SPEECH: President Bush and the Long War: Are Slogans Enough?
Brown University, Stephen A. Ogden Jr. Memorial Lecture on International AffairsAs Prepared for Delivery It is both a great opportunity and a great honor to be here at Brown University and deliver the Ogden Lecture on International Affairs. This extraordinary University is a worldwide leader and, here at home, contributes immensely to every aspect of the Rhode Island community. And, we are all particularly impressed with the wise and dynamic leadership of Ruth Simmons.My comments this evening touch on Americas engagement around the world. Before I go any further, I must recognize the extraordinary men and women of our armed services who bear the burden of this engagement. Their courage, skill, and sacrifice, together with that of their families, deserves not only our praise but our profound gratitude. OVERVIEWThis evening I would like to focus my remarks on Iraq. The record of the Bush Administration on Iraq illustrates the triumph of ideology over reality, wishful thinking over sound management, and a strategic view that the Middle East could be easily transformed by simply initiating democratic elections. INTRODUCTION Looking back, we all recognize that September 11th profoundly changed this country. We understood that we were the targets of ruthless fanatics with the capacity to mount catastrophic attacks against us. Should these terrorists obtain weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, they would pose an existential threat to the United States. And, unlike the Cold War, models of deterrence were not practical options. Stateless terrorists, motivated by apocalyptic impulses and operating in clandestine cells throughout large parts of the world, cannot be easily deterred. The Bush Administration, with the overwhelming support of the American people and the Congress, initially recognized the danger of this threat and undertook a preemptive campaign aimed at the heart of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Operation Enduring Freedom was a well conceived military mission. It relied on friendly Afghani forces on the ground aided by small teams of American special operations troops and intelligence officers, later reinforced by conventional American forces. And, all of this was supported by an extraordinary array of technology and precision weapons. Unlike the Soviet Union, which languished for years and ultimately succumbed to the forbidding terrain and fierce tenacity of the Mujahedeen, America orchestrated a quick initial victory over the Taliban. But, marring this swift success was the realization that Bin Laden and other key Al Qaeda operatives escaped into the tribal areas of Pakistan. They remain there today on the run. Some have been captured or killed, but the fact remains that Al Qaeda has established a presence in Pakistan and is reconstituting its global reach.At this juncture, the Bush Administration faced a significant strategic choice. The first option was to focus on the Long War, which I define as the generational struggle against terrorism, using all of our power, not just our military power. A focus on the Long War would have required completing the stabilization of Afghanistan and concentrating overwhelming resources on the destruction of Al Qaeda and its associated elements worldwide while strengthening states like Pakistan so that they could root out these groups. The other option facing the Administration was to return to their pre-9/11 agenda of regime change in Iraq, first outlined in a letter sent to President Clinton in January 1998 by Secretary Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and other prominent neoconservatives. As we know, the Bush Administration chose to return its focus to Iraq. Today we are struggling with the consequences both in Iraq, and throughout the world.It is becoming clearer with each passing day that the Bush Administrations decision to attack Iraq was driven by ideology and unsubstantiated by the threat posed by Iraq. Furthermore, it lacked a compelling strategic justification based on the more imminent threats facing our nation. The situation has been exacerbated by poor planning and mismanagement in Iraq. The consequences of the decision to invade Iraq are daunting both within the context of our operations in country, and for our broader strategic challenges. These consequences include exposing the United States to an extended and expensive insurgency in Iraq with the real potential of degeneration into a civil war that would make our position untenable. The war in Iraq has also blurred the focus on the Long War on terror, created an enormous backlash against the United States in the Islamic world, strengthened the strategic position of Iran, diverted necessary attention from the nuclear aspirations of North Korea and created a huge stress on our military forces and diplomatic personnel. The Bush Administration has too often substituted ideology and political sloganeering for attention to facts, leading to serious consequences which must be addressed.SHAPING THE DECISION TO GO TO WARIf we review the Administrations actions in the months before the attack on Iraq, it is clear that the decision to attack Iraq was not based on the facts, but the facts were cherry-picked to support a pre-made decision to invade. In the fall of 2002, Iraq did not pose an imminent threat to the United States or to the region. After a disastrous and inconclusive war with Iran, after a decisive defeat in Desert Storm and ejection from Kuwait, and after a decade of sanctions, Iraq was a bankrupt nation with little military capability. Stating these facts in no way justifies the homicidal and dictatorial state that Saddam Hussein created. But, accurately recognizing the nature of threats against the United States is the first responsibility of the Commander in Chief. Exaggerating threats to fit an ideology or a political agenda is an invitation to disaster.This is a view I have held since October 2002, when we first debated the resolution to authorize force against Iraq, a resolution I opposed. At that time, I said:, looking at Iraqi capabilities alone, the threat is not immediate. If unchecked, the threat is inevitable and dangerous. But, at this time, we have the opportunity to pursue a collective solution to Iraq. This is an approach that offers a greater chance of success and a greater chance of long-term stability.The Administration rested its case on the claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and was in close collaboration with terrorists. Although many, including myself, assumed that in the worst case the Iraqis might have had residual chemical and biological weapons from their pre-Desert Storm stockpiles, I felt that Iraq lacked adequate delivery systems and was extremely vulnerable to overwhelming retaliation if such weapons were used. Iraq was deterrable, and was effectively being deterred. The Administration, of course, went beyond the potential presence of chemical and biological agents. They insisted that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program and, perhaps, a nuclear weapon. We are all familiar with the Presidents statement in the 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq was pursuing highly enriched uranium in Niger. We are also familiar with Vice President Cheneys statement, days before the beginning of hostilities, that we believe he [Saddam] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons. Both statements were never backed up by the intelligence community. Such statements are graphic examples of the way the Administration used purported intelligence to sell their Iraq policy. The Bush Administration also stressed the alleged connections between Saddam and terrorists. In a post-9/11 world, they played on the deepest fears of the American people. Their rhetoric encouraged Americans to believe that there was a direct link between Saddam and Al Qaeda. As the 9/11 Commission reported, no such link existed. And, as recent revelations indicate, the White House was aware of the absence of such a link within days of 9/11.The Downing Street memorandum reveals that the Administrations numerous statements which are now known to be untrue were deliberate and coordinated. On July 23, 2002, Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, convened a meeting of his national security advisors. The minutes of that meeting recorded the comments of the head of MI6, the British intelligence service. The minutes stated as follows: [the Chief of British intelligence] reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in the attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regimes record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.Paul Pillar, who served as the National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000-2005, wrote an article for the April 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs, which corroborates the Downing Street memorandum. He writes, The Administration used intelligence not to inform decision-making, but to justify a decision already made. It went to war without requestingand evidently without being influenced byany strategic level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq.Such actions and rhetoric led this nation to war.MISMANAGEMENT OF IRAQOnce Operation Iraqi Freedom commenced, our forces swept to a swift victory over the Iraqi Army. But, defeating Saddam Husseins military was only the beginning of our struggle in Iraq, despite the Presidents Mission Accomplished event in the spring of 2003.Some of the challenges we would face were obvious even before the invasion. As I stated in October of 2002:The Administrations avowed policy of regime change combined with the discretion to wage a unilateral attack on Iraq will inevitably lead to the indefinite occupation of Iraq by United States forces. Such an occupation will be expensive and will impose significant stress on our military forces that are already stabilizing Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, and other areas across the Globe.Moreover, governing Iraq is not one of the easiest tasks. It is a country with at least three major factions; the Kurds in the North, Sunni Muslims in the Center and Shiite Muslims in the South. The potential for disintegration along ethnic lines is significant. But once again, this Administration ignored the facts. When Vice President Cheney was asked on Face the Nation on March 16, 2002 if Americans are prepared for a long, costly and bloody battle, Cheney replied, Well, I dont think it is likely to unfold that way, The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but that they want to get rid of Saddam Hussein, and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that. This type of thinking led to a failure to plan effectively for the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq, seriously compromising our ability to succeed. The most glaring shortcoming was the lack of adequate American forces after Baghdad fell. Overall troop numbers were the result of decisions pushed by the Administrations political leadership, and principally Secretary Rumsfeld, rather than by the generals who had to fight this war. Insufficient numbers of troops prevented the United States from taking effective action to suppress the mayhem that engulfed large parts of Iraq after the fall of Saddam. Lack of forces meant that hundreds of gigantic ammunition dumps were left unguarded. These dumps quickly became the ammunition and explosives stockpiles for the emerging insurgency. Without adequate forces, we were unable to establish an overwhelming presence in critical areas of the country. The gaps in our coverage allowed the insurgents space to begin to organize.The shortage of American forces was compounded by the decision to abolish the Iraqi Army a decision pushed by the Bush Administrations political leadership. This step essentially foreclosed the future in the new Iraq for thousands of individuals with military training and gave them a reason to join the insurgency. It helped tilt the internal balance of force toward sectarian militias. And, in this regard, it favored the Kurds and Shia while sending ominous signals to the Sunni community which had been more integrated into the institutions of the old regime. In addition to disbanding the Iraqi army, the Coalition Provisional Authority, set up as the first interim government in Iraq, launched an aggressive de-Baathification process to purge civil society of former members of the Baath Party. This approach failed to recognize that for many, membership in the Baath Party was not ideological, but essentially economic. To get a job as a teacher or as a civil servant, membership was an advantage. The result of this policy was to deny thousands of teachers and other professionals the right to work at the very time the Coalition Provisional Authority was striving to return Iraq to productive enterprises. These policies significantly alienated the Sunni population, giving to them further justifications to resist our presence and to fuel the insurgency that confronts us today. The initial euphoria of the Iraqi people turned to frustration and growing resentment. Former regime elements, Islamic fundamentalists and international terrorists initiated an increasingly effective insurgency.We failed to quickly grasp the threat of this insurgency as it continued to grow. Rather, some attributed the violence to dead-enders and the specter of Saddam who was then still eluding our grasp. His capture was another moment of public euphoria, but that too quickly dissipated under an increasing tempo of violence. Instability and violence undercut necessary reconstruction, adding further frustration to the Iraqi people and raising more questions about our intentions and our competence. With no authentic Iraqi leaders, we were cast as occupiers, generating additional ill will among the population. Today, the insurgency continues unabated. Increasingly, the conflict has taken on a strongly sectarian cast, with Sunnis and Shia targeting each others clerics, mosques and shrines. The patience of the Shia appears to be weakening and the militias, which the occupation has failed to curb, appear ever more menacing. Iraq could soon be plunged into civil war. And that, we must recognize, could have the gravest consequences both for the countrys populace and for its neighbors, who might feel compelled to intervene to strengthen their own hand. The essence of counter-insurgency warfare is persuading the populace that their best hope is siding with their government and resisting the blandishments and intimidation of the insurgents. This objective is best achieved, not simply by exhortation, but by providing tangible evidence of improved security, enhanced economic opportunities and meaningful participation in the political process. Ultimately, these objectives can only be achieved by indigenous leadership, but the United States has a critical role in helping to craft this political and economic agenda. This requires significant resources to help push forward Iraqs political and economic transformation. Yet the actual resources we are devoting in this area through the Departments of State, Justice and Agriculture contrast starkly with the extraordinary military effort that we are undertaking. We should be employing the developmental assistance equivalent of shock and awe. But, on the ground, there are insufficient numbers of experts, both from civilian agencies and from civil affairs units of the military. For example, the State Department is now establishing Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) to help build governmental capacity. There are presently only three teams in the entire country. Clearly many more will be needed. Furthermore, the established teams are understaffed. The PRT in al Hillah has 112 proposed positions, but only 66 are filled. Tours of duty for civilian agencies vary in duration, from three months to one year, and are too often voluntary. This means frequent turnover and imprecise matching of the skills needed in the field. There is little evidence that the culture of civilian agencies can operate in an expeditionary fashion over the many years it will take to ensure that the progress of Iraq is irreversible. It is unconscionable that the Bush Administration neither had a plan in place nor could develop one to field the robust compliment of seasoned civilian professionals throughout Iraq required to sustain the success of military operations.We simply must develop that plan now.With respect to the reconstruction of the Iraqi infrastructure, the program has evolved in fits and starts based on the security situation. And a significant percentage of appropriated funds have been necessarily diverted to security costs and other overhead. The overall template has been altered several times to reflect experience, moving from large scale projects to smaller projects with more immediate impact. With this record, and despite the dedication of many Americans, I am certain we will need additional resources to succeed. Yet, proposals are being considered to terminate this reconstruction funding. A thorough and careful list of necessary projects must be made in the context of a detailed plan for reconstruction that recognizes the need to bolster the government of Iraq and provide further tools to undermine the insurgency. I am not aware of any such comprehensive effort. It is not unfair to say that the Administration has cut and run on Iraqs reconstruction. This is making it tougher for our armed forces to complete the mission we have tasked them: to stabilize Iraq.We are in danger of losing the struggle to improve the political and economic life of the Iraqis. We are in danger of again ceding the momentum to the insurgents. And if we are serious about efforts to support building democracies in the Middle Eastas the Bush Administration claims--then we should be investing in the social, political and economic institutions that are essential for the functioning of democracy throughout the region. Building democracy is about much more than holding elections.THE CHALLENGE OF DEMOCRACY IN THE MIDDLE EASTBut rather than investing sufficient resources based upon a realistic assessment of the situation, it is becoming more apparent that the Administrations strategic vision begins and ends with the presumption that democratic elections are the all purpose cure for whatever ails the world. Democracy is a powerful rallying cry. Americans, instinctively and rightly, are moved to bolster the efforts of free peoples who seek to govern themselves. This argument has a moral dimension and a pragmatic one. Mature democracies tend to be more stable and peaceful. Nevertheless, the rhetoric surrounding democratization policy obscures some extraordinary challenges in the case of Iraq and also presumes that circumstances in Iraq that might give rise to a democracy will be found or fashioned elsewhere in the region. Because the Bush Administration rests so much of its strategy on the transformative power of democracy, it is important to note both the power and limitations of spreading democracy.One should not dismiss the drive for democracy as being fatally flawed by the history and culture of Iraq. Democratic procedures and, in certain cases, its substance are taking hold in many areas of the world. Nevertheless, one would be very naïve to dismiss the history and culture of Iraq in predicting the timing and ultimate success of the democratic process. Experts point out that a successful democratic transition depends on more than the presence of favorable factors, such as relatively effective governmental bureaucracy, rule of law, sufficient per capita income, and literacy and citizen skills. The sequence in which these institutions and favorable factors develop is also critical. As political scientists Edward Mansfield of the University of Pennsylvania and Jack Snyder of Columbia note, Pushing countries too soon into competitive electoral politics not only risks stoking war, sectarianism and terrorism, but it also makes the future consolidation of democracy more difficult.There is a real danger that developments in Iraq are out-of-sequence. We created an electoral process while at the same time trying to fashion social, political and economic institutions that are essential for the functioning of a democracy. Political parties, a free press, property rights, a credible court system and much more were organized on the fly from the wreckage of the authoritarian Baathist system. Democratic development is more secure when elections follow from well established institutional and social structures rather than precede them. Assuming that a stable democracy can develop in Iraq, we need to ask whether this event can be imitated or exported throughout the region as the President repeatedly declares. If the predicate for such democratic expansion is the armed occupation of a particular country by the United States, as in Iraq, then this expansion is unlikely given the obvious political, military and economic constraints. If the predicate is spontaneous emulation of our current efforts, then the violence and instability in Iraq will retard such a development. If the predicate is the ability of the United States to offer compelling moral, economic and cultural incentives to both motivate mass opinion while at the same time persuading ruling elites to relinquish power, then we would need to invest significantly more in this effort while acknowledging that we begin with a huge deficit after Abu Ghraib and other incidents which have badly damaged our image in the Islamic world. Moreover, the presence of democratic procedures does not necessarily imply stability or the triumph of values that we endorse. History has shown that a democratic process does not invariably produce democratic regimes. Recent events in the Middle East underscore this point.In Lebanon, Hezbollah swept to victory in the southern part of the country in legislative elections. Hezbollah is classified as a terrorist organization by the United States. Its victory, as a former Administration official has written, strengthened its hand; it can continue to play in the political arena without handing over its guns.Egypt, under Mubarak, responded to pressure from the United States and the international community by adopting electoral reforms described by Mubarak as arising out of my full conviction of the need to consolidate efforts for more freedom and democracy. But, most observers see these reforms as cosmetic while the substance of democracy eludes Egypt. The most troubling example is the triumph of Hamas in the Palestinian Authority. The victory of Hamas in the first fully democratic parliamentary elections in the Palestinian Authority sent seismic shockwaves throughout the world. Hamas is a terrorist organization with both a significant political presence in the Palestinian Authority and an elaborate and effective network of social service agencies. We must insist that Hamas renounce its intent to destroy Israel and state its willingness to abide by existing international obligations. At this time, the fundamental question is whether engaging in democratic elections and winning the responsibilities of governance will have such a transforming effect on Hamas. The answer will come from the disparate actions of many people within Hamas and within the international community. CONCLUSIONThe Bush Administration is adept at developing slogans but not as skillful at developing, implementing and sustaining an effective strategy to confront the serious challenges facing the United States. Iraq today confounds the glib assertions that a swift military victory would lead to a peaceful democratic transformation that would and could be imitated throughout the Middle East. Iraq today is on the precipice of civil war. Such a conflict is not inevitable but it is all too real, and made so by the lack of planning, lack of resources and mismanagement of the Administration. There is a further danger that the sectarian violence raging within Iraq could spill over into the rest of the region as Sunnis and Shia revisit ancient animosities. If there comes a point where there is continued unrestrained violence between Sunni and Shia in Iraq, the United States may find itself in a position similar to Lebanon in early 1980s where protecting the force becomes the primary mission and our ability to influence political and economic reform drastically erodes. At that point, our presence in Iraq may become untenable and the choice to stay may no longer be ours.The regional consequences of this sectarian conflict would also be profound. Shia in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Lebanon and elsewhere could become restive. And we cannot rule out the possibility that Iran, which sees itself as a rising power and rightful hegemon in the region, might be tempted to meddle in the affairs of any number of countries. Today, Iran finds a sympathetic government of fellow Shia in Baghdad. It has seen the demise of the antagonistic Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Through democratic elections it has also seen the rise to power of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian Authority. And our current deployment in Iraq seriously inhibits our ability to respond to this growing threat. The possibility of turmoil in this most geopolitically sensitive part of the world is rising, and the potential impact on the United States and its security could be powerful.It is a stunning example of unintended consequences that the Bush Administrations policies have enhanced the position of Iran. And this turn of events undoubtedly has emboldened Iran to continue to pursue its nuclear ambitions, which threaten the region, Israel and the global non-proliferation regime. Iran must not be allowed to have the capacity to create nuclear material. The international community must work to eliminate their nuclear aspirations.As Iraq and the Middle East have consumed so much of our attention and concern, other dangers continue to fester. The North Koreans have abandoned any pretense of arms control and represent a continuing threat in the North Pacific. In addition, the North Koreans are constant proliferators willing to sell anything to anyone. And, still the threat of international terrorists plotting in places around the globe continues while the present debate over our port security underscores the vulnerabilities in our nations homeland security.The decision to conduct unilateral military operations in Iraq placed American military forces in the critical role of stabilizing Iraq. But, ultimately, the struggle for stability in Iraq must be fought and won by the people of Iraq and their security forces. We cannot rely on glib slogans like As the Iraqis stand up, well stand down. We must make it clear that our policy is to redeploy our forces as quickly as possible. Such redeployment is necessary to begin to address the significant strain on our land forces and to increase our strategic flexibility to confront other challenges. We must make it clear to the Iraqis that we will not wait for them. They must accelerate their efforts to constitute a government and to bring effective security forces on line. Iraq needs an effective and inclusive government with the capacity to protect and serve all its people without fear or favor. American troop levels will be determined by conditions on the ground, but the Iraqis must join us to shape these conditions. We cannot indefinitely remain hostage to their feuds and factions. As the Administration draws down our military forces, we should build up our civilian developmental assistance. And, we should challenge the international community to join us. These civilian efforts to encourage and strengthen representative government and to assist economic recovery in Iraq will take time and additional resources. But, a fragile Iraq that is unable to be integrated into the world community will remain a temptation for exploitation by terrorists or domination by renewed tyranny.The sloganeering of the Bush Administration on foreign policy inevitably led to false dichotomies. In the prelude to the war, the Bush Administration cast the decision as a stark choice between a unilateral attack or letting Saddam go unchecked. What was obscured was the possibility of multilateral diplomatic action to identify the presence of weapons of mass destruction and preclude their development. You will recall that the Administration had to essentially evict UN inspectors before they could conduct the attack. Now, the President argues an equally simplistic choice: stay the course or cut and run. The world and Iraq are more complicated than that. We need a policy that recognizes our military presence in Iraq is both enabling and disabling and it cannot be sustained indefinitely.We are engaged in a Long War that transcends the boundaries of any one country. It is a generational struggle that calls upon all of our national power, not just our military strength. It is a clash of ideas as well as armed forces. It demands a strategy grounded in a realistic assessment of threats, not ideological presumptions. It demands real and extensive resources, not just rhetoric. I believe that the United States can and must summon the vision to succeed in this struggle. And, I believe that we owe it to those who serve to do so.Thank you.-end-