Charlie Rose Show
June 28, 2005
CHARLIE ROSE: Welcome to the broadcast. We are live this evening from New York and Washington. Tonight, President Bush delivered a primetime speech on Iraq from Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. He spoke on the first anniversary of the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis, seeking to ease American doubts about the war. Here is a part of what the president said this evening:
GEORGE W. BUSH: [Note: Video clip of the presidential address begins.] Amid all this violence, I know Americans ask the question, is the sacrifice worth it? It is worth it, and it is vital to the future security of our country.
Some wonder whether Iraq is a central front in the war on terror. The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September the 11th, if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi, and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like bin Laden.
For the sake of our nation’s security, this will not happen on my watch.
In the past year, we have made significant progress. One year ago today, we restored sovereignty to the Iraqi people. In January 2005, more than eight million Iraqi men and women voted in elections that were free and fair, and took time—and took place on time.
In the past year, the international community has stepped forward with vital assistance.
Whatever our differences in the past, the world understands that success in Iraq is critical to the security of our nations.
Our strategy can be summed up this way: As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.
I recognize that Americans want our troops to come home as quickly as possible. Setting an artificial timetable would send the wrong message to the Iraqis, who need to know that America will not leave before the job is done. It would send the wrong signal to our troops, who need to know that we are serious about completing the mission they are risking their lives to achieve. And it would send the wrong message to the enemy, who would know that all they have to do is wait us out. We will stay in Iraq as long as we are needed, and not a day longer.
[Note: Video clip of presidential address ends.]
ROSE: Joining me now from Washington, Michael Duffy, Washington bureau chief for Time magazine. Also in Washington, Jim Hoagland, foreign policy columnist with the Washington Post, and Richard Stevenson of the New York Times. With me here in New York, Richard Haass. He is president of the Council on Foreign Relations, author of the book, The Opportunity: America’s Moment to Alter History’s Course. As I said, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and served in the Bush administration in the State Department during the first term.
Michael Duffy, tell me what the president achieved tonight and what you think he failed to say that his critics wanted him to say.
MICHAEL DUFFY: Well, I think the thing that’s most instructive and interesting about the speech is that he put the latest events in Iraq not in the context of some of the other justifications he used in the war, whether it was democracy in the Middle East or peace in the region, or much less, weapons of mass destruction, but back to the hardest sell, really, of his presidency in foreign policy, which is the war on terror. He said this was all about the continuing global—and it will be a very long war against terrorists worldwide.
That’s the hardest sell I think because it’s the one that unites the country, has the most potential to unite the country, but also is the one which raises the obvious question, which is whether this was a central front in the war on terror before he invaded.
ROSE: But is that issue moot? I mean, whether it was the central point in the war against terror before the president put America there…
DUFFY: It is now.
ROSE: … it is now, so it’s a moot point, isn’t it?
DUFFY: That’s right. Well, yes, it is. But I think that’s the question that I think you said what the critics will ask him to come up with an explanation for? Was the invasion necessary? Again, it is now sort of a—it’s its own justification now. And I think that’s one thing that he didn’t really explain, but that was to me the most interesting part about the speech, was that it’s now all about the war on terror.
ROSE: Jim, what interested you about this speech and how far did the president go in accomplishing whatever goal he needed to gain time?
JAMES HOAGLAND: Well, I think he set out to do two big things. One was to reconnect the war in Iraq to the war on terrorism. If you go to the Web site at the White House, the title of the speech is given as “remarks on the war on terrorism.” The title has nothing to do with Iraq itself.
The second thing he was trying to do, obviously, was to reassure the American public that he knows what he’s doing, because really what has become the issue I think for the American public over the last few months is the question of competence, whether or not the team that Mr. Bush heads knows what it is doing in Iraq, knows how to produce a victory there.
We’ve just—The Washington Post; has just published a poll this morning that shows that very few Americans who were polled want to get out of Iraq. They have a belief in the cause and the importance of the struggle there. But they have a lot of questions about whether this president and his team are pursuing a winning strategy.
ROSE: But did he, in your judgment, define any new strategy that has not been in place before?
HOAGLAND: I think it’s a rather modest definition that he’s given. He did talk about the changes on the battleground, a mix of Iraqi and American troops, and obviously the line about training Iraqi troops to take over responsibilities from Americans. But when you look at the scale of the problem he described, the urgent crisis that we face in fighting the war on terrorism, his answers turn out to be rather modest.
ROSE: Richard? I mean, Richard?
RICHARD HAASS: Essentially, I agree. The fact that now this is a war about the war on terror rather than about Iraq itself is to me really a complete change or evolution in the policy. It didn’t begin as a central front. It has become the central front. And essentially, the president is saying whether you agreed with the war or not, we are where we are. And at the moment, the stakes are enormous.
And that’s my second impression. How much of this presidency now is about Iraq? The stakes go beyond Iraq, which are large itself. The energy, its geopolitical position in the region, and so forth. But the fact that the United States has invested so much—treasure, blood, our military, our prestige—we have made this now an enormous test case for American foreign policy.
And my hunch is this is not something the president counted on two-and-a-half, three years ago when he essentially embarked on this path. I don’t think he realized at the time that he would be three years later speaking to the American people with so much on the line.
ROSE: Because he made certain assumptions that didn’t come true?
HAASS: He was essentially, I think like most of the other people involved, thinking that the benefits would be large, the costs would be modest. And clearly what we’ve seen is the benefits are uncertain, but the costs are clearly huge.
ROSE: There has been this idea—and I’ll throw this open to everybody—we’ve all been raising this question and talking about it, whether the reality on the ground is not the reality that is seen in the White House. Do they see this different than the people on the ground, the military commanders and everybody else who is there? And if they do, why do they say what they do? Or is it essential to say what they do because otherwise everybody will lose faith?
RICHARD STEVENSON: I’m not sure there’s a singular White House position on that. If you listen to Vice President Cheney, recently he talked about the insurgency being in its last throes. Rumsfeld talked the other day about, well, insurgencies can last 12 years. So it’s a little bit of a muddle exactly what they are thinking about this.
I think one of the really interesting things about this speech tonight was how similar it was to a speech that Bush gave 13 months ago at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The language, the structure, the arguments were all very, very similar. And it will be interesting to see how many more times he needs to give this speech, how many more times he needs to appeal to the American people for patience and resolve, to connect this back, as he did five times explicitly tonight, to 9/11, to invoke Osama bin Laden at a time when the American people I think are beginning to say, hey, this is an open-ended military commitment. It’s costing us a lot of money, casualties are mounting, there’s no obvious exit strategy. It’s not clear how long he can go on with the same message and the same strategy.
ROSE: What options are there for the president? Richard?
HAASS: This Richard?
ROSE: Well, let me go to Richard Stevenson first, and then I’ll come back to Richard Haass. What options does he have? Send in more troops? He says the commanders don’t want more troops. Train the Iraqis faster? My guess is they’re training the Iraqis as fast as they can possibly do that. Get more help from the allies? I mean, he said that the allies were beginning to contribute more. What is a new strategy that might produce a different result?
STEVENSON: Look, I mean, you’ve put your finger precisely on the crux of the problem here. I’m not sure that there is any obvious alternative here other than kind of slogging this out. And I think that’s what Bush is appealing to everybody to have patience on as they try to work this out, kind of day by day over there. Acknowledging that there is going to be more bloodshed, that the politics within Iraq are going to be very, very difficult at times, and that the U.S. is basically going it alone there.
HOAGLAND: One of the interesting things I think about this White House is that they have a very different sense of timing, certainly than I do, I think than their commanders in the field do as well. They lay back for a long time, saying very little. They begin to get into trouble. They begin to fall behind. And then they mobilize. They send the president out to make this kind of speech, as if they have all the time in the world.
So I think your question, Charlie, about do they see it differently, do the impressions—are the impressions different at the White House? I think the answer to that is yes, they are.
One of the pressure points building up here now is the public, I think, beginning to say the statements we’re hearing from the White House up until the president’s speech tonight don’t resemble what we believe is actually happening there. The famous credibility gap is looming again.
One of the things the president was obviously trying to do tonight was to buy time. Think back a few months, we were all talking about the Arab spring and how elections in Egypt, elections in Beirut, most of all the elections in Iraq, were carrying forward the president’s plan. Now, we’ve kind of zoomed and overshot the runway perhaps in the other direction. And I think at the White House, they think with a little luck, with the Iraqis writing a constitution, which I think they will pretty much on time and going into elections in December, they can come back to where they were a few months ago.
Maybe they’re right. But I think it’s a huge gamble.
ROSE: And meanwhile, do we understand or have some sense, both either from Washington or from what people are telling us on the ground in Baghdad, is the insurgency growing? Is, as the president described, this is where you want to take the battle against terrorism, because all these people from Iran and Saudi Arabia and Libya and all the places that he named are flowing in there? Is the insurgency, unlike what Cheney said, getting stronger, and is that the thing that makes the time issue so critical?
DUFFY: He skirted that question tonight, Charlie. You know, one of the things that military commanders have said in recent weeks is that the insurgency is getting bigger, that the bombs are getting more effective, the designs of the bombs are getting more sophisticated, and as a result, the lethality of these explosions has become greater.
The speech had at various points, I thought moments of clarity like that, where he took the question that people want to know right up on the head. Is it worth it? Yes. Are we making progress? Yes. He said we’re making significant progress.
On the other hand, it was fuzzy on some of those sorts of specifics, as in just how many Iraqis are being trained to fight this insurgency. He said it was growing by the thousands, but that all through this conversation that we’ve had about the Iraqi army and to fight the insurgency over the last couple of years, it’s always a mixed array of terms and expressions. And it’s always apples and oranges, whether you’re talking police or army and whether they’re trained or equipped or really ready to fight at any given moment.
The metrics, as Don Rumsfeld would say, are changing. So it’s really hard, even now, to get a grasp on how many there are who could go into the field tomorrow.
ROSE: OK, but I mean some of those metrics, are they changing against the coalition forces and against the United States’ interest?
DUFFY: They’re getting better, but the specifics are really hard to come by in terms of how many are really able to replace American troops. When you talk about what a timetable might be for us standing down so they can stand up, not a lot of clarity even when you try to get people to talk about it privately and quietly. They just aren’t clear on it.
ROSE: Is there anything to be said as to why the Iraqis have not taken over a larger part of this? I mean, are the things that we ought to understand and the president should have explained? Because it is not a new idea, that we want the Iraqis to be able to take over this battle? I mean, we’ve seen the progress the president has talked about in terms of the election, first the sovereignty then the election, and then what’s going to happen this year with the constitution and then the election in December, on the political front, but is there a reason that we understand that the Iraqis are not doing this more at this time?
STEVENSON: I know that there’s…
ROSE: Richard, go ahead. Stevens (sic).
HAASS: Excuse me.
STEVENSON: One of the things you hear people at the White House talk about, and to a certain extent at the Pentagon, is that there is no sort of mid-level officer corps in the Iraqi armed forces, and that they really need to develop a generation of leadership there. And that without that, it’s going to be very difficult to find experienced, capable people to lead these troops into the kinds of battles that they’re going to have to fight.
One of the things that I think the president alluded to tonight was the efforts they’re making to try to put, you know, more or less to embed American military personnel into Iraqi units, to help with that problem a little bit, but to a certain extent it’s a matter of time.
HAASS: That’s exactly right. You didn’t begin with a world-class army or armed forces. You had the whole dismantling of the Iraqi armed forces right after the war, essentially completed itself. So you didn’t have anything to work with. You’re now trying to build an Iraqi military in the worst possible conditions, where you’ve got violence all the time, where you’ve got people’s loyalties in many cases still to their militias, which as you know have now been legitimized, where the Sunnis are still not sure whether they’re in or out. So it’s hard to imagine a worst context or a more difficult context to try to do what it is we’re doing.
ROSE: Mike Duffy, within the White House, the power of the idea that they have time, that the president is asking for time, this is a man who has surprised us many times with his ability to understand where the pulse of America is. Do you believe—how much time does he have? How much time before time runs out, in terms of getting the Iraqis up and able to do what they need to do?
DUFFY: Well, I think the president made the case tonight that it might well outlast his term. I think that was something that if you weren’t imagining before this speech and you were watching this speech across the country, you might think, oh, this is going to be around for the next president to be worrying about and thinking about.
And I think he was almost unambiguous about that.
I think the trick in terms of timing for the White House and the way they think about the clock goes to something Richard Haass said a minute ago, which is that Iraq is becoming a kind of an anchor or a drag on everything they’re trying to do in the second term here. And it’s not so much a drag about the timetable in Iraq, but what else they might be able to get accomplished in other places and here at home, while this—the numbers continue to trouble them and trouble their polls and trouble their ability to manage coalitions in Congress on other fronts.
So I think they probably—the people who are worried most about the clock here for all the reasons that Hoagland here mentioned have less to do with foreign policy than actually domestic policy, and what else they can accomplish and where else they can do these things.
HAASS: Charlie, can I tell you one other thing about time? I think time is OK for the administration so long as the American people see some progress, so essentially they feel we’re not throwing good money after bad. People are willing to endure long commitments. We’ve seen it in American history, so long as the arrows seem to be pointing in the right direction, so long as progress seems to be made, so long as at some point you can say, OK, this is going to be good enough.
Right now, the polls are essentially sent him a warning shot, across the administration’s bow, and people are beginning to have doubts. Those doubts haven’t hardened. They haven’t gained political traction. At some point, they will. And I don’t know, my hunch is perhaps sometime next year, as we get closer to the midterm elections, then you’ll begin to see if there isn’t progress, my hunch is some politicians in particular will see their own political futures perhaps being better served if they start to question what we’re doing, and even start demanding some version of a so-called exit strategy. We’re not there yet.
ROSE: I watch Republicans like Lindsey Graham on television this week questioning—or last week questioning Donald Rumsfeld and saying—and others, and basically saying, you know, I’m hearing something at home that’s a genuine concern, and South Carolina is a very strong military state, as we all know.
HOAGLAND: Charlie, I think there are some very clear timelines here, although the president is right to say it will be folly to set out a withdrawal date now. But his term, his second term is pretty much the time limit for significant accomplishment in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. And he should begin sketching in what he really expects to accomplish in a serious way in the Middle East by the end of his second term.
ROSE: But isn’t that the point that critics are making, that he ought to sketch out more of what he hopes to accomplish and what’s the expectation, without giving a timetable, but really trying to assure the American people…
HOAGLAND: Well, his more responsible critics are doing that. Other critics are doing something else, and demanding that he hang himself by committing to date certain.~
The other timeline that I think that is becoming clearer, at least when you talk to some of the commanders from the theater is that they feel they’ve got about a year. It relates a little bit to Richard Haass’ point about the mid-term elections, but really by next summer, they feel that they have to begin to show real progress in handing off responsibility and authority to the Iraqis in the field, and beginning to pull American troops out of the population centers.
ROSE: Jim, let me ask you this, Jim Hoagland. Schroeder was here, and everybody appreciates what the stakes are now. All the friends and those who have been partners in the past or maybe partners in the future are partners now. What are they saying and what do they want the United States to do? And by that I mean, you know, the group of eight that are going to be meeting next week in Scotland, and other people from Central Europe, and even Putin in Russia. What is it they would like for the United States to do in Iraq today?
HOAGLAND: I think the main thing is not to leave precipitously, not to leave a chaotic situation behind them. That has to be goal number one. And as American public opinion begins to move against the war, which it’s done in the past two months I would say, in at least an embryonic way, they become more frightened. Europeans become more frightened, and Arab neighbors of Iraq become more frightened that we will suddenly pick up and leave. So they want us to stay long enough to stabilize the situation.
And I think they want us to broaden the dialogue, the political dialogue within Iraq. That means include the Sunnis, the Sunni minority more. There’s some unrealistic aspects of that desire on the part of the Europeans that we have to deal with. But it’s those kinds of things that I think they put at the top of their wish list.
ROSE: Richard Stevenson—yeah, go ahead.
STEVENSON: I think that they would also like to see the United States do more to bring progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That’s one of the things that Tony Blair has pushed Bush very hard on. And I think that’s really an important component of the international diplomacy on this.
ROSE: What is the administration doing wrong today, in June of 05, on the ground in Iraq? And what is it not doing on the ground in Iraq that it ought to be doing? Anybody?
HAASS: I don’t think the administration is doing fundamentally wrong things at this point, which is another way of saying the choices and the options aren’t terribly attractive.
One could say they perhaps ought to find a way to perhaps shut down the border with Syria more, whether using U.S. or some other troops with that. Maybe there are some ways to accelerate the training, though it’s hard to imagine that if they exist, Dave Petraeus, the guy on the ground that’s in charge of it, hasn’t thought of it.
Maybe we could take a slightly more active role in brokering this new constitution. I think the administration has over the last couple of days, we’ve learned on one interesting thing, which is begin to try to split the insurgents, clearly draw a distinction between the homegrown insurgents and the foreign insurgents.
But I’ll be honest with you, Charlie, no matter how many people I’ve talked to, there’s no silver bullet out there, there is no fundamentally different idea that if only the administration tried it things would be markedly different. We—those kinds of options simply don’t exist.
ROSE: And so the criticism of the administration has more to do with what they did and the assumptions they made to get us in the first—in this situation.
HAASS: Exactly, most of it is in the rearview mirror. It’s not—I haven’t heard anybody come forward with a serious, viable alternative.
ROSE: Does anybody? Michael Duffy, have you heard anybody? Because there was a story that’s coming in The Washington Post tomorrow morning by Dan Balz saying, “Bush signals no shifts in policy Democrats such as Biden and Kerry have called for in recent days. His goal was simply to re-educate America on the views.”
I still don’t—I want to come back to this. What is it they should be doing they’re not doing? Is there anything that…
DUFFY: You know, Democrats aren’t really good about this part of their attack on the president. They say he needs to lay out a timetable but doesn’t have to be specific. He needs to lay out benchmarks, but he doesn’t have to put dates on them.
They seem to want to hear more from him, but they aren’t really sure exactly what it is more they want him to say. The criticism that I think sort of rings the truth to me, and I don’t really know if there’s an alternative to it, is that I think a lot of people do wonder whether going for full-bore, you know, four-color democracy here right out of the box was a good idea. It’s churlish and small-hearted, as Condi Rice has pointed out, to suggest that people go a different route or take a half-measure, a half-step on the way to democracy, especially when we have, you know, one that works pretty well ourselves. But you do kind of wonder whether they’re ready to stand up, as Bush would say, that kind of government given where they just came from, and whether—when Bush talks about two tracks, one military, which has its challenges, and the other political, whether they’ve asked the Iraqi people to embrace a whole lot of change in a very short period of time.
Now, maybe that’s possible, and certainly I’m no expert on Iraqi, you know, politics. But I—democracy is a fairly big goal here in a very short period of time. Bush has talked about that in the past. They seem to be making some progress, but I think that’s…
ROSE: What leverage do we have on the political process? I mean, this is your arena when you were in the State Department.
HAASS: Sure. I mean, leverage might even be too strong of a word. What we have is the ability to sit down with all the parties. And essentially with the Kurds and the Shia, the leverage we have is really the persuasion. It’s to say, you have got to be willing to cut a constitutional deal that will draw the support of the lion’s share, of the bulk of the Sunni population. And to try to come up with that package, which obviously means heavy amounts of federalism, and compromises all around between the power of the central government and the power of the various communities, certain things about the limits on the role of religion and so forth.
But our role there is essentially one of advocate. It’s one of working with the parties. It’s one of the reasons it’s important that we have an active ambassador. But we don’t—we can’t drive this to the point of forcing people to…
ROSE: And it has been damned if you do, damned if you don’t. And for a while they pulled back because they would let the Iraqis do it, there’s too much American meddling, too much American trying to influence, America trying to choose who would be the Iraqi leadership. And that was a failure. And now, when they pulled back, people are saying, let’s have more American…
HAASS: For the moment, I would rather err on the side of doing too much. This is not simply—this is not like the perfect marketplace with the Adam Smith’s invisible hand and it’s all going to come together without our help. The analogy might be more like the Afghans. Remember, we did the Bonn conference, and the United States played a very active role at orchestrating that. We obviously want to keep it somewhat behind the scenes, out of the glare of television, but we do have to play an active role. This is not—Iraqis are not going to simply come together by themselves without us playing a significant role.
ROSE: Jim Hoagland, what do you think the most likely scenario is to come out of all of this?
HOAGLAND: Coming out of the speech, I think…
ROSE: No, not the speech, in terms of what’s happening on the ground in Iraq? You know? Is it civil war? Is it…
ROSE: … whatever?
HOAGLAND: I don’t think so. We can all be wrong about that. But I think the constitution does get written with Sunni participation. The Sunnis see that there are significant minority protections written into the transitional administrative law, that the constitution should presumably be based on.
They can lose those protections. That law, in fact, can be amended by a coalition of Kurds and Shiites in the National Assembly, and increasingly I think the Sunnis are seeing that they have something to lose and are beginning to participate.
You will then get elections in December if the first part of that scenario is right. And you do get a boost.
I think the president is right to call for patience, but I think he also needs to lay out more clearly how he’s going to use that time as well.
ROSE: What would that be, though? Tell me—I keep coming back to this. Lay out what?
HOAGLAND: Well, here I disagree a little bit with my friend Richard Haass on the American role here. I think part of the problem continues to be a distrust of the Iraqis by American military commanders, who actually are doing most of the fighting now, and who are not arming Iraqi units in a very effective way. They’re mostly light machine guns going up against bazookas, rockets, rocket-propelled grenades that the insurgents have.
I think they can do much more to bring as a unit something like the Peshmerga, the Badr brigade, the militias, into the organized forces rather than insisting that people come in as individuals into the training program. I think they have to deal with the reality of Iraq as it is, more than they are doing today. When they insist on a, I think, somewhat theoretical national army that is totally divorced from the regional roots and from the militias, I don’t think that’s realistic. I think they need to get more realistic about Iraq and Iraqi conditions on the ground.
ROSE: The administration does.
ROSE: Yeah. But my—do you think the American people, any of you, Richard Stevenson, would accept the fact if they were told that the best you can hope for at the end of 2006, a year-and-a-half from now, is some kind of government in Iraq with an army that there is a stand-off between the army and the insurgency, and the insurgents and the insurgency, that gives us time to get out of there? Would that be in the judgment—and I’m asking you to read the pulse of America—worth it?
STEVENSON: Well, that’s a great question. And I don’t know the answer. And I’m not sure I want to hazard a guess, but that may well be where we end up. You know, I don’t know…
ROSE: It’s almost the best we can hope for.
STEVENSON: Yes. I mean, look, there’s no miracle cure here. There’s nothing that anybody can do at this point to change the situation radically. Obviously, I think they need to do a better job of disrupting the insurgency, of understanding it better, of figuring out where the pressure points are there. You know, they need to continue to build the legitimacy of the Iraqi government. They need to continue to do a better job of explaining what’s going on to the American public, or risk losing political support, as we’ve been talking about. But you know, it may well be that at the end of 2006, we’re just in, you know, with luck, a slightly better version of where we are now.
DUFFY: But you know, Richard, the president—I’m sorry—the president laid a lot more chips on the table tonight than that. He said this is now the central front on the war on terror, and we’re essentially not going to leave until it can no longer become a kind of safe haven for terrorists that—I think what he said is we’re not going to leave until we’re sure it’s not a safe haven for terrorists the way Afghanistan was. I think he upped the ante considerably on Iraq and suggested we’re not leaving until it’s good and fixed.
And so while I think there may be a political drift toward, you know, a stalemated solution, I think that the president is not seeing it that way. And I don’t think—maybe—there are those who think this is the beginning of the groundwork for withdrawal, but I guess I didn’t hear that. And I tend to think Bush is someone who does what he says, not the opposite. So…
ROSE: So he has raised the bar. He has raised the bar…
DUFFY: I think in a way….
ROSE: He’s saying that what I just suggested, as a likely scenario, is unacceptable to him?
DUFFY: That’s what it sounded like to me.
HOAGLAND: But is that raising the bar? I mean, I was struck by the same phrase where he said that this will—Iraq will not become Afghanistan under the Taliban. That’s not the same thing as saying we’re going to produce a model democracy for the rest of the Middle East. To me, I took that sentence, Michael, as meaning that I’m lowering the bar. I’m prepared to accept that as an outcome.
That doesn’t mean that he’s trying to lay out a scenario where American troops leave Iraq under those conditions. It’s still possible that we would be there fighting the terrorists even if Iraq itself has not turned out all that well.
There’s a certain tension. There’s a certain tension in the message between what Bush is laying out and what Iraqi want. And that’s something that’s not really resolved in the speech, because…
ROSE: Now we’re—I think we’re on to an interesting point now. Go ahead.
HOAGLAND: He’s saying that we are there to keep the terrorists from coming to America and blowing up our buildings. And that’s the main reason we’re there, Mr. and Mrs. America. And that certainly has a great deal of resonance for American audience.
ROSE: Jim Hoagland, do you think…
HOAGLAND: For the Iraqis…
ROSE: Jim, do you think…
HOAGLAND: For the Iraqis listening to that, for the Iraqis listening to that, they are thinking, yes, but they’re blowing up our houses. At some point, the Iraqis will not necessarily continue to follow an all-American program of fighting the war on terrorism on their soil. That’s something we’ve got to avoid.
ROSE: Richard Haass.
HAASS: Charlie, you asked the question of whether if we end up with this kind of messy outcome, whether that would make it worth it. Seems to me there’s two different questions. One is whether it’s good enough. A very different question is will it then have been worth it?
ROSE: Right, good enough (INAUDIBLE).
HAASS: My hunch is it’s probably good enough.
ROSE: Good enough for?
HAASS: For the United States and for our stakes in the region and for our credibility more broadly.
And coming back to something Jim was just saying, we could end up with a situation where essentially Afghanistan becomes the model. And by that, I mean you don’t end up with the perfect situation. It’s not a Jeffersonian democracy. There’s perhaps a remnant of U.S. forces that stays behind in an open-ended fashion, fighting a war on terrorism, but Iraq kind of muddles through. It’s a quasi-functioning country. It’s not great…
ROSE: And that’s good enough?
HAASS: That would be good enough. Now, it raises then questions, whether it all will have been worth it? And that’s a much more fundamental foreign policy question that historians and others can debate, saying given all that we’ve invested, is this something, if we had to do it all over again, would we have? And I think that will simply add fuel to that debate.
ROSE: All right. You more than any—hold on one second. I want to just come to this point. If they had to do it all over again, not what they say—because they can’t afford to say we wouldn’t do it again—do you believe they would do it over again? I mean by that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz?
HAASS: If you’re asking me, I think the answer is yes, because they still are confident, one, that it will turn out OK, and two, that the benefits of that will be large. So my hunch is if you were to ask them, they’d say yes. If you probably gave them a chance to modify their answer, they would say yes, we might have done some specific things differently.
ROSE: Yeah, we made some mistakes. (INAUDIBLE) we made some mistakes.
HAASS: But if you’re asking me the basic question, would they have said this was a good idea for the United States strategically, historically? My sense is that the president and his senior lieutenants believed that then and believe it now.
ROSE: Do you?
STEVENSON: I think one thing…
ROSE: Wait one second. One second. I’ll be right there. Do you?
HAASS: Look, you know from what I’ve written and what I’ve said, I don’t. I don’t believe that this was a wise or warranted intervention. And that’s not ignoring the benefits, getting rid of Saddam, the elections in Iraq, and so forth. It’s simply my assessment of the costs, both the direct costs of doing this in terms of money, in terms of troops, but also the larger cost to American foreign policy. The fact, for example, that we simply now don’t have the available military force to back up our diplomacy if we wanted to, towards, say, a North Korea or Iran. It’s simply emptied a lot of the strengths of American foreign policy. It’s absorbed a lot of our attention. And for those reasons, I have real doubts about the overall worth of this enterprise.
ROSE: Richard Stevenson.
STEVENSON: One of the things that I think will influence the answer to the question that Richard Haass raised about what’s good enough is what happens in the rest of the region there. What’s going on in Iran right now? What happens to Syria and Lebanon? What happens between the Israelis and the Palestinians? Because, remember, Iraq is supposed to be, you know, the centerpiece for a new Middle East. And a lot of those questions we really don’t know the answers to. I’d be interested in hearing more about what people think about what the elections of a new hard-line president in Iran might mean to Iraq.
ROSE: Well, Michael Duffy, do you have any ideas about that, or does anybody at Time magazine have any brilliant ideas about what that means to the Iraqi conflict?
DUFFY: I always—when it comes to Iranian politics, I always quote George Tenet, who says, I don’t know what it means to be an Iranian moderate.
ROSE: Or they ain’t there.
DUFFY: That’s the best line I’ve ever heard about Iranian politics.
ROSE: Right. But it is a very good question, though. Jim Hoagland.
HOAGLAND: The elections certainly served to clarify things. There’s no longer any confusion about the question of are there moderates able to…
ROSE: And no longer two governments in Iran, right?
HOAGLAND: That’s right. There never really was. There was only the appearance of two governments. The guys…
ROSE: Let me…
HOAGLAND: Go ahead, Charlie.
ROSE: Let me throw this on the table. It may be just obvious. It’s too early to tell whether this might turn out more than just simply being good enough, but more along the lines of what the president hoped it might do, in terms of defeating terrorism, in terms of spreading democracy. That idea still is alive and has a possibility in Iraq? Yes or no?
HOAGLAND: I would say yes. I would definitely agree that that’s the case. And I would agree with what Richard Haass said earlier about the president doing it again if he had the chance.
If you look at the speech again, you have a real sense of how he saw his decision, which was to do whatever he can, to take whatever risks he needed to take, to make America safer from an attack again, from the same kind of attack. And he felt that you had to establish some deterrence that had been lost by September 11th, 2001. You had to serve notice on every regime in the Middle East that if they helped—the greater Middle East—if they helped with this kind of terrorist enterprise, there was a huge price to pay. And I think—he cites Libya as a case in the speech tonight. He frequently does cite Libya. But I think he believes that at least, he’s accomplished that.
DUFFY: I think he would have done it again, but perhaps with eight divisions instead of four.
ROSE: I think that’s the one thing they probably—I don’t know if they had eight divisions, but that’s clearly—and they might have had, if they had known the stakes of going through Turkey were better, you know, was crucial, they might have….
DUFFY: They might have…
ROSE: … put more leverage with the Turks and had a stronger diplomatic effort. Richard may be looking at me saying, they did all they could. I don’t know. But…
DUFFY: I also think that there’s something to the Jim Hoagland synthesis between the president sort of reinforcing the military track tonight, saying, you know, I’m not going to back off one iota on that, but perhaps signaling—I mean, Jim Hoagland is a much better tea leaf reader than I am—signaling that perhaps the political track might have more modest goals.
ROSE: Is this the place that the battle against terrorism will be decided?
HAASS: No. Because—it’s one of the reasons that this whole imagery of battles or wars against terrorism isn’t right. There isn’t a single battle against terrorism. Terrorism is now part of the infrastructure of international relations. And this is at most one chapter of it. And no matter what happens in Iraq, we’re going to face terrorism elsewhere, because there is all sources of terrorists right now. There’s a whole new generation of new terrorists, first of all, who are going to school in Iraq. They’re still turning them out in places like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt. And we’ve got almost like disease, we have got to accept the reality that terrorism is going to be part of your life and my life and our children’s lives as long as we’re around. This is now simply one unfortunate or extremely unfortunate dimension of globalization, of living in this modern world.
And the real danger, Charlie, is the next generation of terrorists have much more capable tools. And that, you know, up to now, they’ve used conventional means, but I think we have to face the day where the possibility arises where terrorists get a hold of some sort of nuclear materials or something like that.
But no, no matter what happens here, terrorism is not going away. That said, what happens in Iraq could make the situation better or worse. And if things go badly in Iraq, the United States leaves precipitously, it will fuel terrorism. If we have a decisive victory in Iraq, it will set back terrorism, just like when the Taliban—when al Qaeda lost its sanctuary in Afghanistan, that set back terrorism. But either way, after Iraq is essentially decided, we will still have terrorism to deal with.
ROSE: It is a defeat for terrorism. I mean, can you argue it’s a defeat for terrorism if in fact the Iraqis get strong enough to take on the insurgency and keep them at bay? And that the insurgents don’t win? Is that by definition a defeat of terrorism?
HAASS: Sure. It would be a—it’s a tactical or—a defeat, but it’s in no way—it doesn’t change or end the reality that terrorism will remain a powerful force in our lives. And it doesn’t take a lot of them, given their access to modern weaponry, to make an enormous difference. We shouldn’t kid ourselves that somehow this is going to be decisive.
So even if we succeed in Iraq, if we have a generous definition of success in Iraq, we shouldn’t delude ourselves thinking that we’ve therefore eliminated or solved the terrorism problem. It will still be there.
ROSE: Go ahead. Last word. About 30 seconds, Jim. Go ahead.
HOAGLAND: Charlie, this is a battle against specific movements and specific individuals who are terrorists. Victory may not be decisive. Leaving Iraq under losing conditions would be decisive. It would encourage terrorists to do much, much more.
ROSE: And you think this idea is gaining strength anywhere in the American political psyche?
HOAGLAND: I think that is the one thing that the president got across fairly well tonight.
ROSE: I do too.
ROSE: And also, that I thought he, you know, did a good job of defining the nature of the enemy and the stakes that were there, and especially the bravery of the soldiers there. And let no one believe that they died in vain.
I thank you, Michael Duffy, Jim Hoagland, Richard Stevenson and Richard Haass with me.
When we come back, we’ll talk about the visit of Billy Graham. A conversation with Jon Meacham about Billy Graham and his last crusade.
[Note: End of discussion on the Bush address]
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