Iraq: The Way Forward - Wesley Clark

Discussion in 'Politics' started by 2cents, Oct 4, 2006.

  1. whats changed? ah yeah, more bloodshed...

    ACKERMAN: Okay. Now let's move the circle a little wider. Let's talk about when you were had such a prominent position in Europe and how does that fit into the whole equation?

    CLARK: Well --

    ACKERMAN: Looking at the Europeans --

    CLARK: The Europeans -- first of all, the administration has been on quite a journey, I have to say, and I'm not sure that they can arrive back at the right destination or not. But we left -- when I was the Supreme Allied Commander, we had a quite shattering experience with the Europeans in Kosovo. Even though we succeeded, it was a very painful success and it left bad feelings on both sides of the Atlantic. It left the Europeans feeling like they didn't want to be dominated by the United States again, and it left the Americans feeling like they didn't want to be hobbled by these weak-willed pusillanimous Europeans. You know, instead of capitalizing on the success and being proud of the linkage between military force and diplomacy that forced Milosevic out of Kosovo and stopped the ethnic cleansing, preserved our activities in Bosnia. Instead, the Europeans went about, you know, trying to build an independent European security and defense identity. And as Secretary Rumsfeld said to me shortly after 9/11, we'll never allow anybody to tell us where we can and can't bomb again. So it was sort of a painful recognition that our interests weren't converging, and it was a decision by statesmen and leaders on both sides of the Atlantic that they didn't want to put forth the effort to make those interests converge. It was a fundamental mistake, in my view, on both sides of the Atlantic.

    So it was normal, then, that after 9/11 that we told the Europeans -- I remember one guy from the Pentagon explained it to me. He said, no, he said, we don't need NATO involved in Afghanistan or anywhere else. I mean, these countries that are members of NATO, they're begging us to get involved. So if they want to give us forces, we'll take the forces -- (inaudible). But you know, they're coming to our headquarters; we're going to tell them what to do and, you know, we'll coordinate with them; they can put a liaison officer there. But we're not going through all this political stuff with the Atlantic Council and everything.

    So that was the thinking. And now the administration, I think, is realizing, albeit a little bit late, that it would sure be nice if they had the consensus engine of NATO to be able to take the United States out of the blame line as a unilateralist on these issues in the Middle East. But it's not clear that we can move ourselves back in a position, or NATO as a whole will accept this responsibility.

    Even in Afghanistan, where we're trying to transfer our forces over there, there's been a lot of hemming and hawing about what those forces will do, where they'll be stationed, who will provide those forces, how many there will be, what their technology is, what their rules of engagement are.

    And so this is a very tough process, and the way the administration's gone about it has made it much tougher. I don't mean that to sound like a partisan attack; it wasn't. I wasn't partisan when I started out. It's just a difference of strategy and difference of viewpoints in the world.

    We desperately need -- the United States -- needs help from our allies in Europe to deal with the Middle East. It's too big a burden for the United States to handle not because we don't have a good military -- we got plenty of military, we have plenty of money -- it's too big diplomatically. We should have other people engaged with us with the same common objectives dealing with countries. It's not a matter of outsourcing our diplomacy; it's a matter of having a unified diplomacy. It's about diplomatic throw weight.

    When we're dealing with Iran, we need the diplomatic throw weight of a Western world put together with Russia and China, not three European countries that are operating on a franchise agreement with the United States. The United States needs to be directly involved in those negotiations. And you know, I would have argued that some kind of framework was required, and NATO was, at one point, that kind of framework.

    So I think we need our European friends involved. I think we need a framework to do it. And I hope it's not too late.

    ACKERMAN: All right. Another part of the puzzle here is we've just had the Quadrennial Defense Review.

    CLARK: But, Peter, Peter -- but before you take me there, can I just say one thing?

    I think where, you know, my view may differ from a lot of people who are viewed to be critics of the administration is they keep calling for -- put those -- we want more forces in. They think it's about forces. They think it's about, you know, if we could just get 500 more Germans into Iraq it would make a difference or 500 -- any German or 500 Frenchmen on the ground or something. That's not really -- it's not about substituting one battalion of theirs for one battalion of ours. It's not about the manpower. It's about the commitment of the governments and the engagement. It's not about the forces on the ground, in my view.

    ACKERMAN: So 50,000 more forces in Iraq wouldn't change the situation materially?

    CLARK: It might have at a critical time, but right now, you know, it's moving on. It's not now 50,000 forces that's required. It's the commitments of these other governments to help us seek a C-minus solution.

    ACKERMAN: How does our C-minus solution work its way through the Quadrennial Defense Review and our force structure for the next five years?

    CLARK: Well, I think -- as I -- of course, I didn't have any participation in writing the QDR and I don't know all the discussions that have gone behind. I'm only reading what has been released of the QDR.

    But I've never subscribed to the long war theory, this sort of 40-year war. If the best the United States can do as a national strategy is go against terrorists in the Islamic world, and the way we do it is by invading countries, that's a long war that'll never end and that we'll never succeed in. It's not the right strategic framework for thinking about the United States in the world. It's the wrong strategic framework.

    Yes, we have to protect ourselves against terrorism. We know how to do that. It is fundamentally a matter of ideas first and last. It's persuading people that we can get along and we don't have to solve these problems by force. It is secondarily a matter of law enforcement, information sharing and intelligence activities, cooperation between nations to head off the proponents of violence. And third and last, as a last resort only, it may involve military operations.

    But one thing I learned in my experience is that if you want to fight, you can usually get a fight. If you're looking for a fight with people you can get one, whether it's in a bar in Manhattan or, you know, Friday night after a high school football game in Little Rock. All you have to do is go up to people and shove them, insult them and punch them, and most people have about the same amount of courage, about the same amount of tolerance, and most people can swing a fist about the same way. And when it's all said and done, you haven't proved too much and you probably haven't changed the situation.

    So if we want to move toward a larger war against a group of people who have different religious convictions, that's certainly possible to stimulate and create such a war. I think it would be a tragic mistake. I think the right framework for us, and the framework that goes beyond the QDR, is the framework of how do you help this country move forward in a global economy.

    You know, we've taken for granted the base of the QDR and the base of U.S. deterrence, and our whole national strategy in the 20th century was founded on an American superpower economically. We were the largest steel-producing nation in the world in 1900. We were the superpower in 1900. And we had the largest integrated market. We had enormous inflows of foreign capital. We were generating it ourselves. We had incredible untouched resources. And for a century, we were unchallengable economically.

    You can see that that's not going, necessarily, to be the case in the 21st century, and it's already having profound impact on the demise of the U.S. manufacturing industry, the loss of economic security for middle-class Americans across much of the United States, the change in employment patterns. And these changes will be even more pronounced, starker and more consequential in the future.

    We have to come to terms with this. The rise of China and to a lesser extent India as economic superpowers threatens America's idea and conception of itself. It threatens how we view ourselves, how we express our values. It could change our freedom of action diplomatically. It will certainly drive how we take actions with friends and allies around the world. That's the right framework in which you should address these problems.
  2. So to have a Quadrennial Defense Review that says, okay, we're going to put some special forces here and we're going to be prepared to fight this long war against these terrorists, we're going to kill them everywhere we can find them, we're on the offensive, and then get ready because the next opponent's going to be China -- please, this is not serious strategic thought. This is budget gamesmanship.

    It's true the United States should have military capabilities, but it's not the military capabilities that drive the United States' foreign policy. I certainly hope not. And we shouldn't be in the process of naming potential adversaries and shaping their perceptions of their future threats and challenges in order to sustain our armed forces.

    We went through this very discussion in the early 1990s, when we had the 2 MRC situation and Colin Powell was then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and presenting these illustrative planning scenarios. And there were seven illustrative planning scenarios in 1991-92. Some of you may have worked on those. I was at Capstone and reading about them at the time.

    I got into the Pentagon, and the illustrative planning scenarios were rejected. People wanted real -- give us real scenarios, you know. Give us -- tell us the real force drivers here. So you know, we settled on two. We did a bottom-up review. We settled on Northeast Asia -- Korea -- and we settled on Southwest Asia -- Iraq.

    The United States armed forces spent the next 10 years getting ready to fight in Iraq. We wargamed it. We bought equipment for it. We prepared it. When I needed troops in Kosovo and I needed the attention of the military leadership for support in Kosovo, I had my military colleagues in the Pentagon telling me, well, you know, this is going to really impact our ability to go to war in Iraq.

    Yeah but, why -- we weren't planning to -- we didn't need to go to war in Iraq in 1998-99, but they were worried about it because that's the strategic framework we -- and now we went to war in Iraq. This is crazy.

    So please, let's don't make that mistake with China. (Laughter.) That would be very bad -- (chuckles, laughter) -- and it's totally unnecessary.

    I was in China in December, and I was talking to some people who are very closely connected to the Chinese leadership. And they were explaining to me -- they said, you know, China -- they said, for hundreds of years, China has been set upon by its neighbors. They have picked at pieces of China. They have taken pieces from us. And China must set this right, and China is once again a great nation, and we cannot be picked on by neighbors. So we do not mean the United States. We mean our near neighbors.

    They said, we have seen that the United States and Britain are good friends, and Britain gave the leadership to the United States. We want to be friends with the United States because you will give the leadership to China. (Scattered laughter.)

    Now that's the Chinese mind-set, at least one of them. They're not looking for us to fight a war against them. But there's no doubt that if you were a Chinese general and you were reading the press accounts of Pentagon planning for China and sizing your force to go to China, then you would not be doing your duty if you didn't say, well, gee, against that force, if they were going to go into China, what would I need in China?

    And I just don't want to see us get into one of these competitive 19th-century balance-of-power dreadnought competition conflicts. It's not necessary. We've got important work to do to keep the United States and our values and our ideals alive in a world that's changing every day.

    And the Quadrennial Defense Review, for all the value of periodically looking at this, has got to be placed in a proper context. It is a servant of the national strategy, not a driver of it. And if the national strategy is so set that it's out looking for adversaries -- after the long war, get ready for the next peer competitor -- then something's wrong with our national strategy.

    ACKERMAN: Well, this is a great way to end the first half hour. It's obviously provocative.

    We're going to open up to questions now, and if you could wait for a microphone. If you get --

    QUESTIONER: A for China --

    ACKERMAN: Would you stand up and as you stand up --

    QUESTIONER: Edward Luttwak, CSIS. You get an A for China.

    CLARK: Well, thank you.

    QUESTIONER: You get an A for everything else. You get an F for Iraqi politics -- (laughter) -- because the state of Iraqi political culture today and for about 120 years is that you, today, will be governor and warlord of Oklahoma because that's all you got. That's the state of Iraqi politics.

    For you to sit here and say they should be non-sectarian -- that is who they are, okay? I was in the Mosul area, okay? They didn't hear (inaudible). It's the question of the -- (inaudible) -- and the historians and the Turkmen. By the way, the Turkmen are both Shi'a and Sunni, so it's wonderfully non-sectarian. It is simply national.

    If you want to deal Iraqi politics, get a good consultant. Saddam Hussein is very in good excellent health and he's unemployed. (Laughter.)

    CLARK: Okay, well -- (laughs) -- Edward, you get a very fine mark for your compliments, but you get an F for my interpretation -- (laughter) -- for misinterpreting what I'm saying about Iraq.

    I'm not denying that Iraq is sectarian. I would never have gone in there. I would never have said that we can expect a sort of, you know, 1789-type American constitutional democracy to emerge from that. It's absolute -- it's wrong. But the truth is that the U.S. president has exacerbated the sectarian tendencies, which Saddam Hussein suppressed.

    The first thing we did when we got there was look for some source of authority and sense of bureaucracy -- (inaudible) -- we'd outlaw the Ba'athist Party and we picked the nearest guys we could find who had authority; it turned out they were clerics.

    My friends in the Middle East said, "Are you crazy? You know, we've been working against these people for decades! You've gone in an elevated them!" Said, "Everybody knows what these clerics are like." You know, "We have our faith. We believe in our faith. We're proud to be Islamic. But you know, we have to live in a modern world." And somehow this got off kilter in Iraq.

    But I'm not suggesting that you can -- I say C-minus solution for a reason on Iraq. I'm not saying we can end the sectarianism, but I think you can't keep an integral Iraqi state if you don't work to keep the Sunnis involved. And if you let the Sunnis slip away during this window and don't bring their critical mass into the government and into support of a political system, however sectarian it has become, what you'll have is the Sunnis -- the larger Sunni civilization that's on the periphery -- continuing to feed resources -- men, weapons, materiel, technology -- into the conflict and keeping it alive as a way of draining the sectarian influence of Shi'a Islam that's being manifested in Iraq.

    And so I call it a C-minus solution. I'm not saying you're going to get rid of the sectarianism in any way. I'm just saying that if you don't keep it contained inside a single political entity, it's going to be expressed in more open conflict for a long time.

  3. Is this a real interveiw?
  4. c'mon... this is from the cfr, not comedycentral...