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Wider War Watch: June / July 2002

Commentary - 15 July 2002
The New Bush Doctrine
Richard Falk. The Nation, 15 July 2002.

[excerpt]   This new approach repudiates the core idea of the United Nations Charter (reinforced by decisions of the World Court in The Hague), which prohibits any use of international force that is not undertaken in self-defense after the occurrence of an armed attack across an international boundary or pursuant to a decision by the UN Security Council. Back in 1956, when the American commitment to this Charter effort to limit the discretion of states to the extent possible was still strong, the US government surprised its allies and adversaries by opposing the Suez war of Britain, France and Israel because it was a nondefensive use of force against Egypt...
Pre-emption, in contrast, validates striking first--not in a crisis, as was done by Israel with plausible, if not entirely convincing, justification in the 1967 war, when enemy Arab troops were massing on its borders after dismissing the UN war-preventing presence, but on the basis of shadowy intentions, alleged potential links to terrorist groups, supposed plans and projects to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and anticipations of possible future dangers. It is a doctrine without limits, without accountability to the UN or international law, without any dependence on a collective judgment of responsible governments and, what is worse, without any convincing demonstration of practical necessity.
Bush misleadingly assured the graduating cadets [ Remarks by the President at 2002 Graduation Exercise of the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York ] that "America has no empire to extend or utopia to establish," and then went on to describe precisely such undertakings. The President mentioned that past rivalries among states arose because of their efforts to compete with one another, but insisted that the future will be different because of American military superiority: "America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge, thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace." The ambition here is breathtaking and imperial--nothing less than to remind all states that the era of self-help security is essentially over, that America is the global gendarme, and that other states should devote their energies to economic and peaceful pursuits, leaving overall security in Washington's hands. One can only wonder at the reaction of foreign ministries around the world, say in Paris or Beijing, when confronted by this language, which dramatically diminishes traditional sovereign rights, as well as by the reinforcing moves to scrap the ABM treaty, to build a missile defense shield and to plan for the weaponization of space.
What is needed is new thinking that sees the United States as part of a global community that is seeking appropriate ways to restore security and confidence, but builds on existing frameworks of legal restraints and works toward a more robust UN, while not claiming for itself an imperial role to make up the rules of world politics as it goes along.

News - 05 July 2002
"U.S. plan for Iraq is said to include attack on 3 sides: preliminary document envisions tens of thousands of troops"
Eric Schmitt. The New York Times, 05 July 2002.

[excerpt]  An alternative plan, championed by retired Gen. Wayne A. Downing of the Army, calls for conquering Iraq with a combination of airstrikes and special operations attacks in coordination with indigenous fighters, similar to the campaign in Afghanistan. Relying solely on that approach appears to have been ruled out. General Downing resigned last week as Mr. Bush's chief advisor on counterterrorism, reportedly frustrated by the administration's tough talk against Iraq but lack of action.
Any mention of using bases in Saudi Arabia, from which the United States staged the bulk of the airstrikes in the gulf war, is conspicuously missing from the document, said an official familiar with the briefing slides. Senior Air Force officials have expressed mounting frustration with restrictions the Saudis have placed on American operations, and the Central Command is developing an alternate command center at the sprawling Udeid base in Qatar...

Commentary - 03 July 2002
Bush Raises the Stakes in Iraq
Charles Knight. Global Beat Syndicate and Foreign Policy in Focus, 03 July 2002.

[excerpt]  ...with its declarations of regime change and now "first strike," the Bush administration is undermining the logic of deterrence--previously used to make weapons of mass destruction unthinkable in wartime due to certain retaliation--and making the use of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction all the more likely.
Charles A. Duelfer, former deputy executive chairman of the UN Special Commission on Iraq, testified before Congress earlier this year about his candid discussions with high-ranking military officers in Iraq. These officers confirmed that the threat of U.S. retaliation successfully deterred Iraq from using chemical weapons during the 1991 Gulf War. They also said they would have used their chemical weapons had American-led forces marched on to Baghdad. In the war's aftermath, the Iraqi leadership concluded that possessing these weapons had deterred the United States and its allies from overthrowing Saddam Hussein.
But the logic behind the U.S. policy declarations of regime change and first strike could inadvertently lead to the use of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq well before American troops get near Baghdad. Knowing that the United States will make a preemptive strike to degrade its stores of chemical weapons, Iraq will face the classic "use them or lose them" dilemma. And if U.S. troops invade Baghdad, we can expect a desperate moment when Saddam Hussein himself will feel that he has very little left to lose. At that point, America will have lost its power to deter. Combine the planning for a first strike against Iraq with the stated intention of overthrowing the Iraqi regime, and the Bush administration has basically discarded the stabilizing logic of deterrence. Current U.S. declarations against Iraq, combined with President Bush's West Point speech outlining his first-strike policy, will make the use of weapons of mass destruction very likely, and even necessary, from the Iraqi perspective.

News - 01 July 2002
"Al Qaeda-Hezbollah link seen; cooperation called threat to US"
Dana Priest and Douglas Farah. The Washington Post, 01 July 2002.

[excerpt]  The Lebanon-based Hezbollah organization, one of the world's most formidable militant groups, is increasingly teaming up with Al Qaeda on logistics and training for terrorist operations, according to US and European intelligence officials and terrorism specialists. The new cooperation, which is ad hoc and tactical and involves mid- and low-level operatives, mutes years of rivalry between Hezbollah, which draws its support primarily from Shiite Muslims, and Al Qaeda, which is predominantly Sunni. It includes coordination on explosives and tactics training, money laundering, weapons smuggling, and acquiring forged documents, according to knowledgeable sources.
Although cooperation between Al Qaeda and Hezbollah may have been going on at some level for years, the US war against Al Qaeda has hastened and deepened the relationship. US officials believe that after Al Qaeda was driven from Afghanistan, leader Osama bin Laden sanctioned his operatives to ally themselves with Islamic-based groups, said a senior administration official with access to daily intelligence reports.

News Analysis - 30 June 2002
"We'll Strike First: under the emerging Bush doctrine, the US could launch preemptive attacks against suspect nations at will, and in so doing override half a century of international accords"
Robert Schlesinger. The Boston Globe, 30 June 2002.

[excerpt]  The concept of preemptive action against an imminent threat is not new. It dates back at least as far as the mid-19th century when British troops attacked and sank an American ship that was aiding Canadian rebels. Israel has employed preemptive action on several occasions, starting the 1967 war against its Arab neighbors, bombing an Iraqi nuclear facility in 1981 to prevent that country from developing nuclear weapons, and invading Lebanon in 1982. "There's a reason Israel does it, and nobody else does," Williams warned. "They've had very mixed results." But there is a significant difference between Israel and the world's lone remaining superpower, and between using preemption as an occasional tool or as a major component of stated policy. International specialists say one major problem is the new doctrine's potential to undermine the concept of national sovereignty, which has usually served to restrain countries from acting or meddling in the internal affairs of other states, and instead to respect the concept of boundaries. "Most nations feel that boundary is an important one, because if sheer military power allows any country to override the legal territorial sovereignty of national governments, then you've put at risk the basic ordering of international politics," said Stephen Cimbala, a professor of political science at Penn State University. "Sovereignty's a valid legal principle to continue to uphold, and we should uphold that principle even while making an exception."
Several scholars saw the roots of this kind of preemptive action in the US military intervention into Kosovo under the Clinton administration - action that was taken without UN approval and in apparent contravention of international laws. "Everyone decided it was illegal to have an air war in Kosovo, but it was the right thing," Williams said. Foreign relations specialists said great danger lies in the United States taking similar actions without broad international support. "Preemptive strikes, without some sort of legitimating theory behind them, go against the fundamental precept of the 20th century, which is that there were limits on the use of force," said Esther Brimmer, director of research for the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. What if, some specialists said, China cited the policy to attack Taiwan? Or India used it as a basis for an attack against Pakistan?

News Analysis - 25 June 2002
"A shift from mediation to a focus on terrorism"
John Donnelly. The Boston Globe, 25 June 2002.

[excerpt]  The United States yesterday abandoned its historic role as mediator in the Middle East - at least for now. In calling on the Palestinians to elect a new leader to replace Yasser Arafat, President Bush chose to see the conflict as another battlefield in the war on terrorism that could not be solved by diplomacy. And Bush sided squarely with Israel in what he called its fight against terror. The call for a new regime echoes Bush's insistence on the ouster of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, whom Bush wants out by any means. In essentially declaring Arafat a barrier to peace, Bush raised concerns among some analysts that the United States would actively work to change regimes as a way to resolve disputes in the Arab world. Many Middle East analysts had expected the long-awaited address to offer at least minor concessions to the Palestinians. Instead, Bush's speech fueled an intensified public perception in the Arab world that the US government was anti-Arab, analysts said yesterday.
By making the demands for new Palestinian leadership, Bush also effectively froze US diplomacy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, another key victory for hardliners, who now see the administration becoming an observer, not an active mediator. "It absolutely eliminates diplomacy," said a second senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "There was nothing in it for the Palestinians. With diplomacy, you've got to give something to both sides. And there's nothing to find in there for Palestinian leadership."

News - 16 June 2002
"CIA Gets More Tools to Oust Iraqi Leader"
Bob Woodward. The Washington Post, 16 June 2002.

[excerpt]  President Bush early this year signed an intelligence order directing the CIA to undertake a comprehensive, covert program to topple Saddam Hussein, including authority to use lethal force to capture the Iraqi president, according to informed sources. The presidential order, an expansion of a previous presidential finding designed to oust Hussein, directs the CIA to use all available tools, including:
  • Increased support to Iraqi opposition groups and forces inside and outside Iraq including money, weapons, equipment, training and intelligence information.
  • Expanded efforts to collect intelligence within the Iraqi government, military, security service and overall population where pockets of intense anti-Hussein sentiment have been detected.
  • Possible use of CIA and U.S. Special Forces teams, similar to those that have been successfully deployed in Afghanistan since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Such forces would be authorized to kill Hussein if they were acting in self-defense.
The administration has already allocated tens of millions of dollars to the covert program. Nonetheless, CIA Director George J. Tenet has told Bush and his war cabinet that the CIA effort alone, without companion military action, economic and diplomatic pressure, probably has only about a 10 to 20 percent chance of succeeding, the sources said. One source said that the CIA covert action should be viewed largely as "preparatory" to a military strike so the agency can identify targets, intensify intelligence gathering on the ground in Iraq, and build relations with alternative future leaders and groups if Hussein is ousted.
The CIA is still operating in Afghanistan, and Bush has authorized covert action to disrupt, capture or destroy terrorists in as many as 80 countries. Worldwide terrorist targets go well beyond Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network and include the Iranian-supported Hezbollah terrorist organization and other terrorist groups. A highly classified worldwide attack matrix describes the levels of CIA covert action in these countries, including propaganda operations, support for internal police and foreign intelligence services, and lethal covert action against terrorist groups or individuals.

Commentary - 16 June 2002
Why a First Strike Will Surely Backfire
William A. Galston. Washington Post, 16 June 2002.

[excerpt]  ...hardly anyone in either party is debating the long-term diplomatic consequences of a move against Iraq that is opposed by many of our staunchest friends. Fewer still have raised the most fundamental point: A global strategy based on the new Bush doctrine means the end of the system of international institutions, laws and norms that the United States has worked for more than half a century to build. What is at stake is nothing less than a fundamental shift in America's place in the world. Rather than continuing to serve as first among equals in the postwar international system, the United States would act as a law unto itself, creating new rules of international engagement without agreement by other nations.
The broader structure of international law creates additional obstacles to an invasion of Iraq. To be sure, international law contains a doctrine of "anticipatory self-defense." But even construed broadly, that concept would still be too narrow to support an attack: The threat to the United States from Iraq is neither specific nor clearly established nor shown to be imminent. The Bush doctrine of preemption goes well beyond the established bounds of anticipatory self-defense, as many supporters of the administration's Iraq policy privately concede. They argue that the United States needs to make new law, using Iraq as a precedent. But if the Bush administration wishes to discard the traditional criterion of imminence on the grounds that terrorism renders it obsolete, then the administration must do what it has thus far failed to do -- namely, discharge the burden of showing that Iraq has both the capability of harming us and a serious intent to do so. Otherwise, "anticipatory self-defense" becomes an international hunting license.

News - 10 June 2002
"Bush Developing Military Policy Of Striking First"
Thomas E. Ricks and Vernon Loeb. Washington Post, 10 June 2002.

[excerpt]  The Bush administration is developing a new strategic doctrine that moves away from the Cold War pillars of containment and deterrence toward a policy that supports preemptive attacks against terrorists and hostile states with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. The new doctrine will be laid out by President Bush's National Security Council as part of the administration's first "National Security Strategy" being drafted for release by early this fall, senior officials said. One senior official said the document, without abandoning containment and deterrence, will for the first time add "preemption" and "defensive intervention" as formal options for striking at hostile nations or groups that appear determined to use weapons of mass destruction against the United States.
"We want to use the minimum force to achieve the military objective, if at all possible, with a conventional weapon," Younger [director of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency] said. "We do not want to cross the nuclear threshold unless it is an example of extreme national emergency." But there are some bunkers that are "so incredibly hard," Younger said, "that they do require high-yield nuclear weapons." Low-yield nuclear warheads could be useful in certain scenarios, he said, but they run the risk of spreading biological agents across the countryside.

Source - 06 June 2002
Secretary Rumsfeld Press Conference at NATO Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium
06 June 2002.

[excerpt]  Q: Regarding terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, you said something to the effect that the real situation is worse than the facts show. I wonder if you could tell us what is worse than is generally understood.
Secretary Rumsfeld:  The message is that there are no "knowns." There are thing we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know. So when we do the best we can and we pull all this information together, and we then say well that's basically what we see as the situation, that is really only the known knowns and the known unknowns. And each year, we discover a few more of those unknown unknowns.
There's another way to phrase that and that is that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It is basically saying the same thing in a different way. Simply because you do not have evidence that something exists does not mean that you have evidence that it doesn't exist. And yet almost always, when we make our threat assessments, when we look at the world, we end up basing it on the first two pieces of that puzzle, rather than all three.
[for a critical assessment of this approach to threats see Dueling with Uncertainty: the New Logic of American Military Planning]

Source - 01 June 2002
Remarks by the President at 2002 Graduation Exercise of the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York
01 June 2002.

[excerpt]  For much of the last century, America's defense relied on the Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment. In some cases, those strategies still apply. But new threats also require new thinking. Deterrence -- the promise of massive retaliation against nations -- means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend. Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies.
We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants, who solemnly sign non-proliferation treaties, and then systemically break them. If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long.
Homeland defense and missile defense are part of stronger security, and they're essential priorities for America. Yet the war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge. In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act.
Our security will require the best intelligence, to reveal threats hidden in caves and growing in laboratories. Our security will require modernizing domestic agencies such as the FBI, so they're prepared to act, and act quickly, against danger. Our security will require transforming the military you will lead -- a military that must be ready to strike at a moment's notice in any dark corner of the world. And our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives.

Commentary and Analysis - June 2002
Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan. Policy Review, June 2002.

[excerpt]  Who knows better than Europeans the dangers that arise from unbridled power politics, from an excessive reliance on military force, from policies produced by national egoism and ambition, even from balance of power and raison d'etat? ...leading officials and politicians in Europe worry more about how the United States might handle or mishandle the problem of Iraq -- by undertaking unilateral and extralegal military action -- than they worry about Iraq itself and Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.
...the ambition for European "power" is something of an anachronism. It is an atavistic impulse, inconsistent with the ideals of postmodern Europe, whose very existence depends on the rejection of power politics.

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