany] as far-reaching and enduring a settlement as is possible whilst Herr Hitler is in the mood to do so.” Hitler’s gamble worked. His stunning success bolstered his rule at home. And he was out of the box.For some years now, Saddam Hussein has been in a box. The settlement imposed on Iraq after the conclusion of the Persian Gulf War required him to open his country to inspection by the United Nations to determine how far he had advanced in the production of weapons of mass destruction and to ensure that all such capabilities, and such weapons, were destroyed. This imposition, embodied in the U.N. Security Council resolutions that ended the war, was not “fair”; it was a serious infringement of Iraqi sovereignty. But it was the price Saddam paid for invading Kuwait and for threatening during the war to rain chemical and biological weapons down on Israel and U.S. and allied troops.For Saddam, whose conventional military strength had been decimated in 1991 and could not be restored for many years, weapons of mass destruction provided the quickest, surest, and indeed, the only route back to strategic dominance in the Middle East. As Rolf Ekeus, the former head of UNSCOM, the U. N.’s weapons-monitoring operation, said last year, weapons of mass destruction “make the difference between Iraq’s being a regional power and a major international power.” Finding and destroying Saddam’s ability to produce weapons of mass destruction, therefore, was an essential part of guaranteeing that Saddam could not again threaten neighboring states. The U.N. effort to rid Iraq of such weapons capabilities was supposed to put the lid on Saddam’s grand strategic ambitions.Today the lid is about to come off. Saddam Hussein, weak, isolated, and impoverished as he is, has decided to take his big gamble. The crisis he set off last October when he blocked U.N. inspectors came to a head last week when Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz told UNSCOM chief Richard Butler that a number of sites in Iraq — the so-called presidential palaces — would remain off-limits for two more months at least. Saddam Hussein also issued an ultimatum last week calling for the U.N. to wrap up its inspections by May and lift the sanctions. Since these demands, as he well knows, are probably unacceptable to the Clinton administration, Saddam’s purpose is clear: He aims to force a showdown with the United States. He has, so to speak, marched his troops into the Rhineland and now waits to see what the United States will do.Saddam, however, is probably resting a good bit more comfortably than Hitler could in 1936. For unlike Hitler, he has a pretty good idea of what the United States and its allies will do in response to his latest move and, more important, what they will not do.For the Clinton administration the options have severely narrowed. To return to the Security Council in search of yet another resolution condemning Iraq’s intransigence would be embarrassingly futile. Even if the administration could persuade the rest of the Security Council to ratchet up the sanctions, Saddam would only have to hold firm for a few weeks to demonstrate the impotence of the new, tougher sanctions. How long would it be before Russia, France, and China returned to the position they took at the beginning of the crisis, that carrots work better with Saddam than sticks? Meanwhile, Saddam would have bought more time to work on his biological and chemical projects, bringing the day closer when, as British foreign secretary Robin Cook warned last week, he will have anthrax warheads on his missiles.For these reasons, and also for domestic political reasons, the purely diplomatic option is probably no longer attractive for President Clinton. Last week, Clinton said that “something has to give.” He may now begin trying to build support in the Security Council for military action. And Saddam knows this. Indeed, it may be that Saddam not only knows this; he intends it. Saddam may well have purposely driven the Clinton administration to resorting to the military option.If this is Saddam’s plan, it is not a bad one. Such a strategy would rest on a number of fairly reasonable calculations about the diplomatic and military situation he faces.In the first place, Saddam knows it will be difficult for Clinton to gain the kind of international support he would like for military action. The Russians have made their opposition clear, and they may well be supported in the Security Council by the French and Chinese. The Arab states are nervous about military action, at best, and may oppose it. Clinton’s efforts to rally international support may, therefore, simply founder, as they did in 1993 when secretary of state Warren Christopher went to Europe to get support for military action in Bosnia and came home empty-handed. It took two more years for Clinton to work up the will to use military force in Bosnia. Saddam would be delighted to have two more years.But suppose Clinton is undeterred by the lack of international support and decides to go in alone, or perhaps with the British as his only ally. Saddam knows, and the Clinton administration knows, too, that Clinton’s biggest problem then is the nature of the military action the Pentagon has prepared for him.It isn’t very hard to guess what form that action would take. If and when President Clinton decides to order the use of force, it will not be another “pinprick” airstrike or the launching of a few dozen cruise missiles. But it won’t be the kind of massive, sustained air campaign that began Desert Storm either, with many weeks of steady bombing against a broad range of strategic targets throughout Iraq. It will most likely be a shorter campaign of bombing and missile strikes, designed chiefly to destroy as many suspected chemical and biological weapons storage and production sites as possible.The problem is, the consequences of such an air campaign, or even of a somewhat broader campaign aimed at destroying some of Iraq’s conventional forces, would not be intolerable to Saddam. Above all, he would still be alive and in charge in Baghdad. The air campaign didn’t kill him in Desert Storm, and the United States has not in the last six years developed missiles that can find individuals with big mustaches. Nor would he have lost the bulk of his armed forces. Finally, we would have no confidence that the air strikes had knocked out all or even most of his biological and chemical weapons program. If Desert Storm did not destroy that program, why would a much smaller air campaign do so? In any event, we would need to get the U.N. inspectors back into Iraq to verify precisely what the air strikes had and had not managed to destroy. And Saddam would still be in a position to deny them the free access they require.In other words, we would be back to where we are today. Only worse. Having played his hole card, having employed his maximal military option, Clinton would be bereft of further options. Those in the international community who had opposed military action would be free to claim that the United States had taken its best shot and failed. Now, they would say, it was time for a different, more accommodating approach. Perhaps some would even echo Anthony Eden’s sentiments of sixty years ago and propose that the world conclude as far-reaching and enduring a settlement as was possible whilst Herr Hussein was in the mood to do so. This would be an unmitigated victory for Saddam. And for a dictator, nothing succeeds like success.The real problem today is not that President Clinton has so far refused to take military action. It is that the Clinton administration is unlikely to embrace the kind of military option that is needed. This has thoroughly undermined American strategy and diplomacy. Nervous Arab states, not surprisingly are unenthusiastic about yet another American military action that neither kills Saddam nor destroys his capacity to harm them. From their point of view, if the United States is not going to get rid of Saddam, they are better off trying to make their own peace with him. The Russians and French are undoubtedly telling their counterparts in the Clinton administration that the planned air campaign will be worse than futile. And, of course, Clinton officials don’t need to be told this. They already know it, which is surely one reason they have not so far pursued it.The dirty little secret, then, is that Clinton’s diplomatic efforts are failing because they are not really backed by the threat of force. Because the proposed military action is inadequate, it cannot threaten Saddam into compliance. Because Saddam cannot be threatened into compliance, the Clinton administration must resort to a diplomatic strategy that every day looks more like simple appeasement. It is not Saddam who is playing the weak hand, therefore, but Clinton. And it is not Saddam who is now in a box, but the United States.There is only one way for the United States to get out of its box, and that is to change the goals of American policy in Iraq and to change radically the type of military action we intend to use against Saddam.Before the Clinton administration found itself in its current helpless condition, senior officials and spokesmen used to declare ritualistically that they would never agree to lifting all the sanctions against Iraq so long as Saddam remained in charge. As Secretary of State Albright said last March, “Our view, which is unshakable, is that Iraq must prove its peaceful intentions. And the evidence is overwhelming that Saddam Hussein’s intentions will never be peaceful.” This was a rather circuitous but not especially subtle way of saying that the United States hoped the sanctions would eventually force Saddam from power, that U.S. policy aimed ultimately at Saddam’s removal. It is a measure of how far the Clinton administration has traveled toward appeasement since last November that the insistence on peaceful intentions has been dropped. Recently national security adviser Sandy Berger compared Saddam to a prisoner who was serving a sentence — the implication being that some day he would be released.But the Clinton administration was right the first time. The evidence is overwhelming that Saddam’s intentions will never be peaceful — and far more so today than when Albright made her statement a year ago. It turns out that the international strategy for preventing Saddam from obtaining weapons of mass destruction was flawed from the beginning. As Rolf Ekeus has noted, the assumption when the U.N. inspections regime was established in 1991 was that Baghdad would be eager to get Iraqi oil flowing again, and so would be willing to cooperate with UNSCOM to resolve rapidly the problem of weapons of mass destruction. Over the past six years, this assumption has proved to be mistaken. Saddam has shown beyond any doubt that he is determined to produce weapons of mass destruction as a means of regaining his strategic dominance of the Middle East, and that he cannot be deterred by sanctions or oil embargoes, or even by airstrikes.Which leads us to the conclusion that has so far been assiduously avoided, both by the Clinton administration and by members of Congress in both parties, even the hawkish: The only solution to the problem in Iraq today is to use air power and ground power, and not to stop until we have finished what President Bush began in 1991. An air campaign is not enough. Only ground forces can find and destroy weapons-production facilities with a high degree of confidence that they have been destroyed. Only ground forces can provide the time and the access for inspectors to go in and insure that the job has been done. And, above all, only ground forces can remove Saddam and his regime from power and open the way for a new post-Saddam Iraq whose intentions can safely be assumed to be benign.Impossible? Unthinkable? It shouldn’t be, if we reckon the risks and difficulties of an invasion of Iraq against the risks and difficulties of allowing Saddam to get out of his box and wield weapons of mass destruction — as he is sure to do in a matter of months if we remain on the present course.A successful invasion of Iraq is certainly not beyond the capacities of the American military. Saddam’s conventional forces are weak, demoralized, and probably not very eager to take on American forces again. Remember, it is precisely because of the weakness of his conventional forces that Saddam is so desperate to acquire weapons of mass destruction. The Iraqi army is nothing like what it was in 1990.As for the problem of gaining international support for an invasion, the United States would probably have a better chance of getting the necessary support from Saudi Arabia if the Saudis knew that this time the Americans were going to finish Saddam off once and for all. The Russians and French would object, but they would also object to futile air-strikes. If we’re going to have a breach in the Security Council over Iraq, let’s at least have it over a promising military effort rather than a doomed one.It is true, moreover, for superpowers as well as for dictators that nothing succeeds like success. A successful intervention in Iraq would revolutionize the strategic situation in the Middle East, in ways both tangible and intangible, and all to the benefit of American interests. Continued failure to take such action against Saddam will progressively erode our strategic position and will put the world on notice as the 21st century begins that the Americans, like the French and British of the 1930s, have lost their nerve.
The Benevolent Empire
Reprinted with permission of Foreign Policy, Summer 1998Not so long ago, when the Monica Lewinsky scandal first broke in the global media, an involuntary and therefore unusually revealing gasp of concern could be heard in the capitals of many of the world’s most prominent nations. Ever so briefly, prime ministers and pundits watched to see if the drivewheel of the international economic, security, and political systems was about to misalign or lose its power, with all that this breakdown would imply for the rest of the world. Would the Middle East peace process stall? Would Asia’s financial crisis spiral out of control? Would the Korean peninsula become unsettled? Would pressing issues of European security go unresolved? “In all the world’s trouble spots,” the Times of London noted, leaders were “calculating what will happen when Washington’s gaze is distracted.”Temporarily interrupting their steady grumbling about American arrogance and hegemonic pretensions, Asian, European, and Middle Eastern editorial pages paused to contemplate the consequences of a crippled American presidency. The liberal German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau, which a few months earlier had been accusing Americans of arrogant zealotry and a “camouflaged neocolonialism,” suddenly fretted that the “problems in the Middle East, in the Balkans or in Asia” will not be solved “without U.S. assistance and a president who enjoys respect” and demanded that, in the interests of the entire world, the president’s accusers quickly produce the goods or shut up. In Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post warned that the “humbling” of an American president had “implications of great gravity” for international affairs; in Saudi Arabia, the Arab News declared that this was “not the time that America or the world needs an inward-looking or wounded president. It needs one unencumbered by private concerns who can make tough decisions.”The irony of these pleas for vigorous American leadership did not escape notice, even in Paris, the intellectual and spiritual capital of antihegemony and “multipolarity.” As one pundit (Jacques Amalric) noted wickedly in the left-leaning Liberation, “Those who accused the United States of being overbearing are today praying for a quick end to the storm.” Indeed, they were and with good reason. As Aldo Rizzo observed, part in lament and part in tribute, in Italy’s powerful La Stampa: “It is in times like these that we feel the absence of a power, certainly not [an] alternative, but at least complementary, to America, something which Europe could be. Could be, but is not. Therefore, good luck to Clinton and, most of all, to America.”This brief moment of international concern passed, of course, as did the flash of candor about the true state of world affairs and America’s essential role in preserving a semblance of global order. The president appeared to regain his balance, the drivewheel kept spinning, and in the world’s great capitals talk resumed of American arrogance and bullying and the need for a more genuinely multipolar system to manage international affairs. But the almost universally expressed fear of a weakened U.S. presidency provides a useful antidote to the pervasive handwringing, in Washington as well as in foreign capitals, over the “problem” of American hegemony. There is much less to this problem than meets the eye.The commingled feelings of reliance on and resentment toward America’s international dominance these days are neither strange nor new. The resentment of power, even when it is in the hands of one’s friends, is a normal, indeed, timeless human emotion —- no less so than the arrogance of power. And perhaps only Americans, with their rather short memory, could imagine that the current resentment is the unique product of the expansion of American dominance in the post–Cold War era. During the confrontation with the Soviet Union, now recalled in the United States as a time of Edenic harmony among the Western allies, not just French but also British leaders chafed under the leadership of a sometimes overbearing America. As political scientist A.W. DePorte noted some 20 years ago, the schemes of European unity advanced by French financial planner Jean Monnet and French foreign minister Robert Schuman in 1950 aimed “not only to strengthen Western Europe in the face of the Russian threat but also -— though this was less talked about —- to strengthen it vis-à-vis its indispensable but overpowering American ally.” Today’s call for “multipolarity” in international affairs, in short, has a history, as do European yearnings for unity as a counterweight to American power. Neither of these professed desires is a new response to the particular American hegemony of the last nine years.And neither of them, one suspects, is very seriously intended. For the truth about America’s dominant role in the world is known to most clear-eyed international observers. And the truth is that the benevolent hegemony exercised by the United States is good for a vast portion of the world’s population. It is certainly a better international arrangement than all realistic alternatives. To undermine it would cost many others around the world far more than it would cost Americans —- and far sooner. As Samuel Huntington wrote five years ago, before he joined the plethora of scholars disturbed by the “arrogance” of American hegemony: “A world without U.S. primacy will be a world with more violence and disorder and less democracy and economic growth than a world where the United States continues to have more influence than any other country shaping global affairs.”The unique qualities of American global dominance have never been a mystery, but these days they are more and more forgotten or, for convenience’ sake, ignored. There was a time when the world clearly saw how different the American superpower was from all the previous aspiring hegemons. The difference lay in the exercise of power. The strength acquired by the United States in the aftermath of World War II was far greater than any single nation had ever possessed, at least since the Roman Empire. America’s share of the world economy, the overwhelming superiority of its military capacity —- augmented for a time by a monopoly of nuclear weapons and the capacity to deliver them -— gave it the choice of pursuing any number of global ambitions. That the American people “might have set the crown of world empire on their brows,” as one British statesman put it in 1951, but chose not to, was a decision of singular importance in world history and recognized as such. America’s self-abnegation was unusual, and its uniqueness was not lost on peoples who had just suffered the horrors of wars brought on by powerful nations with overweening ambitions to empire of the most coercive type. Nor was it lost on those who saw what the Soviet Union planned to do with its newfound power after World War II.The uniqueness persisted. During the Cold War, America’s style of hegemony reflected its democratic form of government as much as Soviet hegemony reflected Stalin’s approach to governance. The “habits of democracy,” as Cold War historian John Lewis Gaddis has noted, made compromise and mutual accommodation the norm in U.S.–Allied relations. This approach to international affairs was not an example of selfless behavior. The Americans had an instinctive sense, based on their own experience growing up in a uniquely open system of democratic capitalism, that their power and influence would be enhanced by allowing subordinate allies a great measure of internal and even external freedom of maneuver. But in practice, as Gaddis points out, “Americans so often deferred to the wishes of allies during the early Cold War that some historians have seen the Europeans —- especially the British —- as having managed them.”Beyond the style of American hegemony, which, even if unevenly applied, undoubtedly did more to attract than repel other peoples and nations, American grand strategy in the Cold War consistently entailed providing far more to friends and allies than was expected from them in return. Thus, it was American strategy to raise up from the ruins powerful economic competitors in Europe and Asia, a strategy so successful that by the 1980s the United States was thought to be in a state of irreversible “relative” economic decline —- relative, that is, to those very nations whose economies it had restored after World War II.And it was American strategy to risk nuclear annihilation on its otherwise unthreatened homeland in order to deter attack, either nuclear or conventional, on a European or Asian ally. This strategy also came to be taken for granted. But when one considers the absence of similarly reliable guarantees among the various European powers in the past (between, say, Great Britain and France in the 1920s and 1930s), the willingness of the United States, standing in relative safety behind two oceans, to link its survival to that of other nations was extraordinary.Even more remarkable may be that the United States has attempted not only to preserve these guarantees but to expand them in the post–Cold War era. Much is made these days, not least in Washington, of the American defense budget now being several times higher than that of every other major power. But on what is that defense budget spent? Very little funding goes to protect national territory. Most of it is devoted to making good on what Americans call their international “commitments.”Even in the absence of the Soviet threat, America continues, much to the chagrin of some of its politicians, to define its “national security” broadly, as encompassing the security of friends and allies, and even of abstract principles, far from American shores. In the Gulf War, more than 90 percent of the military forces sent to expel Iraq’s army from Kuwait were American. Were 90 percent of the interests threatened American? In almost any imaginable scenario in which the United States might deploy troops abroad, the primary purpose would be the defense of interests of more immediate concern to America’s allies -— as it has been in Bosnia. This can be said about no other power.Ever since the United States emerged as a great power, the identification of the interests of others with its own has been the most striking quality of American foreign and defense policy. Americans seem to have internalized and made second nature a conviction held only since World War II: Namely, that their own well-being depends fundamentally on the well-being of others; that American prosperity cannot occur in the absence of global prosperity; that American freedom depends on the survival and spread of freedom elsewhere; that aggression anywhere threatens the danger of aggression everywhere; and that American national security is impossible without a broad measure of international security.Let us not call this conviction selfless: Americans are as self-interested as any other people. But for at least 50 years they have been guided by the kind of enlightened self-interest that, in practice, comes dangerously close to resembling generosity. If that generosity seems to be fading today (and this is still a premature judgment), it is not because America has grown too fond of power. Quite the opposite. It is because some Americans have grown tired of power, tired of leadership, and, consequently, less inclined to demonstrate the sort of generosity that has long characterized their nation’s foreign policy. What many in Europe and elsewhere see as arrogance and bullying may be just irritability born of weariness.If fatigue is setting in, then those nations and peoples who have long benefited, and still benefit, from the international order created and upheld by American power have a stake in bolstering rather than denigrating American hegemony. After all, what, in truth, are the alternatives?Whatever America’s failings, were any other nation to take its place, the rest of the world would find the situation less congenial. America may be arrogant; Americans may at times be selfish; they may occasionally be ham-handed in their exercise of power. But, excusez-moi, compared with whom? Can anyone believe that were France to possess the power the United States now has, the French would be less arrogant, less selfish, and less prone to making mistakes? Little in France’s history as a great power, or even as a medium power, justifies such optimism. Nor can one easily imagine power on an American scale being employed in a more enlightened fashion by China, Germany, Japan, or Russia. And even the leaders of that least benighted of empires, the British, were more arrogant, more bloody-minded, and, in the end, less capable managers of world affairs than the inept Americans have so far proved to be. If there is to be a sole superpower, the world is better off if that power is the United States.What, then, of a multipolar world? There are those, even in the United States, who believe a semblance of international justice can be achieved only in a world characterized by a balance among relative equals. In such circumstances, national arrogance must theoretically be tempered, national aspirations limited, and attempts at hegemony, either benevolent or malevolent, checked. A more evenly balanced world, they assume, with the United States cut down a peg (or two, or three) would be freer, fairer, and safer.A distant, though unacknowledged cousin of this realist, balance-of-power theory is the global parliamentarianism, or world federalism, that animates so many Europeans today, particularly the French apostles of European union. (It is little recalled, especially by modern proponents of foreign policy “realism,” that Hans Morgenthau’s seminal work, Politics Among Nations, builds slowly and methodically to the conclusion that what is needed to maintain international peace is a “world state.”) In fact, many of today’s calls for multipolarity seem to spring from the view, popular in some Washington circles but downright pervasive in European capitals, that traditional measures of national power, and even the nation-state itself, are passé. If Europe is erasing borders, what need is there for an overbearing America to keep the peace? America’s military power is archaic in a world where finance is transnational and the modem is king.We need not enter here into the endless and so far unproductive debate among international-relations theorists over the relative merits of multipolar, bipolar, and unipolar international “systems” for keeping the peace. It is sufficient to note that during the supposed heyday of multipolarity —- the eighteenth century, when the first “Concert of Europe” operated -— war among the great powers was a regular feature, with major and minor, and global and local, conflicts erupting throughout almost every decade.We should also not forget that utopian fancies about the obsolescence of military power and national governments in a transnational, “economic” era have blossomed before, only to be crushed by the next “war to end all wars.” The success of the European Union, such as it is, and, moreover, the whole dream of erasing boundaries, has been made possible only because the more fundamental and enduring issues of European security have been addressed by the United States through its leadership of NATO, that most archaic and least utopian of institutions. Were American hegemony really to disappear, the old European questions -— chiefly, what to do about Germany -— would quickly rear their hoary heads.But let’s return to the real world. For all the bleating about hegemony, no nation really wants genuine multipolarity. No nation has shown a willingness to take on equal responsibilities for managing global crises. No nation has been willing to make the same kinds of short-term sacrifices that the United States has been willing to make in the long-term interest of preserving the global order. No nation, except China, has been willing to spend the money to acquire the military power necessary for playing a greater role relative to the United States -— and China’s military buildup has not exactly been viewed by its neighbors as creating a more harmonious environment.If Europeans genuinely sought multipolarity, they would increase their defense budgets considerably, instead of slashing them. They would take the lead in the Balkans, instead of insisting that their participation depends on America’s participation. But neither the French, other Europeans, nor even the Russians are prepared to pay the price for a genuinely multipolar world. Not only do they shy away from the expense of creating and preserving such a world; they rightly fear the geopolitical consequences of destroying American hegemony. Genuine multipolarity would inevitably mean a return to the complex of strategic issues that plagued the world before World War II: in Asia, the competition for regional preeminence among China, Japan, and Russia; in Europe, the competition among France, Germany, Great Britain, and Russia.Kenneth Waltz once made the seemingly obvious point that “in international politics, overwhelming power repels and leads other states to balance against it” —- a banal truism, and yet, as it happens, so untrue in this era of American hegemony. What France, Russia, and some others really seek today is not genuine multipolarity but a false multipolarity, an honorary multipolarity. They want the pretense of equal partnership in a multipolar world without the price or responsibility that equal partnership requires. They want equal say on the major decisions in global crises (as with Iraq and Kosovo) without having to possess or wield anything like equal power. They want to increase their own prestige at the expense of American power but without the strain of having to fill the gap left by a diminution of the American role. And at the same time, they want to make short-term, mostly financial, gains, by taking advantage of the continuing U.S. focus on long-term support of the international order.The problem is not merely that some of these nations are giving themselves a “free ride” on the back of American power, benefiting from the international order that American hegemony undergirds, while at the same time puncturing little holes in it for short-term advantage. The more serious danger is that this behavior will gradually, or perhaps not so gradually, erode the sum total of power that can be applied to protecting the international order altogether. The false multipolarity sought by France, Russia, and others would reduce America’s ability to defend common interests without increasing anyone else’s ability to do so.In fact, this erosion may already be happening. In the recent case of Iraq, America’s ability to pursue the long-term goal of defending the international order against President Saddam Hussein was undermined by the efforts of France and Russia to attain short-term economic gains and enhanced prestige. Both these powers achieved their goal of a “multipolar” solution: They took a slice out of American hegemony. But they did so at the price of leaving in place a long-term threat to an international system from which they continue to draw immense benefits but which they by themselves have no ability to defend. They did not possess the means to solve the Iraq problem, only the means to prevent the United States from solving it.This insufficiency is the fatal flaw of multilateralism, as the Clinton administration learned in the case of Bosnia. In a world that is not genuinely multipolar -— where there is instead a widely recognized hierarchy of power -— multilateralism, if rigorously pursued, guarantees failure in meeting international crises. Those nations that lack the power to solve an international problem cannot be expected to take the lead in demanding the problem be solved. They may even eschew the exercise of power altogether, both because they do not have it and because the effective exercise of it by someone else, such as the United States, only serves to widen the gap between the hegemon and the rest. The lesson President Bill Clinton was supposed to have learned in the case of Bosnia is that to be effective, multilateralism must be preceded by unilateralism. In the toughest situations, the most effective multilateral response comes when the strongest power decides to act, with or without the others, and then asks its partners whether they will join. Giving equal say over international decisions to nations with vastly unequal power often means that the full measure of power that can be deployed in defense of the international community’s interests will, in fact, not be deployed.Those contributing to the growing chorus of antihegemony and multipolarity may know they are playing a dangerous game, one that needs to be conducted with the utmost care, as French leaders did during the Cold War, lest the entire international system come crashing down around them. What they may not have adequately calculated, however, is the possibility that Americans will not respond as wisely as they generally did during the Cold War.Americans and their leaders should not take all this sophisticated whining about U.S. hegemony too seriously. They certainly should not take it more seriously than the whiners themselves do. But, of course, Americans are taking it seriously. In the United States these days, the lugubrious guilt trip of post-Vietnam liberalism is echoed even by conservatives, with William Buckley, Samuel Huntington, and James Schlesinger all decrying American “hubris,” “arrogance,” and “imperialism.” Clinton administration officials, in between speeches exalting America as the “indispensable” nation, increasingly behave as if what is truly indispensable is the prior approval of China, France, and Russia for every military action. Moreover, at another level, there is a stirring of neo-isolationism in America today, a mood that nicely complements the view among many Europeans that America is meddling too much in everyone else’s business and taking too little time to mind its own. The existence of the Soviet Union disciplined Americans and made them see that their enlightened self-interest lay in a relatively generous foreign policy. Today, that discipline is no longer present.In other words, foreign grumbling about American hegemony would be merely amusing, were it not for the very real possibility that too many Americans will forget —- even if most of the rest of the world does not —- just how important continued American dominance is to the preservation of a reasonable level of international security and prosperity. World leaders may want to keep this in mind when they pop the champagne corks in celebration of the next American humbling.
A Way to Oust Saddam
Reprinted from the Weekly Standard, September 28, 1998SEVEN MONTHS AFTER the Clinton administration backed down from its confrontation with Saddam Hussein, the disastrous consequences of that retreat are on full display. Whether or not Saddam makes good on his threat to throw out the U.N. weapons inspectors, he has now enjoyed almost two months without U.N. inspections. What does the administration believe he’s been doing with all the free time?Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter has been warning Congress that the day is not far off — maybe a matter of a few months — when Saddam will suddenly present the United States and the world with a horrifying fait accompli: He will have his weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. If that day comes, no sanctions, no threat of sanctions, no angry U.N. resolutions, and no threat of “force” will be of any use. Saddam’s new weapons would dramatically shift the strategic balance in the Middle East, putting at severe risk the safety of Israel, of moderate Arab states, and of the energy resources on which the United States and its allies depend.The Clinton administration clearly has no idea how to handle this imminent and devastating threat to American interests. Clinton officials want Americans to believe that winning votes in the U.N. Security Council constitutes a policy for dealing with the Saddam menace. They dismiss Scott Ritter as “clueless.”But this Clintonian charade is a mammoth deception that will cause real damage in the world. The unstated but de facto policy of the administration is now this slender hope: If and when Saddam builds his weapons of mass destruction, the United States will still be able to deter him from aggression against his neighbors. This must be mighty comforting to the folks in Jerusalem, Riyadh, and Kuwait City, as well as to anyone else who cares about American credibility and Middle East peace.It has long been clear that the only way to rid the world of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction is to rid Iraq of Saddam. Last week, Paul Wolfowitz, a defense official in the Bush administration, laid out in testimony before Congress a thoughtful and coherent strategy to accomplish that goal.The Wolfowitz plan calls for the establishment of a “liberated zone” in southern Iraq much like the zone the Bush administration created in the north of the country in 1991. The zone would be a safe haven for opponents of Saddam’s regime. They could rally and organize, establish a provisional government there, gain international recognition, and set up a credible alternative to Saddam’s dictatorship. Control of the southern zone would give Saddam’s opponents a staging area to which discontented Iraqi army units could defect, as well as access to the country’s largest oil field. Arab officials have told Wolfowitz that the effect on Saddam’s regime would be “devastating.” Wolfowitz predicts that the creation of such a zone would lead to “the unraveling of the regime.”Unlike some of the ideas circulating on Capitol Hill, which suppose that Saddam will be toppled without any military action, the Wolfowitz plan rests on a guarantee of military support to protect the opposition within the liberated zone. If, as would be likely, Saddam sent his tanks to wipe out this new threat to his regime, the United States would have to be ready to defend the Iraqi opposition with overwhelming force. The United States could not again stand by while an uprising was crushed by Saddam.Some on the Hill have been looking for an easy way out of the Iraq crisis, hoping that a few million dollars for the Iraqi opposition will by itself take care of the problem. But any serious effort to oust Saddam must also be backed by U.S. military might.Republicans and Democrats on the Hill should advance the Wolfowitz plan in two ways. They should continue pressing the administration to support the Iraqi opposition — with money, weapons, and political recognition. And they should now pass a resolution authorizing the president to use force against Iraq as part of a strategy of removing Saddam from power.The administration has proven itself incapable of carrying out a credible policy against Saddam. There is a real alternative to the present charade. Congress ought to let Americans know that.