Todd J. Barry
Abstract: Leadership is, at times, the calling out and identification of lack of leadership. This paper uses a case study to propose an original idea, that of policy by tautologies in the George W. Bush administration and the international community. A tautology is a type of circular group reasoning. While President Bush emphasized the policy of “regime change” to his advisors, the advisors came to repeat the phrase back to him and the public. True leaders understand and believe in their actions, but many Bush administration officials said they never discussed even what the term meant. The United Nations, meanwhile, is a humanitarian organization unequipped for “regime change.” This phrase, used since the 1980s, became central to the group tautology, and came to mean overthrow of the Iraqi government, never its true intention. President Obama’s administration, subsequently, pursued a divergent, but reactionary leadership, with broader regional ramifications. True leaders must ponder the probable and anticipated consequences of their decisions, respond to change, and learn from failure. True leaders look not only at the past but around-the-corner towards the future. This paper pursues a careful chronological approach, leading up to the political-economic decisions in Iraq and the Middle-East transpiring today.
Introduction and Research Questions
Leadership is, at times, the calling out and identification of lack of leadership. In an event that shaped the last decade-and-a-half, why did the United States choose war, and not peace, with Iraq in March 2003, a war that continues in forms today and has taken the lives of some 4,000 brave American soldiers, thousands of contractors, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, while wounding tens of thousands of allied troops? What leadership qualities were at play? Did this affect the perception that the United States was threatened by weapons of mass destruction, and its promotion of freedom and democracy, or if the Al Qaeda terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 were indirectly responsible? Did President George W. Bush simply want to accomplish what his father could not, the elimination of Saddam Hussein’s Baath government, or did he seek revenge against a leader who had tried to kill his father? Could diplomacy actually be determined by such irrational, personal matters? Many of these questions will be left to history, but this paper succinctly analyzes the leadership of the players and institutions, both U.S. and international, that contributed to the war, and its tautological flaws. Only by understanding the leadership causes of the war can the millennial generation understand why their lives have seen nothing else. In no way is this paper meant to lessen the work of the brave allied troops.
President Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet was dubbed by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin the “Team of Rivals,” in a book by the same name, because Lincoln appointed foes to his administration, which was emulated by President Barack H. Obama. Conversely, the George W. Bush administration was more like a “Team of Tautologies.” A tautology is presented here as a lack of communication and leadership, or a circular type of reasoning. President Bush’s advisors each argued to him what they thought he wanted to hear, and then he stated what he thought they and the American public wanted to hear. Combined with various institutions, it was like placing a ball on the side of hill. When nudged, it could not stop rolling, particularly because no one knew how or where it was going. No one pushed for war, but the problem, from President Bush’s advisors, to the Congress, to international bodies like the United Nations (U.N.), was that no one resisted. The ultimate decision, though, this paper hypothesizes, was not made until the very end. Each of realist, liberal, and constructivist (social) theories were at work, but the argument of this paper is that of the failure of the tautological, circular communication leadership, whether dealing with officials, the Congress, or the U.N., used by the administrations. The aftermath of the war will subsequently be analyzed, as well, up to the Summer, 2016.
The Methodology and Hypotheses
This paper likewise uses a case study, process tracing methodology, along with a simple, described game theory model, to clear through the mass confusion of war. It uses various state documents and news sources, and frequent quotes by sundry leaders in the process, including from their subsequent auto-biographies. It weaves past the convoluted and controversial ideas and arrives at a better understanding of the empirical happenings, that of a tautology. This word was first used by the Greeks and Cicero in their rhetoric and oratory, and then resurfaced with the liberal philosopher Immanuel Kant in 1800, in the book Logic. In 1884, Gottlob Frege proposed that logic can lack content, while in 1921, Ludwig Wittgenstein suggested that statements can be empty of meaning. In the 1930s tautologies were introduced into mathematics, which are beyond the confines of this study (“Tautology (logic)” 2013, p. 1-2). This paper hypothesizes that the decision-making was a “tautology,”- a circular lack of leadership, especially unusual for someone who later called himself the “decision maker.”
The Background and The Leadership Team
True leaders work well in teams. The United States’ government did not. The story begins when presidency of George W. Bush campaigned with his team on almost an isolationist foreign policy, in the two years leading to his election in December 2000, calling for “humility.” In the second presidential debate against Vice President Al Gore, Bush claimed that he would not go around the world and say, “This is the way it’s got to be” (Logan and Preble, 2). This philosophy was, like other political dogma, built up over several years, in reaction to the previous president, President William Jefferson Clinton, who had used nation-building in Somalia, a tiresome effort. At other times Bush did speak more bluntly, which was mostly political rhetoric. Ideas of candidates need time to build up in response to the previous party in power. And, America’s lengthy campaigns allow this to happen. Yet, still, after all of the smoke cleared from the 2000 election, Bush changed his tone severely rightward. He said to the Chinese, who had captured an American spy plane in in April 2001, that they “must” release the Americans. Ultimately, it took a letter by Secretary of State Powell, using words similarly translated into an “apology,” and twice in the same letter, to win their freedom. Other times during his administration, President Bush would say that the Palestinians “must” or that Congress “must” take certain actions.
At his Senate appointment hearings, Powell accidently misstated that he was in consideration for Secretary of Defense, and then uttered quietly, “old habits die hard.” That might have been the better position, though a civilian is usually preferred to generals as leaders to run the Defense Department. General George C. Marshall, divisor of the Marshall Plan, might be one glaring exception. Still, Powell’s choice would reverberate to have enormous implications. He would not urge for the doctrine of overwhelming force that bears his name, and that of President Reagan’s Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. President Bush’s other policy advisors included the aging Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a Ford Administration official, chosen by Vice President Cheney, whereas Powell had wanted former Pennsylvania governor, and Vietnam War hero, Tom Ridge. Rumsfeld would decide in favor of speed and lightness of military. Another possibility was defense official Paul Wolfowitz, who would later become a defense official, and then be appointed to head the World Bank, before becoming involved in an affair with a female colleague. Condoleeza Rice, who was both an academic and a policy maker, from Stanford University would be the National Security Advisor, a coordinating position that differs in occupations in every administration, ranging from academics to former generals. President Bush would make many poor appointments. He referred to the “Department of Health and Human Development,” rather than “Services,” but he chose his cabinet promptly, and in teams, serving as a model for his successor.
Some theories, such as “great man theory,” point to a few key figures as shaping the 20th Century, or any century, but in our case, it was a group of men, and women, and their personalities, that determined history (Jones and Olken, 4-5). An entire branch of economics, Public Choice, is devoted to the behavior of political leaders. The best model of U.S. presidential decision making is Graham Allison’s 1971 analysis of the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which concluded that the actors were rational. He was able to prove why the Soviets placed missiles in Cuba, why the United States imposed a quarantine, and why the Soviets demurred, after President John F. Kennedy offered Soviet Premier Khrushchev a secret deal to remove missiles from Turkey (Yin 2009, p. 6). United Nations (U.N.) Ambassador Adlai Stevenson played the “coward,” or devil’s advocate, but the only person who played this role in the Bush administration was perhaps Secretary of State Colin Powell. The case study showed that leaders needed to make very tough decisions over a very short time span. In the Iraq case, there was no time limit, no hurry, as the process the United States pursued at times seemed extremely patient and somewhat even dilatory. However, the actual decisions were made quickly, in contrast to the leadership style of President Barack H. Obama, who was more deliberate yet somewhat delaying.
True leaders may deal with complex issues. Iraq’s history is such. The policy for Iraq before President Bush came to power was one of containment. It was President Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeline Albright who repeatedly called for “regime change” in Iraq, but the Clinton administration had no intention of overthrowing Saddam Hussein: they simply hoped for the day when the citizens might rise up, form a coup, or internal politics would change, long-term. At times the Clinton administration would bomb Iraq, but for containment in the region, or it was likely political, by removing the issue from the headlines. It was also met by protests over “collateral damage,” the military’s term for civilian deaths. President Bush, however, quickly picked up the term “regime change,” just as he picked up or created other campaign terms, such as “competitive adversary” for China, instead of the “strategic partnership” phrase used under Clinton. The political position on Iraq of the Bush Administration was “regime change,” because that is what the President thought his advisors and the public wanted, and it is what his advisors thought he wanted to hear, whatever it meant or however it could be interpreted.
The decision over Iraq was also one of the participants’ social justice philosophy, which traditionally dates back to the Romans. Their work was expanded upon by Catholic theologians, such as Saint Augustine, one of the first “realists,” and Saint Thomas Aquinas. Wars can be just, they reasoned, if they defend innocent people, if there is a single executive responsible for maintaining order, or if it is a “last resort” (Ferguson 2003, p. 1). A growing number of scholarly papers address the philosophical underpinnings of the Iraq War, one scholar being Daniel Lieberfeld (2005). According to Lieberfeld, radicalism holds that war may be “a means of self-legitimizing and to create mass content … and to suppress domestic divisions and dissent” (Lieberfeld 2005, p. 4). This follows Bueno de Mesquita (2002) that “international relations is … a venue for politicians to gain or lose domestic political advantage” (Lieberfeld 2005, p. 5). Lieberfeld continues that “containing Iraq was burdensome and dangerous” (Lieberfeld 2005, p. 5), particularly with the expensive no-fly zones. He also mentions feminist theories, the administration’s “sense of masculinity” (Lieberfeld 2005, p. 9). Another paper by Louis Fisher blames the war on the “intense speculation” that President Bush saw in the media, compelling him to act. President Bush called this a “kind of churning,” a “frenzy,” which Secretary Rumsfeld stated, too, that the country of America itself, especially the media, was preoccupied with force (Fisher 2003, p. 2).
Key to this argument is the concept of regimes, which differ from the scholarly to the empirical, and there may have been misunderstandings over the idea of an international regime, which set the United States on such a dangerous path. According to Susan Strange, an expert, but skeptic, of the term, regime is a French word that in its everyday sense means “a dynasty, party or group that wields effective power over the rest of society” (Strange 1983, p. 344). She continues that it connotes governments that are “inherently authoritarian, capricious, and even unjust” (Strange 1983, p. 344), which would apply to Saddam Hussein. To some, he was the very personification of “evil.” However, philosophy tells non-scholars that people are not evil, but that their actions are. In theory, veritably, a regime is that of a relationship between countries based on shared norms. This includes regimes that are imposed by one country on other, such as an in the case of Iraq, which were each a “sanctions regime,” “inspections regime,” and “containment regime,” at different points across four different administrations.
Imposed regimes, such as these, can be hegemonic, in which “the dominant actor (the United States) openly and explicitly … compels subordinate actors (Iraq) to conform to them” (Young 1983, p. 100). Some believe that the “concentration of power in one dominant state facilitates the development of strong regimes” (Keohane 1983, p. 142). This is the so-called “theory of hegemonic stability” (Keohane 1983, p. 142). It will be seen here that the sanctions regime after the first Gulf War was so strong that it did kept Iraq from obtaining weapons of mass destruction, but it was weak in that parties could not verify this or easily modify the regime. The Bush administration followed the neo-realist theories of scholars like Kenneth Waltz, who believed in a realist, “self-help system” world (Keohane 1983, p. 148), that states rely on themselves and their interests alone (Waltz 1979, p. 91).
Keohane also writes that regimes involving enforcement need resources to back them up, which was lacking, as the U.N. only had about 100 inspectors at its highest point- this makes it difficult, he writes, to determine “what constitutes cooperation and … cheating” (Keohane 1983, p. 160). Also, he elaborates that some actors, such as Iraq, may have more information, asymmetric information, than others, such as the United States, in this case regarding information on weapons of mass destruction (Keohane 1983, p. 160). Both sides, the United States and Iraq, were basing their decisions on security, or a “security regime,” resulting in “relying on unilateral and competitive modes of behavior rather than by seeking cooperative solutions” (Jervis 1983, p. 176).
The Build-up to War
True leaders research information unknown to them. To be more specific, and central to the thesis here, the actual phrase “regime change” was used as early as the 1980s by the Defense Department, but the first official use was by Secretary of State Madeline Albright in November 1998 amid a cat-and-mouse, or tit-for-tat, battle with Iraq over their denying of inspectors (Gordon2 2012, p. 15). Afterwards, she retracted some of her statements, such as at one point saying, “the problem with [regime change] was it … eliminated any incentive for Iraq to comply with Security Council resolutions” (Gordon2 2012, p. 17). She would also say that “no serious consideration was given to actually invading Iraq” (Gordon2 2012, p. 15). President Clinton stated that the sanctions in place after the first Gulf War would be in place “until the end of time or as long as Hussein lasts” (Gordon2 2012, p. 166). But again, Clinton’s statements were largely politically hyperbolic, without intent to overthrow Saddam’s regime; it was merely a goal, to “support efforts,” in his own words (Bath 2011, p. 1), uttered as he signed the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act. There was some hope that the people would rise up, but this was mostly wishful thinking intended long-term (Bath 2011, p. 1). In some authors’ views, the Gulf War lasted until Hussein was captured in December 2003, and executed in November 2006. Both countries hated the other. It is interesting that many references to Iraq by U.S. officials did not refer to the state, but to “him,” Saddam Hussein (“U.S. Policy” 2001, p. 1). After the first Gulf War, the sanctions that the U.S. placed on Iraq were crippling, lowering the nation’s GDP from $66.2 billion to some $10.8 billion per year (Gordon2 2012, p. 21 and 191).
President George H.W. Bush had urged the people to overthrow Saddam Hussein, in effect pursuing “regime change” without the title. The United States had other concerns, afraid the Shi’ites or Kurds would take over Iraq, at another time after the first Gulf War sending a small force to protect the Kurds. It really wanted a small coup, not a revolution. In May 1991, Bush ordered covert actions to remove Hussein, and tripled incentive money for opposition groups to $40 million (Gordon 2 2012, p. 16). To some success, there was a July 1992 coup attempt, and a 1993 revolt by the important al-’Ubayd tribe. In December 1993, an assassination effort failed, and in late 1994 the nation’s intelligence chief defected. There was another coup attempt in 1995, this time by an Iraqi general, and in August of that year, Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law defected to Jordan (Gordon 2 2012, p. 13). In October 1998, the U.S. Congress passed the Iraq Liberation Act, now offering $100 million dollars to “opposition” groups. In January of 1999, the U.S. State Department created the “Coordination for the Transition in Iraq,” and hired expert Kenneth Pollack to look at different strategic options (Gordon2 2012, p. 16).
The role of the United Nations, took hold after the first Gulf War, when the first oil for food program was put in place. The U.N. passed Resolution 661 to create a committee to oversee purchases of food, along with U.N. Resolution 687 that called for a “disarmament regime,” for Iraq to destroy all chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. This was to provide relief, at the same time that sanctions were intended to keep out materials that could be used as weapons, under Chapter VII of the U.N. charter, which authorizes action to threats to peace. In April of 1996, Resolution 986 was passed, a so-called “2nd oil for food program,” which allowed Iraq to sell $1 billion dollars of oil each 90 days, but 1/3 of it would go to Kuwait, and Iraq was forced to pay 4% of revenue to the U.N. to compensate for the inspectors. After the Gulf War, the country had seen the collapse of water, electricity, health care, transportation, and agriculture. Numerous other U.N. agencies had their own roles in a process of relief, including agencies for children. However, Resolution 1051 included a list of prohibitive items, and virtually any item of controversy was prohibited, the committee believing that even medicines could be used to make weapons. In effect, the sanctions were crippling (Gordon2 2012, p. 20, 23-27,+37).
In December of 1998, the United States and the Clinton administration carried out another bombing mission, called Operation Desert Fox, which was intended to contain Saddam Hussein’s regime as well as ease the pressure of the U.S. media and public, which at the time called it the “wag-the-dog theory,” thought to be undertaken for political reasons. Alternatively, it should be viewed as part of Clinton’s foreign policy, best named “Cruise Missile Diplomacy,” firing missiles to resolve dilemmas and pacify the public and press, which actually succeeded at most times. Through U.N. Resolution 1284, passed in 1999 after Desert Fox, the U.N. created UNMOVIC, an acronym for U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, to replace UNSCOM, the United Nations Special Commission (Blix 2004, p. 4). But, inspectors were now no longer permitted by Iraq (Gordon2 2012, p. 31).
Nevertheless, there was some peaceful leniency in the years leading up to the George W. Bush presidency, by both Congress, and the executive branch. Religious and non-governmental, grassroots organizations favored “de-linking,” allowing humanitarian goods to enter. Congress, led by members from agricultural states, passed the Food and Medicine for the World Act, and the Food and Medicine Sanctions Relief Act, both in 1999, trying to exempt food and medicine from the sanctions regimes, although again this was tricky, as “goods” may be hard to distinguish. Liberal members of Congress tried for additional measures, and five House members traveled to Iraq, meeting officials from the World Health Organization, the United Nations’ Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Program, and Voices in the Wilderness (Gordon2 2012, p. 160-169). It would ultimately be Iraq’s torn economy that would dominate its decision-making, and its insistence upon the removal of sanctions, at some times in history considered an act of war.
Early on, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said aggressively that the sanctions were not working (Gordon2 2012, p. 160-169). Ironically, President George W. Bush’s first military action in office, on February 2001, was an airstrike against Iraq to warn the country of the no-fly zone, which was actually an act of containment (“U.S. Policy” 2004, p. 2). But only 5 days after the terrorist attack on 11 September 2001, Vice President Cheney had said that “Saddam Hussein is bottled up,” and Powell stated that “our containment strategy [is] a success- we have kept him in his box” (Blix1 2004, p. 259).
Witlessly, in the lead up to the Iraq War, in a speech at West Point, on 1 June, 2002, where presidents go to hash out theoretical arguments, President Bush effused only grandiloquence, saying that “America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge,” a policy unchanged since the Clinton administration (Lieberfeld 2005, p. 2). He also stated that the United States may need to act preemptively as a deterrent in the future, but this was philosophical and hypothetical, and was clearly not addressed at Iraq in particular. In the September 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States of America, a thirty-five page document filled with dozens of pedantic presidential quotes, Iraq was mentioned only one time. Granted, it did refer to rogue states, but referenced China, Russia, Afghanistan, India, Cambodia, the Philippines, and countless other countries, implying that the United States had still not formulated a clear policy on Iraq. It did elaborate extensively on the importance of spreading freedom globally, which was an important Bush, neo-conservative philosophy, referencing “Operation Enduring Freedom” in Afghanistan, that would be important later on in the final decision to launch “Operation Iraqi Freedom” (The National Security Strategy 2002, p. 1-35).
The Faux Objectives
True leaders must understand and believe in their actions assigned to subordinates. The United States’ argument accused Iraq of possession of unethical weapons of mass destruction previously used against the Kurds. Such weapons had been outlawed internationally, as an institution, since the Hague declarations of 1899. It prohibited a severely painful type of bullet and certain gases, and launching bombs from balloons. This was followed by the Geneva Protocol in 1925, leading to the development of a 1960s European “system” that was viewed as weak and costly to nations in terms of sovereignty. In 1981, Israel had taken out Iraq’s nuclear capacities with a strategic strike, that was condemned by the U.N. for sovereignty reasons, and in 1993, the world held the Chemical Weapons Convention (Gordon2 2012, p. 16-19). However, in the words of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director George Tenet, the administration’s “point man” on weapons of mass destruction, “(o)ne of the great mysteries to me is exactly how the war in Iraq became inevitable” (Daadler and Destler 2009, p. 278).
There was never a single meeting, according to Powell, “when we all made our recommendation and [Bush] made a decision” (Daadler and Destler 2009, p. 270). National Security Advisor Rice disagrees with this in her memoirs, but in doing so she almost inadvertently points out that when the President spoke of possible war, no one raised a voice to disagree with him (Rice 2011, p. 181). Of all of the President’s officials, it was Tenet, who seemed the most to believe that the President had already made a decision. A former deputy CIA director in the Clinton administration, who was held over (Daadler and Destler 2009, p. 235), Tenet would serve as CIA director for seven years, and base his advice on this tautological, miss-communication belief, the decision was already made. He would call the weapons of mass destruction evidence against Iraq a “slam dunk,” which he later dismissed as a minor point in the rush to war. However, as early as July 2002, he had warned National Security Advisor Rice not to waste her breath discussing the situation with the President, saying, “That decision’s been made” (Daadler and Destler, 279). According to author Fred Barnes, “The president and his advisers [both] believed that confrontation with Saddam Hussein was inevitable” (Barnes 2006, p. 92). This was only because of the circular reasoning between President Bush and his advisors.
As time went on, the American media consistently began pressuring the Bush administration’s policies, failing to understand them. In the words of Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State under President Gerald R. Ford, when he spoke on televised news with analyst and former aide David Gergen: “the President is going to have to make a decision…” The media could not comprehend such policies as “regime change” and what it meant, which is reasonable. But instead, some deceptiveness on the part of American foreign policy, even to the media and public, can at times be beneficial. While the President and British Prime Minister Tony Blair met periodically at Camp David during 2002, the media continued to press, and members of the administration were still hesitant in their response. In late August 2002, President Bush held meetings at his Texas ranch, but baffled the media, saying that the subject of Iraq “didn’t come up” during the morning discussions (Goldstein 2012, p. 1).
Later on at Crawford, Texas, Bush stated that “regime change” was “in the best interests of the world,” but “[h]ow we achieve that is a matter of consultation and deliberation” (Knowlton 2002, p. 1). Through public and private discussions, almost all of President Bush’s advisors began to echo the President, in a tautological, circular fashion. One by one, all slowly followed course to claim that the U.S.’s official position towards Iraq was “regime change.” They, as everyone else, understood that “daylight” between a president’s position and that of a cabinet member was not only bad policy, and could lead to expulsion, but that it could be even quarrelsome for foreign policy officials. And yet, no one on the security team seemed to know what “regime change” meant. It was a tautological, communication failure, a saying that President Bush had borrowed from advisors in the Clinton administration, which was then usurped by his advisors. They in turn communicated the policy, still not clear, back to President Bush. This is verified by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage’s quote, aimed at National Security Advisor Rice, “(a)nytime someone wasn’t ready to do immediately exactly what the president wants, it was almost disloyal” (Daadler and Destler 2009, p. 281).
In addition, there were numerous articles and editorials in the major newspapers that started using the phrase “regime change” (Knowlton 2002, p. 1). As early as March, journalist and former President Richard Nixon’s aide William Safire stated that regime change was “a euphemism for ‘overthrow of government’ or toppling Saddam” (Safire 2002, p. 1), confusing, because until that time it meant containment. After the President Bush’s meetings in Crawford, in August 2002, House of Representatives majority whip Tom DeLay of Texas said, “President Bush is exactly right. Only a regime change can keep nuclear weapons from Saddam’s control” (Knowlton 2002, p. 2). Secretary Rumsfeld said the international coalition was “helping the forward progress that we’re achieving” (Knowlton 2002, p. 2). On 22 August 2002, conservative pundit George Will wrote in “The Washington Post” that dovish, former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft “believes, probably mistakenly, that containment and deterrence- which, when applied to the Soviet Union, resulted in regime change- can suffice to make Saddam Hussein’s regime something America can live with” (Will3 2002, p. 1).
On 26 August 2002, Vice President Cheney said to a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention that “Regime change in Iraq would bring about a number of benefits for the region,” and, “the Middle East expert Professor Fuad Ajami predicts that after liberation, the streets in Basra and Baghdad are sure to erupt in joy….” (“Eyes on Iraq” 2002, p. 4). The debate became one solely about regime change, which was still not clear, and depended on whom one talked to. In September 2002, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry wrote in “The New York Times” that “Regime change in Iraq is a worthy goal. But regime change by itself is not a justification for war” (Kerry 2002, p. 1). In late October 2002, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, “The policy is regime change. Saddam Hussein is the heart of the regime” (Daadler and Lindsay 2002, p. 1). Several months later, Thomas Friedman, the globalization guru, wrote in “The New York Times” that “regime change in Iraq is not some distraction from the war on Al Qaeda” (Friedman 2003, p. 1). Just afterwards, in January 2003, former Swedish prime minister Carl Blidt, wrote in “The New York Times,” in a piece called “No going back: Regime Change in Iraq isn’t optional,” that “Removal of the Saddam Hussein regime is the only way peace can be achieved” (Blidt 2003, p. 2).
Progressively, former international officials began to enter the debate. It was a national discussion that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld acknowledged and predicted (Blix1 2004, p. 72). Former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, joined the semantics analysis, in opposing preemption, which could destroy the world international order in place since the end of the Thirty Year’s War, saying instead on television shows that the United States policy should be an “inspections regime” (Wester, 23). Kissinger would make many different statements all over, as did the entire menagerie of foreign officials. The late Richard Holbrooke also wrote an editorial in favor of “an airtight weapons inspection regime” (Holbrooke 2002, p. 1). This referred to the use of United Nations inspectors, led by UMOVIC chief Hans Blix and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director Mohamed ElBaradei. Secretary Powell took the term and ran with it, but it did not last very long.
As time went on, Kissinger’s attempt to change the dialogue proved unrewarding, and President Bush would grow skeptical of the term, not believing later on that inspectors had full access. In starting this conversation, Kissinger may have been one of the first officials to “leak” the administration’s thinking to the press, which set off a string of yellow journalism, mostly from the Fox News Network. This consisted of constantly showing pictures of Saddam Hussein, some probably 10 years old, or even predated longer, to help advance the argument for war. Other former experts and officials also tolled in, including former President George H.W. Bush’s National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, who was against attacking Iraq, and particularly against doing it alone. This amounted to “policy by editorials,” not policy by direct advice to the President (Daadler and Dester 2009, p. 280).
A word here should be said about the options of operating multilaterally and that of acting bilaterally, or even unilaterally. Multilateralism is the process of a state joining with others to take action, whether it is military, humanitarian, sharing information, or working against nuclear weapons (Mingst and Arreguin-Toft 2011, p. 228). Multilateralism can be very effective, but it is also more complex and risky, and involves working with others but considering each states’ goals. Yet, “the results can be amazing” (Jones 2013, p. 2), because of the reduced costs, and added pressure on foes. Multilateralism took form after World War II, when numerous organizations and institutions were created, such as the United Nations, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (Jones 2013, p.1).
President Bush, upon advice from Secretary of State Powell, who had little diplomatic experience, and not considering all of the risks involved with failure, decided to take the issue to the United Nations. But what did this mean? President Bush said that he wanted to test whether or not the U.N. was more than “just a debating society.” This goes to show that the administration was expecting more than the U.N. would be able to accomplish. According to U.N. inspections chief Hans Blix, both President Bush and Vice President Cheney, in an initial discussion with him, referred to the historical problems of the League of Nations, Bush probably borrowing the phrases from Cheney (Blix 2004, p. 80-82). But why would they do this? Was President Bush seeking international support for a war, or was he looking for alternative solutions? Could he really have been looking for the United Nations to come up with a plan by itself that the United States would then abide by, and what could that plan possibly be? Of all of the President’s advisors, Cheney was most cynical about the United Nations, saying that it would only “provide false comfort” (Daadler and Destler 2009, p. 282), and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said that if the U.N. did not take action, it would fall into the “dust bin of history” (Grigorescu 2005, p. 2). Many in the press noted that the League of Nations really failed because the United Stated did not join it. The League never used sanctions, which added greater complexity to the U.N. (Grigorescu 2005, p. 224).
For Bush, it was apparent that he was throwing the onus of the decision onto the United Nations, once again not dealing with the problem himself, but telling other members of the Security Council in effect to not tie his hands, because he still had not made any decision. For Cheney, it appears that he had apparently disagreed with the suggestion from Powell to take the issue to the United Nations, and was already preparing for its failure. When President Bush said on 26 September 2002 that we were “making progress,” progress towards what? (“President Bush Discusses” 2013, p. 1). Was he really just looking for a way for the United Nations to decide for the United States what our policy should be? It appears that this may have been his reasoning. This decision seemed to lack any clear purpose, plan, or direction; rather, it was what his advisors wanted to hear. The immediate foreign opinion was that Great Britain seemed willing to abide by whatever policy the United States chose, as Prime Minister Tony Blair was with President Bush at Camp David and the Crawford, Texas ranch while contemplating options, while the French and the rest of the world seemed reluctant, but unsure how to proceed.
Meanwhile, President Bush rushed a resolution to Congress to give him complete authority to decide how to handle the situation, including military might. He told, not asked, Congress not to “tie his hands.” Were there to have been a split between Congress and the Presidency, it could have been internationally dangerous, with a President so far divided from his legislative branch, and as the United States has no process for a vote of no confidence. Many Democrats supported the President, as they did in the first Gulf War. For the Second Iraq War, though, the political forces were stronger, as the Democrats did not want to appear weak, with an election near, instead wanting to focus on the economy. It is unclear whether or not the members of Congress fully knew what exactly they were voting for, as some, like former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, as well as Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, would later say they were merely giving “authority,” and that they, if President, would have not used. Mississippi Republican Senator and Majority Leader Trent Lott even said on 3 September, 2002, “I do think that we’re going to have to get a more coherent message together” (Fisher 2003, p. 3).
The “Going alone” option seemed to give the most fear to the members of Congress for some reason, while others, like Delaware Senator Joe Biden, pondered if the United States would use a quick, “in-and-out” air campaign. The more senior members should have, and some, like Senator Robert Byrd, did seem to know after all that this could be used as justification for war, saying, “this war hysteria has blown in like a hurricane” (Fisher 2003, p. 5). But did President Bush truly desire for Congress to follow his leadership, and go to war, or was he merely asking Congress to lead and make the best decision that he felt they could, opining on the issue at hand? This was the sort of lack of leadership unfortunately characterizing the Bush administration. Ambiguity can confuse an enemy, as Michael Kinsley noted in an October 11, 2002 “Washington Post” editorial, and the eventual sending of American troops may have added pressure on Iraq, but this was not intended- the chaos was “real” (Fisher 2003, p. 4). Rather than waiting until after the Congressional elections, the House of Representatives voted unnecessarily urgently 296-133 in favor of force, while the Senate voted on 7 October 2002: the total was 77-23 in support, the only Republican Senator opposed being Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (Fisher 2003, p. 9-10). Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy called for a second vote, after the State of the Union in January, but Congress demurred, being already on the jingoistic bandwagon (Hulse 2003, p. 1).
The Fog of War and Confusion
True leadership is certainly not synonymous with those in sole positions of power. Another unusual occurrence that occurred, from lack of information, was a wave of anti-Semitism by some that swept across the country at the time, with some blaming America’s policy towards Iraq on Israel. Former President Clinton said that he would “grab a rifle and get in the trench and fight and die” (Geller and Johnson 2002, p. 1), at a Jewish fundraising event, apparently confused that Israel was being threatened. This just goes to describe the complete misperception. Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman switched from supporting a peaceful resolution with Iraq, instead backing President Bush. One Congressmen, James Moran of Virginia went so far in his egregious remarks, saying that, “If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this” (Vann 2003, p. 1).
This only goes to show the maelstrom, even amongst some of America’s highest officials, of what was transpiring. It is true that a number of Jewish writers, such as Bill Keller of “The New York Times,” and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, were writing in favor of the ethics of war, and that many of President Bush’s administration were Jewish, such as Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz, Richard Perle of the Defense Policy Board, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, and National Security member Elliott Abrams (Van 2003, p. 2-3). The U.S.’ relationship with Israel is complex, Israel being a strong ally. Regardless, Representative Moran’s comments were unacceptable: there were calls for resignation, yet he serves today. Strikingly, Pope John Paul II would later send an ambassador to the United States in a last effort from war, but unfortunately, it was ill-timed for a President who would not listen, as we shall see. A yet additional, unusual development was a Russian pledge to aid Iraq militarily, although it was unclear then, as well as now, if this was genuine, or an attempt to meddle in geopolitics. It could have been precarious, but Secretary Powell immediately warned Russian President Vladimir Putin not to interfere: engaging Russia may have been equally helpful. Because the Cold War was over, the U.S. was free to attack Iraq, whereas, “[t]he United States would not have attacked Iraq had it been a Soviet client state, as in the Cold war” (Lieberfeld 2005, p. 2).
Where was the decision-supporting role of members the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the great democratic alliance, in all of this? According to author Fred Barnes, President Bush “loathed French president Jacques Chirac every bit as much as he disliked UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan” (Barnes 2006, p. 98). President Bush would meet periodically at Camp David with Great Britain’s Prime-Minister, Tony Blair, throughout the year of 2002 (Sanger 2002, p. 1). Blair supposedly did not support “regime change” in title, but their government instead supported weapons inspections (Bath 2011, p. 1). Great Britain’s so-called “Downing Street Memos,” from July 2002 but not released until 2005, revealed that this nation thought the war was “inevitable,” an international circular reasoning (Tenet 2007, p. 301). According to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Great Britain supported the United States because of the weapons of mass destruction issue, and Straw believed in pressuring Iraq. Later in his memoirs Straw calls the Bush administration “dysfunctional,” in how Vice President Cheney did not support the decision to go the United Nations. The Parliament would vote 412-149 in favor of war, and it may have later cost Prime-Minister Tony Blair his job (Straw 2012, p. 1-3).
So, NATO was strained more than ever before, with angry exchanges amongst ambassadors, and accusations by the United States that France had given Great Britain false documents. It went so far as allegations that France was trading military equipment with Iraq (“Iraq War Prelude,” p. 6-7). The National Security Strategy of the United States of America did call for NATO to develop more movable forces that could quickly defend any attacked ally, which supported Defense Security Rumsfeld’s desire for a lighter force. It also writes about using economies of scale in defense spending, expanding to new members, and using better planning, to “work and fight together as allies” (“National Security Strategy” 2002, p. 26). This would ensure success as during the Cold War, but certainly contradicted the coalition of the willing with Great Britain and Spain that President Bush was developing as an alternative. Germany would say from the onset that it was uninterested in sending troops (Bumiler 2002, p. 1), while Portugal and Spain would later host a small summit in the Azores.
Events at the United Nations began to move more quickly. At first, President Bush gave a speech to the General Assembly on 12 September, 2002, declaring, as others would say, the stands that the U.S. was prepared to make. Although it offered few specifics, it was delivered well. It included a litany of past Iraqi violations of U.N. resolutions, but nowhere, however, was the mention of “inspections” (Blix1 2004, p. 73-74). Furthermore, it was still unclear if the United States wanted to pursue a multilateral approach. There were tensions at the U.N., a belief that America was manipulating the actions behind the scenes (Gordon2 2012, p. x-2). Three U.N. officials had already resigned in protest, and Russia and France, as well as a number of small countries like Zimbabwe, distrusted America’s policies due to years of what they perceived as economic abuse of the Iraqi relationship (Gordon2 2012, p. 3). Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke warned that inspections would be logistically difficult, again indicating the tautological, miscommunication within the administration (Fisher 2003, p. 3). Meanwhile, the charismatic and consequential French ambassador, Dominique de Villepin, argued that “The use of force can only be a final recourse” (“U.S. Policy” 2004, p. 5).
On 3 October, the Iraqis agreed to a new “inspections regime,” but it demanded a fifteen minute delay before entering sites. Perhaps, as UNMOVIC director Hans Blix thought, this was for “dignity” reasons and the almost paranoia by the Iraqis that the inspectors were spies observing conventional forces (Blix1, 2004 p. 80-82). On 8 November 2002, the United Nations’ Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1441, giving Iraq one last chance to comply, but it was still unclear who would make the decision if they were in compliance or not, the French believing it would be the inspections committee (Blix1, 2004 p. 89). The inspectors began on 27 November 2002, and would look for equipment, take samples of soils, liquids, or dusts. Blix wanted Iraq to confess all of its information, and present data like a tax form, and Iraq did comply by submitting 12,000 pages, but much of it was rehashed information from the past, perhaps simply because there was no new information (Blix1 2004, p. 95-101). In total, there were some 550 inspections at over 350 different sites (Gordon2 2012, p. 31).
Blix personally believed that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction, and he feared for the American public, which, one might add, had been cured of their post-Vietnam syndrome of distrusting the military after the first Gulf War. He thought they were becoming more bellicose towards their president. Still, the only evidence was a few discovered shells that could hold chemical weapons. After they were found, Iraq formed their very own commission to investigate (Blix1 2004, p. 112-118). A number of documents were found on how to enrich uranium using lasers, and Iraq formed another commission (Blix1 2004, p. 124). Iraq did agree to destroy a number of old Al Samoud 2 missiles, which Blix said were substantial and “were not toothpicks” (Blix1 2004, p. 209). Writes Blix, many countries, except the United States, began to believe that the inspections from the Gulf War through 1998 had succeeded (Blix1 2004, p. 237). If the United States did not give time to achieve verification, however, then, “the (entire) institution of international inspections was in danger” (Blix1 2004, p. 128).
On 5 February 2003, Secretary of State Powell made his infamous presentation to the Security Council of supposed Iraqi violations (Blix1 2004, p. 152-153). Without using information from the inspections, but relying on spy photos of supposed weapons sites, tape recordings between Iraq officials, and statements from leaks in the Iraqi government, he argued the link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. This was nevertheless unlikely given their religious differences, the first Sunni, the latter Shi’ite (“U.S. Policy” 2004, p. 5). Powell argued that Iraq had mobile production facilities used to make biological agents. The Bush administration suggested that Iraq had purchased aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons, but inspectors only believed that these were used for: conventional rockets and could only be used as centrifuges for creating uranium if additional equipment, such as metal caps, motors, and magnets had been purchased, for which there was no evidence. Regarding the mobile production facilities, two were later found after the war, but what they were being used for is not clear- they could have been used to transport food and other humanitarian materials (Fisher 2003, p. 7-8).
According to Daadler and Destler, Powell was only arguing feverishly before the U.N. because he believed he had lost the argument, and that the decision to war had already been made, once again reinforcing the tautology (Daadler and Destler 2009, p. 280). Simultaneously, defense official Paul Wolfowitz repeated the call for “regime change,” but this is something that the United Nations could not carry out (Blix1 2004, p. 136-137). He feared for President Bush having his hands tied, but later would say that the cause of the war was “bureaucratic,” or as one might say, tautological (Blix1 2004, p. 266). Just prior to this, President Bush had implied, in his State of the Union Address on 28 January ’03, that the British government said that Iraq had obtained “yellowcake,” a type of natural uranium, from Africa, which today remains one of the greatest mysteries of the lead-up to war, because, in Blix words, the documents were false, and “it did not stand up to common sense” (Blix1 2004, p. 234). Central Intelligence Director Tenet would later say about the intelligence that there was never a discussion of questions about going to war, it was always tentative and focused on “if a decision to attack were later made” (Daalder and Destler 2009, p. 279). He does say that there was chatter on Iraq after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, which must have been confusing (Daalder and Destler 2009, p. 279).
National Security Advisor Rice had insisted as far back as Fall 2002 that a national intelligence report was unnecessary, supposedly because she “thought they [knew] everything there was to know” (Daadler and Destler 2009, p. 286). But, the administration’s reluctance may have been from fear of the lack of evidence they might realize. The National Security Act of 1947 created such estimates after U.S. troops were surprised in South Korea by the North. Written by the National Intelligence Council, they are delivered to the Director of National Intelligence. Granted, some procedures are different following the intelligence restructuring in President Bush’s second term (Bruno and Otterman 2008, p. 1). The report was finally commissioned by the Senate in October 2002, but afterwards, large sections were blocked out by the CIA, and only 14 of the 93 pages are totally legible. We do know that the Senate Intelligence Committee, afterwards, withheld sections of its own analysis from the CIA, for fear of manipulation, which included facts that Secretary Powell’s testimony before the U.N. was misleading and that the CIA’s own assessment left out any dissenting opinions, again highlighting tautologies (“CIA Whites Out” 2004, p. 1). Another Senate report issued in 2008 would question information from captured detainees (“Spies, Lies” 2008, p. 2), and suggests that dissident Iraq political groups, led by Ahmad Chalabi, were supplying politically motivated info. As State Department official Greg Theilman later said, the administration took the attitude of, “we know the answers, give us the intelligence to support those answers” (Blix1 2004, p. 263), just another example of circular reasoning.
The intelligence report was flawed, CIA Director Tenet later said. A former congressional aid and then deputy CIA Director, he took the position under Clinton after John Deutch left. The agency combined two different reports, in an effort to rush, and therefore, the language was less nuanced, and more assertive, than he intended (Tenet 2007, p. 334). Although he later said that he truly believed Iraq was building weapons of some kind, Tenet also later agreed with Paul Wolfowitz. Both said that the Bush administration’s focus on weapons of mass destruction, before the public and United Nations, resulted only because this was the only cause for war that all different members of the administration could agree on (Tenet, 2007, p. 322).
True leaders respond to changes and adapt to failures. In hindsight, but well known to some at the time, the U.N. inspections suffered from a number of political, institutional problems. These added to the communication flaws. First, there were no “benchmarks” (Gordon2, 2012) being used to determine whether or not Iraq was complying, a possible future improvement. The decision depended on a recommendation from the UNMOVIC committee, headed by the cautious Hans Blix. After several reports to the U.N. which were non-confirming of the presence of weapons, Blix was in talks with Great Britain’s ambassador about creating new benchmarks, but the United States opposed it for fear of losing time, as it had a growing army waiting in the desert sands and wanted to invade in the cooler months of February or March (Blix1 2004, p. 91). A Council official said about the United Nations, as early as the 1990s, “the Security Council … (must) avoid the temptation to shift the goalposts. Where compliance has occurred, it must be accepted and recognized… .” (Gordon2, 2012 p. 205).
Secretary of State Powell decreed that the benchmark would be if Iraq had made a “strategic decision” to change its policies, but how exactly does a country do this and how is it measured? At another point earlier on, in September 2002, he said to the British Broadcasting Company that inspections would only be “a first step” (Fisher 2003, p. 2). If weapons of mass destruction had indeed been found in Iraq, it would have meant non-compliance, but by them not being found in Iraq, Iraq was of course hiding something, reinforcing the communication problems between the U.S. and Iraq. Furthermore, if Saddam Hussein was an irrational dictator, how could he have behaved rationally? It was also never clear what the distinction was between having weapons of mass destruction and having the “capacity” for weapons, which Powell and others frequently referred to (Gordon 2 2012, p. 235).
A second institutional weakness of the United Nations was that of the “reverse veto.” This referred to the fact that a policy put in place, such as the sanctions, could remain in place forever. This was due to the fact in order to undue a policy like a sanction, you needed another vote of the Security Council, which the first party would simply veto. A solution would be to place time limits, or so-called “sunset provisions,” on resolutions. This is indeed what the Bangladesh Ambassador suggested in 1999, but was ignored (Gordon2, 2012 p. 120-121).
A third institutional weakness was the lack of resources, of both the U.N. inspections agencies, and CIA intelligence on Iraq. The creation of UNSCOM inspections by the U.N. after the first Gulf War was unprecedented and required great skill and care, bringing together qualified scientists and diplomats from around the world (Compendium, C1 2002). For instance, at their highest peak, in the face of this, the number of U.N. inspectors was only about 100 (Blix1 2004, p. 109). Only after a substantial amount of arguing could UNMOVIC use U2 spy plane and satellite information, because the U.S. would have to promise Iraq that they would not bomb no-fly zones (Blix, 121). French ambassador Villepin had suggested specific monitoring of suspicious sites, and stopping convoys of trucks, but it fell on deft ears (Blix, 170). The U.N.’s final compendium notes is a quick way to analyze a nation’s weapons development, but as we have seen with the yellowcake incident, this too can be misleading (Compendium, C8, 2007, p. 51). Given strapped resources, the inspectors could have done a better job of managing synergies and economies of scale across different weapons types, such as biological, conventional, or nuclear (Compendium, C8, 2007, p. 30). It is interesting that after the invasion, intelligence officials working in Iraq claimed that they needed 6-9 months to determine if there were weapons of mass destruction, much longer than they were given (Tenet 2007, p. 407). Lastly, more translators and cultural experts were needed (Compendium, C8, 2007, p. 32).
Transparency was a fourth weakness. Very few members of Congress actually knew what was going on through the entire process. Much of the Security Council deliberations were behind closed doors, generating no official records (Gordon1 2013, p. 2 and 170). According to the U.N.’s final, 2007 report, it was essential that inspectors were seen as being independent, but where they seen this way? (Compendium, C8, 2007. p. 8) It is unclear whether members of the Security Council knew what they were voting on with Resolution 1441; it merely calls for “serious consequences,” and even references “terrorism,” for which Iraq was not responsible (Resolution 1441, 2012, p. 2+5). Also, perhaps instead of “regime change,” which we now know from secret documents was used by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld regarding both Iran and North Korea, there may have been a better euphemism.
Finally, a fifth weakness of the U.N. was that it could not implement “regime change,” as the U.N. Charter and international law forbid the overthrow of any one government by another (Gordon2 2012 p. 170). It was an unacceptably solvable problem. Furthermore, the United Nations is a body dedicated to uplifting the poor, according to Article 55 (Gordon2, 2012 p. 46), and in ending poverty and assisting with development, which is the exact opposite than the sanctions it imposed on Iraq, raising questions about “humanitarian interests and security concerns” (Gordon2 2012, p. 79). According to Gordon, “(t)he history of economic sanctions suggests that they often turn into a stalemate from which none of the parties can extract themselves” (Gordon2 2012, p. 10). In relation to this, “the target state rarely changes its actions or policies in response” (Gordon2 2012, p. 10), and it becomes a “dilemma: if it lifts the sanctions, it will be a clear admission of failure” (Gordon2 2012, p. 10-11). So, instead, they are given “time to work” (Gordon2 2012, p. 11). Additionally, if the desire was “freedom” or “regime change,” why did no resolutions require Iraq to hold elections? (Gordon2 2012)
True leaders must ponder the probable and anticipated consequences of their decisions. In mid-March 2003, secret sources apparently said Iraqi officials tried to contact U.S. officials directly (Blix1 2004, p. 250). Following this, Saddam Hussein gave a speech, via a British request, on his son’s television network declaring openly that he had no weapons of mass destruction, but by this time no one was watching. Captured Iraqi officials claimed that Saddam’s son destroyed all of his chemical weapons in the Summer of 1991, after the first Gulf War, but no one listened (Blix1 2004, p. 251+257). The final decision to go to war came down to two important factors: another circular argument from former George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of State James Baker, and an ideological decision of a president who had often said that his father was too humble a man to make the right choice. First, Mr. Baker began to argue, through editorials and other informal communication, that “the only realistic way to effect regime change in Iraq is through the application of military force” (Krauthammer 2007, p. 2).
This mantra, although begun by Baker in August 2002, and tempered with reservations, started to be used by almost all members of the Bush administration, circularly. Baker had argued that the United Nations already had sufficient legal authority to deal with Iraq (Baker 2002, p. 2), and conservative columnist George Will had added several days later that this had provided a “casus belli,” a just and reasonable case for war (Will1 2002, p. 1). On an 8 September 2002 Fox News show, Secretary Powell had been asked about Baker’s comments, and he replied, “I just certainly have enormous respect for my colleague and dear friend, Jim Baker, and he lays out a scenario that has to be thought through carefully” (Fox News, 2002). On 15 September 2002, Will wrote that “the burden of proof is on those who say disarmament can be achieved without regime change” (Will2 2002, p. 1). One finds a British political scholar, Robert Skidelsky, echoing Baker in saying, “the only way to achieve the elimination of Iraq’s WMD’s is to eliminate the regime” (Skidelsky 2003).
Second, President Bush applied an international relations view of liberalism, or a pugnacious version of Wilsonian idealism. It holds that leaders look at problems from the other nations’ viewpoint in order to benefit all people involved, which it is not altogether negative. Bush’s idealism, though, was not anti-war, but was that the people of Iraq would be better off with a free democracy at any cost. It was based on his religion, that, “freedom is … God’s gift to humanity” (Goodreads, 1). He most likely gave little thought to the devastating costs of war. According to journalist Russ Baker, another journalist named Mickey Herskowitz, who co-authored President W. Bush’s 2000 book A Charge to Keep, was told egotistically by George W. Bush that, “My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait, and he wasted it” (Baker 2012, p. 2). He continued, “If I have a chance to invade… if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it” (Baker 2012, p. 2).
Perhaps President Bush truly wanted this outcome from the beginning, but it is unlikely, since he could have gone to war immediately if he had wanted to: it took a tautology. Now, with all of the parts were now in place, a decision could be made, easily, for the flaws had enabled all of the puzzle to take shape. France, Russia, China, Germany, and Syria opposed war, with the United States, Great Britain, Spain, and Bulgaria supporting it, and Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico, and Pakistan were all on the fence, nine votes being needed without a veto by the permanent members (“Iraq War Prelude” 2004, p. 7). The U.S. and its allies decided not to seek a second vote, believing that Resolution 1441 was sufficient, but more importantly, that a second vote could not pass (“U.S. Policy” 2004, p. 7).
All of the pieces for war were now aligned for an easy decision. This is what President Bush wanted: leadership ease. On 17 March, 2003, Bush gave Hussein a forty-eight hour deadline to leave; there was no mention of regimes or powerful weapons. Saddam Hussein demurred, and the result was war. As Gordon points out, the U.S. decision making process was “diffuse and abstract” (Gordon2 2012, p. ix). Gordon writes, “The structure of the U.N. and the Security Council permitted a single nation to determine its decisions, and in some instances to override the will of nearly every member of the Council, for years on end” (Gordon2 2012, p. 229). It represented “a single nation hijacking an institution of governance and substituting its own agenda in place of the interests and will of the international community” (Gordon2 2012, p. 230). Whether one views the entirety of the U.N. actions as a success or failure will be left to history, but if it did fail, like the League of Nations, it was because of the shift after the first Gulf War towards American hegemonic power, which allowed the U.S. to become a manipulator (Gordon1 2013, p. 6). The League of Nations failed for other reasons, among them border disputes, and the lack of U.S. support. Regarding the U.N. and international diplomacy, economist Niall Ferguson says, “it was a mistake to try both at once” (Fergusson 2004, p. xvi).
In hindsight, the invasion was rushed, and the communications broke down, as the United States could have given the inspectors more time to work, and Iraq more time to comply. With the invasion, if the United States could have done so with three times as many troops, instead of the some 150,000 that were sent, some one-fourth of the first Gulf War amount (Diamond 2005, p. 281). This is especially true since Turkey voted not to allow American troops to enter Iraq from its border, but after that nation’s decision, the United States had no recourse. The United States could have continued to play cat-and-mouse with Iraq with no harm. It could have strategically bombed those sites thought to contain weapons. Then the Unites States could have said, simply, that it believed in regime change, as in 1998. Instead, the United States went to war. Post-war planning was terrible. The U.S. dissolved the 400,000 member Iraqi army, and 30-50,000 member civil servants, immediately making new enemies (Diamond, 39). National Security Advisor Rice had said: “the institutions would hold, everything from ministries to police forces,” (Diamond 2005, p. 285), which they did not.
We know from Putnam (1988) that foreign policy has a domestic and international component. Game theory evolved from the trench warfare of World War I, when opposing soldiers mutually decided not to fire at each other. It was developed further later on by economists John von Neumann and John Nash. In the simple model, the logical equilibrium for both sides, when each benefited most knowing that total gain was not possible, was no war with economic sanctions, or some combination. This was not possible with “regime change,” including since lifting sanctions would have legitimized the government: this was a “tit for tat” strategy President Bush would not play. Instead, this moved the optimum decision from no war, which was acceptable to both, to war with sanctions continued, which was acceptable only by the United States. In the words of NATO Commander Wesley Clark, a Pentagon general said to him, “I guess they don’t know what else to do” (“The Iraq Invasion” 2013, p. 1). A three dimensional model involving inspections could be created, too, with the same outcome. An interesting point that CIA Director George Tenet made afterwards, which also affected the framework, was that America thought Iraq was bluffing when it said it had no “WMDs,” while Iraq thought the United States was bluffing when it threatened to invade (Tenet, 333). Iraq may have needed this guise of weapons, and delaying inspections, to deter its neighbor, Iran. Overall, such a model is increasingly valuable, the globe more vexing in the New World Order, with regional powers emerging.
With resolve, the pre-Iraq-War U.N. inspections did ultimately work to prevent Iraq from gaining weapons of mass destruction, leading the U.N.’s 2007 report to be titled “verification” (Compendium, C1, 2007): the authors, the inspectors, were justifiably proud of their work. From the inspections following the first Gulf War, United Nations records show that in 1992, Iraq destroyed “key nuclear facilities, as well as chemical weapons and related production capabilities” (“A Chronology” 2002, p. 2). A 2002 document shows that in 1994, the IAEA shipped to Russia, for safe-keeping, “Iraq’s last quantities of highly enriched uranium” (“A Chronology” 2002, p. 3). During the 1990s, the team destroyed 60 pieces of biological equipment, 22 tons of biological growth media, 38,000 tons of chemical warfare munitions, and 690 tons of chemical warfare agents (“A Chronology” 2002, p. 4-6). This could have been further verified with more time, and the troops already sent could have been used to apply pressure, as it did in 1998, which saw a US-led military buildup (“A Chronology,” 2002, p. 4).
The Immediate Aftermath
True leaders plan ahead and apply lessons learned to new circumstances. It would be remiss not to bring the situation up to date, and to apply lessons from Iraq to the broader Middle-East today. The situation in Iraq would have been much worse without the so-called “Sunni Awakening,” or “Anbar Awakening,” that occurred, along with the “surge” in United States forces, between 2006 and 2007, of over 20,000 additional troops. The United States was able to improve security and to convince the Sunnis to work together against the Shi’ites and Iranians. The Sunni sheiks were convinced to make a strategic decision because Al Qaeda was seen as more of a permanent threat, whereas American troops promised to stay only temporarily, and was thus a better short-term ally. The United States meanwhile switched its policy of sending money through the federal government, to sheiks themselves, more consistent with local culture. When several sheiks were assassinated, like Sheikh Nasr, by Al Qaeda in 2005, it furthered angered the Sunnis, who came to distrust Al Qaeda’s agenda (McCary 2009, p. 43-49), and dislike their “fundamentalist Islamist lifestyle” (McCary 2009, p. 49). They then allowed American troops to patrol their neighborhoods, so Americans came to understand their divided loyalties (McCary 2009, p. 52). This system was applied to other locales (McCary 2009, p. 53).
In the immediate aftermath, while Bush celebrated aboard an aircraft carrier on 1 May, 2003, the United Nations, which the Bush administration deplored, did play an ethical role in helping refugees, stabilization, and improving schools, because it had extensive experiences in Iraq from the inspections in the 1990s. Nevertheless, post-war reconstruction and reconciliation was a United States’ led operation. The first U.N. envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello, wanted power transferred to the Iraqis as soon as possible. However, according to political consultant Larry Diamond, the United States official in charge of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Ambassador Paul Bremer, resisted this out of traditional fears that rushed elections could lead to the victory of extremists. Disbanding the Baathists, like in WWII with the Nazi party, was a falsely pursued model. Secretary-General Kofi Annan wanted an interim government first, and then a constitution, but the United States thought it would lack legitimacy. This was one of three options the U.N debated, the others being taking complete control themselves, as in East Timor and Kosovo, but Iraq was much larger in size, or giving the United States complete control, which could lead to backlash (Diamond 2005, p. 46-56). De Mello engaged in a “whirlwind of meetings with [numerous] Iraqis” (Diamond 2005, p. 54), and learned of Ayatollah Sistani’s preference for an elected group, rather than one appointed, to draft the constitution, but again Ambassador Bremer expressed doubts (Diamond 2005, p. 46-56).
The United States and Great Britain, under U.N. Resolution 1483, called for a transitional government, to be advised by the U.N., but de Mellow was “alarmed” it was not being followed, and U.N. aides felt they lacked “value” from the U.S. (Diamond 2005, p. 57). Regardless, a terrorist attack killed some 1/3 lives of the 300 U.N. representatives, including that of de Mello, leading to a temporary suspension of the U.N. mission (Diamond 2005, p. 46-56). Following this occurrence, Diamond says the United States wanted the U.N. to return, but with a limited mission, and they feared the U.N. would support the Sunni minority. It wanted the U.N. to monitor, but not revise, the process that was taking place (Diamond 2005, p. 133-134). The U.N. wanted to see political parties crossing ethnic lines, and include leaders like Muqtada al-Sadr (Diamond 2005, p. 60-61). Months later, Secretary-General Annan appointed another mission to “look for consensus” (Diamond 2005, p. 136). Straight-away, U.N. officials plunged into meetings with tribal, religious, civil society, women, journalist, and academia. The U.N. convinced the Iraqi Ayatollah Sistani that it would take, upon compromise, eight months to organize elections (Diamond 2005, p. 136-139). Sistani would later oppose the constitution making body, because it was “unelected” and therefore was illegitimate (Diamond 2005, p. 249).
The U.S. helped create the Iraqi constitution based on U.N. civil rights principles from 1966 (Diamond 2005, p. 146). The U.N. later aided with the transitional elections, and Secretary-General Annan said they that its representative “did as best as he could” (Diamond 2005, p. 264). Although the U.N. had already recognized the state temporarily, the United States’ appointed Governing Council passed Resolution 1546, recognizing Iraq. It continued to provide advice and support (Diamond 2005, p. 265-267). The Iraqis seemed to understand democracy, but, despite an American led propaganda campaign, there was confusion over concepts like federalism, making treaties, and secularism. A mistake was made in underrepresenting the Sunnis in the government (Diamond 2005, p. 268-269).
One of the last acts of the Bush administration was in 2008, to create a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which would keep troops only until 3 December 2011, which at the time seemed far enough off. Contractors for the State Department would retain diplomatic immunity until then. Both Ayatollah Sistani and Prime Minister Maliki had qualms over Iraqi sovereignty, but the Iraqi parliament was encouraged by the fact that general contractors could still be prosecuted for any crimes. The new Defense Secretary Robert Gates predicted that another agreement in several years would allow “several tens of thousands of American troops” (Bumiller 2008, p. 2), much like after World War II with Germany and Japan. Pentagon analysts were still drawing up 30,000 to 70,000 troop plans (Shanker 2008, p. 1-2), and Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen said that, “three years is a long time. Conditions could change in that time period” (Morgan 2008, p. 1). The final deal for removing U.S. troops from cities by 2009 and all by 2011 was acquired only with concession that they could not search or raid homes without Iraqi approval, that Iraq could search packages and weapons, and that they could prosecute U.S. troops under certain situations. The whole issue would later resurface.
The Leadership Diverges
True leaders might change the course of a predecessor’s decision when deem warranted. Or, they keep aspects of it constant even if not popular. In 2008, with “change we can believe in,” four-year Illinois Senator President Barack H. Obama was elected to America’s highest office on three issues: the issue of the economy, following the 2008 financial collapse, ending the war in Iraq, and the belief that America had ignored Afghanistan, hardly possible with the size of the U.S. military at the time. His having opposed the Iraq War as a State Senator in Illinois, calling it a “dumb war,” despite ambiguous comments made at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, helped him to display good judgment and assisted with his defeat of Senator Hillary Clinton in 2008. One of his first acts was to call Middle-Eastern leaders to smooth relations. While some claims have been made that he was “suckered” by the military into sending more troops to Afghanistan, instead, according to Bob Woodward in Obama’s Wars, the military seemed quite willing to accommodate any goal, real or political, he desired, the military referring to him as “the first customer.” Vice President Joseph Biden’s warned about a protracted war in Afghanistan, too. However, the military prevented Marine General Hoss Cartwright from becoming Chairman of the Joint Chief, because the “top brass” disapproved of his suggestions to focus on counter-terrorism efforts, rather than a broader counter-insurgency strategy, even though President Obama had asked for more options. The surge in Afghanistan, unlike Iraq, was opposed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats, perhaps justifiably. Also according to Woodward, President Obama was reluctant to speed up the training Afghan troops due to the heavy financial costs (Woodward, 2010).
Having very little foreign policy experience, but an undergraduate student of political science with an international emphasis, President Obama chose to keep several former Bush officials, such as Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who was a previous C.I.A head whom President George W. Bush had used brilliantly to replace Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld at the start of the surge, an action which Dick Cheney had been ambivalent about. This gave a needed sense of continuity. At first, defense officials seemed to play a larger role in his administration, while in his second term, the State Department and Secretary of State John Kerry subsumed primacy. President Obama had an aversion to war, similar to President James E. Carter. Then, it was a matter of religion, but with President Obama, it may have been due to his lack of military experience, his recognition that all warfare is messy, or, perhaps due to his political mandate. He would quickly remove General Stanley McChrystal for his unprofessional comments while trapped in Europe by an Icelandic volcano eruption, and he made similar bureaucratic mistakes as Bush did, such as first appointing former Clinton administration Chief of Staff Leon Panetta as C.I.A director, and then General David Petraeus, both widely known to have little intelligence experience. Like President Bush, he valued loyalty and kept appointments close politically.
Much of the current public discussion has centered on the issue that President Obama could have negotiated a new status of forces agreement with the Iraqis, to legally protect U.S. troops. But, constant tension between the President, the Defense Department, and the Iraqi government, in which the number of troops were kept being lessened by the President, to 2,000, and the failure to push hard in the Iraqi talks, gave the indication to Prime Minister Malaki that the United States was not really interested. With only three U.S. soldiers having been killed in 2011 in Iraq, American showed too much hubris and took its eye off of this ball (Meyers 2013, p. 2). Maliki may have realized, as some Iraqi’s believed, that President Obama “casually announces his policy intentions, …, then leaves it up to the Congress and federal bureaucracy to worry about implementation… .” (“Iraq Status of Forces” 2011, p. 2). The troops leaving gave Maliki the chance to make a power grab and arrest Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi in 2010 (Parker 2012, p. 1-5). In hindsight, as Ambassador Ryan Crocker worried, removing all troops might restart sectarian disagreements, as it eventually did (Crocker 2010, p. 22).
President Obama’s leadership was a divide from President Bush, but it is too soon to label his foreign policy. But, it was not made of tautological flaws. Unlike President Bush, who made decisions quickly, President Obama was almost procrastinating, as he did admit in a CBS “60 Minutes” television interview that he was “lazy.” This can be both positive and negative, such as how his “strategic patience,” as it first came be called with respect to North Korea, did prove fruitful in some instances. Early on, he chose a Cabinet based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals,” that included campaign opponent Senator Hillary Clinton, to be Secretary of State, probably to unite the Democratic Party, but with representation appearing to be based solely on demographics, it could have been labeled a “Team of Mascots,” write some (Purdum, 2012). What is clear is that the decision making has been very reactionary, rather than proactionary, with more regional ramifications. The media is becoming a widespread source of information on foreign affairs. This might be called “Policy by the Press.” Expert Joseph Nye has called the foreign policy “soft power,” or what Hillary Clinton called “leading from behind,” in which during Libya, for example, the United States relied on NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) forces, probably to save funds. President Obama often went against his advisors, which we learn from the Bush team can be a positive trait and prevent tautologies.
In Iraq, the Presidency in Iraq of Nouri al Maliki had led to a “culture of graft,” (Parker, 6), that divided ethnic groups, and paid military soldiers who did not exist. The secret money went into commanders’ pockets, or into ghost companies, and kickbacks. Directly post-bellum, honest employees feared for their safety, since “[c]ommitting murder … is casual” (Parker 2012, p. 7). While once willing to confront his own people in the southern, oil-rich state of Basra, Maliki changed. Still today, Sunnis view the government as linked to Shi’ite Iran, which could lead to separation politically into regions. Tensions were heightened in 2006 when Al Qaeda destroyed the Askariya Mosque, a symbol of unity, but Shi’ites are again traveling there (Parke 2012, p. 8-9). Analyst Ned Parker warned as early as 2012, America’s must “start pushing hard for power sharing” (Parker 2012, p. 9), and “not stay silent in the face of illegal detentions and crackdowns on civil liberties…” (Parker 2012, p. 9). Overall, accountable representative government should have been the indicator of success (Parker 2012, p. 8-11).
The Iraqi political system, as designed, lacked cross-cutting cleavages, with ethnic groups pitted against each other. By agreement in 2005, The Iraqi Constitution did assign lower positions specifically to certain ethnicity members, such as how Lebanon does. The prime minister is a Shi’ite, the president a Kurd, and the parliament speaker a Sunni (Sly 2014, p. 3). The Sunni-Shi’ite divide dates to the 7th C. AD, when two groups formed from the Prophet Mohammad’s family, after his passing, mostly over whether leadership should be hereditary. The current parliament has 107 political “entities” or parties (“Iraq’s 2014 Elections,” 2014, p. 1). Unlike 2010, the Sunni are divided, the Kurdish president has been ill, and the Kurds are upset with the Shi’ites over oil regulations (Sly 2014, p. 1-4). The lack of U.S. troops eliminated much intelligence over forecasting political developments (“Iraq gears up,” 2014, p. 2). While the 2010 elections “exhibited diversity,” elections since have not (“Iraq’s 2014 Elections,” 2014, p. 3), there have been few younger, “newcomer” candidates since the war, and elites are out-of-touch with “the street” (“Iraq’s 2014 Elections,” 2014, p. 4). The interference of Iran, and non-interference by the United States, is how Maliki was able to defeat Allawi in 2010.
Slipping quietly into the night, in December 2011, all U.S. troops vacated Iraq, without a whimper (“Civilian Deaths,” 1), but an escalation of violence would begin again after the April-May 2014 election, with 3,000 individuals being killed in sectarian violence (Bhatti and Karim, 2014, p. 2). Most of the violence of the 2014 election came from the disenfranchised Sunni groups, which have been joining ISIS, the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, also known as ISIL, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (a Ottoman, Muslim state). The Sunnis were angry over imprisonments, and laws which prevented former Baath party members from holding positions (Al-Salhy and Otten 2014, p. 2-3). Mr. Maliki also took on the positions of minister of defense, interior, and national security, starting in 2010. The United States has wanted the best of all worlds- a strong leader, but inclusiveness as well (“Iraq gears up,” 2014, p. 3).
New Problems Emerge
True leaders have the courage to question their own beliefs. They receive constructive feedback, taking the time to make the decisions which are theirs to make. The violent “Islamic State,” which started with only 6,000 to 14,000 fighters, is now seen as the region’s greatest threat. It became organized in 2003, led by a Jordanian, who then moved to Syria. They present little harm to Baghdad, but are terrorizing, and the United States’ intelligence has been sloppy, evidenced by the fact that Obama administration officials refer to this cabal via different names. A violent, extremist Sunni group, they may have been prevented by Vice President Joseph Biden’s early plan to partition the state of Iraq into three states, with a federal government, but the Iraqi people opposed this idea, for being too complex, especially over oil. President Obama’s release of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was largely because Hagel saw ISIL as a growing threat, while President Obama saw it as the now well-known phrase, the “junior varsity.” The U.S. would begin airstrikes in August 2014, still lacking the proposed three-year Congressional approval (Meyers 2013, p. 1).
Political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, who predicted the “clash” with the Middle East, once wrote that lasting institutions are more important than a quick democracy. Giving rise to extremism are Iraq’s primary problems such as utilities, as in electricity and water. Electricity use has increased from new appliances and consumer electronics, such that supply feel 4,000 Mega Watts short of demand (wikipedia). During the height of the insurgency in 2006, only one public service measure was above pre-war levels: hours of power accessible outside of Baghdad. Electrical generation and hours of power per day in Baghdad, oil heating production, amount of Iraqis with drinking water, and access to sewage, were all worse after the war, despite some $16 billion dollars of direct U.S. aid, and $30 billion dollars of aid overall. The World Bank estimated that as much as $84 billion dollars may have been spent on Iraqi and Afghani restoration, mostly in Iraq (Dolan 2013, p. 2). As of 2006, the United States had spent $15 billion dollars training Iraq’s army; it most likely now is triple (Glanz 2014, p. 1-4).
In terms of domestic macroeconomics, the country is still suffering, having retracted 28.3% at the start of the war, according to Business Monitor International. It actually grew 39.6% in 2004, which is typically following a large downturn, and occurred during what is referred to as the “golden hour” of the security situation (Dobbins et al, 2007). It then fell to an average of 6.5% between 2005 and 2011, with expectations for 9.4% up through the end 2016 (Iraq 10 year on, 1-3). There were some green shoots of hope: oil production has increased, and the parliament passed budgets (Blinken 2012, p. 1). Iraq began its post-war era with an enormous $6.7 billion deficit (“International Monetary Fund 2004, p. 40), but was able to lower this with help of international agencies, and post-war inflation was kept at a remarkably low 4-7 % (Blinken 2012, p. 4). Nevertheless, compared to its flourishing 1980s, which saw higher oil prices, the economy is weak. The public sector has expanded with new jobs in government and oil, but the private sector has stagnated, and although the unemployment rate fell from 28.1% in 2003 to 11.7% in 2007, it rose again to 15.3% in 2008. It is estimated somewhere between 8-11% today. Inflation has reemerged. The middle and lower classes see few gains, poverty is constantly increasing, and surveys show that the economy is paramount (“Iraq 10 years on,” 2013, p. 1-3). All of the figures are “skewed by the … faster progress in … [the] Kurdish region” (“Iraq 10 years on,” p. 3). In rural areas, women and youths suffer more (“Iraq 10 years on,” 2013, p. 3). More recent data confirms this.
According to Ned Parker, Iraq is “close to a failed state” (Parker 2012, p. 1). Problems have ranged from corruption to brutality, and repression by government and security forces. It has had an unemployment rate of young men near 30%, which has stimulated gangs and factions (Parker 2012, p. 1-5). Maliki’s chief Sunni opponent throughout his term, Ayad Allawi, did not indicate that he would be a true alternative, and although a power sharing proposal was reached between the two in 2010, the United States could have supported the more popular Allawi, but stayed out (Parker 2012, p. 1-5). Fortunately, Maliki was constrained by a parliamentary system, but he was unable to expand the protected Green Zone. Rather, he created a special guard to protect himself, and he lined state positions with family. He regularly detained prisoners at an old Saddam palace known as Camp Honor (Parker 2012, p. 1-5).
In August, 2014, Haider al-Abadi, a British-educated exile under the Saddam era, an early minister of communications, and a leader of the legislative finance committee, was chosen by parliament to be the new Prime Minister. This was supported by both Iran, and the United States, in the hopes of promised reforms. Shi’ites, particularly the Shia National Alliance, overwhelmingly supported Mr. Abadi, 130-40 in votes, because he was seen as more “pragmatic,” against lawlessness, and as having “relations with all political divides” (“Iraq President” 2014, p. 1-2). Mr. Malaki, after serving two terms, attempted no form of coup. As promised, Mr. Abadi chose a smaller cabinet, but with a few differences: Sunnis controlled 26% of the positions as opposed to 30%, and the Kurds held 2 posts as opposed to 6 previously, with two spots left open over political disputes (“Iraq Premier” 2014, p. 1-2).
On the whole, despite the numerous improvements since 2006, Iraq has been rated poorly. It lacks lawful security, has poor scores on human rights, and has extremely bad scores on government effectiveness, although 80% had access to clean water and sanitation in 2008 (Rice and Patrick 2008, p. 17). The State Fragility Index and Matrix 2011 ranked it as tied for 9th worst state in the world. The 2012 Failed State Index also listed it as 9th worst because of “demographic pressures.” Said analyst Ned Parker, presciently, “Without impartial, transparent institutions, Iraq will fall victim to authoritarianism, (if not) civil war” (Blinken 2012, p. 5). Iraq, then, is more of a “fragile state,” yet to have the chance to succeed or fail (Blinken 2012, p. 2). The 2015 Fragile Index does have it raised to 12th worst, ahead of Afghanistan at number 9 and a modicum of African nations (“Fragile States 2015,” 1).
President Obama’s regional, “strategic patience” leadership succeeded in-part, such as in Syria, by agreeing with Russia for its help in removing chemical weapons, although how he took such a presidential matter before Congress could have proved tautological. Syria’s conflict is related to the destabilization of Iraq, as there are a strain of Sunni’s who distrust both the Iraqi, now-Shi’ite government and the highly secretive Alawite, Shi’ite government in Damascus (The Middle East 2000, p. 384). It is also tied to the Arab Spring, in early 2011, which had mixed results in varied Muslim states such as Egypt and Tunisia.
With Syria, the difference from Iraq was that from early on, President Obama clearly ruled out the use of ground troops. Although he wanted to verify that Syria had used chemical weapons, President Obama delayed in responding to the crossing of his “red line,” appearing indecisive, as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel would later note, but by taking the issue to Congress, and then working with Russia over chemical weapons, it yielded a morsel of results. A communication problem with Congress was an historical antipathy towards trusting a Democrats on foreign policy. In President Obama’s West Point address in May, 2014, he said that not every nail needs to be hammered in, quoting sociologist Abraham Maslow. President Obama has admitted he procrastinates: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, during his time in this office, that the president never ever decided about arming Syrian moderates in either way in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” (Balluck 2014, p. 1). His leadership is not tautological: the military is indeed providing advice they think he wants to hear, but it is not vice-versa and circular. The political officials due the dictating, often politically, whether for good or bad.
The quasi-related conflict in Syria has claimed well over 220,000 lives with dreads of refugees (“Russia hosts” 2015, p. 1), and has led to Russian involvement so as to protect their prime naval base at Tartus, Syria. Some now claim that President Obama’s indecisiveness may have emboldened Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Ukraine, and then to Syria. The U.S. and Russia, now resurgent, have divergent geopolitical interests, but it would not be fair to call them “enemies.” The United States and Russia agreed in 2012 in Geneva to form a mutual consent, inclusive government in Syria, but Russia has taken the lead, holding peace talks in early 2015, which did not include the moderate, Syrian National Coalition. Secretary of State Kerry praised the efforts, while others called it an “illusion of involvement” (Gordon and Barnard 2015, p. 1-3). The U.S. really has no strong ally, less the Kurds, who desire their own sovereignty, with their Peshmerga military. Arms, which the administration finally approved, may only further escalate instability instead of regional truces, as studies by political scientists such as Patrick Regan (2002) at SUNY Binghamton have shown that foreign involvement can aggrandize conflicts. Iran especially has opposed U.S. aid to moderate Sunnis.
One of the major benefactors of U.S. Iraq policy has in-fact been Iran (Meyers 2013, p. 2). Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld later called for regime change in Iran, but again, what did this mean? For the Obama administration’s “strategic patience,” this meant waiting for new elections, which seemed to work. The nation, which has the right to vote, although the results must be approved by the Ayatollah, selected a moderate, Hassan Rouhani, in August, 2013. The two cultures distrusting each other ever since Biblical times and the Persian in The Book of Daniel, and the influence of Zoroastrianism’s so-called good-versus-evil hyperbole in today’s world. It is unclear if Iran is a threat to the United States, as Representative Ron Paul pointed out, translations by former leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over Israel may have said that the Holocaust did not occur in the Middle East, rather than it did not occur at all (Richter 2015, 1-2). With the U.S. and Israel at odds over militarism, there was an opportunity for a two-pronged strategy, which could be conceptualized in game theory. Being mountainous and larger than Iraq, and never conquered historically, even by Alexander the Great, any strike on Iran’s facilities would need to be robust, but limited to prevent a greater retaliation.
Thus, talks with the new Iranian power over sanctions and nuclear weapons began with European powers in 2003 with President Khatami, a reformer (Pecquet 2014, p. 3). It then fell wayward. There then followed a long period of increased sanctions, passed by Congress and Executive Orders (Kahl 2014, p. 1). The sanctions continued to have a devastating effect on Iran’s economy, whether that was their sole intention, or whether they were an attempt to bring Iran to the negotiating table. According to one businessman interviewed, “Electricity is up 25%, water up 30%, petrol up 75%, business tax up, VAT [sales tax] up. Interest rates are 25%, so [investors] can’t borrow” (Tisdall 2014, p. 1).
Shades of Iraq, in June of 2013, the U.N. IAEA chief, Yukiyo Amano, reported that sanctions were not working to impede Iran’s nuclear development (“Fact Sheets: The Failure of Sanctions,” 2014, p. 5). In July of 2013, the Republican U.S. House of Representatives approved new sanctions with the support of 400 votes, despite strong opposition from President Obama that it would interfere with negotiations. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat from Nevada, blocked it in the Senate (Pecquet 2014, p. 30). President Rouhani, a man who had headed Iran’s energy administration, may have consented to negotiation fearing an American invasion, but he also feared hardliners in his country of ousting him (Tidsdall 2004, p. 2-3). Seventy-six members of the United States Senate sent a letter to President Obama urging him to tighten sanctions (“Fact Sheets: The Failure,” 2014, p. 5), and forty-seven Republican Senators would later send a scathing letter to the Ayatollah. Sanctions thus presented the same problem as in Iraq, another “cat and mouse” game, but one which Obama’s team has been willing to play.
The U.S. may have chosen negotiation because of Iraq’s lesson. It began covertly by Secretary of State Clinton, in her final days in that position, and in November 2013, the U.S. and European Union agreed to ease sanctions on petrochemicals and precious metals for six months in a hopeful gesture (“Rouhani says,” 2014, p. 1-2). This would inject an estimated $7 billion dollars into the disintegrating Iranian economy, in recession since 2012 (Madhani, 1). Iran agreed to stop enrichment of uranium above 5%, to begin diluting some of its 20% enriched uranium, and demonstrated that it was not adding centrifuges (Madhani 2014, p. 1). Following a gift of an ancient artifact from President Obama, and a secret letter to Ayatollah Khomeini, the two sides set a date of 20 July, 2014 for closure (“Rouhani says,” 2014, p. 1-2). This was postponed by a four month cooling off period (“Time Out,” 2014, p. 1). After several extensions, an agreement culminated in Spring, 2015, with varying sunset provisions, more likely to win support from the U.S. Congress, but again minor problems surfaced, which plagued Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts. The deal called for cuts in uranium-enriching centrifuges to 5,060, and only to 3.57% levels, below the 20% needed for weapons (Bradner 2015, p.1).
Overall, there were disagreements over wording, with the United States calling it nuclear disarmament, and Iranian seeing it as a postponement, since they still would be allowed to enrich some uranium, or return to it if diplomacy brakes down. To some U.S. conservatives, the Iranian government’s announcement to their people that the West was “bowing down” to them seemed inappropriate, although was largely irrelevant. What would a U.S. strike bring as a response- a firing of missiles at U.S. ships in the Gulf, or firing missiles into Israel? Meanwhile, Iran and Russia were working on an oil-for-goods agreement worth up to $20 billion dollars, as well as an arms deal, and a missile defense shield (“Fact Sheets: The Failure of Sanctions,” 2014, p. 2). The final agreement in July, 2015, and implemented in January 2016, allowed Iran frozen assets worth approximately $100 billion, to a country that has the second largest stock exchange in the Middle-East, is the world’s 18th largest economy, and is now projected to grow by 8% and possibly supersede Sunni Saudi Arabia, its regional foe (“Iran’s nuclear,” 2). The Congressional deal allowed the Senate at least a vote on rejection, which could be vetoed by the President, but was filibustered by the Democrats. Separately, Iran’s influence across Iraq all the way to Yemen has peaked Saudi Arabia’s interest, seen by some as an attempt to create a new Persian empire.
Scholarly Debate over the Lessons
True leaders look outside their “bubble” towards a larger picture. With ISIL’s progress, in Iraq’s aftermath, the political-military lessons of decision-making, Hammes notes, is that the United States emphasis on counterinsurgency (COIN), of taking on state enemies rather than stopping a breeding ground of terrorists, is less of a military option. The “Patraeus doctrine,” named after the U.S. General and later CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) Chief, is about “planning your campaign based on facts on the ground” (Hammes 2008 p. 53). Any state building effort, such as in Syria, must first focus on security, the overall structural framework, before aid and political development (Dobbins et al, 2007). Another lesson is the urgency of democratic elections, even if not perfect (Dobbins et al., 2007).
French historian Simon Serfaty may have been correct when he labeled the Middle-East the “new Balkans” (Serfaty 2012, p. 10). It is a veritable powder keg or kinder box, and as the Arab Spring in states like Tunisia and Egypt demonstrated, which few predicted, but unlike Word War I, there are no secret treaties. Still, loyalties are difficult to measure. Like the ethical decisions before President Bush, the Obama administration has been forced to choose between stability and democracy: in a speech President Obama gave in May 2011, he said, “we have a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self-determination of individuals” (“Remarks” 2011, p. 2). The lack of global stability is one consequence of the post-Cold War world, which was predicted by scholar John Mearsheimer (Mingst and Arreguin-Toft 2011, p.98). Libya, after NATO military action from March to October 2011, is now destabilized, with two governments, a moderate east supported by Egypt and a radical west. As of the latest, the U.S. is readying to send a 6,000 member peace-keeping unit (“Too Many Chiefs,” 2014, p. 1).
The Obama administration has tried to portray the “narrative” that terrorists are “on the run,” even though its affiliates are wider-spread, across Africa, with Boko Haram, Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula, and the Houthis in Yemen. In the Summer of 2015, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld amazingly called his boss (Bush) naïve in thinking a democracy could form in Iraq, similar to how a counterpart, Robert McNamara, later questioned the Vietnam War. The United States needs a combination, a balance, of leadership that is neither too hot nor too cold, and more consistent. As U.S. President “Teddy” Roosevelt said, “Walk softly, but carry a big stick.” It was an error for President Obama to say that the war on terror will end in Afghanistan, which still involves small-scale operations and negotiations with the Taliban, who resurfaced in the Spring, 2016 after learning of the death of their leader Mullah Omar.
To call Iraq’s ISIL “thugs on trucks” in his 2016 State of the Union Address, and then to talk about “the birds … chirping,” President Obama shows an unrealistic leadership, towards a group who likely killed scores of passengers on a French plane to Egypt, hundreds on a Russian airliner, and more via dozens of attacks in Europe and the Middle-East. This shows that the situation will worsen. The conflict between the West and “radical Islam,” a phrase he does not use to avoid alienating Muslims, will and must continue as a defensive effort. The new, offensive technological drones seem to make more enemies than the terrorists they defeat. In light of both administrations, American officials need to stop pointing fingers, and playing politics, as both President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton admitted to opposing the Iraq “surge” for political decisions, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates (Gates 2014, p. 376). All parties have made mistakes. The problem persistently has been failing to look ahead.
Remarkably, in October 2014, a Pentagon report found that U.S. troops had discovered over 5,000 abandoned chemical weapon shells in Iraq from 2004-2011: 17 soldiers had been infected. Still, this is amount is not extremely high, but military leaders were asked to keep quiet because it did not fit with the “narrative,” a neologism referring to the political “story” (Stableford 2014, p. 1-2). In November 2014, some 600 U.S. soldiers from Iraq came forth to say they had been exposed by handling old weapons, causing burns, rashes, breathing problems, and tremors (Chivers 2014, p. 1-5). This could have caused Gulf War Syndrome after the first Iraq war, but military medical mixtures seem more likely. Even with the Assad regime in Syria using chemical weapons, which the U.S. may have known they possessed all along, and the potential usage by ISIL, the question is if the U.S. should have ever invaded Iraq at all.
The issue of Mesopotamia has now affected four presidents, and will many more, each creating vacuums for the next, such as how the first Gulf War inspired the rise of Osama bin Laden in Saudi Arabia (Mingst and Arrequin-Toft 2011, p. 258). If the U.S. and its allies do send troops against ISIL at all, history says it should be an overwhelming, 3-1 ratio, 50,000 troops, and there should be clear goals, such as driving ISIL out of sovereign Iraq and back into Syria. It needs a political solution, or else Syrians will keep joining ISIL. The U.S. should consider censoring to block ISILs violent videos that attract young people, regardless of free-speech, but in addition the Obama poverty summits. Syria might be better redrawn with the Russians like Yugoslavia, with regions for Allawites, Druze, or Kurds, working with the opposition National Coalition Front. Its refugee crisis honestly creates the risk of terrorism elsewhere. Russian peace talks were finally attended by Secretary Kerry in December, 2015, the first time it received U.S. media. Syria indeed was a U.S. ally during the first Gulf War.
The Present and Conclusion
True leaders look not only at the past but also one step ahead towards the future. There is now a “stalemate,” a crossroads. With the 2016 U.S. election, the candidates would have been best to leave all options on the table. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush in particular should have stressed the overwhelming force policies of his father rather than those of his brother. Still, Texas candidate and Senator Ted Cruz’s comment that sending troops should “be left to the military” is the policy most close to a tautology, or a communication flaw, in a battle with the “establishment,” because the military would be acting based on what they thought the president wanted. One day, the hope might be for a mid-east NATO, as coalition-building, particularly compared to Gulf War I, is laboriously slow, and there is a great need for more refugee safety zones, and protected by no-fly zones, if all feasible with Russia. Dealing with ISIL seems to require diplomacy over Syria first, to attract fewer ISIL fighters.
The root cause of the Second Iraq War was tautological; no one wanted war, but war was the result. Reportedly, “father” George H.W. Bush was included in at least one briefing, and advised his son against force (Tenet 2007, p. 364). Still, other explanations hold some water. President Bush, psychologically, may have simply “liked” war, as some men do, as he said about the Afghanistan War that it was “romantic” (Kaplan 2008, p. 1). The “A Clean Break” article, composed by American “neo-cons,” spoke of creating a Jordanian-type Hashemite kingdom, but was merely hopeful thinking. Yet, it presciently noted Syria’s significance in the region. Though war should have no price-tag, we know it will reach $3.9 trillion by 2053 when veteran medical costs are included, as 100,000 troops were injured, but thankfully not killed due to advances in battlefield medicine (“Lesson of Iraq” 2013, p. 1). Thousands of historical treasures were destroyed by looting, and the region is unstable. The original call by candidate Donald J. Trump to ban all Muslims to the U.S., not just for return trips, is tautological in that it is a “suggestion,” not limited to reversing U.S. religious freedom.
In the end, the workings of government leadership are important, both domestic and foreign. The model of tautologies can serve the U.S. and the world for dealing with difficult states, such as North Korea, Syria, China, and Russia. It might be better for leaders to float various ideas back and forth between officials, so that each knows what the other is thinking. Presidents should avoid placing so-called “yes men” in their cabinets, and continue dialogue so as to avoid “group think” or double-talk. The balance in a region, carved by the British after both world wars, has been disheveled, now giving rise to Al-Nusra. A new U.S. paradigm might be “strategic stability,” or “strategic strength,” concepts lost in globalization with the U.S. no longer a sole superpower. Furthermore, discords in NATO and at the U.N. still need repair.
Certainly, the entirety of an event cannot all be capture in one paper. There are in fact reasons for which war should be led, but not by tautologies. Future research should support or refute this theory, using the new President George W. Bush Library in Texas and its de-classified information, but the ultimate explanations will be left to history. The United States’ response to 9/11, which was not directly related to Iraq, has resulted in no major terrorist-directed attack on U.S. soil since, assuming that the “Boston Marathon,” the San Bernardino, and the 12 June 2016 attacks at an Orlando nightclub were “lone wolf attacks.” And, Osama bin Laden’s threat has been removed due to the Afghanistan War. Albeit, Al Qaeda’s affiliates are diverse and more potent than ever, filling in the voids. But, from the information here, had leaders of the administrations, or even Congress, had the courage to question each other, yet work together, like the allied troops, and speak and hash-out their leadership decisions, history at any point in the political-economic development in Iraq and the Middle-East may have read very differently. Still, much diplomatic peace work may be left to come.
The author declares no conflict of interest. There were no sponsors for this article so they played no role. Note: Some of the pages refer to how they printed in HTML, and may not be identical to others. A version of this paper was presented at the 2014 International Studies Association Conference in Toronto, Canada.
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About the Author
Todd J. Barry holds a bachelor’s degree from Quinnipiac University (Connecticut) in history and a master’s degree in business administration from Bryant College (Rhode Island), in the United States. He is currently a dissertation-level PhD student in International Development with the University of Southern Mississippi, with an economic concentration and political science minor. He has performed internships in government and part-time jobs in business, served as an interim journal editor, and taught economics at American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts. Todd has published four books, with historical themes, and nine scholarly articles, on macroeconomics, international trade, political-economy (American bureaucracy), and the comparison of different schools of historical economic thought. He has presented at three international conferences.