September 22, 2003


The failure that is the war against terrorism: Dr. Ivan Eland is a senior fellow and director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute and an outspoken critic of the Bush administration's war on terrorism. Dr. Eland recently issued a report card for administration and gave it an F "for failing to achieve its stated goals in its 'war on terrorism.'" (Steven Martinovich, September 22, 2003, Enter Stage Right)

ESR: Some of your grades have raised eyebrows because in most cases they are quite low. For example, for "Avoiding a quagmire in Afghanistan" you grade the administration a "C-". Given the number of Afghan refugees returning to Afghanistan and the low number of military and civilian causalities, isn't that a little low?

IE: No, we still have thousands of troops there and we have recently increased aid in a redoubled effort to socially engineer a society that has been at war for more than two decades. It's not
a quagmire yet, but the U.S. military presence is a lightning rod for a resurgence of the Taliban. The U.S. should withdraw and let a Coalition of the Willing do the peacekeeping. the return of refugees and the lower casualty figures than Iraq do not mean that it is not a quagmire. I gave the administration a C- because it still has time to reverse course. It should declare victory, withdraw and put any future Afghan government that it supports al-Qaida at its own risk.

ESR: For "Making Iraq better off by eliminating Saddam Hussein" you gave an F. Why? Couldn't one make the argument that we're only a few months into a process of rebuilding Iraq
and that problems are bound to a happen. The reconstruction of Germany after the Second World War was no less difficult

IE: Iraq is not Germany (or Japan). Before the war, those nations were industrialized nations with educated work forces. They also had a sense of national unity and some prior experience with democracy. Iraq has none of those things.

The decimated Iraqi military was no threat to anyone after the first Gulf War. Yet subsequent U.S. policy has probably killed more Iraqis than the tyrant Saddam Hussein ever did. U.S.-led sanctions killed 500,000 children (this doesn't include adults or war victims) and Saddam's killing probably doesn't equal that total. [...]

ESR: Several commentators have built strong cases that the U.S.-backed embargo was not responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children yet in the press release
announcing your grades it states you have preliminary data that suggests that more children were killed by the embargo at 500 000 than the total number of Iraqis -- including Kurds and Shiites -- killed by Hussein. How did you come up with that number and how would you answer critics who would dismiss your findings?

IE: Well, I am only going by what international organizations state. If they can provide better data, then I review it. Arguments over statistics aside, the purpose of the embargo was to squeeze
the Iraqi population (these were the most comprehensive and universal sanctions in world history, not surgical sanctions aimed to target Saddam and the pillars of his regime) in order to get them to pressure Saddam's regime. When groups target civilians to get them to pressure their governments to change policy, we call that terrorism. But when we do it, we call it sanctions fighting the dictator. U.S. policymakers knew the history of sanctions. The regime will merely redirect any pain to the poorest members of the society. Madeleine Albright admitted that children would be hurt but said it was worth it to hurt Saddam. Bush continued Clinton/Albright's policy.

Regardless of the number of civilians killed, intentionally aiming to hurt civilians with sanctions for a political end is much like blowing them up with bombs. [...]

ESR: You also take the Bush administration to task for treating different rogue nations in a manner that will only encourage some of them. For example, you mention that the United States
attacked non-nuclear Iraq but has left nuclear North Korea and soon-to-be nuclear Iran alone. What would you recommend the administration do with North Korea and Iran?

IE: A grand settlement with North Korea: We give them a non-aggression pact, end sanctions and normalize relations (no aid) and they give up (not freeze) their nuclear and missile programs,
submit to intrusive verification to ensure that this happens, and end the exports of WMD materials and missiles overseas.

I would try to normalize relations with the current Iranian government and therefore cut the inducements to build nukes to keep the U.S. from invading.

The United States may have to accept that less-than-friendly nations will get nukes and other WMD. We accepted and sheltered China's nuclear program when radical Mao was in power. We have nuclear dominance with thousands of warheads and the best nuclear arsenal on the planet. Countries like Iran, North Korea or even Saddam's Iraq would, have at most, a few warheads and would be extremely unlikely to give them to terrorists (as our own CIA said about Iraq). With home addresses, these nations have no incentive to give expensive technology to sometimes erratic terrorist groups. If such rogue-state/terrorist group links were exposed, the rogue states would be in trouble. Rogue states can be deterred from attacking the United States with our massive nuclear arsenal.

One needn't quarrel with Mr. Eland's version of the facts of the War on Terror in order to find his ideas about how to should be fought (well, actually, how it should be not fought) rather silly. The problem for such analysts is that in order to discredit this war they have to delegitimize all of WWII also, which may be worth doing but will never be accepted by people in the United States.

If having troops in Afghanistan and reengineering their society is the test of whether it's a quagmire, then, as Mr. Martinovich correctly points out, Germany and Japan were quagmires.

If embargoing Japan, bombing Germany and Japan and even nuking Japan was acceptable, then how can embargoing Iraq have been wrong? Have we not long ago determined--in part as a function of our being a democracy--that civilian populations are legitimate targets?

Subsequent points are merely dubious as regards moral reasoning and responsible behavior. We do have a moral duty to remove tyrants like Saddam, especially when it can be done as easily as it was here and when, to take Mr. Eland's own assertions at face value, it can bring an end to such a deadly embargo. Our failure to act in most cases (Castro, Kim Jong-Il, Chirac) speaks ill, not well, of us.

However, he even goes so far as to say that the embargo should never have been started in the first place, even if it meant Saddam remained in power developing nuclear weapons, and that we should largely ignore the WMD programs of other tyrannical anti-Western regimes. He says we can afford to do this because of our capacity to control their behavior with the threat of our own nuclear weapons. But, if they aren't cowed into abandoning such programs when we rattle our nuclear saber, what rational belief can we have that they be afraid to use them, especially in warfare with their most ancient and viscerally hated foes. North Korea probably can't nuke us, but what about S. Korea? Pakistan isn't going to lob missiles at the U.S., but it's easy to imagine any number of scenarios where they get into an exchange with India. And if Saddam wasn't deterred from attacking Kuwait by his knowledge that we had nukes, why would he be deterred from using nukes in such a war? Not only that, but if we'd followed Mr. Eland's counsel and left him in power without even sanctions against him, then why wouldn't he be justified in seeing the Kuwait war as an excellent risk on his part? He stood to gain vast oil reserves and to lose hardly anything,--except some ourtdated Soviet weaponry which he'd then have been free to replace with newer equipment that the French and Germans would have eagerly sold him. Ditto North Korea--if the price you pay for developing nuclear weapons is that we lift sanctions and agree not to attack you, why not get your program going? In effect, he's trying to incentivize proliferation.

Mr. Eland seem to have a bizarre longing for the bad old days of the Cold War, when liberals placed their faith in the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction. It's worth remembering that no political leader ever despised that theory more than Ronald Reagan and that by refusing to accept it he ended that war, a war being fought against what was erroneously believed at the time to be a capable superpower. Rather than using the threat of nuclear retaliation as a deterrent today against these obviously rinky-dink tin-pot dictators, we should use actual nuclear strikes as the deterrent. Irradiate the North Korean nuclear facilities and let's see if Iran still goes ahead with its program.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 22, 2003 8:56 AM

I would try to normalize relations with the current Iranian government and therefore cut the inducements to build nukes to keep the U.S. from invading.

There's a lot of wackiness here, but this gives the game away. These people just can't imagine that the US is not at the center of all controversy. If we simply tell the Iranians and the NK's that we'll be nice from now on, that will assuage their fear and cause them to behave themselves. Hah.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 22, 2003 9:21 AM

Your list of evil dictators rightly listed Chirac, bu then left off the worst one of all- Chretien.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 22, 2003 9:46 AM

All very entertaining. Kind of like interviewing Charles L. Dodgson.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at September 22, 2003 10:02 AM

An old mentor of mine (and former Reagan advisor) used to lament that we had non-proliferation policy completely backwards. By pledging never to attack non-nuclear regimes with nuclear weapons, we were effectively neutering our most effective deterrent.

It used to alarm people when he said things like that. :)

Posted by: kevin whited at September 22, 2003 11:04 AM

Evil Canadian dictator just doesn't come trippingly off the tongue. I mean, he may be, but who'd know or care?

Posted by: David Cohen at September 22, 2003 11:11 AM

Only the Inuits

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2003 11:19 AM

There is one good point in there, which is that Iraq, unlike Japan or Germany, is a dysfunctional, non-cohesive society, with no industrial base to speak of.

Thus, re-building Iraq will be a greater challenge, because in fact, we'll be building what never existed.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 22, 2003 12:51 PM

That's been my view, and the more reason to subject as well as subjugate it.

When all they had was swords, you could ignore them. Mentally, all they have is swords now, but they do know how to throw switches, and they are very dangerous.

What, by the way, is the Independent Institute independent of?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 22, 2003 10:20 PM

Coherent thought.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at September 23, 2003 2:35 AM
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