"Bush League Diplomacy" is a comprehensive critique of the Bush administration's handling of international relations. Co-authors Craig R. Eisendrath and Melvin A. Goodman, both senior fellows at the Center for International Policy, discuss how U.S. foreign policy is abandoning diplomacy and relying on military force. The authors argue that a policy of bullying will sow seeds of resentment and mistrust among our potential allies and encourage nations hostile to our interests to seek nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction as a last-resort method of protecting themselves against a belligerent world power.
Melvin A. Goodman, senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, will be online Tuesday, April 6 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss his co-authored book, "Bush League Diplomacy."
Goodman is a former CIA official, a professor of international security at the National War College and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of several books on international relations, including "Gorbachev's Retreat: The Third World" and "The Wars of Eduard Shevardnadze."
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Melvin A. Goodman : Good morning. Craig Eisendrath and I wrote "Bush League Diplomacy" because of our opposition to the Bush national security policy over the past three years, which has weakened the US position around the world and walked away from fifty years of successful bipartisan foreign policy. Bipartisan policy enabled the Cold War to end peacefully, developed an arms control and disarmament policy to reduce nuclear stocks, and worked successfully with the international community, our allies, and the United Nations to reduce US risk around the world. The Bush administration has resorted to unilateralism, an over-reliance on force, opposition to arms control, and a policy of preemption to place the US in a cul-de-sac on many important issues. Eisendrath and I wanted to put these issues in front of the American public in order to widen the debate on the dangers of the neoconservative influence in the Bush administration. Now to your questions.
College Park, Md.:
How long will it take the US to re-build broken alliances and/or gain back trust with "peripheral" alliances (ie, countries like Chile which are given the hard sell on things like condemning Cuba, or otherwise Free Trade will become "stalled").
Melvin A. Goodman : Outstanding leadership and energetic diplomacy can reverse many of the dangerous policies of the Bush administration. It is unlikely that the current cast of characters can undertake such a change in directiion, but the task itself is not a difficult one.
Why isn't the 911 Commission asking questions about Bush pulling the FBI off investigating Saudi Arabian activities a year before 911? And Why did Bush order the evacuation of all Bin Laden family members and Saudis out of America, without questioning, days after 911?
washingtonpost.com: Transcript: Wednesday's 9/11 Commission Hearings (washingtonpost.com, March 24)
Melvin A. Goodman : We know virtually nothing about the decisionmaking that led to over 100 Saudi citizens leaving the US on 9/11 and 9/12, including over twenty members of the extended bin Laden family. They were not questioned by the FBI, and we do not know who made the final decision to allow them to leave so suddenly. We do know that the initiative came from the Saudi ambassador and we can assume that only the White House could have given the approval. SecState Powell denies that it was his decision, and Richard Clarke claimed to know nothing about the decision.
I think you are stretching your thesis too far when you suggest that the Bush administration is going to be responsible for provoking WMD development among hostile nations. Nations hostile to our interest, such as North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya (heck, the USSR and China) have pursued nuclear arms and other WMDs since long before the current Bush administration.
The difference that's been apparent during the Bush years is that some of these nations have been reducing or dismantling their weapons programs. People can certainly argue over whether Bush should get credit for that, but certainly the trend among WMD programs cuts against blaming him for proliferation, wouldn't you say?
Melvin A. Goodman : I blame the Bush administratiion for weakening the counter-proliferation policy of the Clinton administration as well as taking steps to lead other countries to pursue nuclear weapons. For example, the abrogation of the ABM treaty and the deployment of the national missile defense are directly opposed to any sane or rational counter-proliferation policy. Clinton was pursuing dialogue with Iran and North Korea over their nuclear programs; Bush is using threat and bluster, which is counter-productive.
Let me please ask you the same question I have posed to several others: was the war in Iraq less an intelligence failure (as most are claiming) and more a failure of those analyzing the intelligence? I ask, because it was my recollection that it was well understood that al Qaeda was not associated with, and indeed supported the overthrow of, Saddam Hussein. Further, while it was uncertain that Saddam Hussein still had weapons of mass destruction, there were some theories that he could be exaggerating his strength in an effort to keep Iran from invading. Thus, it was important that we give the weapons inspectors time to finish their work: something the Bush Administration decided not to wait for. Further, there was even a report from the Army War College claiming that it may have been Iran, rather than Saddam Hussein, behind some of the mass killings in Iraq. Finally, it has long been understood that an American presence in an Arab country would be met with resistance and likely would serve as an inducement for increased recruitment for terrorist organizations. Thus, my question: in your opinion, was the war in Iraq an intelligence failure or a failure of the White House to understand their own intelligence?
Melvin A. Goodman : The question is not an either/or question. Both the CIA and the White House are to blame for the decision to go to war, particularly the White House. First, the CIA politicized the intelligence, beginning with the phony October 2002 national intelligence estimate, and took a worst-case position on many key issues. Then the White House used misinformation and disinformation, some from the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, to distort all sensitive information. After all, how did a fabrication get into a State of the Union message (2003) to make the case for Iraq reconstituting its nuclear capability? There was no evidence to make such a case, but even the 2002 estimate referred to the possibility of Iraq obtaining uranium from western Africa. Shabby story all around.
This is somewhat perplexing. Shouldn't our allies have the same interests when it comes to fighting Islamic radicalism? Hasn't Europe already experienced terrorist attacks? What will it take for the Europeans to realize that this is a significant threat? They should be willing to send soldiers and spend money around the world because it is in their best interests to join the war on terrorism, irrespective of US policy. Yet, in Afgahnistan they are hedging on their promises on both troops and money.
Melvin A. Goodman : You are wrong about Europe. Of course, Europe understands the threat; they dealt with the threat in the 1980s rather succcessfully. But Europe understands that it takes law enforcement and intelligence to deal with terrorism, and that the invasion of Iraq was totally counter-productive. Let's face it: the French and Germans were right and the Bush administration was wrong. There is no European hedging in Afghanistan. NATO is there and NATO is engaged. After all, it was the US that took too long to get to Afghanistan in 2001 and even longer to put boots on the ground. The hedging all along was from the Pentagon when the Clinton administration wanted to consider more aggressive options. Please read Steve Coll's Ghost Wars on this issue, particularly the second half of the book.
The intelligence failure of 9/11 seems to be partly due to the fact that the Department of State, CIA and FBI were not sharing information, how can we make this happen?
Melvin A. Goodman : I assume you meant to say "how can we avoid this from happening?" We have made insufficient progress in getting key intelligence agencies, particularly CIA, NSA, FBI, and the Pentagon, to share intelligence information....and even less progress in establishing a central repository for all domestic and international intelligence on terrorism. The Department of Homeland Security has become a vast wasteland in this regard, and the FBI has made few improvements in genuinely analyzing key intelligence documents. There is still too much bureaucratic protection of parochial interests, and insufficent arbitration of key intelligence issues within the community.
I think you have deliberately overlooked the fact that the world today is NOT the world of the Cold WAR.
In the world today you have a UN General Assmebly composed mostly 3rd world countries who have nothing in common with European Countries. You have European Countries, who should know better, going down the route of appeasement of dictators or breaking international sanctions to do business with dictators. IN short you have an amoral Europe as embodied by France and Germany.
Negotiations with amoral nations are merely exercises in futility and the UN Security Council is the great symbol of that futility. The UN is a useless moribund insitution which like its predecessor the League can never bring about peace in the world as it will never be able to act with any forcifulness.
It is wrong for the US to feel any constraints with regards to the UN as the idea that the big 5 would reach agreement was an ided that died at birth. It is just that now the breach has become wider and more obvious.
There was never bipartisan foreign policy except during WOrld War II and its immediate aftermath. The Democrats have always been complaining about the defense budge and their desire to cut it, they have hobbled our intelligence agencies and done all in their power to cripple the US.
Your book is more of a political diatribe in support of pacifist Democrats coupled with an effort to inject your viewpoint into the election campaign. Hopefully people will not be fooled by some of the nonsense you have written.
Melvin A. Goodman : You are totally wrong about the UN. The UN was designed to allow the major powers to bring problems to an international forum to avoid confrontation between the powers. When key nations have done this, the UN has been successful (Africa, Southeast Asia, Middle East, etc.). When countries have been obstructionist, such as the former Soviet Union and China, there have been setbacks. And when the US has tried to go it alone and ignore the UN, there have been such disasters as the current situation in Iraq. I hope that you don't blame the weather man for the weather.
Winning a war doesn't necessarily mean destroying your opponents army. An army, or nation, can win a war by making their opponent feel that the fight wasn't worth getting into, pressuring them to ultimately quit. This happens at home first, then resonates to all other sectors, giving the opponent a winning edge. But what about monetary attrition? Can an unpopular war be won by an army who might be losing the popular vote, but be able to hold out longer than its opponent?
Melvin A. Goodman : Iraq was never about winning a war. It was about changing a government, installing a new government, and bringing stability to a country that has rarely experience genuine governance. The task is virtually an impossible one, which calls into question the decision to go to war (when US interests were not threatened)and the total lack of planning for the post-war situation.
Washington, D.C.: Dialogue with North Korea during the previous administration did nothing to prevent them from developing a nuclear weapons program. And Richard Clarke testified that we should have aggressively pursued terrorists in Afghanistan prior to 9/11. Based on this I have to conclude that aggressive tactics are necessary to prevent threats and attacks. The questions are: where are the threats? Was Iraq a threat? If you asked all of the intelligence agencies across the free world, the president and even congress, prior to attacking Iraq, they would have said yes. So don't you think the real problem is in our intelligence gathering?
Melvin A. Goodman : Iraq was not a threat to vital American interests. There were more serious challenges in North Korea, Iran, and Pakistan. Dialogue had some success with North Korea and promised additional success; diplomacy worked with Libya; coalition diplomacy could have some success with Iran; the greatest challenge is probably Pakistan.....but Iraq doesn't appear on any list of the top five security problems over the past five years. The war was simply misguided.
The government says 9-11 was an intelligence failure and now they say the Iraq Invasion was an intelligence failure too. Am I the only one who sees something suspicious here, do people really not care at all, or could they actually be frightened to question the actions of our government?
Today as we're preparing for Dr. Rice's testimony to the 9-11 commission, the generals in Iraq are considering options to increase troop strength, which I guess could include conscription of sons and daughters for the effort.
There's also some news about Iranian nuclear proliferation activity. They've promised to stop (but Saddam also agreed to inspections in August 2002).
washingtonpost.com: Rice to Face Questions on Clarke (Post, April 5)
Melvin A. Goodman : All legitimate concerns, except for conscription which we stopped due to the Vietnam experience. The key decisions at this juncture should not be made by generals; the key problems can only be dealt with by the civilian leadership of the Bush administration. Unfortunately, these individuals never had a plan or strategy for the post-war situation....and they still do not have a plan. Simply adding troops is not the answer, when the problems is getting stability (not democracy, but stability) in Iraq and arranging for an international (not solely US, but international) presence in Iraq.
Isn't it true that your book is more one of opinion than of fact? Therefore it is of limited merit.
Melvin A. Goodman : The book is crammed with facts. You simply don't like the facts. Why not take a look at it and then formulate a question based on a reading of the book....and not a reaction to the title.
Washington, D.C.: You did not finish answering a DC poster's question: "Why isn't the 911 Commission asking questions about Bush pulling the FBI off investigating Saudi Arabian activities a year before 911?" As follow up, what about pulling the FBI off investigating the bin Ladens themselves?
Melvin A. Goodman : I believe that I made it clear that there are many questions concerning the Saudi issue, including the departure of over 100 Saudi citizens within 24 hours after 9/11, and that of course the commission should investigate this issue. I would add that the redacted pages from the congressional inquiry (28 pages) all dealt with Saudi Arabia and the embarrassing links between the Bush and Saud families...and these pages should be released. See Craig Unger's new book on this story.
Cumberland, Md. forgets that the Democrats ran in
1960 on the need for a bigger defense budget after
the cutbacks of the Ike era had supposedly led to the
(non-existant) "Missile Gap."
My question: aren't you oversimplifying the amount
of effort the US needs to put into the crumbling
alliances? After all, Europeans from Germany to
Spain have found it relatively useful to run on anti-
American platforms to win elections. Isn't the real
catastrophe here the almost unilateral dismantling of
the Atlantic Alliance by the Bushies?
Melvin A. Goodman : I totally agree that the Bush administration, particularly Rumsfeld, have made a series of gratuitous comments about our European allies (remember "old Europe" vs "new Europe") and that SecState Powell has done a poor job of protecting the diplomatic equities of national security policy. This can be fixed but it will take genuine diplomacy to do so.
What general or specific steps should US policy makers take to restore our diplomatic credibility? To what extent do you think Bush's unilateral rampaging has damaged the diplomatic powers, and would, say possibly, a Kerry administration be able to do to repair this?
Melvin A. Goodman : The key step would be genuine consultation with our key allies in Europe and Asia on a variety of national security concerns, including the environment, and a genuine return to arms control and disarmament. We have walked away from the chemical and biological weapons ban and we have abrogated the ABM treaty without consultation. This is wrong...and I'm confident that Kerry is demonstrating interest in repairing this basic problem.
Washington, D.C.: Re: the US ignoring the UN. We did not get UN approval for the war in Kosovo either, so you can't blame Bush for doing the same thing Clinton did. If there had been weapons of mass destruction found we wouldn't be talking about diplomacy failures. This was an intelligence failure and the fault goes to every country that believed they had them. That includes many in the US and many across the world.
Melvin A. Goodman : The key failure belongs in the White House, which wanted to overthrow Saddam Hussein long before 9/11, and then used 9/11 as a pretext to invade the country. Only the United States and the British government (not the nation) believed that there was a clear and present danger. The rest of Europe disagreed....and of course we know they were right.
A central issue for the neoconservatives in their plans to overthrow Saddam Hussein seems to be the perceived need to protect and eliminate threats to Israel. Does not this type of one-sided thinking undermine broader American interests in the Middle East (and even beyond) when there is such a narrow policy focus?
Melvin A. Goodman : We did not go to war to benefit Israeli interests although the neocons did belive (Feith, Perle, Cheney, Libby, Wolfowitz) that Israel would benefit from such an invasion. Again, they were wrong...and we have additionally unleashed Sharon to pursue actions that are counter-productive in the same way that preemptive war is counter-productive.
Why is George Tenent who has proved to be totally incompetent as CIA chief still in office? Does he know too much and is the adminstration afraid of HIS book? Or do they really have some misguided loyalty or faith in him?
Melvin A. Goodman : The continued role of George Tenet at the CIA is a totally mystery. The intelligence failure of 9/11 should have brought his dismissal; the misuse of intelligence for the Iraq war should have brought demands for his firing. But no one has been removed for any of the incompetence over the past several years...not even the White House "outing" of a key CIA operative working on stopping the proliferation of WMD. This was real venality on the part of the White House....and Robert Novak, I might add.
When Dr. Howard Dean stated that he did not believe that capturing Saddan Hussein had made us any safer, the pols and American public were aghast. While it may have been poor timing, it appears he may have been correct. Do you think Hussein's capture has made the United States safer?
Melvin A. Goodman : Hussein's capture has meant nothing with regard to US security and safety. The problem is al Qaeda...the movement and not the organization. The movement is now international and because of the invasion of Iraq, the movement has one more country to operate in and one more sanctuary. Overall, just as Richard Clarke argues in his book, the invasion of Iraq has been a diversion from the battle against terrorism.
Congress has the power to declassify material over the White House's objections, so what not use it? I can't see how any of the Saudi pages could legitimatedly be classified, so why is Congress not acting?
Melvin A. Goodman : A puzzle to me as well. But I have never been impressed with the leadership of Bob Graham, when he ran the committee, nor with Jay Rockefeller, currently the minority leader. Clear lack of leadership and certainly no profiles in courage here.
Didn't the UN inspectors say that there were tons of unaccounted for chemicals in Iraq? If so, I don't think, as you say, it was just the US and UK who believed there were WMD that, at least, needed to be accounted for. You're right, however, that there was a difference in opinion on if their having WMD constituted a threat worth going to war for.
Melvin A. Goodman : There were key differences between the US and virtually everyone over the nuclear issue, the scope of chemical and biological weapons programs, and the issue of threat. The point of departure was October 2002 when the CIA could not be certain about any of the key issues regarding WMD then switched to a position of "high confidence" on all issues. Remember Hans Blix said about the US: "how could there be 100% certainty about the fact that Iraq had WMD, but 0% certainty about where the WMD was located!"
This probably isn't the appropriate place to ask this question but I'm concerned about the security of the Administrative and support people that come with the turn over of government at the end of June. It hardly seems fair to these people. Iraqi police are not ready and our soldiers shouldn't be held responsible when they find themselves suddenly repsonsible for 3,000 plus civil servants to protect.
Melvin A. Goodman : I believe it is unwise and perhaps immoral to return the governing of Iraq to the Iraqs in June. They are clearly not prepared and the prospects of bloody chaos are too likely at this particular point. But June 30 is a date dictated by American domestic politics and not international security.
Since its has been shown that US Intelligence was saying only that Iraq "May" have WMDs, but we have no direct evidence they do, and an only very suspect testimonity from known liars that the programs are continuing, I doubt its true that the rest of the world thought Iraq had WMDs in militarily siginificant quanties.
Melvin A. Goodman : I totally agree, with the exception that the CIA said with "high confidence" that the Iraqi programs were more robust in 2002 than prior to Desert Storm.
What depresses me most about the Bush Adminstration's foreign policy is its generally ineptness at reaching any of its own goals. In every single case I can think of the Bush Adminstration has pissed off foes and allies unnecessarily for no gain. One of the cardinal rules of diplomacy is not to piss anyone off unless you get something more valuable for it. An example, is withdrawing from several treaties that the Senate was never going to consider ratifying, which meant they had no effect on the USA at all.
What Bush did on Kyoto is a prime example, the Senate had voted against it, it was dead, dead dead. However, Bush choose to withdraw(which I not sure is legal anyway) from it, while the German Leader was in DC without warning the German Leader. Since the German leader got a big part of his support from the German Greens this was a slap in the face. WHY!!! I repeatedly ask why is the Bush Adminstration so inept at foreign policy?
Melvin A. Goodman : The key problem is one of arrogance and hubris among the neocons. Their view is that we won the Cold War and thus have a right to dictate our positions to the rest of the world. They have held this position since 1991 and seem unwilling to learn any lessons from the tragedy of the past year.
Redwood City, Calif.:
In November 2002 I watched George Tennant testify before a Senate Committee on the run up to war with Iraq. In his testimony before the Senate I heard him thrice state that with 98% certainty that Iraq did not have any weapons of mass destruction. Apparrently his assesment was accurate in November 2002, why are we blaiming the intelegince community now?
Melvin A. Goodman : It was Tenet who sanctioned and released an estimate that said there was a robust WMD program and it was Tenet who said that there was evidence of links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. So Tenet is part of the problem and not part of the solution. Also you misquote Tenet: he said that Iraq would only use the WMD if we invaded.
In response to a previous question you wrote: "when the US has tried to go it alone and ignore the UN, there have been such disasters as the current situation in Iraq."
Did the U.S. not "go it alone and ignore the UN" in Kosovo? Were you for or opposed to that intervention?
Also can you rightfully say we "went it alone" when troops from Britain, Spain, Denmark, Australia and 25 other nations joined us?
Melvin A. Goodman : The so-called coalition in Iraq is far less than what you indicate, with the troops from other nations do very little of the heavy lifting in Iraq...except for Britain and very few others. I support Kosovo because of the humanitarian nightmare that would have resulted if nothing was done.
So President Clinton is not to be blame? Bin Laden was surprised Bush is after him because Clinton did nothing.
Melvin A. Goodman : Of course, Clinton and Bush share responsibility. Clinton did nothing after the bombings of the US embassies in 1998...and Bush invaded Iraq, thus diverting attention and resources from the real enemy.
I commend you for mentioning Robert Novak's involvement in the Valerie Plame outing. It seems that most journalist believe that he deserves a pass just because he is a journalist.
Melvin A. Goodman : Novak is a polemicist...and hardly a journalist. So he is hiding weakly behind the rubric of free press.
On a lighter note - how did you come up with such a great title for your book?
Melvin A. Goodman : Actually, I made it a contest among my kids and my daughter in New York came up with Bush League Diplomacy....and an apt title it is.
My heart goes out to our troops in Iraq, especially
after the events of the last week. Seems like we're
there without any real help from any other country.
Was it necessary to take on Iraq, essentially by
ourselves? Could we have waited to build up a
coalition? Why didn't we wait? Considering that
there no WMD or links to Al Qaeda were found,
would we have ever gotten a coalition no matter
how long we waited?
Melvin A. Goodman : We could have gotten an international coalition to increase the pressure on Saddam Hussein. Force was never needed because Iraq was never a threat to the US, to Europe, or to Iraq's neighbors. This was an unnecessary use of force...and sad to say.
St. Louis, Mo.:
You might want to add the person who said the following to the list of liars.
"Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime ... He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation ... And now he is miscalculating America's response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction ... So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real."
Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Jan. 23. 2003
Melvin A. Goodman : Kerry was wrong!!
The Bush Asministration entered office wanting nothing to do with anything from the Clinton administration. If this mindset had not been in place and the present administration had been willing to address the Palestine/Israeli problem sooner is it likely that current anti-Americanism could have been avoided or even 9/11? I believe 9/11 was already planned and ready to be operational so possibly not. What if history is suspect but I believe it was plausible to consider that airplanes might have been thought of as some kind of weapon.
I think lives would have been lost but not as many by sending up fighters sooner to intercept some of those 9/11 planes. At least the alert should have been there for quicker response.
Melvin A. Goodman : Bush indeed wanted to reverse everything that had a Clinton stamp on it, particularly the role in the Arab-Israeli peace process, and we will be paying for that decision for a long time.
Near the beginning of the Bush
administration, the perception was that
Colin Powell was a voice of moderation in
the White House. Isn't this perhaps an
incorrect characterization given the
course of foreign policy of the past three
years? It was Powell who went before the
U.N. making arguments for war in Iraq
based on false data. I have not heard
him apologize for doing so.
Melvin A. Goodman : Powell was a moderate in the neocon group but that is praising with faint dam...Powell's speech was a low point in this history of the State Department, rivaling Stevenson's speech to the UN after the Bay of Pigs. Powell has never been willing to pursue those interests that would place him out of the bureaucratic mainstream and has not aggressively pursued key diplomatic interests of the United States. He has allowed arms control to atrophy, for example.
Is it not true that it was the Democrats who crippled the CIA and placed limits on the type of "double" agents they could hire? And by this fact when we really need such agents who could maybe have assassinated Bin Laden there were none to be had -- thanks to the Democrats.
Melvin A. Goodman : The Democrats were responsible for creating the CIA, DIA, and most elements of the intelligence community. CIA director John Deutch "scrubbed" the list of CIA assets because there were too many thugs and murderers on the list who were providing nothing to US security.
Ellicott City, Md.:
Do you see something in Bush's past that would account for his administrations tendencies to go it alone. Is this something that has been typical throughout his life?
Melvin A. Goodman : The key problem here is Bush's total lack of curiosity about the international community throughout his professional and personal life. He is virtually untraveled and unread about international matters, and cannot really step back and take his own analytical view of important international problems. We are paying for that oversight now.
Seoul, South Korea:
This may seem grossly oversimplified, but wouldn't negotiating with Sadr, or at least allowing him a voice for the people he represents be a much more peaceful solution than seeking his arrest? This path that we're presently on to take him into custody will undoubtedly cost many more American and Iraqi lives.
Also - we keep hearing about these 'insurgents,' but nobody really knows who they are. One can guess that many are simply angry young people after suffering a lifetime of war, dictatorship, sanctions and now this. Shouldn't there be some real campaign, by U.S. officials, to understand and connect with these people? It seems that it takes university students in the U.S. much less to be sent into riot-mode. (NCAA victories, NBA titles, etc.)
Thanks so much for taking the time.
washingtonpost.com: Sadr's Rise Prompts Fear of Civil War (Post, April 6)
Melvin A. Goodman : I too fear that the military solution to the insurgent and ethnic issues in Iraq will only create more insurgents and greater ethnic violence. The Pentagon should not be making these decisions. Bush needs to hold an executive committee meeting of the NSC (similar to the Cuban missile crisis) to get the best analysis from the key experts on the important issues. Unfortunately, the NSC currently has no genuine expertise on any of these issues; it is probably the weakest substantive NSC in the past forty years.
Long Beach, Calif.:
Greetings, Mr. Goodman, I've enjoyed your
previous chats, and thank you for coming back
to share your expertise!
I've read that Fallujah was a proud city that refused to put Saddam Hussein in
their daily prayers, which led to cruel treatment, yet they held firm. Shouldn't we
be trying to get them on our side, instead
of simply encircling the city with barbed wire? They sound like the citizens of Vicksburg, who after surrenduring to the
Union army on the Fourth of July, 1863 refused to celebrate the Fourth of July
in Vicksburg until 1944.
I can't help but envision a huge
amount of Iraqi civil disobedience this summer, with perhaps full civil war. What is your "vision" of Iraq around the 30th of June?
Melvin A. Goodman : The CIA experts on the ground in Iraq believe that the country is headed toward civil war. And remember that it was CIA expertise on the ground in Vietnam in the 60s that had the only accurate picture of the Vietnamese situation. Right now, I fear greater violence and the possibility of civil war is certainly a real one.
You are wrong about Clinton doing nothing after the Embassy bombings. He has often been ridiculed for bombing an aspirin factory but I am sure he was following the best advice form planners and intel professionals. For crying out loud people, Presidents don't fill out the target folders - intel and military professionals do.
Melvin A. Goodman : There was no real intelligence that identified the pharmaceutical plant with lethal weapons. The bombing of Khartoum was feckless and stupid, and Berger lied when he said it was based on the best intelligence that the US has ever collected. Sad page....and gave bin Laden the impression that we were indeed feckless.
I felt that Colin Powell still had his integrity and moderating influence on the Bush extremists until just before he gave the UN presentation selling the Iraq invasion. There was a palpable, noticable change in his character/personality/energy.
What happened? Do you know? Pressure? Events?
Melvin A. Goodman : Powell made his case in August 2002 to go to the UN and get international support for war. He did this over the protests of Cheney and Rumsfeld, but when he failed he made an attempt to remain a part of the team. The result was the phony speech to the UN in February 2003 that was written at CIA headquarters and has been totally eviscerated by David Kay's report of October 2003.
Was the administration actually sincere, mistaken or not, about the threat of WMDs; or was that the (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) reason they had to state publicly because regime change, a new oil supply, and setting up a beacon of democracy in the region just couldn't be sold?
Melvin A. Goodman : The WMD case was the lowest common denominator for war and required the misuse of intelligence and even the use of fabricated intelligence. The highest levels of the administration knew that the case was circumstantial but the decision to go to war came before the rationale for the war. A sad page in US diplomatic history and the worst intelligence scandal in our history.
I think we do forget, in regards to Iraq, that they DO have a history of use of chemical/biological WMDs -- look, for example, at the Iran-Iraq war, and the aftermath of Gulf War One on the Kurdish minorities. So the potential WAS still there obviously; I tend to think this was the administration's justification for the war, as stupid as that may sound.
Personally I do still think that Blix should have had far more time to work there before this war ever started. If not for Saddam's own stupidities, that past year would've been far different.
Melvin A. Goodman : You don't go to war because of potential this or that, or someone's notion about Iraqi developments. If there was an imminent threat and Saddam Hussein was a threat to his neighbors or to us, then perhaps a case could be made. But this case was tailored....see John LeCarre's Tailor of Panama.
It has occured to me that what we are seeing "structurally" is what happens when an inexperienced and weak President is surrounded by powerful and opinionated advisors: he is simply unable (lacks the wherewithal) to assert leadership or substantively mediate ideological/turf battles etc.
(Remember how GWB was sold to us in part based on the "gravitas" his team would provide?!;)
Does this make sense to you? Do you agree?
Melvin A. Goodman : I agree that Bush lacks the substantive background to make independent assessments of international problem areas, and that his advisors (particularly Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz and Libby) wanted this war to "correct" what happened in 1991. But Bush appointed this team and one would have to assume that the selections were made because there was a consensus that the results of Desert Storm had to be corrected in some fashion. I'm afraid that our time is up.....thank you some much for your excellent questions and your willingness to spend time on these important issues for all of us.