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Preemptive War Strategy: A New U.S. Empire?
June 25, 2003
Joel S. Beinin, Edward A. Olsen, Ivan Eland

Contents

David Theroux
President, The Independent Institute

Welcome to our Independent Policy Forum this evening. We hold such events here at The Independent Institute’s conference center on a regular basis. They consist of seminars, debates and lectures on many different public issues.

Our discussion this evening is entitled “Preemptive War: A New U.S. Empire?” And we’re happy to feature a number of books that we hope each of you will get copies of. The first is by Ivan Eland called Putting “Defense” Back Into U.S. Defense Policy. The second one, by Edward Olsen, is called U.S. National Defense for the Twenty-first Century and the third is Political Islam, edited by Joel Beinin.

In the registration packets that you hopefully got, you’ll find further information about our program, including books and events we hold. We also invite you to visit our website at Independent.org. Next Monday, we’re going to be unveiling a new website, that we’ve been working on for about a year called OnPower.org. And I think you’ll find that it’s very relevant to this evening’s discussion.

You may also want to subscribe to our weekly email newsletter, which is called The Lighthouse. So those of you who have not left your email address with us, I encourage you to do so. We also advise people and notify them of upcoming events and media programs by email on a regular basis.

Before I introduce our speakers, I thought I’d just recount a sampling of a few news items. Number one, no weapons of mass destruction have yet been found. Here are a few quotes from the Commander-in-Chief in the drumbeat leading up to and after the war in Iraq.

“Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.” —September 12, 2002.

“The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls nuclear mujahideen—his nuclear holy warriors. If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year.”
—October 7, 2002.

“We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons—the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have.”
—February 8, 2003.

“Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraqi regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised. The regime has already used weapons of mass destruction.” That’s March 17, 2003.

“We’ve found the weapons of mass destruction. You know, we found biological laboratories. And we’ll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven’t found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they’re wrong. We found them.” From a statement during his recent trip to Poland in May of this year.

In a word, “strategery.” [Laughter.]

Despite claims to the contrary, and in response to violent street protests, the U.S. government, meaning the U.S. citizens, will begin paying up to 250,000 former Iraqi soldiers beginning on July 14th. In addition, the U.S. will be paying to form a new Iraqi army, trained and equipped by the U.S. government. Force size will be in the neighborhood of something between 12,000 and 40,000. Hence, the Iraqi Army is now a division of the Pentagon.

An avid supporter of the war in Iraq, Senator Joseph Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stated this past Monday that, “I think we’re going to be here in a big way, with forces and economic input, for a minimum of three to five years.” White House spokesman, Ari Fleischer has said that it is an “open question” as to how long it will take to establish security and stability in Iraq.

And as of this week, nearly half as many Americans have been killed in war incidents since the end of the Iraqi war. Estimates of between 2,000 and 10,000 innocent civilian Iraqis have been killed since the war began.

As Senator Robert Byrd has recently stated, “Are we any safer today than we were on March 18th, 2003?”

Over a hundred years ago, the U.S. embarked on another war—the Spanish-American War. At the time, media coverage of the matter was a total disgrace, something that perhaps rings a bell. It exemplified what became known as yellow journalism in its worst form. For example, Joseph Pulitzer, the publisher of the New York World, and William Randolph Hearst, publisher of the New York Journal, collaborated to invent reams of imaginary events demonizing the rulers of Cuba as brutal butchers. They succeeded in inflaming the American public and Congress declared war on Spain.

In response, there also arose a group of influential people who opposed foreign interventionism, which they understood as having nothing to do with protecting the lives of American citizens, but everything to do with using government power for special-interest purposes. This group included Mark Twain, Andrew Carnegie, William James, David Starr Jordan, Samuel Gompers, George Boutwell and others who formed what’s called the Anti-Imperialist League. The League’s platform stated, “Much as we abhor the war of ‘criminal aggression’ in the Philippines, greatly as we regret the blood of the Filipinos is on American hands, we more deeply resent the betrayal of American institutions at home.”

Simultaneously, or actually before, I think, just before this occurred, the Committee on American Interests was also organized by various business interests to support the war effort in order to obtain a military base in the Far East to protect investments in China and elsewhere in the region. The ultimate result of this war was the U.S. seizure and annexation of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, and including the 1899 Philippine insurrection against the U.S. occupation, the death of 5,462 Americans, untold numbers of Cubans, and hundreds of thousands of Filipinos died in the process.

From then until now, U.S. foreign policy has been one of expanding global presence, and that is our topic tonight.

In the aftermath of 9/11, President Bush has announced a policy of preemptive unilateral intervention. In Bush’s case, such measures are aimed at organizations and countries that may threaten the security of the United States, or may develop weapons of mass destruction. But this post-9/11 policy of U.S. intervention is actually one that’s been proposed by certain “neo-conservative” writers going back over 10 years.

The questions we want to raise tonight are, what is the background of such ideas, what’s the background of the Middle East? What is the track record of foreign intervention there and elsewhere? In the aftermath of the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, will the U.S. be staging further interventions using Iraq as an outpost? What about Korea? What about Iran?

To explore these and related issues, we’re very pleased to have an excellent panel of distinguished foreign policy experts. I’d like to start out by introducing our first speaker, Joel Beinin. Joel is Professor of Middle Eastern History at Stanford University. He’s the past President of the Middle East Studies Association of North America and a contributing editor of the Middle East Report, and many of the essays of the Middle East Report are re-published in this book.

He received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan. He’s been a Fellow at Stanford Humanities Institute as a Pew Fellow, a Fullbright Fellow and a Hewlett Faculty Fellow. Among his other books are Workers and Peasants in the Modern Middle East, The Dispersion of Egyptian Jewry, Intifada and Workers on the Nile. I’m very pleased to introduce Joel Beinin.
[Applause.]

Joel S. Beinin
Professor of History, Stanford University

Thank you very much. Good evening. As David Theroux has just told you, it is now widely recognized that the Bush Administration lied to the American people and to the world about its reasons for going to war with Iraq.

Presidents have lied before when taking the nation to the war. Even before the Spanish-American War, we could start with the Mexican-American War, and most of us in this room may remember well the Gulf of Tonkin incident being trumped up as a reason to escalate the Vietnam War.

What is new though, is that the neo-conservative ideologues of the Bush II Administration have openly proclaimed a policy of imperial domination, preemptive use of military force and disregard of the alliances and international institutions in which the United States has participated since the end of the World War II. The neo-conservative ideologues and some liberals, like Michael Ignatieff and Thomas Friedman, have argued that an American empire would be a benign affair and so we ought to have it.

In response I want to make two arguments. First, the Bush II Administration’s Middle East policy did not emerge from nothing. There is a long history of U.S. intervention, covert action, proxy wars, and direct military intervention in the Middle East by both Democratic and Republican administrations since the end of World War II. The significance of the new policy is that because of the ideological commitments of the neo-conservatives, this policy far exceeds the traditional concerns of both Republican and Democratic administrations since World War I, which have been primarily to secure the political stability and control of the oil of the Persian Gulf.

Second, I want to argue that global domination, indeed, the long-term secure control of even the Middle East, is beyond the reach of the United States. This is obscured from the view of Washington policymakers today because of their ideological commitments, just as those commitments impeded an accurate assessment of intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction, the sort of reception American troops would receive in Iraq, and the prospects for democracy in post-war Iraq.

Therefore, while in the short run, this policy will serve the interests of Kellogg Brown & Root, Bechtel, and other corporations which will benefit from the drive to privatize the Iraqi economy, in the long-term, even as it wreaks havoc and destruction, this policy is almost sure to fail.

The stakes in the Persian Gulf are well known. The region is the repository of about two-thirds of the world’s known petroleum reserves. In 1945, a State Department report declared that this oil constituted “a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history.” This is as true now as it was then.

Saudi Arabia is the largest single depository of proven oil reserves in the world, with about 21 percent of the known total. Iraq is number two, with about 11 percent of the global total. Moreover, most of Iraq’s oil potential is untapped. Only 15 of Iraq’s known 70 oil fields are now developed. At least eight of the remaining fields have reserves of over one billion barrels. Many sites likely to contain oil deposits have not yet been explored.

We could begin the history of American intervention in the Persian Gulf as early as the 1953 CIA coup in Iran, which is directly connected to the fierce anti-Americanism of the Iranian revolution. But for reasons of time, I’ll begin a decade and a half later.

The British Empire, predecessor to the American Empire in the Persian Gulf, got underway with the British occupation of Aden in 1839. After losing a guerilla war to the South Yemeni guerillas fighting for independence in 1967, Britain announced that it would withdraw all of its forces from the Persian Gulf, east of Suez, by the end of 1971.

At about the same time, January-February 1968, the Tet offensive, by the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, made it clear that short of using nuclear weapons, the United States was going to lose the war in Vietnam.

In response to these two events, the United States, under the Nixon presidency, devised a strategy to defend conservative and Islamic oil-producing states, primarily Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, against the threat of secular Arab nationalism, which at that time was embodied in Nasserism, led by Egypt’s President Gamal Abdul Nasser, and the Ba’ath party regimes of Syria and Iraq.

In the summer of 1969, the Nixon-Kissinger doctrine was released. It relied on the formation of what were called “regional-influentials.” We would arm them, train them, support them politically, and they would fight to preserve American interests around the world.

In the Persian Gulf, this policy assumed the form of the two-pillar policy, and the two pillars were Iran and Saudi Arabia, who bought, paid in cash from oil profits, enormous amounts of American weaponry during the 1970s, and after the Iranian revolution, then the 1980s, only Saudi Arabia. Israel was also part of this strategy, but Israel was responsible for the Eastern Mediterranean and not the Persian Gulf. There has been a consistent, but failed effort on the part of the United States policy makers for the Middle East to separate the question of oil from the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The Iranian Revolution of 1979 brought an end to the two-pillar policy, because one of the pillars collapsed. American planners, therefore, moved towards the capacity for direct military intervention in the Persian Gulf. In 1979, shortly after the Iranian Revolution, President Carter established the Rapid Deployment Force. In his State of the Union address for 1980, President Carter stated the following: “An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region would be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States. And such an assault would be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.” In other words, the United States would intervene to protect the supply and the price of oil.

President Carter and then President Reagan proceeded to engage in two regional proxy wars. First, there was support for Iraq in attacking Iran in 1980 and throughout most of the Iraq-Iran war, which lasted until 1988. There was, in fact, a quasi-alliance between the United States and Iraq during those years, perhaps most pithily symbolized by Donald Rumsfeld shaking Saddam Hussein’s hand when he met him in Baghdad on December 20th of 1983. The other proxy war was American support for the anti-Soviet mujahideen fighting against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which began in December of 1979. Both of those wars were joint Carter and Reagan Administration supported.

The Reagan Administration continued this policy by supporting Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. This was in the framework of Secretary of State Alexander Haig’s anti-Soviet Strategic Consensus policy. Haig believed that Israel would, in fact, be attacking Syria, which he saw as a Soviet proxy and, therefore, this war would be justified in that framework. Nothing of the sort actually happened.

President Reagan further built up the capacity of the United States to engage in direct military intervention in the Middle East by transforming the Rapid Deployment Force into the Central Command in 1983. The Central Command’s area of operation was the entire Middle East, and it is the military unit that fought both Gulf Wars I and II. Reagan’s Secretary of Defense, Casper Weinberger, authored a defense guidance for 1984-88 in which he wrote the following, “Whatever the circumstances, we should be prepared to introduce American forces directly into the region, should it appear that the security of the access to Persian Gulf oil is threatened.”

The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 overcame the reluctance of Persian Gulf oil states to grant the United States military bases in the region. So since the fall of 1990, the United States has had an increasing number of military bases that appear to be, at this point, permanent military bases in the region, although they’re shifting around. More of them were in Saudi Arabia. The presence in Saudi Arabia is scheduled to be phased-out by the end of this year.

But the first Gulf War did not create the New World Order, as President Bush I proclaimed. Indeed the United States betrayed the uprisings of the Shi’ite and the Kurds in the spring of 1991, after President Bush called on those groups to rise up against Saddam Hussein. And this indicated the reluctance of the Bush I Administration to radically alter the regional status quo. This is because democracy was a threat to Saudi Arabia and the other conservative oil-producing states like Kuwait, and it was because the idea of autonomy or independence for the Iraqi Kurds was considered a strong threat to Turkey, a NATO ally. As a result, the United States allowed Saddam Hussein to remain in power during the 1990s while crippling the country and its population through the devastating sanctions regime.

But shortly after the betrayal of the uprising of the Shi’ite and the Kurds, the neo-conservatives began to develop a critique of the abandonment of the Shi’ite and the Kurds, and to argue during the Clinton Administration that the United States should have finished the job. Paul Wolfowitz who was number three in the Bush I Pentagon, wrote in his 1992 “Defense Planning Guidance” a new policy that presaged the current policy of massive intervention, preemptive war, and global domination. That policy, in brief, is one of proposing that the United States ought actively to pursue global domination. We ought to export American-styled democracy, which is applicable everywhere in the world. And if necessary, the United States ought to be prepared to use unilateral military action to achieve these goals.

After this document was leaked to the press, President Bush I ordered that it be rewritten because he considered it too radical. But this is the document that has been guiding Bush II Administration policy, and it’s that vision which guided the lobbying activity of the neo-conservatives during the 1990s during the Clinton Administration and immediately after September 11, 2001.

During the mid-1990s, the lobbying campaign to attack Iraq was spearheaded by William Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard and the Director of the Project for a New American Century. The lobbying campaign was rather successful and led, in 1998, to passage of the Iraq Liberation Act, which under the Clinton Administration already proclaimed that regime change and not simply disarmament was the policy of the United States vis-a-vis Iraq. Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress was selected under the Clinton Administration as the chosen representative of the Iraqi regime, of the Iraqi people, and Operation Desert Fox was launched in December of 1998, a joint American-British action, which brought an end to the UNSCOM inspection regime. All of this was done by the Clinton Administration.

September 11th provided the opportunity for the Bush II neo-conservatives to implement the doctrine that had first been articulated by Paul Wolfowitz nearly a decade later.

Having begun by mentioning the British Empire in the Middle East, I want to for a few moments—you’ll indulge me because I’m a historian—conduct a brief comparison between the British Empire and the emerging American Empire in the Middle East.

The height of the British Empire was between 1815 and the start of World War I, in 1914. During that period, Britain was a net exporter of manufactured goods and the largest net importer of raw materials from the rest of the world. The United States at this time has a huge trade deficit and is no longer a leading manufacturing nation.

Two. The British ruled, typically, through local intermediaries, a system known as indirect rule. The British had no intention to export their political system, and in fact, thought that it was completely impossible to imagine doing so in most cases. If the United States seeks to export democracy, as Paul Wolfowitz and his ideological followers assert is our objective, this will require a much higher level of permanent engagement in terms of both troops and finances than the British Empire ever spent on maintaining its imperial domination.

Third, the British dominated the seas. They never could and never aspired to dominate the entire globe, so their Empire was constructed on an entirely different infrastructure.

And finally, a point worth noting, the British came to grief over Palestine due to their inability to square the circle of their commitments to Arabs and Zionists. The United States is even less able than the British to square the circle of its commitments to Israel and the surrounding Arab states.

Look at the record so far, as an indication of how likely it is that the United States will fail ultimately in the Middle East.

Afghanistan, the first imperial move after September 11th. Hamid Karzai, the President installed by the United States, has no real power outside Kabul and his security outside the capital is extremely limited. The warlords are back in power in several of the provinces. Once again, Afghanistan is the leading source of opium production in the world.

Iraq. There was inadequate planning for the establishment of post-war democratic institutions, for the establishment of law and order, and for economic reconstruction. Fifty-five Americans have died since the end of the war was proclaimed on May 1st, nearly one every day. Basic services, electricity and water, have not been restored and delays in restoring them strengthen the hand of those opposed to the American presence in Iraq. The most popular political element in Iraq appears to be the Islamic forces of the Shi’ite. They are now divided and they don’t have a unified view, but collectively, they clearly represent the single largest political grouping in Iraq.

No one in the Bush II Administration predicted any of these developments. Why not? Elections in Najaf were cancelled last week because the leading candidate for the mayor was an Islamist. Who else would be the leading candidate for mayor in a city which is the burial site of Ali, who is the leading figure in Shi’ite Islam. No democracy is in sight whatsoever in Iraq.

In Israel and Palestine, the roadmap is a sham. It is going nowhere fast. We don’t have time to get into the details, but I’d be happy to discuss that during the question and answer session.

Failure in all of these cases is partly the result of unwillingness or inability to appreciate local political circumstances. Further examples are on the horizon. We have been threatening Syria and Iran in ways that make no sense. Syria is a secular state and prepared to collaborate with the United States. Threats to Iran strengthen the hand of the hard-liners against the insurgent reformist movement.

The United States cannot control the entire Middle East, despite its overwhelming military force. It could not even control its NATO ally Turkey, a relatively democratic country which simply could not go along with the attack on Iraq because a Parliamentary majority was not obtained.

Global dominance is impossible. The American people are not willing to invest the lives and treasures necessary for the attempt to impose a Pax Americana. The United States economy is relatively weak. We import huge quantities of manufactured items and have a permanent trade deficit. The public supports protectionism. There are serious structural weaknesses in the American economy. It is not on the verge of collapse, but the American people may not be willing to pay the bill for military adventures that will likely diminish rather than increase our security. [Applause.]

David Theroux
President, The Independent Institute

Thank you, Joel. Before I introduce our next speaker, I want to also point out two other publications. One is a book by one of our other senior fellows, Robert Higgs, a book called Crisis and Leviathan. This particular book, we think is particularly telling, these days in the aftermath of 9/11 during which there’s been a huge surge of government power, economically, in the era of civil liberties, and of course, in foreign affairs, and Higgs explains why this happens, and how it’s been happing during crises for many years. The other publication is The Independent Review, which is the quarterly journal of The Institute, also edited by Bob Higgs. Anyone who has not seen it, I highly recommend it and it deals with both domestic and foreign affairs issues.

Our next speaker is Edward Olsen. Professor Olsen is Professor of National Security Affairs, specializing in Asian studies, at the Naval Postgraduate School. He has taught at George Williams College and served as political intelligence analyst with the Office of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, for the U.S. State Department. He’s the author of 20 books and monographs, including the one I showed you earlier, called U.S. National Defense for the Twenty-First Century and Toward Normalizing U.S.-Korean Relations: In Due Course? I’m delighted to introduce Ed Olsen.

Edward A. Olsen
Professor of National Security, Naval Postgraduate School

Thank you very much. You’ll have to excuse my voice. It’s giving out a little bit today. I think it’s an allergy or something. I’m not going to read from the books. I’m just putting these down so I have a little higher podium, because of bifocals. If you can’t see it, I have bifocals, and if I put my notes down there, I don’t think I could read them at that level.

Since I do teach at the Naval Postgraduate School for the federal government, and we’re required to give a disclaimer, whatever I say is my personal view. It will become fairly obvious fairly quickly. [Laughter]. But we’re required to say that.

As the U.S. has been coping with the challenges of adjusting to the post-9/11 security environment, a lot of issues have loomed large. On the national security side, the wisdom of pursuing a preemptive strategy is especially important. All consumers are supposed to be guided by the warning abided in the ancient Latin expression caveat emptor, “let the buyer beware.” I modify that a bit in a recent article and I’m going to take off from there a bit, named The Caveat Preemptor, let the preemptor beware.

U.S. national strategy has always invited a blend of defensive and offensive capabilities. This is basically universally accepted in the saying “the best defense is a good offense.” It’s always there. In this context, the post-9/11 decision of the Bush Administration to focus on both U.S. defensive and offensive preparedness is in keeping with this tradition. Neither does the Administration’s willingness to entertain some preemptive measures—I emphasize some—deviate from that tradition.

An emphasis on preemption—basically it came to the periodic reminders by officials in Washington that the U.S. has the option of using nuclear weapons. It doesn’t mean they’re going to use them, but it’s laid out there as a possibility. Basically this is the way for the U.S. to remind the world that the nuclear weapons are a part of the U.S.’s arsenal, thereby underscoring deterrence policy. In a sense, it’s not new.

The risk inherent in this is that, like nuclear escalation in the Cold War, the preemptive option could get out of hand if terrorists or rogue states ever call the U.S.’s bluff in a major way. In short, there’s nothing new about occasional U.S. use of military preemption, especially in the middle of an act of warfare. Even during periods of non-overt warfare during the Cold War, the U.S. engaged in covert armed intervention in other states. Whether it’s fair or not is debatable, but there’s a legacy of this.

But today’s usage of the preemption idea that’s affirmed in President Bush’s West Point speech in June of 2002 and the subsequent report on U.S. national security—those differ because it more openly stresses the U.S.’s prerogatives to undertake preemptive military actions against perceived threats and then simultaneously to back away from established reliance and deterrence traditions.

This is a significant shift in U.S. policy. This raised questions about the broad-based merits of strategic preemption versus strategic deterrence. By making military preemption overtly prominent within a formal strategic doctrine, the U.S., in effect, is reducing the covert nature of what can be effective beneath the surface geopolitical activity, and that’s where the questions arise.

In the process of doing this, the level of focus has shifted. This puts the spotlight on the approach to geopolitics that many criticized for having hegemonic overtones. By behaving like a heavy-handed hegemony, prepared to preempt potential threats to the U.S.’s status as the world’s sole superpower, American leaders open themselves to much harsher criticism that the U.S. is what’s referred to as a hyper-power, bent on some form of imperium.

Although most advocates of U.S. preemption doctrine avoid any explicit advocacy of U.S. empire, there are some who, as was suggested previously, are blunt in positing the merits of an explicit empire. Whether the U.S. will ever really seek such a role, I think, so far is really hypothetical, despite the accusations that the Bush Administration is really doing it. But the Bush doctrine does make it more plausible, and it’s indicated palpable risks in doing so.

If this set of priorities is considered logical and acceptable for Americans in defense of the U.S., and if it’s deemed viable, what is there to prevent other countries from perceiving it as a strategic role model?

There are two sets of countries that should be of concern to Americans in this regard. One is our allies and the other is our adversaries, which is basically the whole world, almost the whole world. [Laughter.]

For allies of the U.S. to emulate the preemptive principle behind the U.S. strategy as an expression of their support, what’s to prevent one or more of them from launching a unilateral preemptive military strike against a perceived threat? Would such an attack, if it’s considered legitimate by an ally using the U.S.’s logic, obligate the U.S. to stand by the ally? If the answer is yes, then Americans had better reappraise the nature of the U.S. ally, and how their geopolitical context could entangle Americans in wars that are not of their choosing. If the answer is no, then why should those allies be expected to stand by the U.S. in the context of any preemptive American attack against a perceived enemy?

There are a number of examples of that, though I’ll draw those from Asia. A few of them stand out in small ways—two of them, the so-called regional deputies, Japan and Australia. The Koizumi government in Tokyo has dabbled a little bit with the notion of preemption vis-à-vis North Korea’s nuclear weapons and its missiles. The Howard government in Canberra has raised the option more explicitly vis-à-vis Southeast Asia and terrorist dangers. But another one, sort of extended Asia, Southwest Asia, I won’t dwell on this because it’s already been addressed, is Israel, which basically has had its own version of a preemption doctrine for decades, and may in fact have served as a de facto role model for the U.S.’s version of preemption.

And in either case, whether it’s yes or no in terms of other countries doing it, is it in the U.S.’s national interest and of disparate friends and allies to clarify in advance each side’s obligations? I would say yes. I think these clarifications can be spelled out in all the security treaties and executive agreements that constitute the framework of U.S. strategic ties worldwide.

Fortunately, the U.S.’s relationships with these countries are supposed to be based on mutuality, and that should be relatively easy to inject those clarifications in the security ties if we really wanted to. It could also be based on the U.S. securing the sole prerogative to take preemptive military actions with no obligations to friends and allies to support such actions. And lastly, either ally, the U.S. or the others, could pursue military preemptive options on its own initiative on the understanding that there would be no obligations for the security partner to support those actions.

The situation with existing or potential adversaries is far, far more daunting. As the U.S. military preemption doctrine becomes acknowledged as the viable option for U.S. policy, what’s to stop the leaders of their adversaries from copying the U.S. in a hostile manner? If such countries, especially the remaining two in the so-called Axis of Evil, Iran and North Korea—I’ll dwell on North Korea—are confident that the U.S. is fully prepared and willing to launch a preemptive war on one or more of them, why should they avoid contemplating what could be labeled a policy of preemptive preemption, designed to preempt the U.S. preemptor before it can preempt? I know that’s complex.

The U.S.’s regime change in the war on Iraq, I think, offers myriad lessons to the U.S.’s allies and adversaries that are somewhere else on the spectrum, that don’t fall in between. For present purposes, the lesson that any country, or non-state player which fears a U.S. preemptive move against it is certain to have learned, is that Saddam Hussein either waited too long, or is inadequately prepared to cope with American preemption. Learning this lesson heightens the risk of preemptive preemption, although others may be tempted to think North Korea’s situation is especially daunting.

Now, North Korea’s reaction to the announcement of the preemption aspect of the Bush doctrine was far more ominous than Iraq or Iran. In several respects, North Korea is a much more formidable adversary than Iraq was, with enormous military, with provable WMD. It’s noted for its fanaticism, and nobody visualizes it achieving preemptive regime change in Pyongyang as a low-risk task. Although its economy is amiss, its military does not share the liabilities evident in Iraq’s military.

Moreover, North Korea has a track record of provocative brinkmanship strategy that’s willing to push the U.S. to the cusp of war. When the current Bush Administration adopted a harder line toward North Korea, the North Koreans launched a new round of nuclear brinkmanship, but also in the process, they’ve adapted the preemption doctrine for themselves. A North Korean spokesman, it was actually the Deputy of Defense, Foreign Ministry official, said that “after Iraq, we are next, but we have our own counter-measures,” and that “preemptive attacks are not the exclusive right of the U.S.” In other words, we can do it, too. North Koreans. Whether they really can is debatable, but they say they can, that’s kind of crude. I think the plausibility is basically questionable.

It doesn’t take much imagination to visualize the risks this convoluted psychology could unleash. Instead of preventing war scenarios as mutual deterrents as intended, mutual preemptive strategies could readily exacerbate the prospects for armed conflicts. The U.S. may be able to utilize effectively a preemptive strike against Iraq, but all the others waiting the wings, all now face major incentives to try to preempt the U.S. preemptor. North Korea seems to be at the head of the line of states willing to follow through on those initiatives and incentives. Whether they do, we’ll see.

I think it’s important to note that for all its sinister qualities, North Korea remains a territorial state with all the attendant geopolitical vulnerabilities. Moreover both Koreas, North and South, share ambitions to reunify their nation into a single state via constructive diplomacy, so there are plenty of options. Even though North Korea does seem to be at the head of the line of countries that are willing to test the U.S. on preemption. But there are a lot more and greater dangers from radical non-state actors that don’t have much to lose. And dealing with such terrorists or their supporters, there’s little effect of deterrence for the U.S. to use.

I’ll differ somewhat with my colleagues here that in terms of other than using threats of preemptive strikes designed to destroy their organizational infrastructure and transnational support network, the trouble is that unlike the brand of deterrence with which Americans became familiar with during the Cold War, there’s little today to inhibit today’s terrorist adversaries from turning the tables on the U.S. These terrorists have little to lose and perceive their brand of preemption as far more effective than anything the U.S. can inflict on them. For these terrorists, preemptive armed attacks in the U.S. or American interests abroad can be psychologically effective in terms of exerting pressure on American society, aimed at getting the U.S. government to alter its policies in ways that meet the goals of these terrorists.

Fortunately, that’s not true regarding U.S. relations with most of the world, where traditional forms of deterrence remain the norm. In most areas of the world, U.S. strategic preemption, I think, will primarily remain a hypothetical proposition aimed at aspiring rogue states, to let them know where the boundaries of international security are. Most likely the use of strengthened strategic preemption will focus on U.S. policies toward terrorist entities.

Nonetheless, before the U.S. goes too far down the path towards strategic preemption, Americans had better contemplate what it may be like if the U.S. finds itself either caught up in or on the receiving end of other countries’ or terrorist groups’ emulation of the U.S. emphasis on military preemption. Fortunately, the likelihood of any ally emulating the U.S. policy issue is still slim, but that’s not true with regard to some real or potential adversaries. They have pretty strong reason to consider preemptive preemption. I’m not suggesting that this means that the U.S. should necessarily forego preemption as a last resort option, but it does mean that the U.S. should not stray too far from its established strategic principles of deterrence.

The primary form of U.S. preemption should remain diplomatic and economic, leaving military preemption as a low-profile contingency option for use only when all else fails. Excessive emphasis, real or rhetorical, on military preemption would not necessarily enhance U.S. national security and could expose the U.S. to being entangled in an open-ended state of war.

Furthermore, this level of emphasis on preemption as a key part of the U.S. strategic policy unwisely suggests a hegemonic empire, bent on overturning challenges to far-flung outposts. It’s far sounder for the U.S. to focus on strategic policy that’s appropriate for a republic, defending against threats to its national, territorial security. And in this context, caveat preemptor. Thank you. [Applause.]

David Theroux

Thank you very much, Ed. Our final speaker is Ivan Eland who is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace and Liberty here at The Independent Institute and also Assistant Editor of The Independent Review. I might mention, just briefly, something about the Center that Ivan is directing.

We organized the Center this past winter, and you’ll find information on our website. Go to the home page and scroll down. It’s about the fourth or fifth item. You can click there and find out further information about the Center. The purpose of the Center is to pursue a peer-reviewed academic program involving various scholars and policy analysts to produce new books and other publications, to hold events like this, as well as larger events and do various media projects. The website I mentioned, called OnPower.org, is also a project of the Center, and we believe that you’ll be hearing more and more about the Center in the future and of course, you’re welcome to ask Ivan questions about that more specifically later.

Ivan received his Ph.D. in national security policy from George Washington University. He’s been a Director of Defense Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. He was principle defense analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. He was Evaluator-in-Charge for National Security and Intelligence for the U.S. General Accounting Office and Investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He’s the author of the book I mentioned earlier, called Putting “Defense” Back Into U.S. Defense Policy, and many other studies and various books, as well as in many leading journals. I’m glad to introduce Ivan Eland. [Applause.]

Ivan Eland
Senior Fellow, The Independent Institute

Thanks everybody, for coming to our first forum that the Center is putting on here. It’s a great pleasure to speak to everyone tonight.

I’m going to speak more generally. I’m not going to go into as much regional detail, because we have two regional experts here on the Middle East and East Asia. I’m going to discuss U.S. foreign policy in general.

Bush has come out with his preemptive strike policy, but I think it’s really been mis-sold. It’s not preemptive at all. It’s more preventative. A preemptive attack is when you preempt the other side when you know that the side is about ready to attack you. Certainly no one can argue with that, as Ed was alluding to. It has to be a part of any national security policy, because who would let themselves be attacked?

However, a preventative doctrine is much different. What you do is you try to hit the other side before they become a threat. And of course, that’s what we were trying to do in Iraq. That’s what we would be trying to do if we attacked Syria or North Korea.

Now, this is very dangerous I think, because any nation can be portrayed as an imminent threat or not an imminent threat, but a threat that could be serious down the way, down the road.

So I think there’s nothing really new here, because Clinton also used preventative threats as well. He threatened North Korea with war in 1994 if they didn’t freeze their nuclear program, with other presidents who have used the preventative threat.

Now, I also don’t think there’s too much of a new and imperial deportment. The United States, in my view, has had a worldwide empire since the end of World War II, during the Cold War. The Soviet Union also had an empire, which was much smaller, but the two empires did battle, not in a hot sense, but in a cold sense, and occasionally around the periphery. And of course, the U.S. has intervened all over the world since then.

Now, we don’t like to call this an imperial policy in the United States, because that kind of goes against our tradition. We were the victims of imperialism at the birth of our nation. But nevertheless—and the Cold War disguised this imperial policy—if we look at what’s happened since the Cold War, we still have all the Cold War alliances left. We have military bases all over the world, which were put there during the Cold War, and so this should lead us to the conclusion that maybe these bases were not totally to fight the Soviet Union. And so, we are actually expanding our defense perimeter instead of contracting it as we probably should have after the Cold War.

We’re expanding NATO, letting more countries in NATO, and we’re expanding the mission of NATO. NATO used to be a defensive alliance against the Soviet Union. Now we’re conducting offensive operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, and other places.

We’re strengthening our East Asia alliances. We now have semi-permanent bases in Central Asia. We’re occupying Afghanistan and Iraq. And to a lesser extent, we’re getting militarily involved in Yemen, Georgia, and the Philippines based on, ostensibly, the war on terror, but if you look at those situations, at least in the Georgia and the Philippines case, it’s very questionably whether this really relates to the war on terror.

So I think we’ve had this preventative doctrine, and we’ve also had an imperial policy, although our empire’s not based on the Roman model where we march in with the legions and take over the territory. It’s based more on the Greek model where we have commercial, cultural influence, but it’s backed up with military power. But nonetheless, it is an imperial policy and has been in the post war era.

I think Bush has taken it further than Clinton and the rest of the presidents before him did, because he is now conducting ground invasions and changing regimes. Clinton chose to bomb from 15,000 feet in Kosovo. Clinton was very reluctant to get involved on the ground after Somalia.

Also, the Bush rhetoric is a bit less sophisticated than the Clinton rhetoric and some of the presidents that have gone before him. Clinton dressed all this up in humanitarian clothes, and at one level, Americans liked that because we like to help people, but on the other level, we see that the policy is conducted for other reasons. Bush is more in your face and I think this is why there was such a debate going on over the policy.

Now, I’ll get to some of the practical aspects. Is this going to work, this more aggressive policy? I don’t think we have good enough intelligence for preventative attacks, and I think recent history has borne that out. In addition, I think that this counter proliferation doctrine, where we threaten or actually attack countries to get them to get rid of their nuclear weapons or biological weapons, is counter productive.

First of all, if I’m Syria, Libya, or Iran and I’m out there watching, I see what happens to Iraq, which doesn’t have nuclear weapons. They get overrun and invaded. I see what happens to North Korea, which is treated much more gingerly. What am I going to do? I’m going to race out and get nuclear weapons as fast as I can, and that’s what the Iranians are doing, and the Bush administration seems amazed that this is happening, but there are reasons for it.

Also, I think this was alluded to earlier, but I think this policy is unsustainable in America. Actually, the American people are going to say, “Well, you know, we can’t keep doing all these wars, and what threats do these countries pose?” And I think any military action that will be taken in the future after this latest dust up of all the intelligence, at least in Washington, will be examined a bit more carefully. Whether the American people will examine it, I think they eventually will, if this policy keeps happening, and I think that it’s very hard to sustain this sort of a policy in a democracy and a republic.

Now, I’m going to address this to both liberals and conservatives. I’m going to start with the conservatives. I’m going to tell everybody why a conservative should be against an empire.

First of all, war has been the biggest cause of big government in the twentieth century, and if you don’t like big government, then you’ve got to get rid of war. Bob Higgs is actually really one of the true pioneers, the guy who wrote this book, Crisis and Leviathan. We always think of big government starting in the New Deal, but he shows in the book that big government really—that is, total social mobilization—started in World War I. Actually, big government probably started as far back as the Civil War, but during World War I, the nation, the whole economy, was mobilized for war. Well, after that it set the precedent for government intervention in the economy, and social policy, and every thing else.

So what we saw in the New Deal was that they brought back a lot of these agencies, renamed them. They even had some of the same people heading them. And they certainly relied on the precedent of World War I. Before World War I, the Federal government made up 2 percent of the U.S. economy, the GDP. Now we’re at about 17 percent or 18 percent after two world wars, a depression, a cold war, etc. So, if you don’t think war causes big government, and empire causes big government, you have to just look at the track record.

Of course, all this spending leads to higher taxes, and conservatives don’t like taxes. They also don’t like the inflation that war causes, and they also don’t like the slower economic growth when resources are diverted from the more productive private sector into the government. We also see trade protectionism as people get more nationalistic. And this is one thing that really should bother conservatives. The imperial over-stretch could cause us to eventually fall as a world power.

If you had asked the British at the height of their empire in 1914 whether 30 years later the empire would be in shambles, you would have gotten raucous laughter. If you had asked a high Soviet official in the early 1980s whether by 1991 the Soviet empire would have collapsed because of excessive military spending and the insufficient economic power to support that, you would have gotten raucous laughter. But of course, those empires are in the dustbin of history as are many previously.

Now, I think we do have a problem. We have 40 percent of the world’s military spending but only 30 percent of the world’s GDP. That’s a 10 percent difference, and over the long term, that’s going to cause a big problem, and other nations already freeload off our defense spending. We spend $400 billion a year on defense. That’s what the next 12 countries spend combined.

All these other countries, if they do it right, they can channel that money that they don’t spend on defense into the private sector, and their growth rates will outstrip the U.S., and lo and behold, the root of all power is ultimately economic power. You can’t build a big military if you don’t have a big economy, and so these countries could overtake us, and China’s doing exactly that now. The Europeans could do it if they got rid of some of their excess social spending and put it back into the private sector. So this is not out of the realm of possibility.

Another reason why conservatives should be opposed to empire is that empire really doesn’t have anything to do with national security, and in fact, probably undermines it. The founders of this country realized that we have unique geographical advantages. We have two huge oceans. We have weak and friendly neighbors. And we now have something that the founders didn’t have, and it’s a big plus: 6,000 nuclear weapons. And I’ll tell you, that’s a big deterrent to anybody who wants to attack or invade us.

So, against conventional threats, and I note I said conventional, we’re very secure, and that’s one reason that the founders wanted to stay out of wars, and also because, as Madison, I think, put it best, “War is the biggest threat to liberty that we face.” I’ll get into that a little later.

But you get the Clintonites and others that come in and say, “Well, but the world is a more interdependent place. We have to watch any little threat anywhere in the world because, my God, the world is interdependent.” Well, in some sense it is. Communication and transportation advances have made the world a smaller place. But if you look at cross-border aggression—any real threat to U.S. security would come there—that’s been declining for decades, and of course, nuclear weapons are probably a part of that. But it’s not the only factor.

But the one thing that might be in the security area that might be more globalized is “blowback.” If we get involved in remote places, we’re going to have more of a chance of blowback here in the United States. And what do I mean by that? 9/11 was an example of blowback where we were attacked because of our foreign policy. So empire is a foreign policy, but it’s not a national security policy. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Another reason that conservatives should be a little bit reluctant to endorse empire is the fact that the costs and benefits of profligate military intervention overseas have changed. Yet, our policy has been on auto pilot.

The benefits of intervention were probably greater during the Cold War, when we had the Soviet superpower to contend with. We no longer have that. In contrast, the costs of intervention have gone up dramatically. There were costs during the Cold War. We had a situation where we could have had a nuclear war, but the superpowers really managed this conflict. They never intervened into the core interests of the other superpower. They puttered around the edges.

Now, we have terrorism which can reach our homeland if the terrorists get weapons of mass destruction. Of course, this could be catastrophic. An example of this is that the Carter and Reagan administrations helped out the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. Now, Afghanistan was a backwater even in the Cold War, so one wonders. They thought it was a great idea at the time to challenge the Soviets, but inadvertently, an unintended consequence of this policy was to create one of the few threats to the homeland that we’ve had in the history of our republic. We haven’t had that many threats to the homeland, but we have one now.

So this “best defense is a good offense,” probably works for nation states. The football analogy. You keep the team at the other end of the field so they’re not scoring at your end of the field, but the problem with terrorists is that they don’t stay on the field. They run down the sideline and sneak into your goal line. So I think we need to address the root causes of terrorism.

Now, a couple of other things that conservatives should look out for is, what do we get for the costly empire? Basically, the empires of old would go in and extract resources, like the Spanish did, grabbing all the gold from Latin America. They made their colonies buy their goods, that is, they were a captive market. They taxed the colonies heavily for projects that the central government wanted to do, but we don’t get any of that because it’s non-PC now to do that. All we get is all the defense expenditures at $400 billion a year, and we don’t even get our allies to open their markets.

The average spending on defense is $1,400 per year per American on the Defense Department and the Energy Department nuclear weapons programs. This is costly, and I’m not sure what we get as taxpayers for this. In fact, we get more terrorism, in my view. So the government is standing by it’s empire, defending other countries, and actually it’s reducing the security at home. And the primary duty of any government first, before it does anything else, is to protect the citizens in the territory of the homeland. And, of course, our government has not done that.

One last point for the conservatives. Many conservatives are very skeptical about social engineering here at home, where the government does have some legitimacy, but they’re much less skeptical that we can go and restructure other societies using the military and other governments. In other words, the conservatives tend to be for small government here at home, but believe in the government intervention overseas. That’s a bit of a contradiction.

Now, starting on the liberals. War results in an erosion of civil liberties—for example, the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and Bush’s detentions without trial or counsel in the war on terror. Imperial wars also result in collateral damage to innocents for no good reason. Finally, war leads to corporate welfare. After 9/11, we saw a $48 billion dollar increase in the defense budget. Only $20 billion was for the actual War on Terrorists. The other $28 billion was for defense pork. People were taking advantage of this to get their favorite weapons systems through Congress.

Now, why should all be against empire? War undermines our constitutional system, making the executive branch stronger, and we already have an imperial presidency. Congress no longer declares war. We no longer have very good debates in Congress about whether to go to war. And the second reason, and I’ve already discussed this, so I won’t go into it, is terrorism with weapons of mass destruction, which could come home to roost.

And if anybody really doubts that it’s our foreign policy that causes the terrorism, you really need to ask the terrorists. Bin Laden was very clear. He’s never mentioned our culture, or our economic, or political system, and neither do polls of Islamic and Arab countries. A recent poll by Pew just reconfirmed this, but this is only one of many polls. They like our culture. They like our political and economic freedoms, but every poll they take they say they don’t like our policy, particularly in the Middle East.

So I think the government’s main function is to provide national security, not to run an empire, and I think the two are diametrically opposed. I think that by invading Iraq, Bush has played right into bin Laden’s hands. Terrorists often attack the stronger party, hoping they’ll over react, so that the terrorists can increase their recruits and funding, and that’s exactly what Bush did by going into Iraq, which was unrelated to 9/11.

So my policy, in short, is that we should revert to the policy of the founders, use a lot of restraint in our military interventions overseas, and we should dismantle the empire. And I think we’ll be a world power a lot longer if we do that. We won’t over extend ourselves. We won’t be so inclined to have terrorism on our home soil or anywhere else. And also, probably the most important thing is that we won’t throw away all of our liberty.

So I think we should be very careful when we intervene militarily because it creates all these unintended consequences, and we’ve seen that in Afghanistan over the years. Thank you. [Applause.]

David Theroux

Thank you, Ivan. So we have time for questions, and I guess I’ll be the person to field them.

Audience Member #1

For all of the members of the panel—do any of you think that the United States government is ignorant of the increased risks, and costs, and other downsides for the citizens of it’s imperial policies?

Ivan Eland

Well, I think some policymakers are in denial about that and don’t think about it, but also we have to remember that the government itself has an interest in much of this, and the government’s interest may not be that of the citizens. I mean, we have to think about that.

We have vast bureaucracies in Washington that drive weapons systems. The Pentagon, for example, does threat assessments for its own weapons systems, so that’s kind of a conflict of interest. We have all sorts of bureaucratic things going on there.

So I think, not only have they not thought about this, but there are a lot of vested interests being driven by a large defense budget and an activist foreign policy, because if you don’t have an activist foreign policy, you can’t justify such a big defense budget, and therefore a lot of defense contractors and that sort of thing will have to downsize, etc.

Joel S. Beinin

I don’t think it’s a question of ignorance or knowledge. First of all, I would put the emphasis not on bureaucracy in Washington but on corporate influence in Washington.

George Shultz, my colleague at Stanford, fellow at the Hoover Institution, and former chair or the board of directors of Bechtel, was asked, after Bechtel got the $680 million contract to reconstruct Iraq, didn’t he think it was odd or a conflict of interest that he had also been the chair of the advisory council of the Council to Free Iraq, which was promoting the war, and then Bechtel profited from the war? And he said, “No. Nobody thinks about it that way,” and that is exactly the problem. Not enough people think about it that way.

When we start to understand that the power in Washington is in the hands of corporations, and they are doing just fine from this war, whether Iraq becomes democratic, whether it increases or decreases the threat to our national security. Kellogg Brown & Root, Bechtel, the oil companies that are going to get a share of Iraq’s oil industry, which is slated to be privatized, those folks are going to do just fine. Their interests are taken care of.

Edward A. Olsen

I don’t think they’re ignorant. They have too much information for that, but some of them may be in denial. I think that for most of them, it’s mostly a matter of a different definition. They’ve got a different definitional framework on these issues, and they think that they’re right.

David Theroux

Just to sort of indirectly rephrase the way Adam Smith would describe so-called mercantilism is that you socialize the cost and you privatize the benefit.

Audience Member #2

If we were successful in having regime change in Washington, what would you forecast for the short-term foreign policy benefits to undo some of the damage that has recently been done?

Audience Member #3

I’ll vote for you.

Joel S. Beinin

I don’t think there is an electable candidate for 2004 who could carry out the changes that would be required, because they’re very broad reaching. I’m a big fan of those out there. I’m a big fan of Dennis Kucinich, who’s said, among other things, that he would establish a Department of Peace, which I think is a good thing. I think another thing that needs to be done is the United States needs to impose a settlement on the Arab-Israeli conflict. No one out there is really going to do that, although Kucinich has come close to saying that he would, but I think these things are far beyond what any of the electable presidential candidates are prepared to do.

Ivan Eland

Well, I would just say I agree with Joel on a lot of things, but I don’t support a Department of Peace, because if it’s anything like the Department of Defense, it would probably be mis-named, and so I’m not sure it would be used for peaceful purposes. But a more realistic assessment of the Iraq situation I think would be good, and I think what we really need to do is we need to get out of there as quickly as possible, because I think things are deteriorating. I think we need to turn this over to a coalition of the willing who can get a government run by Iraqis in there.

And frankly, they’ve put us in a very bad position as policy analysts, because they’ve undertaken a very destabilizing act, and then everyone asks, “Well, the war’s over now. Can’t criticize the war anymore. So what do you do now?” And you’re sort of asked to pick up after the horse when it goes by.

But I’m afraid the natural solution is for Iraq to break up, and I’m not sure that we’re going to be able to avoid that in the future, so we might as well allow the various groups to have self determination right up front.

Edward A. Olsen

Despite Senator Kerry’s usage of that phrase “regime change in Washington,” it’s not likely to happen, but were you to have Governor Dean or Representative Kucinich, conceivably you’d have a little shift or, if you had a Pat Buchannan clone in the GOP, but I don’t think any of those are likely.

Audience Member #4

I want to pick up on something Ivan said, and he was expressing some hope that over time the public would turn against this imperial policy. The policy loves war, especially short, successful wars. You see all these flags flying around? People love it. The media loves it. CNN and Fox got good ratings, and the public loves it, and it loved all these wars, as long as they’re short and successful, and that’s why none of the serious Democrats are really running against the war. You can’t run against something that’s that popular. The polls say, “Oh, we don’t care that they didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, but we won the war. We beat the enemy.”

Audience Member #5

There were reports in the past week that we went to war over the threat of using the euro for the base of the oil market as against the dollar. Saddam Hussein, according to the article, was threatening to convert from the dollar to the Euro, and my understanding is that Venezuela now is also threatening the same thing. Did we go to war to protect the dollar and preserve our supply of oil?

Joel S. Beinin

It is true that several OPEC countries have been discussing transferring pricing of oil from dollars to the euro for some time. I don’t believe that that was the main motive for the war. I don’t believe that Iraq’s oil was even the main motive of the war. I believe we went to war because we could win. In other words, it was a demonstration effect.

Audience Member #6

I had a question for Ivan Eland. You drew a comparison between Albright and Clinton’s attempts in Bosnia, and what’s going on in Iraq today, and said that the main difference in presentation was that the government then had presented Bosnia as a humanitarian effort, and today it’s talking about a defensive effort but that’s really not the case. And you said Rwanda was the other big humanitarian effort that was abandoned during the Clinton area, but you haven’t mentioned at all what’s going on in Congo, and something like four million people who’ve died there under this President’s watch.

Ivan Eland

Well, I’m not defending George Bush or anything else, and I wasn’t really comparing the two necessarily. My purpose in saying that was Bush to some extent has used humanitarian reasons for going into Iraq. He wants to democratize it. He wants to get rid of a brutal dictator, but he started off with strategic threat things. But my point is, most of these humanitarian interventions, whether they’re done by a Republican or a Democratic administration, you dig below the surface, and it’s not humanitarian at all.

In fact, in the case of Bosnia, one of the largest, if not the largest example of ethnic cleansing, was by the people that were on our side, the Croatians. We did most of that because we regarded the Serbs as aggressors and we wanted to contain the Serbs. So I’m not sure that humanitarian considerations in any of these things are anymore than rhetoric—whether it’s a Democratic president or a Republican president that does it. They’re more done for realpolitik reasons. Certainly, there’s a humanitarian problem in Congo, and no one’s proposing military intervention there. So that’s another illustration of my point. We only seem to focus on a humanitarian rationale whether there are other interests at work.

Audience Member #7

Does our government have a legitimate right of hot pursuit or lukewarm pursuit of terrorists who are supported by governments, either officially or unofficially?

Joel S. Beinin

I think that you could argue that such a right exists, which makes a big distinction between the attack on Iraq, which was unprovoked and the attack on Afghanistan, which you could say was provoked because of the Taliban regime’s harboring Osama bin Laden. Having the right doesn’t mean it ought to be exercised.

Ivan Eland

I agree with that. I think that, in most cases, what you want to do is rely on the host government to try to apprehend the people. And if they don’t do that, then you may have to take other actions, but I would use the military option last. I would rely on law enforcement, intelligence, cooperation with other countries, and their governments first. [Applause.]

David Theroux

Getting back to what Ivan was saying in his talk, about the views that Madison had, at least at that time. In the U.S. Constitution, Article I, there’s a provision where Congress can issue so-called letters of marque and reprisal. The theory was that they would issue more targeted privateering efforts at private piracy, or terrorists, essentially, at that time, without engaging in some sort of foreign conflict, which most of the founders were against and were quite fearful of, because the last thing they wanted to do was to go to war with a European power.

Audience Member #8

The attack on September 11th was kind of a sub-text for the attack on Iraq, supposedly retaliation, but do any of you know why no planes were sent from Andrews Air Force Base, which is only 10 miles from Washington, and is there specifically to defend Washington? Instead, they were sent in from Virginia and Otis Air Force Base in Massachusetts and over 100 miles away. That makes no sense to me.

Ivan Eland

I don’t believe there were any squadrons there at the time.

Audience Member #9

My question is, are any of the panel members aware of the tremendous evidence in the public record of premeditation by the Bush administration in 9/11 foreknowledge and cover up? And I’ll cited a couple of specifics real quickly.

Number one, the fact that Osama bin Laden was treated at a military hospital in the Middle East two months before 9/11. The fact that the head of Pakistani intelligence wire transferred $100,000 to Mohammed Atta one week before 9/11, and during 9/11 was in consultation with the president of the United States and leaders of both the Republican and Democratic party The fact that Osama bin Laden’s family members, who didn’t evacuate New York City prior to 9/11, during a national no-fly ban were evacuated by the US Navy. I’ve got a hundred items like that I can give you.

Joel S. Beinin

I’m no fan of George Bush, but I don’t put a lot of stake in conspiracy theories like that either. I’m not sure that all of those are actual facts. I know that those allegations are circulating around. Most of them have not been proven.

Audience Member #9

They’re in the public record.

Joel S. Beinin

I know that they are in the public record, meaning they’re published by newspapers and so on. That doesn’t mean they are true.

Audience Member #10

Oh, really? [Laughter.] Ask George Bush about how in the hell the Osama bin Laden family had bankrolled his company, and he’s been in bed with those suckers for years.

David Theroux

It is true the bin Laden family was in business with the Bush family through the Carlisle Group and so forth, and allegations that are presented in different media and elsewhere, of course, are things that are worth investigating. But as I mentioned in my short remarks earlier about the Spanish American War, what we read in the newspaper may be true; it may not be true.

Audience Member #11

Yes, I have a question for Professor Olsen. The Pentagon recently announced some preemptive deployments in South Korea that were explained as a measure that would make them more effective in launching a preemptive attack against North Korea. How much stock we should put in this explanation by these Pentagon officials, and to what extent would South Korean officials acquiesce in further U.S. belligerence?

Edward A. Olsen

To my knowledge, that’s not quite the way they explained why they’re rearranging the forces there. What they’ve done is to make them more usable and more flexible. One of the suspicions is that by pulling them further away from the demilitarized zone, it may enhance, somewhere along the lines, the viability of a preemptive strike against North Korea. And the North Korean’s reaction to what the U.S. is about to do reinforces that view, but that’s not officially what they’re doing.

What they’re doing is part of a larger, worldwide rearrangement of U.S. forces, and the South Korean government has not been terribly happy with this because the current president of South Korea was elected, there was a lot of anti-American sentiment, and there was quite a bit of resentment against the U.S. forces in the vicinity of Seoul. The fact that the Bush administration is now changing it for other reasons, the current Korean government has backed away from their former position.

So the South Korean government and the North Korean government are actually more or less on the same page and not wanting the U.S. to do it too quickly for very different reasons. They’ve got some difficulty in coordinating a policy between the two Koreas, but to my knowledge, they’ve never explicitly said that that’s why they want to do it.

Audience Member #12

I would like to follow-up a bit on this current discussion between South Korea, North Korea, and the United States. I think one of you mentioned earlier that Japan, possibly, was considering some kind of a preemptive strike against North Korea, and I wonder just how realistic is something like that, given the history of Japan and the Koreas? It would seem to me that that—if anything like that even seemed possible, that that would server to unite, as far as I’m concerned, a good thing, to unite the two Koreas.

Edward A. Olsen

Yeah, most of it is Japanese rhetoric and essentially part of the internal Japanese defense debate. I don’t think there’s any chance of the Japanese actually attacking, either preemptively or otherwise, North Korea. It’s mostly rhetoric. It’s part of the arguments in some conservative circles in Japan for having Japan become a more normal country, as they put it.

I think you’re right that, if the Japanese ever did something like that, you’d end up with the South Koreans and the North Koreans having considerable solidarity in opposition to the Japanese doing something like that.

David Theroux

We have time for one more question.

Audience Member #13

Good evening. I’m very impressed with the panel this evening. I know how there’s usually very little collusion before panelists like this, so it’s rather interesting that you’ve had this range of opinions on this particular topic.

My area of expertise is in the promotion of human rights and humanitarian aid and those sorts of things, and I follow very closely the Bush administration’s and the Clinton administration’s and especially the Department of Defense’s efforts in portraying itself as a humanitarian aid force. They make considerably effective arguments that they can deliver humanitarian aid, for example, in large quantities to war-torn areas.

My question is that, given that they can move personnel and materiel so quickly, why do the panelists think that there continues to be a lack of resolve in putting such personnel and materiel on the ground in the Gaza Strip, for example, and directly addressing what one of you identified as one of the root causes for Middle Eastern turmoil which is, in effect, the Israeli-Palestinian problem. If not a causal factor, it’s certainly an excuse by, for example, Islamic fundamentals. So why are successive administrations, Democratic and Republican, not interposing themselves in there?

Joel S. Beinin

I guess that falls to me. There are two reasons. First, any American administration that wanted to do anything with regard to Israel and Palestine that an Israeli government would oppose is going to risk losing an enormous amount of political capital.

Congress is very, very powerfully in the grip of the Zionist lobby, which is far broader than the organized American Jewish community. It includes even more powerfully the defense industry and the Christian right. And secondly, even if a president were willing to risk the political capital to do something that Israel would powerfully oppose, it would mean diminishing the ability of the United States to collaborate with Israel on military and strategic matters in the Middle East, which are very important.

Who, after all, trained American marines for going into dark alleys in crowded Arab cities in Baghdad? That was the Israeli military. Who provides military intelligence for the Arab world for the United States? The Israelis. So the Israelis play a very important geo-strategic role, and if the United States wants to continue a policy of empire in the Middle East, we need them.

David Theroux

I’m afraid we’re over time, and I want to thank everyone for joining with us. I want to thank our three speakers, in particular, for their excellent talks. [Applause.]

One last point I want to mention is that each summer, we also conduct summer seminars for high school and college students. And if you have children or friends who have children that would benefit from a week of being involved in a program like this, we highly encourage you to do so.

Again, the three books that we’re featuring here (Putting “Defense” Back Into U.S. Defense Policy, U.S. National Defense for the Twenty-first Century and Political Islam), we strongly recommend that you get copies, and I’m sure that each of the speakers would be delighted to autograph copies. There are copies upstairs, and thank you all for joining with us. We hope to see you at our next event. Good night. [Applause]

END OF EVENT



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