Case for War
road to real stability in the Middle East,says Robert Kaufman, associate
professor of political science and unstinting advocate of military action
against terrorists and the states that support them, lies through
the creation, by American power, of a pro-democratic Iraq. Kaufman,
a lawyer and Columbia Ph.D. who has taught military tactics at the Naval
War College, says prompt and decisive action is morally and practically
necessary. If the United States hesitates or falters, he says, we embolden
our adversaries and increase the risk of another, even more calamitous,
terrorist attack. Vermont Quarterlys Kevin Foley sat down with Kaufman,
who delivered the College of Arts and Science Deans Lecture this
spring, to probe his interventionist take on foreign policy, discussing
topics ranging from terrorism to the case for waging war on Iraq to Americas
biggest future foreign policy challenge.
call the Cold War, which you have written about extensively, World War
III. Why do you call the war on terrorism World War IV?
it has a global dimension, its not just a war against those who
perpetrated the atrocities of September 11. Terrorism does not flourish
and have a global reach without states that foment and harbor terrorists.
The terrorists are surrogates for other states that also have fundamental
conflicts with us and are in the process of acquiring or have already
acquired weapons of mass destruction. Iran and Iraq lead the list.
are they of particular concern?
is less immediately dangerous, not because their leadership isnt
malevolent, but because Saddam is closer to acquiring nuclear weapons,
nerve gas, and anthrax. Saddams history also demonstrates that he
does not calculate by Western standards. This is a man who came to power
by the muzzle of a machine gun. This is a man who used poison gas to kill
thousands of his own people. This is a man who runs one of the most repressive
regimes in the world. This is a man who, when he invaded Arab Kuwait,
killed hundreds of thousands, perpetrating such atrocities that Kuwaitis
welcomed us as liberators. If Saddam has his way, I believe that the next
September 11 and there will be one will entail far more
horrific casualties because it may be perpetrated with weapons of mass
we are waging a war not only against terrorists, but the regimes that
harbor the terrorists, and the political culture that makes such terrorism
possible. This is a war for high stakes that entails multiple enemies,
will take a long time, and requires unremitting vigilance.
do you wage a campaign this massive?
its less massive than the Cold War and World War II. Although this
is global, this is a much less threatening war to the West than either
World War II or the war against Lenin and his progeny. We faced a much
more dangerous world in 1941 than we do today. We faced a more dangerous
world in 1961. We need not despair about the difficult task ahead.
we dont necessarily have to prepare, à la the Cold War, for
forty years and 100,000 American combat fatalities and untold trillions
thats contingent on other things. We are going to have to spend
trillions of dollars for a variety of reasons and its a small
price to pay. Consider this: Our defense budget right now as a percentage
of gross domestic product is right around 3 percent, less than what we
were spending at the time of Pearl Harbor. We should raise the defense
budget by $150 billion; Bushs increase of $48 billion is a good
start, but its not sufficient. If you increase the defense budget
by $150 billion, youre still spending less than 4 percent of the
GDP. Thats low by historical standards. If liberal John Kennedy
spent 8 percent on defense, we can afford 4 percent now.
we still cant act alone. Much of Europe and the Middle East seems
dubious at best of our stated intent to replace Saddam by
coalition warfare strategy: in my view, much of the talk of coalitions
now has been fundamentally miscast. What you want is a coalition to fit
the mission, you dont try to dictate the mission to fit the coalition.
Most effective coalitions require the willingness and capability to go
it alone. Compare, for example, the success of George Herbert Walker Bush
in building a coalition when the United States was prepared to go it alone
in the Gulf War with the total inability of the Clinton administration
to build a coalition to deal with Bosnia and Kosovo. The Clinton administration
only succeeded belatedly and half-heartedly when it jettisoned the policy
of letting agreement emerge, and decided to act alone. If the United States
is determined and resolved to act alone we wont have to.
You cannot take the opposition to American action against Iraq at face
Iraq? Most of the September 11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabiaour
putative ally. So shouldnt our first priority be a democratic Saudi
Arabia? Why do we have to go into Baghdad with guns blazing?
the spillover effect of an American demonstration of power that topples
Saddam will have reverberating effects throughout the entire Middle East.
A lot of people say that the Middle East political culture cannot support
democratization, but if you look at history you find that the most significant
changes usually occur after the profound shock of war. It took war to
break the American South; it took war to break Nazi Germany and Imperial
Japan. Japan and Germany werent going to become democratic and pro-Western
before we defeated the root cause of the conflict, the odious nature of
their leaders, their ideologies and their regimes.
an American presence in Iraq will challenge the Saudi propensity to play
a double game. On one hand, they want American support; on the other hand,
to buy off support for their regime, theyve exploited a fanatical
brand of Wahhabi Islam. They have also funded terrorists.
Bush got it right: You have to choose in this war. Youre either
for the civilized world, or youre with the terrorists. The reckoning
about non-military options?
tried deterrence with Saddam. We left him in power in the first place,
hoping that it would work. But we have found in ten years that it doesnt
work, and that it is also morally dubious. Sanctions have outlived their
course. They were useful to prevent Iraq from building their conventional
power, but they hurt the most vulnerable, innocent Iraqis. If there is
a military option to remove Saddam who is the source of the danger
to us and the oppression to Iraqis war is more prudential, moral,
and practical than continuing a sanctions policy that will break down,
and hurt the least deserving without getting at the root cause of the
danger. A strong response that is decisive will help to deter events such
as September 11 and dictators like Saddam Hussein. Not perfectly, because
deterrence is never perfect.
we will do if we take on Saddam is to say to the world, Weve
taken on the most dangerous person. We signal to other troublesome
states, Youre next, if you dont change your ways.
So if Saddam goes, Syria knows that their ability to continue sponsoring
terror is limited. The Syrians are certainly odious, but less dangerous
in the short term. If you get Saddam, lesser thugs will also go down.
talk about the Israel-Palestinian situation, which many say contributes
to terrorism and anti-Americanism in the Middle East.
is a tendency to say that every conflict is morally equivalent or, in
some aspects of the press, that we are supporting the oppressor. Thats
totally wrong in this case. If this isnt black and white as a moral
and geopolitical conflict, its close.
look at the history of the Arab-Israel dispute. Israel seeks security,
the Palestine Authority does not. Israel is the only stable, liberal democracy
in a desert of despotisims ranging from fanatical to merely brutal authoritarian
and corrupt. We are, in short, with our Israeli allies fighting the same
war against the same enemy. Appeasing the unappeasable Yasser Arafat at
democratic Israels expense is a moral and geopolitical catastrophe
in the making that threatens to snatch defeat from the jaws of total victory.
keep in mind the origins of the refugee camps. Its with the Arab
world, not Israel. In 1943, the Palestinian leadership siding with Hitler
during World War II rejected the Peel Commissions report for two
states. In 1947, Israel would have accepted a U.N. partition plan that
would have given the Palestinians a state. It was the Palestinians who
rejected it. The war of 1948 produced an equal number of refugees on both
sides, Jews fleeing from the Islamic world and Palestinian refugees. Israel
incorporated their refugees; the Arab world deliberately poisoned the
minds of a generation of Palestinians by perpetuating fanaticism and poverty.
So the refugee crisis is the product of the original Arab rejectionism
of the state of Israels right to exist. Lets also consider
the record since 1993, particularly September of 2000, when Yasser Arafat
rejected Ehud Baraks recklessly generous offer that would have given
the Palestinians a state on the West Bank and Gaza, a capital in East
Jerusalem, and would have made Israel indefensible.
you saying the broad consensus that the conflict must end with a political
route to two states is wrong?
dispute that there should be a Palestinian state, but the question of
timing and contours is critical. A Palestinian state should emerge when
you have a Palestinian leadership that is moderate enough to accept Israels
fundamental right to exist. That is not going to happen as long as you
have Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Liberation Authority, who in word
and deed are dedicated to destroying Israel. The psychology and conditions
for real peace in the Middle East will occur after victory, total victory,
to the war on terrorism. How do we know when weve won?
Or when were winning?
We are, to paraphrase Churchill, now at the end of the beginning. There are certain benchmarks and watersheds that will provide a clue to what stage of the war were in and how its going. The good news, there is a measurability to the threats posed by states that harbor and foment terrorists. We will have reached a major watershed that puts the war well on the path to its inevitable successful conclusion with the defeat and destruction of Saddam Hussein and the establishment of a pro-democratic Iraq. This will be, however, a long process. We will never eliminate terrorist threats. What we will do, however, the way the Europeans did it in the 1970s, is reduce terrorism to a police problem. Terrorism with a global reach ends, or is severely restrained, when the most dangerous regimes supporting it undergo fundamental transformations.