Weekly Schedule
  Message Boards
  Video Archive
Discussion Areas
  Home & Garden
  Post Magazine
  Food & Wine
  Books & Reading

  About Live Online
  About The Site
  Contact Us
  For Advertisers

Russia, France and Germany Call for Diplomatic Solution, (Post, Feb. 10, 2003)
Audio: World Reaction to Powell's Speech, (Post, Feb. 5, 2003)
Iraq: Full Coverage
Talk: World Message Boards
Live Online Transcripts Subscribe to washingtonpost.com e-mail newsletters
-- customized news, traffic, weather and more

Iraq: Alternatives to War
With Paul Kennedy
Yale Historian and Author

Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2003; 10 a.m. ET

In a joint declaration, France, Russia, Germany and Belgium state that in diplomatic efforts to disarm Iraq, war should be the considered a last resort. The countries also favor continuing U.N. weapons inspections and have denied Turkey NATO protection if in war, Iraq threatens to attack the Western alliance.

Paul Kennedy, Yale historian and author of "The Rise and Fall of Nations," will be online Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 10 a.m. ET, to talk about alternatives to war.

In a recent op-ed about Iraq, Kennedy wrote:
"The term "to Lilliput" someone may not appear in any dictionary, but its meaning is clear, deriving from one of the great adventure tales of all time. When Jonathan Swift's hapless hero, Gulliver, washes up on the shore of the island of Lilliput, he wakes to find his arms and legs bound by ropes, so that he is unable to rise. All he can do is look helplessly upward, seeing nothing but the sky." "I thought of Gulliver's fate this past weekend after being asked by well-meaning and worried acquaintances, "Is there any way to avoid war?" They all believe Saddam's regime is evil and cannot be ignored, and they all are deeply patriotic. But they worry that America is about to embark on a military crusade that may result in unintended consequences and are desperate to find a middle way between war and appeasement. I offer here what might be called "the Lilliputian solution," a graceless term, but to the point."

Kennedy is a J. Richardson Dilworth professor of history at Yale since 1983. He is also the author of the bestseller, "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers." He is an expert in military strategy, diplomacy and international relations. He has taught at the University of East Anglia in England and has authored and edited several books such as "Preparing for the Twenty-first Century." Recognized for his expertise, U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has asked him to co-direct a working group on the future of the United Nations for the 50th anniversary of the U.N. General Assembly.

The transcript follows.

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.

washingtonpost.com: Mr. Kennedy will be starting momentarily.

washingtonpost.com: Thanks for joining us Professor Kennedy. If our readers know of you, it is on the strength of your book, "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers." Before we get to readers' questions, maybe you could tell us about the thesis of your book and why it is relevant now.

Paul Kennedy: That book [1988] argued that all No one powers, no matter how successful at their zenith [via Rome, or mid-Victorian Britain] had a tendency to neglect or mismanage the economy that had brought them to prominence in the first place, AND a tendency to what I called "imperial overstretch", which is simply a code-word for taking on more than you can chew.

This becomes pertinent in today's world because, while the USA is undoubtedly the most powerful military nation in all of world history, we are getting ourselves committed in a sort of global crusade - not just Iraq, but Turkey, Kuwait, the Gulf States, central Asia, Egypt, the Philippines, Korea, and so on. I believe George Washington's democracy now has soldiers based in 40 other states.

At the same time, the management of our economy [I refer to the ballooning federal deficits] is such that large nos of Nobel Prize-winning economists are calling for change.

My article - which by the way was written as my monthly column for Tribune Media Services [formerly the Los Angeles Times syndicate] and published in yesterday's NEW HAVEN REGISTER among other places - is not directly about the "overstretch" thesis; but you can see it is asking whether we can't contain and ultimately get rid of Saddam without a military campaign that ignores the Security Council.

washingtonpost.com: You have written specifically about a 'Lilliputian' solution to the Iraq confrontation. Where could our readers find your article? And what is the gist of your argument?

Paul Kennedy: The gist of the argument is that there might be a middle way between appeasing Saddam/letting him continue his monkey tricks, or marching on Baghdad. It would take the form of a much more vigorous inspections regime than we have indulged in now - not just QUINTUPLING the number of arms inspectors, but putting in human-rights inspectors, food-supply and distribution teams, environmental inspectors, ALL of them highly trained from experiences in Cambodia, Namibia etc., all of them in UN jeeps and trucks, with UN drivers and an escort - 10,000 of them, perhaps, each with a HQ in Baghdad and regional offices, crisscrossing Iraq - and with the Iraq government categorically required to assist and warned that ANY infringement would be deemed non-compliance and thus war.

Saddam either agrees to this, and is tied down [i.e. like Gulliver by the people of Lilliput] or he refuses, and not just the UK and US but all the rest of the civilized world would be against him. Either way, he loses.

washingtonpost.com: Was the first Gulf War was justified in your view? If so, why? If not, why not?

Paul Kennedy: This is an easy one, at least for me. When Saddam invaded a fellow UN member state, he breached the UN Charter which Iraq [by its very entry into the UN] was bound to uphold; and that same Charter BINDS EVERY STATE to follow Security Council resolutions, in this case, to eject Iraq from Kuwait.

The problem this time is that we have a far murkier case - NOT trans-border aggression - and our friends in N. Korea are making it murkier still

Oslo, Norway: Its very disappointing to see that the French, Germans and Belgians are not supporting NATO. Does this mean NATO is falling apart or does it just mean there are three unreliable, ungrateful, unworthy members?

Paul Kennedy: This is my view is a very silly decision by the 3 powers. It is one thing to argue within the Security Council about different means of containing Saddam. It is quite another to veto a NATO resolution that has, as a possibility, the need to support one of its members [Turkey] in the event that it is attacked by a "mad dog" Iraq action.

If all parties in the Western alliance do not come to their senses, we are in danger of not only busting up NATO but also the UN Security Council

Boise, Idaho: I do not understand the polls that supposedly show that a majority of Americans support the war without the support of the United Nations.

I live in a VERY conservative state, and I know of very few people that support such a war without UN support.

Where on earth are these polls being taken?

Paul Kennedy: Well, it's true; I've been looking at thee polls for more than a year now - Harriss polls, Gallup Polls, the PIPA folks at the university of maryland, the latest Pew Foundation polls - all calibrated to take account of regional, gender, ethnic differences, and THE VAST MAJORITY of Americans polled support action against IRaq provided [a] we have Un sanction, and [b] we are not fighting alone.

When asked a follow-up question, would you agree to US action without {a] and [b], the percentage in favor drops dramatically, from about 75% to under 30%

Frederick, Md.: It seems to me that the Bush administration is overlooking a potentially key avenue of diplomacy -- the moderate government in Iran. That government seems to want -- and need -- closer ties to the West.

Do you see a plausible scenario where, given time, an improved Iran-U.S. relationship could accomplish the goal we say we are trying to achieve -- isolating and declawing Saddam?

Paul Kennedy: Interesting point. Quite a number of observers not that there are changes under way in Iran - the younger generation is patently unhappy with the ayatollahs, more moderate figures are emerging, Iran has the potential for democracy and would be an important future ally [like, say, Turkey]
Some of the Washington hawks would like us to take on Iran after we have finished off Iraq This seems foolish to me.

On the other hand, it takes two to party, and the Iran govt rally has to stop its support for Hamas etc

washingtonpost.com: The idea of stepping down from a war footing and allowing the U.N. to continue inspections, and indeed take a larger role in Iraq, presumes that Saddam Hussein would cooperate fully. In fact, Secretary of State Colin Powell believes Hussein has no intention of complying with the Security Council's demands. Wouldn't allowing the U.N. more time in Iraq simply allow Hussein more time to develop weapons of mass destruction?

Paul Kennedy: Well, no, it's more subtle than that [and if you can't get the article form Tribune Media services, or yesterday's NEW HAVEN REGISTER, my secretary monica.ward@yale.edu will attach a copy to you - tho I imagine this washingtonpost.com interactive service will also supply you with one.

The thrust of the argument follows my grandmother's motto that "there's more than one way to skin a cat". My assumption is that Saddam would refuse either the kennedy lan, or the now-looming German plan to put an awful lot of armed inspectors into Iraq, free to roam all over the place. If he refuses that motion, then we will move in militarily, in a big way, and have the entire Security Council on our side. If the cunning guy accepts, he won't know what will hit him - I am thinking of about 10,000 inspection teams, all in UN jeeps with a guard, setting up offices, talking with the locals, taking environmental test, distributing food, making economic recovery plans - this is why it's called the "lilleputian solution" - Saddam's regime will be tied up like Gulliver. If there is THEN any interference, the wor;ld community removexs him, de;egating the US to lead such an operation [the Un is now more and more delegating peace-enforcement missions, and identifying a lead power] Witness Australia's lead in the East Timor mission. Bear in mind that, to get democracy restored in Cambodia, the Un mission there had up to 30,000 blue helmets

Jonesboro, Ga.: Has there ever been a time when relationship was strained between France, Germany and the US as it is today? If yes, when. And how was it ameliorated.

Paul Kennedy: The relationship with France has always been a love-hate one - Roosevelt detested de Gaulle, for example, and the general got his own back in the 1960s by attacking the US over Vietnam, trying to weaken the US dollar. For cultural and historical reasons, we can always expect the French to be prickly and feel there is a need to restrain US hegemony. The German case is interesting - during all of the Cold war, West Germany felt bound to the US; now it doesn't feel that way, tho how much is Schroeder's personal background is hard to guess.

Blacksburg, Va.: If the US invades without a second UN resolution, what are the prospects that others will assist us in the inevitable, prolonged occupation of Iraq?

Paul Kennedy: Saddam has disobeyed no fewer than 17 Security Council resolutions, and is in violation of international law on that account since all members are bound to obey SC resolutions as a price of membership. So the hawks are right in saying we have justification to take action. The problem is that [a] the last resolution, 1441, said or implied that when the weapons inspectors reported, the SC would meet again, the presumption being that they would then make a decision about action, and [b] if the US ignores this, then we will have relatively few fellow UN members fighting with us - the Brits, Australians; we will acutely embarrass friendly Arab states; and there will be large and continuous protests in this country and abroad

Pembroke, Mass.: UN Resolution 1441 states that Iraq MUST disclose the past, current and methods used to dispose of and evidence (of disposal) of WMD. The inspections (under 1441) are not intended to 'find' what is hidden... rather they are to ensure compliance with what was disclosed.

Even if Iraq complies with the 'lillipution' method of inspections, they are still in material breach.

What do think the psychological effect this (lack of will on the part of the UN Security Council) will have on other nations (such as North Korea) who are developing WMD?

Paul Kennedy: This is a good point. What should the Security Council do with countries that are in breach of its resolutions - Turkey [on Cyprus], Israel [on Palestine], North Korea, and so on? Wisely, there is no automatic "trigger" for action, which means that the SC has to debate what it wants the Un to do.

Iraq has defied 17 SC resolutions, which calls the world body into disrepute. For me the question simply is, :"Is there any other way of pinning the guy down, much more thoroughly and comprehensively, until he realizes that the game is up - or do we have to go to war. I think the "lilleputian solution" is a last option, but honest folks will differ.

The lesson from the 1930s is that, when the League failed to take decisive action against aggression [Mancxhuria] it encouraged other revisionist states [Italy against Ethiopia, etc]

The embarrassment today is that North Korea HAS done all the nasty things we are trying to prove decisively that Saddam Hussein MIGHT HAVE [and probably has] done. But we are treating one violation as a military test, and handling the other by a rather pallid diplomacy

Tokyo, Japan: Pakistan, a country that has historically aided Al Qaeda, has made shipments of equipment critical the the construction of atomic weapons (a weapon of mass destruction that is in a class of its own) to North Korea. Yemen, another country that has aided Al Qaeda, has taken shipment of North KoreanTypo dong missiles capable of reaching Israel. Saudi Arabia has long been a hotbed of Al Qaeda activity. Syria holds huge stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. Egypt has used biological weapons during its campaign in Yemen several decades ago. Why is the Bush administration looking under every rock in Iraq to find terror links and evidence of weapons of mass destruction when such evidence abounds almost everywhere else in the region?

Paul Kennedy: I know. There's an inconsistency here that many Americans find truly puzzling.
Let me give you a further conundrum. We know Saddam has committed awful human-rights abuses. But the criminal Muslim-fanatical-minority government in the Sudan has probably managed to kill c two million of its own citizens [Christians and Animist tribesfolk] in the South over the past decades. Now that Khartoum has [nimbly] said that it will help to provide intelligence about el Qaeda, the US government is going to turn its back on all this. Go figure

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Don't you think the UN and the US have double standards when it comes to applying the UN resolutions to different countries, especially when it comes to Israel? Or when the US, for instance, speaks "democracy" in countries such as Afghanistan while supporting other dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia's?

Paul Kennedy: Yes, there are double standards being applied. Now, we know that most great statesmen in History had to compromise Churchill found it pretty repugnant to be allied to Uncle Joe, for example, especially near the end of WW2

But perhaps the problem is intensified today because [a] we get much more information about what nasty things are being down in OTHER parts of the world, through Amnesty International, the UN Human Rights Commission than hitherto, and [b] over the past few decades, US administrations have had a tendency to make broad high-principle declarations about eg democracy, and then not follow through

Reston, Va.: What is your assessment Dr. Kennedy of President Bush's claim that the possibility exists that Weapons of Mass Destruction in Saddam Hussein's possesion could fall into the hands of terrorists who could threaten the US?

Paul Kennedy: I think it's remote right now, but it wio\ll be even remoter if we intensify our inspections teams. Still, we can't dismiss this as a possibility. The question is how to handle it efficaciously.

New York, NY: Saddam has been known to use human shields before. A 10,000 strong inspections force would be a wonderful target for him, and compelling deterrent to the rest of the world to engage in a battle that would likely result in the deaths of many of those. Can we really risk that? How could we evacuate such a force if it became clear he was not going to cooperate? What is the contingency here? If we really want a force that will protect the inspectors, doesn't it need to be far greater in size to really offer full protections? Finally, isn't it important to note that such UN campaigns are only successful when the government in power actually is cooperating? Saddam has never shown anything to engender that kind of trust. - ranjan

Paul Kennedy: This is an important point. Bear in mind that I don't think he would ACCEPT a 'lilleputian" inspection regime of the intensity I am suggesting [and that the chief benefit of my idea is simply to get the rest of the world on our side BECAUSE HE REFUSED THE RESOLUTION].

But if he did accept, we know there is a risk, and that the inspection teams would have be be robustly equipped. If he took hostages. of course, that would be the end of him. To any Russian, "hostage" equals "Chechnyan bandits" - we'd have 10,000 Russian parartroops joining the US-led punitive force within a week.

Evanston, Ill.: I have two questions:

1. Given the relative ease with which chemical and biological weapons can be produced, and the numerous attempts to do so by shadowy terrorist organizations from Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh to Aum Shinrikyo, what will an invasion of Iraq solve? It seems that Saddam is an easy target in a larger, mush more complicated problem -- one that we cannot solve with our conventional military forces.

2. It seems that the Bush administration is not willing to take great military risks -- e.g. the battle in Tora Bora, Afghanistan. Why would they risk a chemical or biological attack against our troops or allies (esp. Israel and Saudi Arabia)? Or do they really believe that Iraq has the means to do so?

Paul Kennedy: I'm not a technical expert here, but this is the worry of those who are - bio weapons in particular are really hard to detect. And many Israelis seriously fear that if the US attacks Iraq, saddam will launch weapons on jerusalem - the call it the Samson Option...

Malvern, Pa.: How might Saddam Hussein be alternately removed from power? How does the Arab world perceive Saddam Hussein? How might Hussein's removal impact them?

Paul Kennedy: well. either [a] we go and forcibly remove him or destroy him with missiles, or [b] the saudis come up with a last-minute offer of safe conduct and exile, with immunity, or [c] we try some kind of impending German plan or a littleputian plan which sufficiently constrains him that the Iraqi civic society has a chance to breathe more freely, to request UN-monitored elections, and then he's out.

Option [a] is virtually the only one being dangled before the American people - but its is the one that will give friendly Arab governments the most trouble, because some of their own populations will riot.

Arlington, Va.: If Saddam did agree to the massive inspections, how long would it take to prepare? And should we give Saddam that much longer?

Paul Kennedy: a good practical question. My guess is not too long. Altho we complain about the UN's record in eg Bosnia, Rwanda, in fact the DPKO [Dept of Peace-Keeping Operations] has built up a considerable experience of large-scale missions in other parts of the world; has a roster of states that have prepositioned inspectors, police, armed guards, jeeps, supplies.

When I was co-director of the team that wrote the Yale-Ford foundation report [1995] on the long-term future of the UN, we recommended that there be a no f fully-equipped bases in different parts of the world that the Security Council could call upon rather than a mad scramble for volunteer contingents. Whatever Saddam's fate, we should return to that idea.

Alexandria, Va.: Dr. Kennedy, your plan of action is intriguing but ultimately would still have to be presented to and passed by the UN in order to be implemented. Do you really believe that the members of the UN who have thus far engaged in foot-dragging and intercession would accede to this invasion force (since that IS what it amounts to, just not of a military nature) as opposed to the current plan/threat? I think the underlying objective that opponents to Bush's plan have in mind is based more in "keep them out of Iraq, period" than any desire to just not see WAR.

Paul Kennedy: well, I don't think my plan will fly - it's too bold, perhaps too complex - but i a few days time the SC may indeed be facing a German resolution which imitates the "lilleputian " solution in many way. Since it will be the "foot-draggers" who propose it [France, Russia, Germany] they will either have to step up to the table and show how it is going to enforced [by themselves in the lead], or expose a cynical hypocrisy.

Perhaps the other question to ask is - should there be proposals for a much more robust and extensive control regime, will the US be THE FOOT-DRAGGER?


Thanks for all the comments - I enjoyed them, and I apologize to those I didn't have time to respond to. I have to go and teach now.

We live in momentous and worrying times; I would encourage all who have the interest in foreign and national affairs that you have to keep a diary, or paper clippings, or a note of your thoughts abut all this. You may enjoy showing them to your children and grandchildren in the years to come.

With good wishes to all

Paul kennedy

© Copyright 2003 The Washington Post Company