Charles Krauthammer [op-ed, Oct. 30] said that Brent Scowcroft urged then-President George H.W. Bush not to march on Baghdad "after [Saddam] Hussein's defeat in the Persian Gulf War" and then advised the president to remain aloof while Hussein massacred Kurds and Shiites when they rose up against the dictator. For good measure, Krauthammer threw in that Gen. Scowcroft toasted the Chinese officials responsible for the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Gen. Scowcroft is a friend and colleague for whom I have great respect. I do not agree with much of the criticism he recently has leveled against the administration, but I do know what went on in the White House during the weeks in question because I was deputy secretary of state (James Baker was secretary) during that period.
None of the president's senior advisers advocated that U.S. forces follow their victory over Iraqi forces by "toppling Saddam Hussein." Thanks to President Bush's diplomacy, we had put together an alliance of many nations with the understanding that the military effort was to drive Iraq from Kuwait and nothing more. Further, we were operating under a U.N. resolution that authorized the liberation of Kuwait and nothing more. If we had "toppled" Hussein, we would have betrayed our allies and violated the U.N. resolution.
The same can be said for President Bush's decision not to intervene when Hussein massacred Kurds and Shiites shortly after the Gulf War. Krauthammer contends that the United States encouraged the uprising that led to the slaughter. I've never seen any evidence to support that charge. None of the president's senior advisers recommended that we should intervene militarily. Gen. Scowcroft may have been opposed to intervention, but he was by no means alone in that judgment.
And about that cheap shot regarding the toast in Beijing: I was with the general and joined in the toast. The president sent us to China shortly after Tiananmen Square to make clear the outrage of the president and the American people and to discuss the relationship between our countries with the Chinese leadership. As is normal practice, the Chinese gave a dinner for us and, again, as normal practice, toasts were exchanged. President Ronald Reagan joined the leaders of the "evil empire" in toasts, as did other presidents before him. To accuse Gen. Scowcroft of some awful crime is absurd.
Some of the general's recent statements deserve debate, but if Krauthammer is going to take on someone who has dedicated so much of his life to the service of his country, he should deal with facts.
-- Lawrence S. Eagleburger
Charles Krauthammer's failure to recognize the limits of the neoconservative "regime change" approach to foreign policy was made worse by his use of ridicule and sarcasm in describing the alternative "realist" approach. Surely each approach can serve our national interests, but each, if pursued without due regard to the insights of the other approach, can lead to disaster.
Why has Krauthammer not devoted more space to the potential downside of the regime-change approach? Is it insignificant that U.S. prestige in many countries has declined dramatically since our incursion into Iraq? Or:
* That in shattering the Saddam Hussein regime, we have lessened our national security by making Iraq a hothouse of Muslim terrorists and by antagonizing moderate Muslim opinion?
* That we open ourselves to charges of hypocrisy when we base a war on a rationale of regime change while cozying up to major dictatorships around the world?
* That in expending so many resources on regime change in Iraq we limit our ability to deal with Iran, North Korea and other threats?
* That in phrasing the war aims in idealistic terms well-suited to inflame American passions, neoconservatives make it hard for Americans to accept anything less than total victory in Iraq?
* That by reviving the moralistic bent of Americans on foreign policy, the neoconservatives are lessening the country's readiness to weigh the merits of balance-of-power requirements?
* Or that by investing so much in a war with uncertain outcomes, we run the danger, in the event of defeat, of turning Americans toward isolationism?
If Krauthammer recognized the possible merits of such "realist" questions, he would be taken more seriously outside neoconservative circles.
-- Jim Kirkman