Tracking Courage in Washington
We present Carnegie Endowment President Jessica Mathews’ views on the Iraq war.
October 28, 2004
Think tanks are supposed to help the rest of us figure out how to deal with future challenges — and how to avoid major pitfalls. But when the Bush Administration decided to go to war against Iraq, most U.S. politicians and think tank leaders hedged their bets. A rare exception was Jessica Mathews, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. We present her views on Iraq.
What explains the ongoing U.S-European rift?
“Americans worry about Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Europeans worry about an America that seems to them so powerful, so angry, and so heedless of the concerns of others that it poses a threat to the international order Europe seeks to promote.”
Are the Europeans' concerns well-founded?
"U.S. conservatives pushed for a de facto return to empire. Announcing a global crusade on behalf of democracy is arrogant, blind to local realities, dangerous — and ignorant of history.”
How will history judge this so-called global endeavor?
“The Iraq War — regardless of the outcome — will bear one of history’s harshest judgments: an unnecessary war.”
What do you mean by unnecessary?
“Two supreme questions still demand convincing answers: ‘Why war?’ — and ‘Why now?’"
Has the current U.S. government provided any valuable answers?
“One central truth is still largely unappreciated. While the world’s best intelligence services were getting it wrong, United Nations inspectors were getting the picture in Iraq largely right.”
"In 1991-98, while facing unrelenting Iraqi obstruction, UN inspectors discovered and eliminated most of — if not all — of Iraq's unconventional weapons and production facilities."
Even if the threat of weapons had not been eliminated, was there a viable alternative to war?
“A package of international restraints — sanctions, procurement investigations and export/import controls combined with core inspections — had been more effective than has been appreciated then or since.”
What are the negative consequences of this unnecessary war?
"For the United States, the costs of such a war include the death of soldiers, economic losses caused by the effect of soaring oil prices on a fragile stock market, the need to post tens of thousands of troops in Iraq for many years, lingering resentment among allies whose cooperation we need — and the near certainty of creating legions of new terrorists who hate America."
How can the situation in Iraq be improved?
“The sooner we can add the legitimacy conferred by a U.N. political role, the greater our still slim chances of success.”
What explains global tension in recent years?
“September 11 changed the United States far more than it did the rest of the world.”
Which country was fastest to respond to the terror attacks on U.S. soil?
“No world leader grasped more quickly the opportunity September 11 offered him — or acted more decisively to seize it — than Vladimir Putin.”
"On the day of the attacks he was the first foreign head of state to call President Bush. He followed that with an extraordinary string of actions — and non-actions — that amount to a wholesale reorientation of Russia's foreign policy."
Who are some unintended beneficiaries of the U.S. war against terrorism?
“Central Asia's leaders feel freer to resist reform, believing that — as long as the United States needs their bases — they will be able to follow the policies that make them a danger to their populations.”
Does China get anything out of cooperating with the United States?
“September 11 has provided China with low-cost opportunities to cooperate with the United States through intelligence sharing and efforts to unearth terrorist-financing mechanisms.”
Might a long-standing arrangement between the United States and Arab regimes be coming to an end?
“For the first time, the wisdom of a long-standing bargain — U.S. tolerance of Arab political repression in return for oil and stability — has begun to be questioned.”
And finally, are you hopeful about the future?
"The best guide, I think, will be to ask ourselves: What kind of a world order would we like to have in place when our moment of dominance ends? What kind of world order ought we be trying to build towards."