Project on Defense Alternatives

[The] violence goes on, spawning new hostages to history, ensuring that future generations will be taught new wrongs to set right.  We live, Octavio Paz once wrote, between oblivion and memory.  Memory and oblivion: one leads to the other, and back again.  And history is not a web woven by innocent hands.  ~~~   Shashi Tharoor, 2002
And the evil is done in hopes that evil surrenders,  but the deeds of the devil are burned too deep in the embers,  and a world of hunger in vengeance will always remember.  So please be reassured,  we seek no wider war,  we seek no wider war.   ~~~   Phil Ochs, 1965

This Website provides an online log of key articles, news reports, and commentaries chronicling and reflecting on the inclinations of influential officials, "opinion-makers", and political actors to widen this ' war on terrorism '. Earlier instances of a viewpoint, advocacy position, policy, or action are given preference for inclusion. For the best understanding of the construction of this war users are encouraged to begin with the Antecedents page and work forward in time to the most recent. [ Read more about this site. ]

Special Notice: By the Fall of 2002 the war had clearly widened to include Iraq, as well as including significant American troop deployments to numerous other countries in Asia, the Middle East, and northeast Africa. Military interventions in or wars with North Korea, Iran, Syria, and other countries appear to be increasingly likely in the months and years ahead. This chronicle of the first 13 months of the 'war on terrorism' provides a powerful resource for understanding the thinking behind this war and its subsequent propagation.

For further insight into the ongoing war readers are referred to the Project on Defense Alternatives' Website War Report which provides a large collection of articles, documents, and analyses of the new Iraq war and the Afghan war organized by topical categories. There are also more than 90 Project on Defense Alternatives publications on recent U.S. wars and military operations here.

Commentary and Analysis - 31 October 2002
The never-ending war on terror
William Pfaff. The Boston Globe, 31 October 2002.
Posted on the Common Dreams Website

[excerpt]   The war between the Russians and the Chechens has been going on since 1783, when Catherine the Great proclaimed the Caucasus to be Russia's, and Russian troops began to try to enforce that claim in what until then had been a region of tribal societies and tribal authority. The Chechens and their Ingush minority were her most ferocious opponents. They fought conquest until 1859, fought Russian occupation until 1917, were an autonomous region and then an autonomous republic under the Bolsheviks, but collaborated with the invading Germans in World War II. Stalin deported many to Central Asia, and they were allowed to return only in 1956, when he was dead. When Boris Yeltsin in 1991 declared the Soviet Union finished and invited all Russia's subject-peoples ''to claim as much autonomy as they can absorb,'' the Chechen Parliament took him at his word and declared national independence. It was an independence they failed to handle, allowing instead anarchical conditions in which kidnapping and smuggling gangs and other criminal groups absorbed much of the power available.
This disorder opened the way to Islamist influence. Saudi Arabia was propagating the Wahabi version of Islam in the Caucasus, and the United States was not displeased with the Saudi program, which put another obstacle between Russia and control of the Caucasian oil fields. The United States also lent support to Georgia, near Chechnya, which has been implicitly threatened by Putin's offer to carry the war beyond Chechnya. Sept. 11, 2001, gave Putin the opportunity for a smooth countermove against Washington's interest in the Caucasus. He announced that his war against Chechen independence was part of George W. Bush's great war against global terrorism. If, as Bush insists, we are all either for or against terrorism, we all must be against Chechen separatists. This gave the United States a moral involvement in Russia's bloodiest and potentially most dangerous internal crisis. It widens the war not against ''terrorism'' but against Muslim Chechens identifying the United States as still another of their enemies.

Commentary - 17 October 2002
Threshold of a New Era
James Carroll. The Boston Globe, 17 October 2002.
Posted on Common Dreams Website.

[excerpt]   The question is not about leadership but about societies that allow themselves to be radically transformed without substantial debate. The question is about what is lost when traditional restraints are abandoned and about what follows when the momentum toward open-ended war is set loose. The question is about the cost of world-primacy ambition and who pays it. The question is about what happens when national consensus is hijacked by fringe politics and when the very people empowered to object say nothing.

Commentary - 09 October 2002
"The Struggles of Democracy and Empire"
Mark Danner. The New York Times, 09 October 2002.

[excerpt]   Behind the notion that an American intervention will make of Iraq "the first Arab democracy," as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz put it, lies a project of great ambition. It envisions a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq - secular, middle-class, urbanized, rich with oil - that will replace the autocracy of Saudi Arabia as the key American ally in the Persian Gulf, allowing the withdrawal of United States troops from the kingdom. The presence of a victorious American Army in Iraq would then serve as a powerful boost to moderate elements in neighboring Iran, hastening that critical country's evolution away from the mullahs and toward a more moderate course. Such an evolution in Tehran would lead to a withdrawal of Iranian support for Hezbollah and other radical groups, thereby isolating Syria and reducing pressure on Israel. This undercutting of radicals on Israel's northern borders and within the West Bank and Gaza would spell the definitive end of Yasir Arafat and lead eventually to a favorable solution of the Arab-Israeli problem.
This is a vision of great sweep and imagination: comprehensive, prophetic, evangelical. In its ambitions it is wholly foreign to the modesty of containment, the ideology of a status-quo power that lay at the heart of American strategy for half a century. It means to remake the world, to offer to a political threat a political answer... In its ambition and grandiosity there has been nothing like it in American foreign policy since the "rollback" ambitions of General Douglas MacArthur and his allies in the Republican Party a half-century ago. Perhaps most striking, this vision - drawn from an administration that has abhorred all talk of root causes and treats terror as a free-floating malignancy with no political history and no political goals - acknowledges that for the evil of terror to be defeated the entire region from which it springs must be made new.
The audacity of the crusade's ambitions is matched by the magnitude of its risks. Before Sept. 11, the Islamist radicals had been on the run, their project flagging. They had turned their talents on the United States - the distant power that lay behind the thrones in Riyadh and Cairo - only after suffering defeat on the primary battlegrounds of Algeria and Egypt and Saudi Arabia. By invading and occupying Iraq and using it as a base to remake the region, the United States risks revitalizing the political project embodied by Osama bin Laden. It is not only that Islamic radicalism may gain new life and new converts but that moderate regimes will be threatened and will respond harshly, leading them not toward democracy but away from it, and that, finally, the force to which the United States remains most vulnerable - terror - will once again visit our shores.
Grand projects have not been treated kindly in the Middle East. The shah of Iran, America's policeman in the Gulf, was swept away by revolution; to confront the new radical threat from Tehran, the United States found an unlikely successor, a secular dictator in Baghdad named Saddam Hussein. Supplanting him now will likely be the easiest part of the mission; building a new order, engineering a workable politics in a land beset by sectarian struggles and by the trauma of three decades of brutal dictatorship, will be much harder, demanding persistence, steadfastness, quantities of treasure and perhaps of blood. President Bush, hammering away at the threat posed by nuclear weapons that do not now exist, has been reluctant to speak of these costs. Thus far, he has abdicated his responsibility to build the political support he will need to shape the Iraq, and the Middle East, that will follow Saddam Hussein.

Commentary and Analysis - 03 October 2002
The Push for War
Anatol Lieven. The London Review of Books, 03 October 2002.

[excerpt]   The most surprising thing about the push for war is that it is so profoundly reckless.

Commentary - October 2002
Bush Doctrine 2.0
Mark Fiore., October 2002.

Commentary - 23 September 2002
Iraq and the War on Terrorism
Al Gore. San Francisco, CA: The Commonwealth Club, 23 September 2002.

[excerpt]   I am deeply concerned that the course of action that we are presently embarking upon with respect to Iraq has the potential to seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism and to weaken our ability to lead the world in this new century.

Analysis and Commentary - 23 September 2002
America Alone in the World
Stanley Hoffmann. The American Prospect, 23 September 2002.

[excerpt]   ...the oft-expressed contempt for international institutions except those controlled by the United States -- the view that only weak powers should be constrained by them or could benefit from them -- has alienated and exasperated many of our best friends. The fact is that the United States took the lead in creating these institutions of collective security after 1945, precisely when it was the strongest superpower. That generation understood that it is the hegemonic state, paradoxically, that has the greatest interest in links of reciprocity, international law and mutual restraint.

Source - 20 September 2002
The National Security Strategy of the United States
The White House. 20 September 2002.
Posted on Commonwealth Institute Website.

[excerpt]   For centuries, international law recognized that nations need not suffer an attack before they can lawfully take action to defend themselves against forces that present an imminent danger of attack. Legal scholars and international jurists often conditioned the legitimacy of preemption on the existence of an imminent threat -- most often a visible mobilization of armies, navies, and air forces preparing to attack. We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today's adversaries. Rogue states and terrorists do not seek to attack us using conventional means. They know such attacks would fail. Instead, they rely on acts of terrorism and, potentially, the use of weapons of mass destruction -- weapons that can be easily concealed and delivered covertly and without warning. The targets of these attacks are our military forces and our civilian population, in direct violation of one of the principal norms of the law of warfare. As was demonstrated by the losses on September 11, 2001, mass civilian casualties is the specific objective of terrorists and these losses would be exponentially more severe if terrorists acquired and used weapons of mass destruction. The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction -- and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively. The United States will not use force in all cases to preempt emerging threats, nor should nations use preemption as a pretext for aggression. Yet in an age where the enemies of civilization openly and actively seek the world's most destructive technologies, the United States cannot remain idle while dangers gather.

Analysis and Commentary - 16 September 2002
The War on What?
Nicholas Lemann. The New Yorker, 09 September 2002.

[excerpt]   The standard that Bush has proposed for preventive military action against threatening regimes, if carried out literally, would represent yet another huge project, since perhaps a dozen governments that are not formal, reliable allies of the United States have some chemical -or biological- weapons capability.

News and Analysis - 10 September 2002
"Iraq war hawks have plans to reshape entire Mideast"
John Donnelly and Anthony Shadid. The Boston Globe, 10 September 2002.

[excerpt]   A friendly Iraq - home to the world's second-largest oil reserves - would provide an alternative to Saudi Arabia for basing US troops. Its oil reserves would make Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, less important in setting prices, [Patrick Clawson] said. In general, others contend, a US-allied Iraq could work to diminish the influence of OPEC, long dominated by Saudi Arabia, over oil supplies and prices.
Others espousing the vision see potential changes in Syria and Iran, as well. The fallout from an attack on Iraq could bring to a head the longstanding power struggle in Iran between conservatives in the clerical leadership and reformers grouped around President Mohammad Khatami. Some see the reformers invigorated by the example of a democratic Iraq, or even a surge in popular discontent leading to far-reaching change. At the very least, they argue, the show of US power would give the administration more leverage in pressuring Iran over its suspected missile and nuclear programs. The United States could exert that same leverage in forcing an end to Syrian support for Lebanon's Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim guerrilla group allied with Iran that opposes Israel.

News - 03 September 2002
"Mandela Blasts U.S. on Iraq"
Newday, 03 September 2002.

[excerpt]   Nelson Mandela, South Africa's former president, strongly condemned U.S. threats to attack Iraq, warning yesterday that the United States was "introducing chaos in international affairs." "We are really appalled by any country, whether a superpower or a small country, that goes outside the UN and attacks independent countries," Mandela said before meeting with French President Jacques Chirac at his Johannesburg home. "The message they are sending is that if you're afraid of the veto in the Security Council, then you're entitled to ... ignore the Security Council," he said. No country, he added, should take the law into its own hands - particularly the United States because "they are the only superpower in the world today, and they must be exemplary in everything they do."

Commentary - 26 August 2002
"Of Turks and Kurds"
William Safire. The New York Times, 26 August 2002.

[excerpt]   If, after air strikes, an allied force of American, British, Turkish, Kurdish and Iraqi Arab Shia came at Baghdad from all sides, Iraq's Sunni plurality would force Saddam to get on the cellphone to his Russian creditors to arrange asylum in short order. But many Turks, having just defeated their own Kurdish terrorists headquartered in Damascus, are still transfixed by the chimera of Kurdish separatism. They worry that when Saddam is overthrown, Iraqi Kurds will split off into an independent Kurdistan, its traditional capital in oil-rich Kirkuk, which might encourage Turkish Kurds also to break away. But that defies all logic: would the Kurdish people, free inside a federated Iraq and with their culture respected in Turkey, start a war against the regional superpower? Turks also worry about the million Turkomen in northern Iraq. It should not be beyond the wit of nation-builders to ensure that minority's rights and economic improvement. Turkey has a claim on oil royalties from nearby fields dating back to when Iraq was set up. As a key military ally in the liberation and reformation of that nation, and with judicious U.S.-guaranteed oil investments, Turkey should begin to get its debt paid.
America's primary purpose in assembling this alliance of peoples inside and outside Iraq is, plainly put, to stop a homicidal maniac and serial aggressor from gaining the power to threaten our cities with annihilation. A secondary purpose is to forcefully discourage any other nation from secretly supporting terror groups. The third purpose is driven not by any lust for global domination, but by out-and-out Wilsonian idealism: we want to make the Middle East safe for democracy. And not just for Israelis, who have shown how self-determination feeds both body and soul, or just for Kurds, who have made their "no-fly zone" into an example of free enterprise and self-government for all Iraqis (and all Palestinians). Old World-weary apostles of appeasement don't get it. Deride it or not, America's self-protective action will also benefit Arabs and Persians long repressed by monarchs and dictators and misled by militant mullahs. Terrorists and their state sponsors are forcing us to bring democracy to people who will discover that political freedom is a force that empowers every human being.

Commentary - 17 August 2002
Why I oppose an attack on Iraq
Gerald Kaufman. The Spectator, U.K., 17 August 2002.

[excerpt]   Any war against Saddam, launched by Bush and supported by Tony Blair, would have the overt support of precisely one other country: Israel.  Israel today, in its repression of the Palestinians, has the full support of precisely one other country: the United States. If the United States were to attack Iraq, it would not only be Arab and Muslim countries that would point to the intellectual, diplomatic and moral incompatibility of an American invasion of Iraq, allegedly for violating United Nations Security Council resolutions, with the United States tolerating, and its defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, actively supporting Israeli violation of UN resolutions forbidding the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The United States has already, in my view rightly, been criticised internationally not just for failing to initiate genuine peace efforts in the Israeli-Palestine conflict but for giving active support to brutalities the Israelis have inflicted on the Palestinians; when Bush criticised the recent Israeli killings of civilians in Gaza, the toughest description he could rake up for the Israeli action was the limp 'heavy-handed'. Bush's recent four-page White House lawn speech, containing two pages of orders to the Palestinians and two paragraphs of suggestions to the Israelis, was not simply unhelpful but positively harmful. If Tony Blair, as reported, is telling Bush that an attack on Iraq should not take place until a genuine Israeli-Palestinian peace process is under way, he is right. But I hope Tony Blair is also explaining to Bush that, even if an Israeli-Palestinian peace process were to get under way, an attack on Iraq would wreck it.

News and Analysis - 07 August 2002
The PowerPoint That Rocked the Pentagon:  Laurent Murawiec's 24-slide presentation to the Defense Policy Board
Jack Shafer. Slate, 07 August 2002.

    Grand strategy for the Middle East:
  • Iraq is the tactical pivot
  • Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot
  • Egypt the prize

News and Commentary - 01 August 2002
"White House Watch: Perle's war fever"
Nicholas M. Horrock. UPI, 01 August 2002.

[excerpt]  This week, only weeks after the 250,000-man invasion force plan was in the news, unnamed "senior administration and Pentagon officials," leaked a new plan to The New York Times, called imaginatively the "inside out attack." The descriptions of this plan is a little vague, even in the Times story, but basically it appears that Americans would swoop down and capture someplace in the middle of Iraq, neutralize Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction (it sounds very easy in the Times account), and then attack outward and conquer the country. The nice part of this plan, the leakers told the Times, was that it didn't require bases on the soil of all those reluctant Arab countries and it would take only about 80,000 troops to carry out. It would "decapitate" Hussein's command system and mid-level Iraqi commanders haven't been allowed to develop the initiative to take over and fight the invader. That is, by the way, what military planners used to say about North Vietnamese Army, but the soldiers in the field found out that mid-level NVA commanders were dammed good.
UPI Terrorism Correspondent Richard Sale reports this new plan was devised by Richard Perle, a former defense official in the Reagan administration and Douglas Feith, a longtime colleague of Perle's who is a planning official at Defense. They are backed by Paul Wolfowitz, deputy assistant secretary of defense and Vice President Dick Cheney, Sale reports. According to the Washington Post, the Perle-Feith plan is locked in an internal debate over when and how to unseat Hussein with Secretary of State Colin Powell, the Joint Chief's of Staff and most of the uniformed military. For the American reader, choosing between these plans, being, as they are, sort of unofficial and leaked, may be difficult. It might be worth noting that Perle, Feith, Wolfowitz and Cheney never served in the United States Armed Forces. Perle, Wolfowitz and Cheney were all eligible to serve in Vietnam.

News - 01 August 2002
"Timing, Tactics on Iraq War Disputed:  Top Bush Officials Criticize Generals' Conventional Views"
Thomas E. Ricks. The Washington Post, 01 August 2002.

[excerpt]  Much of the senior uniformed military, with the notable exception of some top Air Force and Marine generals, opposes going to war anytime soon, a stance that is provoking frustration among civilian officials in the Pentagon and in the White House. In addition, some suspect that Powell's stance has produced an unusual alliance between the State Department and the uniformed side of the Pentagon, elements of the government that more often seem to oppose each other in foreign policy debates.
At a July 10 meeting of the Defense Policy Board, a Pentagon advisory group, one of the subjects discussed was how to overcome the military reluctance to plan innovatively for an attack on Iraq. "What was discussed was the problem with the services," said one defense expert who participated in the meeting. His conclusion: "You have to have a few heads roll, especially in the Army."

About Wider War Watch

As America began its 'war on terrorism' the Project on Defense Alternatives kept an eye on the inclination of some influential officials, 'opinion-makers', and political actors to widen the war in the advancement of objectives broader than interdicting the bin Laden organization. We believe the American people must be informed about these views, plans, and events so that we can make independent judgements as citizens as to their wisdom and practicality. Indeed these developments are of vital interest to people across the globe.

It was New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman who on 13 September 2001 wrote: "Does my country really understand that this is World War III?" Surely this was a bit of hyperbole wrought in the agonizing emotions of that week, but we should also be mindful that it may continue to serve as a conceptual motif for the activities and policies of U.S. leadership.

In October of 2001, former Reagan administration official Kenneth Adelman spoke of the distinction between those who prefer a "narrow" response to a "wide" response, thereby identifying an important divide in the strategic path going forward. Decisions will have to be made as to which path to take and citizens still have time to participate in making what is bound to be fateful choices.

This Website offers a selection of key articles, news reports, and commentaries that shed light and perspective on the option for wider war. For particular items, such as "take the war to Iraq", I include the earliest advocacy I can find, followed by instances of more prominent and influential advocacy, early indications of official interest or planning, and finally government action, if and when it occurs. I also include counter-views and counter-advocacy. Over time I am increasingly selective; if a chorus of voices arises around a particular issue I make no attempt to include the voices of all members of the chorus.

For the most part this site focuses on the geographical spread of the war. But it also includes actions and policies that could contribute, intentionally or not, to regional or global instability;  these issues include the tactical use of assassination, use of nuclear weapons, and others.

Regarding the criteria used for selection of items included:

Assassination is a means of politics and war -- not an objective of war. It may seem that issues of its use are not relevant to the "widening" of this war, however, the use of assassination frequently leads to retaliation by the same means -- witness the 17 October 2001 assassination of Israeli Cabinet Minister Revavam Zeevi in retaliation for the assassination of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader Abu Ali Mustafa. Even more than the ethical and legal objections to its use, this concern for consequences has been a principal inhibition of its use in modern international relations. We should anticipate that if the U.S. pursues a policy of covert assassination of suspected "terrorists" any retaliatory assassination of a U.S. leader would cause significant political impetus for a larger war. With this regard I have included developments around this tactic. Furthermore, there is certain irony to be noted in that the word "assassination" is derivative of the Arabic "assasseen" (guardian) and the original medeival Assassins were a secret paramilitary group whose actions would be labeled "terrorist" in our current discourse.

There will also be negative consequences for international security if the United States makes "war" without due regard for the Hague and Geneva conventions as they pertain to treatment by warring parties of captive enemy, noncombatants, and civilians. Once the United States establishes its disregard for these norms, other nations and regimes will be more likely to act with similar disregard. Among other effects, this could endanger American personnel who are captured by unfriendly forces in this war or others.

During the half century that has passed since the United States first used nuclear weapons to destroy two cities in Japan there has developed an international norm that the only legitimate use of these weapons is as a deterrent to their use by others. Although the United States has never renounced the first use of nuclear weapons, such use by the United States would be abhorrent to most people across the globe including close allies. First use would have immearsurable negative effect on the capacity of the United States to lead internationally. Almost certainly many countries would be feel justified in seeking their own nuclear weaponry; efforts to limit proliferation would lose credibility. The outcome would be a long term deepening of international insecurity -- a favorable environment for widening war.

Charles Knight, editor

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With offices in Washington DC and Cambridge MA, the Project on Defense Alternatives develops and promotes defense policy innovation that reconciles the goals of effective defense against aggression, improved international cooperation and stability, and lower levels of military spending and armed force worldwide. Subscribe to the monthly PDA Updates Bulletin.