Mr. Leslie H. Gelb (Council on Foreign Relations): I want to thank the Home Box Office, Jeff Bewkes, the Chairman and CEO, Richard Plepler, Executive Vice President, for sponsoring these evenings and allowing people to come together, in this case, to discuss an important issue, in other cases to do so by means of a formal debate. Jeff Bewkes and Richard Plepler and HBO have been terrific in enabling us to promote the debate format and the discussion format here at the Council. We do thank them.
I can’t think of a more important issue than this one for us to be talking about. Although, I guess that’s a tell-tale sign about what I think about the issue. It’s so important that we’re breaking a traditional Council rule and instead of concluding the proceedings at 7:00 p.m. we will conclude at 7:15 p.m. I ask you all to remain until 7:15 p.m.. It is also disconcerting to everyone if you leave before then.
The issue for discussion is humanitarian intervention. We’re going to begin with brief statements from my two relatives on either side of me. Ten minute statements which I will enforce with ferocity. I’m sure that you will speak in even less than ten minutes. We then will have a discussion among the three of us until 6:45 p.m. and at that point will open it up for comments and give and take with you all.
This is the right issue for us to talk about. It’s at that level of importance whether or not you agree we ought to do this or not—whether or not you agree we ought to intervene militarily in these situations. To talk about it this evening we have my uncle, Fareed Zakaria, who is a real star in the intellectual firmament of foreign policy and we are very lucky to have him here as the Managing Editor of Foreign Affairs and as a colleague at the Council. It is an intellectual and personal treat. It is always a treat for me to be with my former colleague at The New York Times, Tony Lewis, colleague and friend. Tony ranks among the highest in being both a real humanist and a very smart guy.
Fareed, will you begin?
Mr. Fareed Zakaria (Council on Foreign Relations): Well, thanks so much Les. You can tell how important Les thought this subject was by the fact that he has scheduled it against the Council’s softball game. Producing the very weird incentive where for the first time in history if it rained you probably would have gotten better attendance at a meeting than if it hadn’t. I want to begin by saying that I am really honored to be here and honored to be on the platform with Anthony Lewis, who like many of you I grew up reading. I’ve sometimes agreed and sometimes disagreed. Ok, probably more often than not disagreed, but on one issue he has always held a special place in my heart. As somebody who has dealt with the INS over the years. Anthony Lewis’ crusade against INS arbitrariness is somethiing that I have a great personal fondness for.
Let me begin by reading you a letter. It is a letter written from a small town in West Africa by two local chieftains. The date on the letter is November 6, 1881.
Dear Mr. W. Gladstone,
We both your servants have met this afternoon to write you these few lines trusting it finds you in a good state of life. We heard that you are the chief man in the House of Commons, so we write to tell you that we want to be under Her Majesty’s control. We want our country to be governed by British Government. We are tired of governing the country ourselves. Every dispute leads to war and often to great loss of life. So we think it the best thing to do to give up the country to you British men who no doubt will bring peace, civilization and Christianity in the country.
Do, for mercy’s sake, lay our request before the Queen and to the rulers of the British Government. We heard that you are a good Christian man so we hope you will do all in your power to see this request is granted. We are quite willing to abolish all our heathen customs. No doubt God will bless you for putting a light in our country. Please send us an answer as quickly as you can.
King Bell and King Acwa of the Cameroon Rivers West Africa, November 6
Now, Britain in 1881, when William Gladstone must have received this remarkable letter, was remarkably like the United States today. It had about 25% of world GDP, about 50% of European GDP. London was the financial capital of the world. Britain had politically and militarily just thwarted a great expansionist drive by first France and then Russia. In fact, it declined King Bell and King Acwa’s kind invitation, but it took many others. So much so that between 1881 and 1914 it annexed 5 million square miles of territory. Now some of this was done power politics, some of it out of lust for land. But a lot of it was motivated by humanitarian concerns, ending bride burning, ending infanticide, toppling slave traders and, very often, re-making societies so that you could in some way put an end to the endemic problems that seemed to cause civil and often international wars there.
Now America has taken on the Englishman’s burden and is confronted by a world in which it is often asked or prompted to intervene for what is now called humanitarian reasons or humanitarian intervention. I think it is beginning to realize something that the British realized toward the end of their imperial expeditions which is that there really is no such thing as humanitarian intervention. Interventions are deeply political, military, long-lasting, enormously complex and transform societies. To call an intervention a humanitarian intervention, usually refers simply to its intentions, not to the act, not to the consequences.
Let’s consider Kosovo, because in some ways it is an intervention whose motives are about as pure as you can get. There is no question that the U.S. was on the side of the angels in this one. Leaving aside the issue, however, of what would have happened had the United States not intervened—and as you know the statistics are fairly interesting in that respect, in the three years preceeding the intervention 2,000 people had died and about 200,000 had been displaced. In the eight weeks after the intervention 10,000 people died and 850,000 people were displaced. Leaving aside that issue, and let us grant that things would have worked out just as the Clinton administration said and had they not intervened things would have been even worse in Kosovo. As a consequence of the intervention 150,000-250,000 Serbs have been ethnically cleansed from Kosovo. Kosovo itself has been laid to waste and is now being re-built. Serbia has been bombed back to essentially Third World conditions with God knows how many people having died. The EU reports that it will take $50 billion and 50 years to rebuild Serbia and return it to the point it was before the bombing began. Most sadly, we have affirmed a principle of ethnic secession which I think would prove enormously troubling, and could provoke much greater levels of violence were it applied universally around the world. Were it applied, say, in a place like Sri Lanka. Were it applied in parts of the Middle East or Eurasia. Now, I say this recognizing that what Milosevic was doing was awful and something had to be done. But even for the most ardent fan of this intervention, surely it is somewhat troubling that what we did produced these consequences.
There have been three models of American interventions in the last few years and they have had three sets of consequences. There’s been Somalia where we intervened and then cut and run. There’s been Haiti where we intervened, then leave and declare victory, but if we were to peek back in we would notice that things are actually much worse than when we started. Then there’s Bosnia and Kosovo where we have stayed and occupied the countries. Now, Bosnia and Kosovo are, in fact, occupied by the United States; in effect, an occupation that has lasted years, in Bosnia, and over a year in Kosovo. The total bill for which is about 100 billion dollars. We have become, in effect, a colonial power in the South Balkans, inheriting the role of the Habsburgs and the Ottomans. Of course we don’t see ourselves as an imperial power. We see ourselves as simply helping Kosovo to “become a functioning and viable member of the international community.” Those are not Secretary of State Albright’s words with reference to Kosovo in 1999. They are UN Ambassador Albright’s words with reference to Somalia several years earlier.
The case I would make against this kind of liberal imperialism, humanitarian interventions, is not that we’re on the wrong side. It’s not that nothing should be done about these things, terrible crises in remote places. It is that to ask nations to act for purely humanitarian reasons is to ask nations to do things they don’t do well. To ask military power to solve problems of ethnic discord is to ask militaries to do things they don’t do well. And that we will never sustain the kind of massive exertions, involvement and transformations it would take to really achieve anything in these missions. When we leave Bosnia, does anyone doubt that the situation will revert to exactly what it was? When we leave Kosovo, does anyone doubt that the situation will revert to exactly what it was? And this is the reason.
I will end this brief harangue with this: We cannot manage liberal imperialism today because we don’t live in an age of colonialism; we live in an age of nationalism. We cannot go into these countries and rebuild their courts and staff them with Americans and tell them it will be a generation or two and you, under our tutelage, will rise to civilization. We’re not in that world. We can’t do it. We sit there nervously, half heartedly practicing a kind of colonialism light and then when we leave everything is simply back to normal. As I say, there are things we should do, but I am not at all convinced that the kind of military interventions that have been taking place over the last decade are likely to be possible in the future, are likely to be sustained when they prove to be expensive. Most importantly, you are highly unlikely to be able to transform these societies on the cheap from the outside. Trust me, I grew up in a country that was subject to the longest sustained external intervention of any country in modern history. Great Britain, the greatest empire in the world spent 200 years trying to re-shape India in ways that are unthinkable today. Rebuilding the entire society. After 200 years and enormous exertions, it sort of worked. I don’t think that’s a viable model for America for the future.
Mr. Anthony Lewis (The New York Times): Mr. Zakaria, thank you for what you said about immigration. I really appreciated that. I will tell you, there was a certain undercurrent out in the other room that I should change the subject of this meeting to humanitarian intervention and the case of Elian Gonzales.
What you said is powerful, and in part convincing, but I don’t agree for reasons I will try to explain. Of course we can’t transform societies on the cheap. Of course we can’t do what the British more or less did, partly did in 200 years in India. I agree with that, but I don’t think that is the question posed, nor do I think that there is such a thing as a pure humanitarian intervention solely for humanitarian reasons. I think in a situation like Bosnia, there was a mix of humanitarian reasons and power reasons. Because to allow the destruction of that society and the killing of its people—it wasn’t something casual. Nor are you right, I think, to say that the situation will revert to what it was. I don’t have any illusions about how hard it is to change what is in Bosnia, but it will not revert to people being slaughtered in a captive city, the capital Sarajevo. I hope it won’t revert to that and I don’t think it will.
But let me begin where I was going to begin, at the beginning. There is one cast of mind on this issue that sees anything colored with humanitarian motivations...even though as I believe humanitarian motivations these days are very much mixed up with interests of traditional foreign policy kind—power and order. My example of that, I have a few examples, is Henry Kissinger’s comment about East Timor. As far as I recall, Henry Kissinger has never, in advance, been in favor of any humanitarian intervention. I don’t think humanitarian concerns are at the top of his list. What he said was this, “I am deeply worried about what the long-term consequences of military intervention will be in East Timor, in which no one has defined what the aims were. Where there are 30,000 Indonesian troops on the ground. No one knows what the rules of engagement are. And no one has explained what the consequences will be to other countries in Asia.” Well, I think that’s a fair example of the doubts about humanitarian intervention in a particularly remote and little known place, more remote than Bosnia by far. But in fact, the operation in East Timor turned out to meet little if any resistance from the Indonesian troops and militia who have been murdering the Timorese. To my knowledge, there were no, or haven’t been so far, bad consequences elsewhere in Asia. The operation has a long way to go in terms of reviving a devastated land, but the killing has stopped. That’s very important. I think that’s the thing we should keep in mind.
My model, you began with Kosovo, my model is—or the concern that really motivated me or brought me into this sphere was Bosnia and there I simply will call everybody’s attention to what you all know which is the mea culpa statement of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, about Srebrenica. He was criticizing himself because he had been in charge. When he reported on Srebrenica a year ago, he said, “the tragedy will haunt our history forever. A deliberate and systematic attempt to terrorize, expel or murder an entire people must be met decisively with all necessary means and with the political will to carry the policy through to its logical conclusion.”
Now, we all know, and here I may be coming closer to Mr. Zakaria—we all know that the idea of humanitarian intervention for humanitarian purposes is not self executed. There are all kinds of problems in the way. Political ones: the nature of the United Nations and especially the Security Council, the relationship of the United States to the UN and to its allies, and for that matter the relationship between the President of the United States and Congress. The use of military force is always a complicated and delicate business, it is so easy to do more harm than good. But I put it to you and maybe this is where we will come to disagree, that as a practical matter, Kofi Annan is right. The world cannot stand aside. More precisely, it will not. Those who allowed the massacre of Srebrenica to happen, the politicians, the generals, the UN officials will have it always on their consciences. And more, even more precisely, there is Rwanda, which you didn’t mention. I think Rwanda is perhaps the classic, strongest case. President Clinton has confessed his feelings of guilt over what happened in Rwanda and what he failed to do. Others, I think, should do the same. The world had notice enough of the genocidal intentions, and as Les was saying to me before he used that word rather carefully, you don’t use it loosely, but I think it’s appropriate in Rwanda. The genocidal intentions of the killers notice enough to save hundreds of thousands of lives. I say the world will not stand aside because we had a test of that in Bosnia. Two American Presidents in succession, Bush and Clinton, tried to turn their eyes and the country’s eyes away from what was happening in Bosnia. President Bush had a chance to stop Slobodan Milosevic before the horror really got started, but he did nothing and said nothing when Milosevic began shelling Dubrovnic in the autumn of 1991 and nothing when Milosevic’s forces leveled the city of Vukovar, and nothing when the Serbs began murdering and expelling Muslims from the towns of Eastern Bosnia in the spring of 1992. President Bush and Brent Scowcroft published a book about the Bush foreign policy record; they didn’t mention Bosnia.
Bill Clinton, as a candidate, criticized Bush’s silence on Bosnia, but as President his strong words drained away into similar inactivity. But Presidential reluctance to get involved in Bosnia’s torment was overwhelmed by public revulsion at the Serbian slaughter in Srebrenica and then by the marketplace massacre in Sarajevo. President Clinton reacted because he had to, politically. The result was Dayton. Too little too late, but enough at least, and I repeat this is very important, to stop the killing.
I think the people of this and other western countries will react similarly to mass murder and rape and the things that went on in Bosnia, if they know about it. That’s a big “if” because terrible things happen in places that television cameras do not reach. That was true under the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. It’s true now in Sudan. And it was largely, though not entirely, in Rwanda. But as communications exist today the western public will very often learn about the horrors committed in the name of religion or race or ethnicity. Then, as I say, there will be pressure for action. The hard questions, which I think is what we’ll come to, is how do you do it? What do you do?
But even here I think we’ve learned a few rules. First, words will not stop a Milosevic. Words matter to gangsters only if they have behind them the credible threat of force. Second, it’s vital to act early. It saves lives and avoids wider military action. A small military gesture by President Bush in 1991 or early 1992 would have spared Bosnia its tragedy, in my opinion. Third, in the face of genocidal violence, those who care should not wring their hands about the military skill of the killers, which was very often done about the Serbs in Bosnia. Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and their colleagues were not heroes. They were cowards who murdered and raped unarmed civilians. When confronted with serious military force they collapsed.
I’ll end with what I think I said at the beginning which is that I don’t think this is about purely humanitarian intervention isolated from other consequences, other interests. I’ll end by quoting Professor Stanley Hoffman, “the twenty-first century,” he said, “will be full of ethnic conflicts and disintegrating states. It will not be possible to prevent, stop or resolve all of them, but cases of extreme violence need to be considered as inherently dangerous for international peace and security and intolerable on both ethical and prudential grounds.”
Mr. Gelb: Thank you both very much. Fareed would you like to start?
Mr. Zakaria: Well, I just thought that I would take up the issue that you raised. You speak very eloquently and very passionately about Bosnia and I think that the emotional pull to do something is very strong, and that’s why I began by saying that I’m not making a case that we shouldn’t do anything, but simply talking about the kinds of military intervention the United States has engaged in.
But let me back up because I think we both want to talk about, as you said, what we should do. But let me back up and ask a question, and I mean this not as a debator’s point, but in all seriousness, which is what is the moral principle one uses when deciding what interventions to get involved in? Because, as you point out, people often say we can’t just stand there and let this happen, but we do, frequently, stand there and let these things happen. It’s not just Rwanda. It’s Sudan, where the killing has dwarfed anything that has happened in Bosnia. It’s also the Congo. In Turkey. In Kurdestan. In Kashmir.
Mr. Gelb: Let’s let Tony respond. It’s an important point to raise.
Mr. Zakaria:—Let me just say why I ask, I know that the answer is, well, we can’t do good everywhere so we might as well do it where we can. But there’s something unsatisfying about the idea that like a rich man who ideosyncratically stumbles upon a few beggars and says “well, I can’t solve world poverty, but these three I’m going to help.” That’s not a satisfying moral argument. I mean, Kant’s entire conception of morality is that it has to be universal. What applies in X has to apply in Y. Are we going to say that we will allow the happenstance and whimsy of television to tell us which ones happen to be considered serious and which lives happen to be worth saving.
Mr. Gelb: But Fareed, before Tony responds, is power politics universal and consistent in the same way that morality is?
Mr. Zakaria: But it doesn’t claim to be.
Mr. Gelb: It can be ad hocery too?
Mr. Zakaria: That’s the very nature. Power politics says how powerful you are will determine how seriously we’ll take you, right? Power politics is not claiming any kind of universal Kantian imperative.
Mr. Lewis: Les has stolen my question!
Mr. Zakaria: You New York Times people all think alike! [laughter]
Mr. Lewis: You’ve probably noticed that lately in our position on Elian. We’re all in complete agreement!
I don’t think that there are universals in one anymore than the other. I was in a meeting in Cambridge, Massachusetts where a man who was deeply and worthily and wonderfully involved in Sudan took me to bitter task for not caring as much about Sudan as I did about Bosnia or Rwanda and I pleaded guilty to that. The answer is that you do what you can. Sudan is remote from our knowledge, our power and European allies’ power. It is very difficult for us to do anything about it. I have genuine doubts that we would make it better by intervening. I am quite dubious. Bosnia wasn’t that way at all to me. It was on the fringe, very close fringe, an hours flying time or less from Italy, from NATO territory. What was happening there was a direct threat to European peace and order. I think there the humanitarian interest, which was very great in my opinion, was combined with the sense that if we didn’t do anything that close to our historic interest, 50 years keeping the peace in Europe at enormous expenditure of men and money, we would look like a paper tiger. That’s a silly way to put it—we would look like people who had no real interest in this matter and were only concerned with the Cold War and really had no interest in the peace in Europe.
Mr. Gelb: But Tony, allow me to hold you to Fareed’s question because I think to the extent that you want to rest your case on moral grounds, Fareed is saying that has to meet a higher standard of consistency.
Mr. Lewis: My answer to that is that I can’t do it. If that’s a plea of avoidance or guilt, I have to do it because I don’t think that in our current state the United States, which as you quite charmingly said is not in a colonial age, cannot make our moral precepts apply everywhere and universally. We do what we can and in some cases what we are compelled to do by our sense of, maybe it is as the former Secretary-General said “co-ethnicity,” or our sense that these people are like us which was true of the Bosnians. But that was not true of Rwanda. In Rwanda we were there. There were western forces there. We were engaged and we withdrew from that engagement at a really terrible moment.
Mr. Zakaria: But we didn’t end up doing anything. In other words we did the wrong thing. But the argument that we intervened in Bosnia because they are like us is a terribly amoral argument.
Mr. Lewis: Oh, I agree.
Mr. Zakaria: It is an argument about ethnic solidarity. It is precisely the kind of thing we were battling against in Bosnia.
Mr. Lewis: I agree.
Mr. Zakaria: So, it’s an odd standard to invoke.
Mr. Lewis: Oh, it’s not a standard, it’s reality because these interventions can occur. You know, what I’m resisting is the notion which I think is implicit in what you say, though I think you tried to discount it as I recall, that because we can’t do everything we should do nothing. I think that is a truly immoral argument. I think if we see people being shelled in Sarajevo or captured soldiers being mowed down by the thousands in Srebrenica or rape camps being established in Western Bosnia, we can do something about it and hence we ought to do something about it.
Mr. Gelb: Fareed, can I ask you to respond specifically to Tony’s point that implicit in your argument seems to be since you can’t do it everywhere, you shouldn’t do it anywhere.
Mr. Zakaria: No. I’ll tell you what I think we should work towards. It seems to me that to ask the United States to intervene continually in collapsing nations on the side of the victimized party and you very eloquently painted the scenarios of mass rape and murder, but as you know these happen in lots of places where we don’t go. But to ask the United States to do that continually is something that isn’t going to happen. We do it idiosyncratically in places that we happen to choose for a variety of reasons. I would be more comfortable. I would, frankly, think it a more moral position to have a certain degree of consistency and to try to apply it everywhere. I do believe we should do things. I do believe humanitarian intervention properly should mean providing aid and comfort to people in horrendous circumstances whether, by the way, by the cause of natural famine or the cause of physical violence. Secondly, I do believe we should work toward international forces that could, on a rapid response basis, move in. I think that the point you made about Rwanda, about places like the Congo or Sudan or Rwanda, is simply not true. It is very easy to intervene in those places to stop the violence. It is very difficult to rebuild those societies. But you are talking about societies that are at peasant levels of development and often at peasant levels of military technology and supply, most importantly. You might have 2,000 people with guns, once the bullets run out, there’s very little they can do. So, it wouldn’t be very difficult to imagine some kind of UN rapid response force that were able to separate parties, to staunch it to provide some kind of peacekeeping operation. But I think my greatest problem with your scenario is, while you vividly evoke the case of Bosnia, it sounds compelling, but is the United States going to be able to spend $100 billion and all the political energy every time something like this happens? No. It’s going to do it in a few places. Frankly, where the victims are white and where it is in some televised situation reminds people of things like the Holocaust. They’re not going to do it in Sudan. They’re not going to do it in Rwanda. It seems to me an entirely inconsistent position and one that is not really geared to do something about the world we’re confronting.
Mr. Lewis: A number of points. First of all, I don’t agree with you that we wouldn’t do it in Rwanda. We could have done it in Rwanda. Rwanda is a small country—
Mr. Zakaria: That’s my point.
Mr. Gelb: You said, we could have done something in Rwanda?
Mr. Lewis: —where military force could have interrupted there, easily and discretely, just to stop the killing without a vast political undertaking. Sudan seems to me to be entirely different. An enormous country that has had civil war going for decades where the politics, the food, the fighting are all mixed up and it’s very hard for me to see how any marginally sized military force could solve that problem.
But let me come to two other things. You used the phrase, I think we’re closer to agreement than I believed we were, but you used a phrase that I think is very dangerous. You said we can give “aid and comfort,” not military force. Well, that’s what other powers pretty much tried to do in Bosnia and it was a disastrous mistake. We had UN people there promising safety to people and not doing anything about it. People in Srebrenica and elsewhere who thought they were being protected and who, in fact, were slaughtered with no resistance from the Dutch troops and other troops and, indeed, some military commanders who disgraced their uniforms under UN leadership.
Now, lastly I want to make a point about universality. It’s a quite different point, because I think there is one area in which we ought to be campaigning for universality on this kind of issue and where alas I think to our disgrace we are on the opposite side. That is the International Criminal Court, where there is a universal principle that people who organize and who commit crimes of this kind, genocide or war crimes, should be responsible, accountable to a judicial tribunal, and here the United States is standing out against virtually all the rest of the world and I find that very sad.
Mr. Zakaria: Let me just say something about the two points that you made. One was the Bosnian intervention and I think it is important to point out that when you said President Bush tried to avert his eyes or President Clinton did or the European leaders, that is not exactly what happened. In Bosnia, we tried a classic version of this kind of half-hearted intervention where we wanted to intervene enough that we could tell our populations, “We’re doing something. It’s a terrible tragedy and we’re doing something about it,” but not really do anything. I think that was fundamentally the problem. If you had created genuine safe havens where they were protected. I think, frankly, the idea of a safe haven which is widely discredited should not be so at all. It is a bad safe haven, an unsafe haven, that was the problem.
Mr. Lewis: But that takes real military force, not wishful thinking.
Mr. Zakaria: I agree with that and that is where I came to my point about international forces and I do think that that could have worked in Bosnia. But my point about Bosnia is that our greatest error was the illusion that we were doing something when we were in fact not doing it.
Mr. Lewis: I agree.
Mr. Zakaria: On your second point, with regard to the International Court, here is my one concern, and broadly speaking I am sympathetic. I’m not an expert on the issue. It seems to me that the United States’ concerns about the International Court are entirely legitimate in the sense the United States places itself in very unusual positions, indeed unique positions. The United States is the only country that sends its troops around the world routinely on peacemaking, peacekeeping military interventions precisely the kind you like. Now, that means that it is vulnerable to be sued. To be brought to court for the behavior of its troops in a way that Bulgaria is unlikely to be. I don’t say this is dispositive. I don’t say this is the only concern and, as I say, I am broadly sympathetic. But I think that what it takes to make rules is very different from what it takes to live under them. The United States is unusual in being in a position where it is both rule maker and also has to live under those rules.
Mr. Lewis: Just to factually dissent, we are not the only country that sends our troops around the world. In fact we’ve been rather less involved in peacekeeping missions than the British, the French, the Irish and lots of others.
Mr. Zakaria: But Mr. Lewis, the reason why you want the U.S. to be around the world is because we’re the only ones that count. In other words, we’re the ones that people worry about because they know that if they cross American peacekeepers or cross an American blessed mission, that will trigger the possible use of American military force. People don’t worry about that if you send Bulgarian peacekeepers. They might get a strong and anguished speech from Kofi Annan as a result but it’s not going to have the same effect as killing Americans. We are in a unique position.
Mr. Gelb: Thank you both. At this point I would like to invite you all to enter the conversation. Usual rules and procedures. It’s easier for me to see your desire to be recognized if you wave your hand a little. When you’re recognized, wait for the microphone. They’ll be there in short order. Please identify yourself, state your name and affiliation. Then make, in the great tradition of this place, a brief comment or question that will elicit a response from my colleagues here. In front please.
Mr. John Temple Swing (Foreign Policy Association): I really want to supply an answer that Tony didn’t give to Fareed’s question about the principle involved, and I’m surprised we haven’t mentioned it sooner and that is the Genocide Convention. There is a convention outstanding we signed in 1991. The United States is a signatory. By and large, it defines the crimes that we are talking about. Its crimes against humanity, and I do think and I do agree with Tony, there are things of that magnitude that when they happen again, by and large, the American people are going to want to see something done about it. Now, my own hope in the future is that that is going to be done collectively. The United States cannot do it all alone and should not do it all alone. It should be done, as Fareed correctly said, with a rapid deployment force. I for one—we didn’t mention Cambodia or the loss of a million people in Cambodia. But on top of Rwanda and other places like that, I think we’ve seen enough things in the last 20 years to realize that that is something I think the world in general is moving toward, a move where it will not be tolerated and my only wish is that we’ll do it collectively and not solely alone.
Mr. Gelb: Thank you John. Please, gentlemen.
Mr. Doug Schoen (Penn, Schoen & Berland): Two questions, Mr. Lewis you didn’t respond to anything Mr. Zakaria said about Kosovo. I think I would be interested to hear your response there. And neither of you mentioned Chechnya and I wonder how it fits into both of your models and analysis. Thank you.
Mr. Zakaria: I’ll start with the Chechnya part. I think that when you allow—when the United States takes upon itself to be the judge, jury, and hangman in interventions where it says it will determine when a crisis is serious enough to warrant intervention, how that intervention should take place, who should do that intervention and how that issue should be resolved, you’re obviously inviting other countries to say, “Fine, we’ll do the same in our backyard,” and I think that we have lost any moral authority to criticize Russia for its actions in Chechnya because they rightly say, “You don’t understand the situation. It is close to us. These people are people we understand. It is an area very close to our ambit of power and there are drug running terrorists who we have to restore the rule of law.” Now, I don’t agree with anything that the Russians say on that issue. Well, mostly disagree with what they say, but it becomes very difficult if our rationale for intervention in the South Balkans is, well, it’s close to us, we think we know what’s best, and we’re going to go in and do that and there’s no time for dithering and consultations, we’re just going to act. Well, that’s what Putin is doing in Chechnya.
Mr. Lewis: I was going to say a word about Kosovo. It won’t satisfy you because I find myself uncertain of the answer. I was entirely in favor of intervention in Kosovo because I believed that Milosevic was determined. He already had his people kill individuals selectively in particularly horrible ways; editors, human rights activists, so on. And I thought he was preparing for a massive operation to de-Albanianize the province. But the facts are, as Mr. Zakaria said, impossible to prove. Would it have happened that way if we hadn’t intervened? I can’t be sure of the answer to that question, to be honest to you.
Mr. Gelb: Doug, before we run away from you—Doug Schoen is one of the leading political analysts, political consultants in our country—just an aside for a moment—
[end Side A]—
Mr. Schoen:—[tape resumes]—remains skeptical since Vietnam. There is a presumption in each intervention in favor of supporting the Administration’s actions immediately after it’s launched, with one caveat that we didn’t get into today that I’ll just raise briefly—the absolute fear among policy-makers about the loss of life and the attendant inability of those policy-makers to follow through on their commitments in the way that perhaps, Mr. Lewis, you would like them to with the net result that Mr. Milosevic is likely to be in power longer than Mr. Clinton.
Mr. Herbert Levin: There is one situation in the world where we have a General Assembly vote that the U.S. supported and where the situation is deteriorating and there is more violence. I’m not talking about sending in troops to correct it. There are other means. I am referring to India’s West Bank in Kashmir and I wonder what our two speakers have to suggest should be the U.S. role there. There is a suggestion that this could even result in a nuclear war which I assume no one favors.
Mr. Gelb: Thanks Herb.
Mr. Zakaria: Well I planned to be controversial, but not that controversial. I don’t think there’s very much the United States can do to be honest. I don’t think that there’s even a remote chance that India will give up Kashmir or agree to any kind of circumstance in which that happens and it has the power to maintain its rule there. Again it is an example, in my mind, of one of these cases we aren’t doing anything about so we pretend that its not as bad. But you know, the Kurds in Kurdistan and the Kashmiris have gone through pretty brutal times and the numbers in both cases dwarf Kosovo.
Mr. Lewis: I agree, there’s nothing we can do.
Mr. William vanden Heuvel (Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute): First of all, thank you for this very important discussion. I would like to go to the point that Fareed has raised on the safe havens question. When Srebrenica was declared a safe haven and the Secretary-General, then Boutros Ghali, pleaded with the Security Council to send sufficient forces that would enable the meaning to safe haven to really be substantiated, the Security Council instead of sending 30,000 troops sent 3,000. I sent a letter to the Secretary-General at that time urging him to stay with his position and complementing him for representing the conscience and interest of mankind against the individual nationalities of the Security Council and urged him to do so. Without my knowledge, he circulated that letter to the members of the Security Council and I received a call that evening from our then Ambassador to the United Nations excoriating me for being disloyal to the administration that I presumably supported, and failing to understand the limitations on our intervention. I agree with you. The safe haven concept is correct. Had we given it the resources by which it could have been sustained. We would not have had the horrible massacre of Srebrenica. And the second point that you make about the rapid deployment force here is so crucial, I mean it seems to me that what we should be discussing is how do we make enforceable this international instrument that we have created that gives us the means of humanitarian intervention in an intelligent, rational, moral way.
Mr. Gelb: Thank you Bill. Gentlemen?
Mr. Zakaria: I agree.
Mr. Lewis: I agree.
Mr. William H. Luers (United Nations Association): First, it’s interesting to me that neither one of you mentioned the UN Security Council or the UN Charter. You spoke as though the United States should intervene when they chose morally to do so, but the fact is they shouldn’t intervene, legally, unless the UN Security Council has approved the intervention, and I would like to hear your reactions to the issue of our legal obligations under the UN Charter which, as you know, we didn’t abide by in the case of Kosovo.
Secondly, you said, Tony, that we will go anywhere to intervene because we have to. The world will not stand by while these things happen. But I will argue that the U.S. will not send troops on the ground in Africa, ever, under practically any circumstances because people will lose their lives and it is very unlikely that they will send them anywhere else. So, how do we get together the idea that we are going to intervene everywhere but we’re only going to do it by air?
Mr. Lewis: I don’t think I said... I know I didn’t say intervene everywhere. Indeed, I said the contrary and I did mention the Security Council as one of the issues, one of the difficulties. The answer to the question is very hard. Of course, the UN Charter obliges us to consult and act forcefully through the Security Council, but the reality is that that isn’t always going to happen. You know that better than I do. I think it’s very important, if I may add a bit to what Bill vanden Heuvel said at the end and Mr. Zakaria said earlier, yes it would be wonderful if we always had a UN force on the ready that could always move into such situations. That is not likely, in the current political climate of the United States, to win support from the United States Congress. We know that’s not going to happen at least in the foreseeable future. I think the alternative to that which does impinge on your correct legal view of the role of the Security Council is for this country to have forces on the ready that are prepared to move quickly. It does run into concern that you expressed, that others have expressed, the unwillingness to risk American lives. That’s part of our political reality, but I think that in the right case and with the right political leadership that too can be overcome. What we’re really talking about here in all these matters is political leadership. My quarrel with President Bush, you correctly stated the temporizing that went on in Bosnia, but there was never a clear condemnation which could have come at the very beginning, in the fall of 1991, of destroying the city of Vukovar, of leveling it, of taking the people in the hospital and shooting them, et cetera, et cetera. I think if the United States had just verbally indicated their position through the President at that time...
Mr. Zakaria: I am not now, nor... I have not worked for the Bush Administration and am not carrying water for them, but I think that the problem they confronted was a little more complex than people now, with 20/20 hindsight remember. Which is that they were confronting a situation where Yugoslavia seemed likely to disintegrate and what they were trying to do was prevent the immediate secession of constituent parts of Yugoslavia and the fear that it would trigger a civil war. If you remember in the famous visit that Baker made to Yugoslavia, he tried to convince, a) Milosevic not to use force and b) the Slovenians and Croatians not to secede. Now, you can say this was naive, etc., but the prediction, the analysis of the situation was actually dead on, that if Slovenia seceded, it would end up with a process that would end up with a civil war. Now, perhaps the only solution to that was to have assassinated Milosevic or to have used some kind of strong show of force early. Mr. Lewis says we now know that that would have worked. Frankly, we have no idea that would have worked. It has become one of those myths in the same way that 5,000 troops at an early point would have averted the Rwandan massacre, a few air planes bombing when Vukovar was being bombed would have sent chills down Milosevic’s spine. I don’t know that that is true. All I’m saying is, it is not... and the reason why I’m raising this is that we will confront this problem in the future, which is countries that are breaking down will present problems to us. What do we do? Do we encourage all of their participant parts to secede? Should we encourage Chechnyan secession now? Should we encourage Kurdish secession? I’m not sure that that’s the answer. That is all I’m saying.
Mr. Lewis: I’d simply take... I have to quarrel with you on your analysis of the famous Baker visit to Belgrade. I think his real concern... I don’t think he really knew too much or cared too much about the break-up of Yugoslavia. I think he and President Bush cared about the break-up of the Soviet Union and wanted to keep their friend Mikhail Gorbachev in power. I think that was a terribly mistaken policy and was applied to disastrous effect in Belgrade. There is no reason to think that any position we’d have taken, that somehow stopping Milosevic’s forces from leveling cities would have done any more to encourage the break-up of the country. The country was going to break-up anyway. What did the pillaging of the poor Muslims in eastern Bosnia have to do with the break-up of the country? I don’t accept that argument at all. Not at all.
Mr. Gelb: Over to my right.
Mr. Gideon Rose (Council on Foreign Relations): A necessary component of all the situations we’re talking about is a breakdown of political order and assuming that the first stage of any of these humanitarian interventions that, either in the past or in the future, will be successful, given the disparities of power it’s a pretty safe assumption, the question will then become what should the United States and, then, its allies do when they are now maintaining political order in some foreign country? Now there are only four possibilities at that point. They can walk away and let it revert to what it was before—Somalia. They can pass power, eventually, to a stable local government, which we all agree is difficult to manage especially if there’s been ethnic violence already. They can stay there indefinitely which is what we’ve done in Bosnia and what we seem likely to do in Kosovo as well. Or they can eventually try to leave behind some kind of separation, either independent country as looks like will happen in East Timor and probably eventually in Kosovo or a partition, in which the various local groups have a stable partition. Given that it is very difficult to create a stable unified country after one of these conflicts and that no one wants to stay there forever in a kind of liberal imperialism. Is partition or separation a viable end-state that we should seek as the chief way of getting out of these interventions?
Mr. Zakaria: I think it ends up being one of the most compelling answers. This is what the British learned at the end of the day. “Divide and quit” was their policy in many places in the world that they went into for exactly the reason you described. Now, it’s important to point out that divided new countries remain hell holes. It’s not like you’ve created order in any of them. So, if Bosnia were to be its own country, let’s not begin to assume that it would be the Democratic Republic of Kosovo or it will be the Democratic Republic of Kosovo in the same way that the Democratic Republic of Kampuchea was democratic.
Mr. Lewis: It’s a very good question. I have a little more hope for Bosnia than you do. I think that the activities of the international, I’ve forgotten what he’s called...
Mr. Zakaria: The czar.
Mr. Lewis: —yes, the czar, have been helpful and have been difficult, but have done some worthwhile things toward making the three segments of that society mutually dependent. I think it’s worth doing what we’re doing there. But I revert to what I said earlier. The time to act was before the division was as bad as it was. The time to act was at the beginning when the genocidal intentions of the Serbian forces were so clear in eastern Bosnia. It wasn’t a secret.
Mr. Gelb: Fareed, would you disagree with what Tony just said?
Mr. Zakaria: I don’t disagree that the Serbians became virulently hyper-nationalistic very quickly. I just don’t know whether or not a quick use of force or small use of force would have worked. If you tell me that you wave a magic wand and say that it in fact would have worked, sure. I just don’t know what happens next. I’m always somewhat suspicious of arguments that say, a quick lightning bolt of force would solve this problem. But what happens after that bolt of force? This is the problem we are confronting in Bosnia today, in Kosovo today. You still have to decide, do you reconstruct the country, do you divide it, or do you partition? You know, all of these problems are not somehow magically solved by the fact that the United States can beat almost every other country, especially the small dysfunctional ones, in a war. I grant that. My question is what then?
Mr. Gelb: But Fareed, in order for me to get my bearings on what you are recommending, give me your sense of what you would have done. When push came to shove, the violence had exploded in either Rwanda or, let’s say Bosnia. What actions would you have taken.
Mr. Zakaria: In Bosnia, my own view mirrors something Gideon said. I was in favor of some version of the “lift and strike.” That is, to lift what seemed to me a morally obtuse arms embargo against the Bosnians, potentially to help them with some air strikes but, most importantly, to encourage them to create a partition state. I believe that even if Mr. Lewis is right and Bosnia does not revert to a place of ethnic violence, there is no question that the Croatian parts of Bosnia will become, in effect, part of Croatia, that the Serbian parts of Bosnia will become, in effect, parts of Serbia whether they technically join up or not. This is already happening, and what you will be left with is a kind of rump state centered around Sarajevo. If you remember the reason why the United States shot down the Vance-Owen Plan, it was not that it was unworkable and that it was a kind of patchwork of communities, it was that it rewarded Serbian ethnic cleansing. Now, the Bosnians have ended up with less territory than they got under the Vance-Owen Plan. It is a very simple rule which is, if you wait and you are the losing side in a war, you will always have less territory the next year than you had this year. The rule the Palestinians didn’t understand. So it seems to me that if we had very early on said, “We will let you fight this war and we will support and promote the creation of an independent Bosnia.” We would have had a viable solution that would have produced less humanitarian disasters and would have been a viable model for the future. I don’t want to keep stressing this, but we can’t spend 100 billion dollars and 10 years on every collapsing nation in the world.
Mr. Lewis: I merely want to observe, I was in favor of “lift and strike”—
Mr. Zakaria: I agree.
Mr. Lewis: ...and had we done it, a lot of the worst would have been avoided. We wouldn’t have had Srebrenica, we wouldn’t have had lots of other things.
Mr. Zakaria: You were very eloquent on that. Mr. Michael G. Froman (Citigroup): I think in an era of compassion, conservatism, and practical idealism, there should at least be a strong case made for pragmatic universalism and I guess my question goes to Fareed. I’m a little confused about why you have a greater appetite for humanitarian intervention if it’s done by people in blue helmets than in American fatigues. You are the embodiment of power politics, you’re not a one-world international lawyer and I’m wondering, isn’t the UN another tool, like NATO, of American foreign policy, only less effective.
Mr. Zakaria: It’s an interesting question. The reason I do it is precisely because I believe most of these humanitarian interventions take place in places where the connection to national security interests of the United States are very remote. That Americans will not and, in my opinion for entirely justifiable reasons, spend large amounts of blood and treasure on places where there is no real connection to American interests involved but yet you have to do something. I do believe there is a moral imperative to act. So I think it’s worthwhile to try to construct some kind of solution that minimizes the problems of those kinds of interventions. One of the problems is, as I said, that if the United States does it whenever it wants to, other nations will do it whenever they want to. One of the problems that you run into in Kosovo is that technically, your actions are illegal. It seems to me that if the goals are limited -- if they are indeed humanitarian, separating warring parties and if they’re not places where the United States is going to expend large amounts of blood and treasure, you need to come up with some solution. I myself am not particularly enamored by the UN and the blue helmets. If the United States got together with the G7... you know if you can find the great powers in accord with something, fine. Deputize American troops to do it. If you need the UN to do it... I agree with you that these are all tools, but the point is that there needs to be some degree of consensus among the great powers when you do things like this because otherwise you end up with the very real danger that I think Chechnya exposes that the Russians will do it when they want. The Chinese will do it when they want. The Indians will do it when they want.
Mr. Gelb: As always, when you have a terrific discussion there are lots of hands that will go unanswered and my apologies to you. We have the microphone in two hands now over here and there and then we’ll allow a brief concluding statement by each of the speakers. My apologies to the rest of you.
Mr. William Butler (International Commission of Jurists): What I find very regrettable about this whole conversation is the reliance on the use of force in the settlement of international disputes. What we dreamed of for many years was that we could resolve these disputes by collective action, by law. That’s why in the United Nations Charter we negotiated the end of humanitarian intervention, at least we thought we did, and we substituted chapters 6 and 7 of the UN Charter, when force could only be used in two instances. First, in self defense, or second, when there was a threat to international peace and security. Why isn’t that the better way to go? I think I agree more with Fareed than I do with you, Tony, which is very rare for me in my lifetime.
Mr. Gelb: Thank you Bill. Thanks Mike, too.
Mr. Lewis: The answer to your question, Bill, is a sad one. I’ll give it in terms of my own feelings. I thought that after World War II the experience of and the knowledge of the Holocaust would mean that we would not have anything remotely like that kind of massive killing. In the last dozen years, twenty years, we have had terrible mass murders and violence within countries by tyrannical rulers, like Milosevic, for reasons of ethnicity, race, religion, that I thought, quite foolishly, were in the past. As is usually the case, I’m afraid one’s sense of the inevitability of progress turns out to be an illusion. I think that what we’ve been talking about here today is the necessary response to the terrible reality that we have come to see. That’s all there is to it.
Mr. Gelb: Let me pursue this just a step further if I may. Again just to get my bearings on your position, Tony, are you arguing for the intervention purely on moral grounds or are you saying that in some cases there are additional factors, and these factors help you decide whether we intervene militarily or do something less than that?
Mr. Lewis: The latter, precisely. That it is not purely humanitarian. I happen to be deeply moved, and I care a lot when I see people being butchered simply because they are Muslims or Christians or Eastern Catholics. I think it’s appropriate to care about that. But I think my notion of it also involves international security concerns and concerns of stability. So it’s not a pure moral question.
Mr. Aryeh Neier (Open Society Institute): Maybe my comment directly follows that because I wanted to suggest a few general criteria that could be used for humanitarian intervention. The first is the magnitude and the character of the crimes being committed. The second is whether alternative means of trying to curb those crimes short of humanitarian intervention or military intervention. The third is the capacity to act. The fourth is whether there is some good chance that one will not make the situation worse by intervening. And the final one is whether there is a legitimacy that is conferred by multi-lateral intervention. I say multi-lateral, rather than the UN, quite deliberately. All of them involve judgments. It’s not possible to automatically say that these criteria have or have not been met, but everything in foreign policy involves judgment and I’m suggesting, and I would be interested in a response, that these are reasonable criteria to use.
Mr. Gelb: Thank you, Aryeh, and may I ask you to use the opportunity of that good question to make your concluding remarks as well. First Tony, and then Fareed.
Mr. Lewis: I don’t think that I could make concluding remarks that would state more precisely what I believe more than Aryeh has just said. I think, that’s life. Life is judgment. There aren’t automatic rules. It won’t be universal. It can’t be universal. It may even look cynical at some point, but it must satisfy those criteria, intervention, or it won’t work. It won’t have the political support. But, I would simply add to that which I think underlies all that we’ve been talking about here, and that is the importance of political will and the internal politics of this country. On this issues, as on so many others, our country, today is weakened by the conflict nature of our politics. The unity that existed about foreign policy when I grew up and when we all were in this business after World War II has given way to a kind of political suspicion that makes any action by either party automatically suspicious to people in the other party. It’s very hard to have a rational policy on this issue with those criteria when everything is subjected to the terrible bitterness of our politics today.
Mr. Gelb: You weren’t growing up with this Fareed, but you’re given honorary seniority.
Mr. Zakaria: Well, I guess it must have been different growing up with it because when I read about it, it seems that there were incredibly bitter disputes over the Korean War. That there was this fellow, McCarthy, who went around calling people names. That the tensions of the Vietnam War. When I was in college, I would bring Nicaraguan Contras who were struggling against a tyrannical regime and I would have more protesters outside, this was Yale, than in the audience to hear the guy. So it must have been very different. I agree with Aryeh Nyer’s criteria. I would simply point out that you could look at a place like Bosnia and come to a very different conclusion using some of those criteria. In fact I do think that part of the problem in Bosnia was that it was the first major case like this and the Western powers were feeling their way through. I don’t believe that they acted appropriately at all, but I don’t think that this is going to be easy. And I don’t think the simple solution is that the United States simply go in guns blazing whenever it sees trouble is going to work in the future. So, since we have to do something, we’re not going to do what we did in Bosnia and Kosovo everywhere, we need some other model than the Bosnia-Kosovo model.
Mr. Gelb: Join me in thanking our speakers. I don’t think it gets any better than this.