Council on Foreign Relations
New York, NY
ROGER HERTOG: Good evening, once again. I'm Roger Hertog, vice chairman of Alliance Bernstein Investment Firm in New York and a Council member. And so I welcome you on behalf of the council.
In a sense, we're here this evening as a courtesy of Gary Rosen, sitting to my left. He is, as you may know, the managing editor of Commentary, a Ph.D. from Harvard in Political Science and author of "James Madison and the Problem of the Founding." He has edited a collection of 23 essays. He's asked me to hold this book up many times -- (laughter). This is called a prop.
A collection of 23 essays expressing a wide range of views about the Iraq war. Intriguingly, all the essays are by political conservatives, and yet, the debate within those pages is vibrant and truly intriguing. The book is called, "The Right War? The Conservative Debate on Iraq." Its contents were originally published in various places by thinkers and journalists like David Brooks, Pat Buchanan, Henry Kissinger, Charles Krauthammer, George Will and others.
Some of them represent the realist camp, some of them represent what is called the neoconservative camp and some are even old-fashioned isolationists. All the pieces came out in 2004 and '05, which Mr. Rosen chose on purpose, so they'd be at what he calls a middling distance from the start of the war.
The book is a serious must read for anyone interested in the topic. We're here tonight to continue the discussion that begins in the book.
Lest this bit of housekeeping comes across like a shameless plug, let me assure you, I'm in no way participating in the vast royalties -- (laughter) -- Mr. Rosen is about to earn -- although I'm hoping to get a share. But yes, you can buy the book tonight during the course of the evening -- and his wife is here, probably with some extra copies autographed. Gary is one of our panelists. Unfortunately, Andrew Sullivan, our other panelist, was unable to be here this evening.
Our two other panelists are astute, articulate individuals, both of whom are represented in Mr. Rosen's collection. Neither needs an elaborate introduction, but for the record, William Kristol is the editor of the Weekly Standard and appears regularly on "Fox News Sunday," which I understand from Richard, all council members are required to watch -- (laughter).
Frank Fukuyama to my far left -- not really, but to my far left -- (laughter) -- is the Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and chairman of the editorial board of new magazine called, The American Interest.
So all three of our panelists are deeply involved in these very tiny magazines which they have critical roles -- (laughter) -- and they're hoping, as well, to sell subscriptions to those magazines this evening.
Our first half and hour or so tonight will be devoted to an open interchange amongst the three panelists, after which we'll take questions from the audience for about a half an hour. Now, our panelists like these -- with panelists like this, it gives new meaning to the word -- to the phrase -- irrelevant presider, which is my title, but someone's got to get the evening started. So let me sort of put the first question on the table and then we'll try to -- after about a half an hour, we'll try to get questions from the audience.
So as I was thinking about it, the central underpinning of the Bush strategy is to bring democracy to the Middle East. First, does this make sense -- is it doable? And second, was deposing Saddam Hussein the right first step in this direction? Well, Frank?
FRANCIS FUKUYAMA: Well, that's easy. The answer (is ?) no, no and no.
HERTOG: Do you want to elaborate? (Laughter.)
FUKUYAMA: Yeah, I'm not sure that I belong anymore on the panel about views on the right. I suspect I'm going to run out of the church at a certain point for the apostasy. But no, I think that, I mean, in all three cases the analysis is wrong.
First of all, the analysis about the threat from radical Islamism, it seems to me that Libby Awan (ph) and a lot of other people have made a very persuasive case that this is not the product of the religion Islam, a cultural, you know, offshoot of this tradition that's somehow bothering the rest of the world by promoting terrorism. It seems to me that radical Islamism is a phenomenon that's brought on modernity, precisely because of modernization and democracy you get this big crisis of identity. That's why so many of the terrorists are bred in Western Europe, which, the last time I checked, was a democratic, you know, modern place.
And so that in itself seems to be a failing to locate the right source of the problem. I guess my biggest problem, I guess, as a former card- carrying conservative, though, was on the idea of whether we could do anything about it, because if you look back at the whole legacy of the neoconservative movement, so much of that was a very reasoned effort to explain why ambitious social engineering seldom worked. It usually had unproductive or unanticipated consequences.
HERTOG: But can I ask -- let me just follow up on this.
HERTOG: The question is really, is bringing democracy to the Middle East a worthwhile endeavor?
FUKUYAMA: Oh, of course, yes.
HERTOG: It is. And is it something that's doable?
FUKUYAMA: Well, okay, that's -- I mean, that was the point I was going to get to. (Laughter.) Of course, it is worthwhile. I think that actually it may make the terrorism problem worse in the short run, because, you know, it is really the confrontation with modernity that produces the terrorism.
But the question of whether it was doable, I think, was one that really was not sufficiently addressed, because this was an extraordinarily ambitious social engineering project undertaken in a part of the world that we, frankly, you know, didn't really understand, you know, terribly well. And so it involved, I think, you know, a lot of institution building and we simply were not -- and also, just given what America is, you know, it's not the sort of project we have patience for. So I think, you know, on all of those accounts it was -- the intention -- nobody questions the intention. I think it's really the do-ability that's the issue.
HERTOG: Mr. Editor?
GARY ROSEN: I think in looking at the question of Iraq, you can't really start with democratization. The primary reason we went there, as many have said -- as Wolfowitz controversially said a few years ago -- was because of this threat that we thought was posed by Saddam's interest in weapons of mass destruction.
I think having decided to go in for that, we had no choice but to try to bring about a decent outcome. So you, I think, have to look at it from the point of view of having once gone in, being there on the ground, what you would do? There are many people in the realist camp who thought we should have tried to strike a deal, say, with others in the Ba'athist regime and have gotten out as quickly as we can. I don't think that would have been a satisfactory result. I don't think in the end it would have solved our security problems either.
The real question is, having gone in and having decided to try to bring about some more decent pluralistic politics there, what did we need to do? And I think in that respect there have been more failings than you can easily name on the part of the Bush administration.
Frank and I were just talking. We're both reading George Packer's very good book. And it documents, in excruciating detail, many of the decisions that were made badly -- many of the plans that just weren't there as we arrived in Baghdad in the spring of 2003.
Briefly, just on this question, because it's something Frank has said before and I think there's something right in it about whether neoconservatism can be a doctrine that domestically worries about unintended consequences and overseas seems to ignore them. And I'm not sure that's the right question. In a way, in looking at Iraq, the problem was this pathological regime, not a pathological culture, per se, that had to be transformed. And the only way you are going to get any kind of decent outcome was to get rid of Saddam and then begin to work on it. So once you get rid of the tyrant, then you can worry about broken windows, policing and welfare reform. (Laughter.)
HERTOG: Okay, let's -- Bill, do you want to?
WILLIAM KRISTOL: Bush didn't just wake up one day and decide to democratize the Middle East. I mean, 9/11 happened and the president made the fundamental judgement, with which I agree, that one could not try -- that the status quo in the Middle East was unacceptable. The status quo that had produced an increasing -- incidentally in Europe -- had produced an increasing amount of extremism, terrorism, anti-Americanism, dictators developing weapons of mass destruction and the like, including, incidentally, a radicalization of the Muslims in Europe, which was not trivially unrelated to the Saudi export of Wahhabi Islam and the funding of that in European capitals from the Middle East.
So the president made a fundamental decision that the status quo ante was not something we should try to go back to. It was not inevitable that he would have made that decision. The general European view, I would say, after 9/11 was it was a terrible thing. We had to go deal with the people who did the terrible thing, probably deal even with the Taliban in Afghanistan since they hosted the people who did the terrible thing, intensify law enforcement and counter terrorism experts against al Qaeda, but basically, not rethink our fundamental Middle East policy.
Brent Scowcroft recently made a similar argument and, indeed, characterized the preceding 50 years as 50 of years of peace in the Middle East, which I don't think is quite right, but in a way, for a certain point of view, it was a tolerable 50 years if you don't take the view -- well, if you take one point of view, perhaps. I think from Bush's point of view -- and I agree with this -- it was not -- you could not imagine going into the 21st Century with just letting things go as they were going in the Middle East.
So I think that was what led, then, to the interest in democratization. And Iraq was a -- and Iraq was not just, gee, let's pick one place and begin. Iraq was a problem, to say the least. We had almost gone to war in 1998. We did go to war in 1990-'91. We almost went to war in '97-'98 and bombed them for three days. We were running a no-fly zone over, what, two-thirds of Iraq. We had sanctions, which were unpopular in the Middle East. We had troops in Saudi Arabia to protect Saudi Arabia from Iraq.
So people who want to make -- and there is a respectable case against the prudence of the war in Iraq, but it has to be made seriously. And people have to say what their alternative would have been. Keeping troops there so the inspectors could have stayed in? Pulling the troops out -- you couldn't have left 150,000 troops, you know, in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia for endless months or years. Pulling the troops out and then letting the inspectors leave and then hoping that Saddam really hadn't reconstituted the weapons and would reconstitute them as the sanctions gradually came off, which I believe they would have and they were in the process of doing pre-9/11? It probably would have, again. So a victorious Saddam in the Middle East, what does that do to the regional dynamics?
I mean, that was the choice, I think, that Bush faced. I'm in favor of the broad, aggressive Bush doctrine -- promote a liberal democracy. But it's not as if this was something that was just, gee, let's have this exciting adventure. There was a serious threat from the Middle East as it was constituted and from Iraq as it was ruled. And Bush decided to deal with those two threats. In dealing with them, he, of course, decided, well, we're not going to go in and then just put a new dictator in one of these countries. Obviously, he couldn't have done it even if he wanted to, in fact. And that we did have to begin to promote liberal democracy.
And my fundamental criticism with Bush would be that he hasn't done enough, not that he's done too much -- that is, I would push harder on Egypt, push harder on Saudi Arabia, push harder on Syria. I would've invested more in Iraq post war. And I think ultimately, that would be the (correct ?) criticism of Bush that historians might embrace, not that it was too ambitious.
FUKUYAMA: I think that there were two distinct threats. I mean, there was the September 11th al Qaeda threat that raised a very specific specter of the combining of radical Islamism with weapons of mass destruction. It's undeterrable, uncontainable. All of that is correct. And that motivates a very active, you know, policy in response. But there was a much more knowable and familiar problem with rogue states and weapons of mass destruction, which was the Saddam Hussein problem that we had been dealing with. And, you know, in that instance, you know, we launched a preemptive war, you know, aiming, I think, at the wrong target. You know, the book "Windows" becomes quite important because you have to ask whether in dealing with that lesser threat, you are, you know, launching a war that's going to have very large consequences because you somehow feel that you've calculated, you know, the road down the -- what's going to happen, you know, several months and years in the future. You know that somehow sanctions are going to erode. You know somehow that Saddam Hussein is going to start this weapons program.
It seems to me that that's really the essential problem with a preventive war doctrine. That's why Bismarck called it committing suicide for fear of death, because it really does require incurring very large costs that I think we could have anticipated much better, you know, prior to the war.
To solve, you know, and I absolutely grant it was a real problem -- this rogue state WMD problem is a real problem. But we've got a real problem in Iran; we've got a real problem in North Korea and we're not going to do anything about it militarily, because I think those are problems that are unsolvable, you know, essentially, through those means. And I think Iraq was also unsolvable through those means also. It's just that we somehow thought that we could, you know, we could handle this.
ROSEN: One more very quickly to follow up -- you're absolutely right to point to the cost of having gone in, especially in the way that we did. But I think, too, we have to remember that there would have been costs to inaction as well. And we have to think about what we might be seeing today if Saddam Hussein were still sitting there with his sons at his side having reconstituted perhaps a program.
I mean, there were people at the time -- and not all of them neocon whackos -- who thought that this was something we had to deal with in this way because these traditional notions of deterrence and containment were not going to work with him and that we were looking ahead to a time when sanctions regime perhaps disappeared where he would have these weapons. And that's something that has to be taken into account before criticizing where we are today, I think.
HERTOG: Well, let me -
KRISTOL: (Don't agree ?) that it's not solved? We did solve the problem of Saddam and we're going to, I think, to actually end up with a reasonable outcome in Iraq.
So I -- I just don't want to accept the premise that, you know, this is all a disaster and that neocons have to be apologetic and (ooh?) all the mistakes were (made ?). God knows, I've criticized the mistakes as much as anyone, but we're -- it's going to be -- we're going to win, I think.
We're going to end up, I believe, with a pluralist, more or less democratic, non-weapons-of-mass-destruction hosting, or developing, non-terrorist sponsoring state in Iraq, which will have and has already had healthy consequences elsewhere in the Middle East, I think.
FUKUYAMA: Although that involves a projection into the future that doesn't -- I mean, what we've got right now is a much more serious terrorism problem it seems to me than the one we had prior to the invasion. I mean, we had all these very tenuous connections between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, you know, prior to the war, which, you know, Steve Hayes and, you know, the Weekly Standard were trumpeting, but now we've got an absolutely full-blown alliance.
And it does seem to me that at best, Iraq is going to limp along as an extraordinarily weak state, and it's going to be precisely the kind of weak state that is going to provide a haven and a base for terrorism. And you've already seen with the Jordanian bombings last week that this thing is metastasizing and is actually, you know, going outside of Iraq.
And unless you can somehow explain how the American pressure to withdraw that I think is going to mount over the next couple of years is going to be put off long enough that you can actually have a -- I mean, you'd actually be lucky to have a Latin American-style, strong government that could -- commits human rights abuses to keep itself in power. But I don't think you're even going to get to that, you know, to that point.
HERTOG: Well, let me -- let me just follow up on this, Frank.
Let's just, for the moment, postulate that Saddam was still in power. And he'd now have the advantage, because, presumably, sanctions would have eroded to a larger, more significant degree than they were.
He'd now have the advantage of $60 a barrel oil. Actually we're an investment firm, so we actually calculated what this would have meant for him. He'd have between $40 (billion) and $50 billion dollars in his treasury today, four years after 9/11. What do you think he would be doing with that?
And, I mean -- what do you think -- I'm asking you, given -- I understand your position. But now -- now given this alternative, what would be the likely outcome that would --
FUKUYAMA: Well, he would try to rebuild -- he might try to reconstitute those weapons programs under the sanctions regime. I don't accept the fact that we could not have kept them going because, among other things, the change -- September 11th made it much more likely that we could make a strong case to keep the sanctions in place. And so he would -- you know, he might try to use that money to rebuild the program, and he might succeed in doing that.
But, you know, the central issue that really was key to, I think, getting the American public to go along with this was that he would give a nuclear weapon to a terrorist. I mean, that was the smoking gun, you know, being the mushroom cloud. I mean, that was the single-most powerful argument that the president could use to justify the war.
And I think that that premise is just wrong. I think that Saddam Hussein is a -- you know, it's a state-centered threat that we are quite familiar with. And much of his judgment was bad, and he was a risk taker. You can deal with states like that that have equities that you can bomb and return.
And so I think that that whole premise was, you know -- the fundamental, you know, logical, you know, key that if it were true, you know, everything that followed might have made sense. But I think that that was really insufficiently examined prior to the war.
ROSEN: But it is in a way an assessment of that risk that if he were in power today, if he had continued under -- under -- you have to, I think, make a worst-case scenario and had reconstituted his programs and had these awful weapons, what today, considering the kind of battle we find ourselves in, might we have had reason to worry about?
And it seems to me to err on the side of caution, as I think any leader would have done in the wake of that, was going to be to take muscular action against that regime -- that it wasn't going to be tolerable to see Saddam Hussein, with the help of the French and the Russians and with, I think, the pressures that were building because of the humanitarian toll the sanctions were taking -- you know, sitting there, you know, regnant Baghdad with these weapons at his hands.
And, again, the connection between the radicals -- the Islamic radicals -- and his regime can and has been exaggerated. But too, his own regime, because the Ba'athist ideology had decayed so and become such an inadequate glue had turned increasingly to these sorts. And he had begun to host and have informal relationships with some of these people. It's just -- it's not incredible to think that there would have been some serious and destructive collaboration between them.
FUKUYAMA: Maybe so, I mean, I think it's intolerable that Kim Jong Il, you know, may have a nuclear weapon. And I think it's intolerable that this regime in Tehran has nuclear weapons.
But this is a, you know, a kind of technological tide that, you know, I think is happening, and in those cases, we clearly don't have good, you know, military options against them. And I think that, you know, in a sense the general strategy premise on the idea that you are going to preemptively act to, you know, kind of Osirak-type attacks to prevent this, you know, larger movement towards proliferation is, you know, is -- I mean, that's not going to be the future of nonproliferation, I think.
MR. : Well, serious as -- I mean, and I absolutely grant that this is a serious problem, but I think that that is not a long-run strategy for preventing that -- you know, those things from happenening.
KRISTOL (?): Well, I agree we didn't try an Osirak-type type attack against Saddam. That's what we had tried to do in the late '90s. I mean, he really was a risk taker. I mean, he did launch two wars against neighboring countries, and the notion that somehow because he was a Ba'athist and Osama was an Islamist there couldn't have been the sharing of weapons of mass destruction technology, including potentially nuclear technology -- it's not as if he hadn't tried and come scaringly close to achieving nuclear technology earlier.
I think the risks were too great, and I just don't buy the argument that terrorism is metastasizing all over the Middle East. We know what it would -- we know what a seriously radicalized and terrorist-dominated Middle East would look like. Moderate governments would be falling; there'd be terror everywhere; the place would be in shambles; anti-Americanism would be ascendant.
It just -- the polls -- people don't like the Bush administration and they're not crazy about American foreign policy. But that's not what's happening on the ground.
FUKUYAMA: It's not?
KRISTOL (?): No it isn't. (Inaudible) -- if you attacked -- if you'd blow up three hotels in Jordan -- of course he tried to blow up -- (inaudible) -- in '99; it was barely stopped. Is the regime in Egypt more anti-American than it was? Is Syria --
KRISTOL: Is radicalism in Syria stronger or weaker than it was? Is Lebanon in better or worse shape than it was before the war? Saudi -- I would be tougher than Bush on the Saudis, but is the Saudi sponsorship of terror and the export of Wahhabi Islam more aggressive now or less aggressive (than when we went in?)?
FUKUYAMA: Well, I don't know. Maybe you're living in a different world, but it seems to me that what I see in the Middle East is an extraordinary degree of anti-Americanism that was generated precisely by the war, which has provided, you know, a huge number of new recruits. I mean, Iraq has been one of the biggest recruiting posters for people becoming terrorists.
Now, if the standard for is this a serious problem is, well, has this toppled a number of friendly regimes yet? The answer is no.
KRISTOL (?): Well, has it killed lots of Americans or Westerners?
FUKUYAMA: No, killed a lot of Americans in Iraq. I mean --
KRISTOL (?): I mean, in Iraq -- no look, we have a serious problem in Iraq, which we have made lots of mistakes on, and the Sunni insurgency is much tougher than anyone -- (inaudible). That is different than saying that terrorism and radicalism and anti-Americanism is metastasizing elsewhere in the Middle East.
Now, if you want to say that the cost in Iraq is too great and that we can't win, that's a very serious critique, obviously, of the war and maybe it was never winnable or maybe the administration fought it in such a way as not to be able now to win it. I don't agree with either of those, but that's obviously a fair point.
But I just don't think empirically that the argument that it's -- that they're recruiting all over the place and they're showing up everywhere. I mean, compared to the late '90s and compared to going into Iraq?
FUKUYAMA: I would say so. I would say so. and then I, you know, there's no concrete survey. I mean, there is survey data that indicates, you know, it's there rapidly rising level of general anti-Americanism, but, sure, there's plenty of anecdotal data that, you know, someone sits in Egypt or Saudi Arabia, watches Fallujah on their television and says I'm going to be a suicide bomber.
KRISTOL: And is there more suicide bombing? I don't mean to be (little ?) minded, but is, in the Palestinian -- more suicide bombings against Israel now than before we went into Iraq? No, is there more -- there just isn't more terror.
I mean, there's a bad level of terror, which there always has been unfortunately and that probably increasingly was in a dysfunctional part of the world with dictatorial regimes that led to extremism, et cetera and fostered terrorism.
But I'm -- I'm unconvinced by the argument that the whole region is --
FUKUYAMA: You know, I mean, again if you look at the terrorism that's gone on in Europe, a lot of that is directly motivated by opposition to the Iraq war and the kind of, you know, anti-American -- I mean, it gives people a, you know, a cause celeb, but now --
And again, I mean, underneath the surface, you know, there is a lot --
KRISTOL: And that's why --
FUKUYAMA: There's a lot that's happened, you know -- there's a war going on so we prevent a lot of it. But I think there's just no question that the general level of, you know, this stuff is higher everywhere.
ROSEN (?): I think, too, on this whole question of blowback, which has become a big issue now, whether in being there in Iraq and providing this training ground and this large area out in the west where these people can train, whether we're making this problem worse.
And I don't know how you begin, as Rumsfeld said, at some point to get the right metrics on this.
But it seems to me, again, however you look at it, you can't assume that but for our being in Iraq, these people would have disappeared into the night. I mean, the fact is, they weren't going to be thrilled about our being in Afghanistan, about our mounting any kind of aggressive, international effort to go after them. Zarqawi was still going to be out there plotting against us.
So it may well be that in some sense, they have opportunities there they wouldn't have otherwise, but I don't think you can look at it and assume that, you know, but for Iraq they would see our benign intentions and we would not have to worry about Madrid and London and New York.
HERTOG: Okay, last -- last question.
Let me bring up Charles Krauthammer's article, which he says his world view centers on the belief that we should support, and I quote, "democracy everywhere, but commit blood and treasure only where there is a strategic necessity, meaning places central to the larger war against the existential enemy that poses a mortal threat to global freedom."
Does this radical Islam -- does suicide bombers and WMD pose a mortal threat? Is this an existential threat? Frank?
FUKUYAMA: Well, this led to a kind of Talmudic discussion about what existential meant.
MR. : Though we once did it with "is."
The -- (inaudible) -- had some very good insights.
FUKUYAMA: Yeah. Well, I mean, my definition of an existential threat is something that threatens the existence of a regime. So Kuwait was snuffed out in 1991 by Iraq, so that was an existential threat.
I would say that a terrorist exploiting a nuclear weapon in New York or Washington -- it's not going to lead to the end of the American regime, but it, you know, it qualifies.
The question in short of that is the political threat represented by this kind of violent jihadism, you know, does it rise to the, sort of, political level that communism and fascism did. And sure, I just think that it makes a huge difference that this is not connected to a nation state.
I mean, fascism and communism were really dangerous because they were the ruling ideologies in very powerful, modern, industrialized countries, and that is simply not the case with political -- you know, Iran comes the closest, and it's a genuine problem, but I think in that sense, it's different.
ROSEN: I'm much less sanguine about it. You're right that we aren't facing a state, a regime, in the formal sense, but in many ways this is more worrisome because it is an ideology with this potential appeal across the world.
I mean, there's a reason we're having bombing in Indonesia and in Jordan and throughout Africa. It's something that exploits this basic religious attachment and especially in these parts of the world where we have these authoritarian regimes that allow so few outlets for political, economic and cultural expression.
We are facing, I think, this problem that could very easily, with these destructive weapons, prove every bit as catastrophic. So it's a different threat, but I think it's very bit as serious a threat.
KRISTOL: I don't actually agree with Charles -- (inaudible). Charles is a good friend and a contributor to the standard and all. Charles was against the intervention in Rwanda, against the intervention in Bosnia, Kosovo, and I was for them. My criteria for intervention is lower than Charles'.
And I don't think you can only intervene when there's an existential threat. So I half agree with Frank. I mean, it's an interesting, analytical question whether ultimately -- and I'm ambivalent about this -- is radical Islam -- could it really catch on and become like communism or fascism? Or is it, in fact, you know, a very nasty and dangerous way in which disaffected people can find religion and merge it, you know, in a kind of Islamo-fascism way with a sort of modern kind of fascistic view and kill an awful lot of people.
But ultimately, is Islamo-fascism going to run the world in the way that, you know, Nazisism or communism could have? No, I don't actually think, (though ?) they could kill an awful lot of people. But my view in general, in foreign policy -- and Bob Kagan and I argued this way before we were focused on radical Islam, frankly -- is just that, you know, things can go -- things that don't look like major threats now can become very major threats.
And things can unravel much faster than one wants to. And could we huddle here behind the Atlantic and the Pacific and probably, more or less, avoid, you know -- maybe not avoid ultimately -- more 9/11s, but keep the 9/11 threat manageable? Yeah, possibly, possibly. What kind of world is that, really, where, you know, Indonesia -- I mean, if you don't -- ultimately, if you're willing -- I think I'd be willing to say the U.S. needs to step forward and prevent ethnic cleansing in the Balkans and prevent genocide in Rwanda or Sudan or prevent, as much as possible, states
like North Korea and Iran and Iraq having nuclear weapons. It's not always possible to, obviously, to prevent that. And if not, one has to have deterrent and containment strategies, which themselves involve a high level of engagement in the region. And Frank and I don't disagree on this, I think, in terms of what you'd like to do to contain North Korea -- a high level of engagement -- (inaudible) -- a high level of risk to U.S. troops and to allies. And it puts the commitments, incidentally, that if something happens, it's not just going to be the 30,000 troops in Korea we're going to fight; you're going to then have much more happening.
So either you believe, I think, in -- Well, my point of view is you don't have to prove that we're in World War IV, whether radical Islam could possibly take over huge chunks of the world to still say that, given the world we live in, for both moral and political reasons -- moral and prudential ?) reasons -- removing Saddam was the right thing to do.
HERTOG: Okay, let us try to take some questions from you guys.
To the degree possible, please ask a question. (Laughter.) Paid political announcements -- (inaudible) -- have the great opportunity during the cocktail hour. We'd like to hear all of your points of view, but we have about a half an hour, so we'd like to get as many of those in. So if you could, just -- we should all know who you are, but some of us don't, so please tell us your name and what your question is.
QUESTIONER: I am Chris Isham from ABC.
A question about -- all of you referred to some of the terrible polls showing high levels of anti-Americanism in the Middle East. How does the United States do a better job of addressing the battle of ideas -- of addressing some of these fundamental issues that underlie some of the military problems that we have?
HERTOG: Okay, don't all talk at once.
KRISTOL (?): Well, Frank's written about this, and he should -- I don't think -- we just don't even disagree on this much, except that Frank wouldn't have us fight in Iraq and I would. But no one's going to defend the Bush administration's public diplomacy very vigorously, I suspect, on this stage.
I would just say one thing about the polls, though, and I'll get back to the point. (Inaudible) -- economists, there are preferences and then there are what economists call, I think, revealed preferences, which is to say real preferences -- real preferences that people act on. I just don't buy the argument that -- you know, I could --
We know what a rabidly anti-American, extremist, radicalizing Middle East would look like; in fact, we saw it, to some degree, 30 and 40 years ago. And it looks like riots and moderate governments falling and corporations being expropriated -- and, you know, no one wanted to come here to study from Jordan or from -- and the Saudis, I don't know, deciding that their future was not in -- I'm not even crazy about the Saudis -- but still, the Saudis deciding their future wasn't in an alliance with us, but an alliance with someone --
So I'm -- if you look at revealed preferences in the Middle East, I'm dubious about the notion that we have some horrible, you know, wave of anti-Americanism to deal with. Having said that, we've done a horrible job of explaining ourselves to the people in that region, and that is a real problem there.
ROSEN: I would just say quickly, public diplomacy is important, and we could certainly do it better, but no number of libraries, cultural centers, speeches, is going to do the work of a competent job on the ground in Iraq and moving forward there and showing progress. I think now, after a few years of flailing around, we are finally, ironically, in the midst of all this pressure for pulling out, doing many things right politically and on the security front, and that that will make a difference over time, if we're given that time. But sending Karen Hughes on more longer missions isn't going to take care of it. (Laughter.)
FUKUYAMA: Yeah, I do think that there was a little bit of over psychoanalyzing that went on, you know, prior to the war. And if you look at all the opinion data about what, you know, Arabs think about the United States, the vast majority, you know, at least until recently, claimed not to hate the United States and, in fact, liked the U.S.
In fact, there was one poll that was done in connection with the Arab human development report that said that majorities in virtually every Arab country would actually like to move to the United States, so that presumably these people that want to move here don't actually hate us for what we are, and what they say explicitly is, We don't hate you; we don't like what you do; we don't like your foreign policy; we don't like your position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; we don't like your support for dictators, and so forth. And we have, you know, been very good at explaining, you know, to ourselves that they don't actually mean this, that this is all displacement for, you know, deeper, you know, unhappiness that somehow kind of related to this existential question of, you know, do they hate us for somehow what we represent. But I do think that it is related to very specific things that we do.
I, you know, don't think we could have done anything to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the last four years, but I think the appearance of at least taking that issue seriously, you know, has some effect at addressing substantively, you know, some of the concerns that people in the region say is what is at the core.
And so I think that the whole public diplomacy thing, that it's simply try to explain to them that you don't understand what you really want, is not the right way to go. I think, you know, it also has to involve listening in some respect and sort of taking seriously what, you know, what people in the region are saying.
KRISTOL: Okay, could I just add one word -- second bite of the apple here. But yeah, but -- and I agree with that, actually. I think there is too much psychoanalyzing, partly because you just never know, right? You can't really base policy on some grand theory that could be right or could be wrong. But in fact, you know, Israeli settlements have been removed for the first time in 30 years. A dictator -- an Arab dictator -- has been toppled for the first time in a long time, and there have been elections in a major Arab country. So I actually think, precisely on these grounds, this is why I'm moderately optimistic about the public opinion, actually, in the Middle East.
HERTOG: Okay. Yes, sir.
QUESTIONER: Hi. Jim Traub from the Times Magazine. This is a question mostly for Bill, but I guess also for Gary, because I'm not sure what, you know, what your views are on this.
Bill, you made the distinction between the argument for and against the war, and the argument as to whether or not the administration carried out the war in such a way that maybe they frustrated their own goals. And you have a very optimistic scenario as to how all this is going to come out.
So I'm curious, given the increasing evidence the Iraqis seem not to want us there and the increasing evidence that the American public seems to want to withdraw troops as quickly as possible, do you think this positive scenario is going to happen even if the United States begins rather rapidly withdrawing its troops, or the one is going to depend on the other? So I'd also like to hear Gary's view about that scenario.
KRISTOL: Well, I think if we rapidly withdraw our troops, you run the risk of -- we'll tell everyone there, A, militarily it matters -- (inaudible) -- to kill the terrorists. B, it will tell everyone there not to bet on the people -- on any decent government that does require U.S. support for quite a while. So I think rapid withdrawal would be disastrous.
I don't think it's that optimistic a scenario. I don't think more Iraqis want us to go. There is zero empirical evidence for that. What happened in the elections? I mean, you know, did parties run on, Let's kick the U.S. out immediately? Eighty percent of the Iraqi people basically want us to stay and win, partly, I believe --
QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)
KRISTOL: Oh, come on. Are we going to be grown up about this or not? I mean, do we -- what would it be like, really, if the Shi'a and the Kurds wanted us to leave? What would our -- what would it be like to -- we wouldn't be taking 82 casualties a month in a country of 26 million people, you know? I mean, it's just -- we know what a real civil war, real guerrilla war, a real war that has popular support looks like. And we wouldn't be there, probably, because we don't have the stomach to fight that, and I wouldn't be in favor of fighting that. No one wants to impose a government of a country where they don't want you. The Shi'a and the Kurds basically want us to stay and help them kill the terrorists.
The Sunnis are deeply ambivalent, and the great miscalculation, I guess, though I don't think many people predicted this, even among the critics of the war, was the depth of Sunni resistance to ever being in a minority in any country, and especially in Iraq, which they had ruled for an awful long time, and their unwillingness to make political accommodations and their willingness to tolerate and, to some degree, passively, mostly, support the terrorists and the insurgents. And that is a real problem.
And there are many miscalculations we made that have probably made the problem worse and some bad luck of not going (into ?) Turkey and all this that might have helped solve -- and not certainly -- and especially right away not suppressing the disorder and not having enough troops that might have made the problem a lot more manageable.
But I am moderately optimistic, because I think we have the bulk -- if we ever lose the Shi'a, we will lose Iraq. If we lose the Shi'a, we'll leave, because we're not going to stay against 60 percent of the country. But with the Shi'a and the Kurds, and the Sunnis wavering, as long as we don't foolishly signal that we're about to get out of there, I'm moderately optimistic.
ROSEN: I think there's real ambivalence in Iraq among those who aren't, you know, trying to kill us and our troops every day, that there is this appreciation of our being there to maintain order, because there's certainly no other force for order in Iraqi society now. But at the same time, they don't like being occupied; they don't like being in cities patrolled by noisy American troops and all this. There's nationalist pride wrapped in this and everything else.
But at the same time, it seems to me, in many respects, we're moving to a situation where that will be less of a problem. We have a military strategy now that Secretary Rice talked about the other day, and it's been written about widely, that supposedly we'll begin to move forward with making these Iraqi units more capable, more able to do things on their own. We have the political process moving forward now, with the hopes the Sunnis will participate more fully.
You know, the problem is none of this is going to happen quickly, and there is this great impatience in the public; there is this impatience on Capitol Hill, to see results quickly. And the greatest service the president and the administration could do, aside from basic tenacity on all of this, which has been impressive and important, is to explain that we will not be out of Iraq, in a very serious way, very soon, if we want to see good results on the ground. That, by itself -- the simple message of stay the course -- is not enough, but I think, combined with the progress we're making on the political front and on the security front, it's the combination we're going to have to have if we're going to have any kind of good outcome.
HERTOG: Any other questions? You're very, very polite and docile here. Yes, sir?
QUESTIONER: Max Boot, from the Council. I'd be curious to hear the panelists' views on the future of conservative, or maybe Republican, foreign policy -- (laughter) -- because certainly in the 1990s, there was great opposition within the Republican Party to some of the steps that the Clinton administration took in terms of democracy promotion and nation-building. Since then, under President Bush, who himself has turned around on the issue, the Republican Party has basically gotten on board. But now you see in the last few weeks a good deal of ambivalence, especially in the Senate resolution, the fact that Republicans on Capitol Hill are not funding the nation-building office of the State Department.
So what's going to be the future of Republican foreign policy? Is it going to be realpolitik? Is it going to be isolationism? Is it going to be what people call neoconservatism these days?
HERTOG (?): It's in Gary's next collection. (Laughter.)
ROSEN: I don't live in Washington, so I can't answer. (Laughter.)
FUKUYAMA: Well, you know, the Pew Center released a poll at the end of last week that showed that there was a really -- pretty big -- rise in isolationism -- just kind of old-fashioned isolationism. And I think, you know, that's one of the most worrisome things, as far as I'm concerned, is that the blow-back from this -- the domestic blow-back -- is that the natural conservative, red-state base of George Bush, which had been persuaded to go along with this war on national security grounds, because of the perceived failure and overextension, is now going to go back to what is much more natural.
I mean, that inaugural -- the second inaugural --that George Bush gave, is not the kind of thing that you typically give at Republican, you know, conventions to describe the Republican foreign policy.
And so, you know, my fear is that, you know, we are going to go -- I mean, the nice version of it will be just going back to kind of Kissinger-Scowcroft, you know, realism; kind of narrow national interest base. But I think, you know, there could be a, you know, a more dangerous version of it that will really shy away from any future, you know, involvement in anything that seems to involve the least risk in certainly in the kind of stuff that -- I agree perfectly with Bill -- I mean all the Bosnias and Rwandas and things where actually American, you know, influence could do some good. You know, the political grounds for that is really going to dry up.
ROSEN: I should say, just to speak up for Kissinger, in this volume he does come out conditionally, in a qualified way, for a very prudent kind of democracy promotion. (Laughter.) It's very conditional and qualified -- (Laughter.)
KRISTOL: No, obviously, a lot depends on how Iraq goes, and how Bush's foreign policy in general goes.
I would say that -- but to be fair to the red states of America, they're hanging in there pretty well. And they're (seem ?) more interested in fighting the war than -- I mean, for all the talk about how susceptible they are to isolationism -- and it probably is their slightly more natural default position -- and you saw that a bit in the '90s -- when the congressional Republicans, when called upon to fight, they fight, and when called upon to not just fight but support sort of various forms of public diplomacy, engagement, they send troops abroad, open-endedly, et cetera, they'll support that too.
I think a huge amount depends on leadership in this case. But I don't see -- I mean if the president stood up tomorrow and said, you know, we ought to do more in Sudan, people are being slaughtered, and unfortunately all the diplomacy hasn't worked, and the AU is hopeless, and the Security Council is blocking things, and I've instructed, you know, Rumsfeld -- maybe we should get a new secretary of defense before he does this. I've instructed, you know, Lieberman or McCain or somebody who actually believes in Bush's foreign policy to get 15,000 troops ready to go in and start saving lives in Darfur.
I think, you know, the red -- I think most -- actually you'd have pretty good support across the board, and I don't think there would be a great reaction.
So I guess I'm more optimistic about public opinion with strong leadership than some people are.
HERTOG: Yes, sir.
QUESTIONER: I'm Ron Tiersky from Amherst College.
I think there's been some misconception about what Congressman Murtha has proposed. Tonight we are talking about a withdrawal from Iraq. What Congressman Murtha has been proposing is a redeployment to the periphery. That's a matter of asking the Iraqis to take over the brunt of their own situation.
Zbig Brzezinksi is expressing the same point of view. He's saying, well, if we move back, the Iraqis will somehow take care of their own situation much more than we think they are capable of doing now.
What do you think of that?
KRISTOL: I don't agree. First of all, Jack Murtha himself used the word, withdrawal. And he then wants to have a rapid-deployment force stationed somewhere else -- you know, Kuwait or Qatar -- that can go back in when the situation gets really intolerable and which is why I think it's frankly not a serious proposal. So we're going to go in six months from now when the real civil war has started.
And there will be civil war. I mean, if we get out this year, the Shi'a are not going to let the terrorists their part of Iraq; there will be ethnic cleansing. They are already a little bit worrisome from signs of it, I think, partly because of our drawing back a bit in terms of the separation of neighborhoods in places like Baghdad.
And it will be unbelievably bloody. We'll have to go back in at some point, I suspect, because if we're not going to let -- well, maybe we would let it happen; I don't know. But we would end up going back in with Marines, you know, -- (inaudible) -- some kind of -- it's a nightmare scenario, I think.
So I mean, Jack Murtha does want -- he wants it in six months. He doesn't want to let there be wiggle room. He wants us to get out of Iraq. We shouldn't kid ourselves about that. He doesn't kid himself.
ROSEN: I think to have this idea that somehow by withdrawing we're going to make the Iraqis stand up and become more serious about security and organizing a proper army, police force and all that, it's naive, even in this war where certain naive assumptions, I think, were made about what would happen there.
I am constantly struck by how many of the people who rightly pointed to the difficulty of going into Iraq and creating some sort of a decent regime there, of changing the basic politics of a place that's been under this awful tyranny for a long time, you know, told that it would be difficult; there would be a great deal of cultural resistance, but now are showing this kind of impatience, now all of three years into it, for staying there and trying to find the right policies that will begin to make them more self-sufficient from a security and military point of view and will give them some kind of political momentum.
So, again, going into Iraq and trying to democratize is going to be this difficult, risky project, leaving after three years doesn't really show any appreciation for what a meaningful commitment on our part would have to look like.
FUKUYAMA: I mean just from an operational point of view, right now, you know, the -- all of these Iraqi brigades that have been trained do not report to an the Iraqi command structure; they report to the U.S. military. Iraqi intelligence service does not report to the Interior Ministry -- the Iraqi Interior Ministry -- it reports to the CIA.
And so -- I mean there are ministries that are run in these vertical stovepipes that are just manned by Iraqis. But right now the security -- you know, in the security sector, they are all subordinate, and it's at the most important levels. There is not a cadre of NCOs, captains, majors, that are really the backbone of any independently operating army.
I think it would be hard to imagine that you could create such a cadre in such a short period of time, and so I think that it's absolutely right that if you withdraw prematurely it's going -- you're going to have Mosul again, you know -- what happened in Mosul in 2004 -- will happen on a much larger scale, because they simply do not have the command structure.
Now, I think, you know, one interesting and important question is, if we are going to get out in several years, they better have that command structure, and they better not be referring to American, you know, colonels and generals. But -- that is -- I mean I agree with Gary that that's a very slow process to (wean them ?).
HERTOG: Yes, sir.
QUESTIONER: Ira Stoll (ph) from the New York Sun.
Question for Professor Fukuyama. In your essay that's in Gary Rosen's book, you raise this idea that some of the neoconservatives somehow confuse the existential threat that extremist Islamic terror posed to Israel with the threat posed to America. I wonder -- and Charles Krauthammer kind of got indignant over that.
FUKUYAMA: He didn't like that.
QUESTIONER: I wonder, in retrospect, how much you think the conservative opposition to the Iraq war -- or favor of it -- broke along these lines of support for Israel and whether you think that Israel issue is an important part of that rift -- or as important as the Iraq war is?
FUKUYAMA: Well, you know, I've actually -- I've got a book that's going to be coming out next March, which is a vast expansion -- a much more systematic view. But I actually do not talk about that issue, because I don't think it was important in the decision-making in the Bush administration.
I think that, you know, the leading principles that pushed the war were Cheney and Rumsfeld, and, you know, their primary concern was not Israel. And I just don't think that that was an important factor in, you know, their decision making.
Now, I do believe that it is important in the way that Charles Krauthammer sees the world. And so I thought it was appropriate to raise it in his case. And actually the subsequent exchange that we had about that convinced me that I was absolutely right about, that, you know, the whole idea of an existential threat, you know, where you have an almost uniformly hostile Arab, you know, Muslim world on the outside, you know, does make sense from Israel's perspective, but not necessarily from that of the United States.
But I just don't think it was important in the Bush administration's overall decision making.
HERTOG: Yes, please.
QUESTIONER: (Inaudible) -- editor from Serbia and Montenegro.
And being from the Balkans, I have questions related to previous intervention in that region. I wonder whether relative success in Bosnia and Kosovo influences unproportionally false expectations that success would be easy in Iraq, keeping in mind that in Balkans you had very small territories and already some kind of (post-authoritarian ?) process, and many other actors, like United Nations, European Union and so on and so on.
FUKUYAMA: There's actually a very interesting story, but it's a very different one, I think, and we're not going to know the full details until Don Rumsfeld writes his memoirs.
But Bosnia was extremely important in his attitude toward the Iraq war because he did not think Bosnia was a success; he thought it was a big failure. And he thought that we got involved unnecessarily. We committed too many troops and too much resources.
And so that very, I think, clearly shaped his attitude towards Iraq. But he drew two conclusions, that if you let the State Department get involved in the post-conflict reconstruction and if you let the Europeans get out, then you'll never get your troops out.
And therefore, when he came to the whole planning process for the Iraq war, he was determined to have the Pentagon own 100 percent of that process. He did not want the Europeans, and he did not want the State Department involved.
And, you know, in the Packer book -- I mean this was astonishing -- I mean, coming from Garner and several other people, this astonishing idea that they'd basically be out by August of 2003; that they would do it, as they should have done it in Bosnia; they'd intervene, and then all the troops would be out within three or four months because they had taken care of the problem.
And so I think Bosnia did have a big effect. But it was -- it was, I think, a quite unfortunate one because he drew the wrong lesson. I mean, the lesson should have been that you actually do need to do a lot; you need to plan and so forth.
KRISTOL: I think -- I actually -- I wasn't the decision maker. I think Frank's the kind of -- (inaudible) -- very interesting -- (inaudible) -- would explain the sort of -- the degree -- the price we paid for two years of thinking that we were about to get out, sending signals that we wanted to get out as quickly as possible and therefore not doing things like building up the Iraqi army, which should've begun three years ago -- you know, think of expanding the size of the U.S. Army, which (had ?) we begun four years ago, would have been helpful.
The degree to which we are now crippled by that mindset that Frank described very well I think can't be understated. For me, just as an outside person, though, I think I was influenced by the Balkans in this way. We started the Weekly Standard in September of '95. In December of '95, I think Bob Kagen and I wrote the first editorial we ever -- we wrote together, which was a defense of Clinton's intervention in Bosnia. We lost a quarter of our subscribers, who wrote saying they did not subscribe to the Weekly Standard to read editorials defending Bill Clinton
People at the time forget, Phil Gramm, running for president; Buchanan, of course, but -- (inaudible) -- except for Dole, actually to this credit -- you know, this is going to be a fiasco, a disaster, a quagmire, you know, 800 years of ethnic hatred; you'll never stop it unless you're willing to march right into Belgrade. That latter part was somewhat true in the end, but anyway, we did stop the ethnic cleansing. There was no -- you know, it was not a disaster. It wasn't perfect, but it certainly wasn't a disaster.
Kosovo, the same internal debate. We berated the House Republicans for that appalling vote, and I guess it was the spring of '99 when they voted, you know, against U.S. intervention as the planes were on their way. So we felt vindicated in our battle within -- among -- within the conservative movement and among Republicans.
And in that respect we probably dismissed, you know -- well, we just felt that we had been right -- NATO enlargement -- (inaudible) -- talking with someone -- (inaudible) -- out there.
I testified -- I remember being very nervous testifying -- against Brent Scowcroft, for whom I had and have a high regard, and he sure has a much more distinguished foreign policy experience than I do. We'd testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in '96, '97, something like that, on NATO enlargements.
And I dare think we were right, those of us who were strongly in favor of that.
So we did feel, and maybe there is a little bit of hubris, or at least overestimation of how easily democracy expansion and enlargement could work. We did feel somewhat vindicated by the lessons of the '90s in the Balkans and felt that the naysayers and the sort of, you know, centuries-of-ethnic-conflict-that-can't-be-stopped types were wrong.
And that might have made us a little too confident about Iraq.
HERTOG: Okay, last question.
QUESTIONER: I'm John Brademas New York University, third district of Indiana. I served with six presidents of the United States as a member of Congress -- three Republicans -- Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford; three Democrats -- Kennedy, Johnson, Carter.
And a question that has only been alluded to here -- it doesn't go directly to ideology -- but I would be interested in any comments anyone may have to offer, and Bill Kristol obliquely alluded to it.
Monumental incompetence -- I yield back the balance of my time.
HERTOG: Is this like plastics?
HERTOG: Okay, who wants to take the banner of monumental incompetence and run with it?
FUKUYAMA: You know, I think that probably the single miscalculation that was the most deadly was not to anticipate, you know, the difficulty of the transition.
And why that was done by people that were very smart, you know, in many other respects, I think is going to be complicated (question ?). I do personally believe that part of that stemmed not so much from the experience of the '90s, but actually the way the Cold War ended; that, you know, I mean, having been trained as a Sovietologist, I remember in 1989 absolutely nobody expected that communism would disappear that quickly, without violence and without a prolonged struggle. And then all of a sudden it was gone.
And then I think the expectation swung, you know, too far to the other side that all totalitarian dictatorships were similarly paper tigers, and you give them a little push and it's going to be like the Ceausescus in Romania. And can be the only explanation for why anyone thought that we'd be down to 30,000 troops in August of 2003.
ROSEN: Could I just add one word?
MR. : Go ahead. I'm sorry.
ROSEN: Yeah, I just think, too, there has been a very steep learning curve in the Bush administration obviously on these things, but they have learned things. And I think they have, again, changed their strategy.
It's the standard story now that you have Bush the candidate, who was this solid realist, who disdained nation building and then had this epiphany -- with the help of advisers -- after September 11th and became this neoconservative democratizer.
But in many respects, and especially as Bill has suggested, in the Department of Defense, you still had this same very deep skepticism to nation building, and you had at the same time, and I think this is important, this commitment to military transformation.
And the two of those things together I think really worked together to make for a disastrous policies early on on the ground in Iraq. And we're seeing a reversal of them now. But it's taken awhile.
And if we had gone in, I think, with the policies we have today, we would be in a much better situation. It was never going to be pretty; it was never going to be neat. But we don't need to have suffered the way we did, I think, and the way the Iraqis did in those first years.
KRISTOL: I agree with Frank and Gary, but with just one word in defense of Bush and the administration and even Rumsfeld on this.
What was the place that was supposed to be the graveyard of empires, the place that hated foreigners, where you would have a nightmare if you intervened with ground troops? Afghanistan. This was after the Cold War. This was after Bosnia, after Kosovo.
They went in, and this was -- and Rumsfeld went in. We attacked on September 11th. The Afghan war began on October 7th. The Taliban was gone on, what, Thanksgiving basically. Powell had been cautious, worried -- you don't really need to remove the regime; maybe we can pressure them. Remember there was -- people forget how much little debate there was even on regime change in Afghanistan, let alone on Iraq in sort of late September, early mid October. We punched through. We didn't have a huge number of troops. We did it in a sort of Rumsfeldian way -- airpower, light -- light, you know, special ops and sort of Marines and some light infantry, working with Afghan troops.
There we were, let's say, February '02, when they started to look around, and it was okay. It was okay. There was no horrible insurgency. The Taliban seemed to have been routed. It was kind of a mess in the countryside. But we didn't have to -- we were drawing down troops. Now, actually -- we actually stupidly drew down troops even in Afghanistan and had to send some back in the next year. And then we got NATO stood up and all that.
But basically from their point of view, in early, mid '02 -- you know, they had done this once -- or done a version of this. And we now think, oh, Afghanistan, of course, well, that was easy. We're all agreed on that, A, quite true. And B, that one was always going to be easy; Iraq was going to be the tough one. They're countries of the same size.
It's not obvious that the ethnic divisions in Afghanistan are that much less than the ethnic divisions in Iraq. It is obvious that the Afghans are an unbelievably skilled fighting people who have hated foreigners in the past and have killed a huge number of them -- Russians, British, others. And here we are in Afghanistan four years later, U.S. troops mostly in Kabul and, what, I guess in the north -- (inaudible) -- and then NATO, you know, in the south. It's flared up a little bit there. We've made -- (inaudible) -- little too un-nation-building-ish on -- a little too resistant even there to deploying the full roster of assets because of sort of Rumsfeldian resistance to it.
Having said that, you know, it's not bad. So, to be fair to them, you know -- and you can't just say, well, look at Iraq and it obviously going to go this way, when as many people would have predicted that Afghanistan would go the way that Iraq did. And it didn't go that way. And we'd never have to commit more than 120,000 troops there.
So, having said that, I very much wish we had 250,000 troops and hadn't let the looting go and all that. But I do think -- I think -- and I just wonder whether historically -- and this gets to Frank's sort of reconstruction of Rumsfeld's thinking -- the belief that we could do it light, the contempt for the State Department cautionary words, I think a lot of that might have had to do with the very intense experience of the Afghanistan debate from September 11th through December or January.
HERTOG: Well, I've been in the investment business for 30-some-odd years, so I wish I could speak up for monumental incompetence, because we've been called worse over this period of time, as an investment firm.
But you guys have been terrific. And I want to thank our panelists here. And I think we're going to go inside right now.
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