You are looking for a sound, logical reason for the policy behind the war.
I don’t care if it’s even sound. Or logical. I would regard it as good news if they’d thought about this at all, and arrived at a wrong conclusion. I’d be happy. The best explanation here is that they haven’t thought about what they are doing — either through lack of intelligence or lack of education, or they’ve never been out of Waco, Texas. I don’t know. I would think that anybody who has a passport and has traveled at all would understand the limits of unilateral action.
But we’re winning the war, so who cares if we didn’t get a U.N. endorsement? Won’t victory retroactively confer legitimacy on our policy, especially since, as you say, a brutal regime will rightly be toppled?
Bombs and bullets will win at the end of the day, but, believe me, when your actions are seen as legitimate, it makes a big difference to the morale of our guys in the foxhole, and it does a lot to spike the opposition. In Vietnam we had this situation where, rightly or wrongly, the North gained heart, they gained courage, from the fact that our action there was seen as illegitimate. And the same is true here in Iraq.
You’re not implying that a guerrilla war, akin to a war of liberation, will erupt in Iraq?
I doubt that we would see a lot of irregular opposition. If we were operating as we did in 1991, with Syria and Egypt alongside us, and a very broad international consensus, I think it would be a lot easier to handle the post- intervention occupation period, and all the rest of the problems we are going to have. So that’s the question of legitimacy.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright commented last year that if the U.S. invaded Iraq, it would own Iraq. She meant, I suspect, that the difficulty might not be in winning a war, but in maintaining a peace. The administration seems to publicly share this view — and has repeatedly said, in effect, “We’re outta here.”
I don’t understand the administration’s point here. I would think we will be in Iraq for a long time, and I don’t regard that as an unhappy development. We’ve been in Germany for 50-plus years, we’ve been in Korea for 50 years. That’s sort of what great powers do. This will be our first Middle East occupation, and probably not our last.
What about democracy in Iraq?
I would think that we can’t afford to test the theory that George W. Bush is more popular than Saddam Hussein. There is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein is not liked in Iraq. But the question we’ve put to Iraqis is, “Do you like him better than you like George Bush?” That sort of election we would lose.