The Right War in Iraq, and the Wrong One (Review by Zbigniew Brzezinski)

Vooral voor Bush Jr-apalogeten die stug blijven volhouden dat zijn invasie van Irak een goede zaak was, is dit boek van Richard Haass leerzaam. Dat blijkt al uit deze recensie van Zbigniew Brzezinski in Foreign Affairs.
Voor president Obama impliceert Haass een te volgen actief beleid t.a.v. ‘het’ conflict in het Midden-Oosten, dat Brzezinski expliceert: het opleggen van een vredesproces dat leidt tot en twee-staten oplossing die Israel veiligheid, en de Palestijnen ‘fairness’ biedt. Maar dat betekent dat Obama in moet gaan tegen de machtige zionistische (Pro-Groot)’Isarael lobby’ – en dat zal hem niet meevallen.
Hieronder een verkorte weergave van de recensie – met een link naar het artikel – en het betreffende persbeericht.

‘War of Necessity, War of Choice’ — part recent history, part wide-ranging personal memoir, part case study in decision-making — deserves to be read carefully. This is so not only because Richard Haass has impressive credentials — he was a top foreign policy official and is now president of the Council on Foreign Relations — or because he provides a perceptive insider’s account of deliberations at the top of the U.S. government that, within a dozen years, resulted in U.S. engagement in two significant wars with Iraq. The book’s additional significance is to be found in the wider lesson that a future U.S. secretary of state or U.S. national security adviser should draw for U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Haass took part in the decision to wage the 1991 war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in his capacity as the senior National Security Council staffer for the Middle East. In that role, he helped the national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, define Saddam’s sudden seizure of Kuwait as an unacceptable act of aggression that threatened the stability of the Middle East and the survival of the pro-U.S. regime in Saudi Arabia. Haass makes it clear that President George H. W. Bush himself held this view from day one. Both Bush and Scowcroft are the heroes of the memoir.

Critical to the U.S. response, as Haass recounts, was the fact that Washington undertook a systematic diplomatic campaign to mobilize international support in order to prevail on Saddam to withdraw — and, eventually, to compel him by force to do so. In the end, when force was used, the U.S.-led military campaign involved significant European and (geopolitically more important) Arab and Muslim military contingents. Even Syria took part…

Haass was — as he himself describes it — a "peripheral" player in the decisions that led to the second war, undertaken a little more than a decade later. By then, he was director of policy planning in the State Department, under Secretary of State Colin Powell. Over the years, the influence of the policy planning office had waned. By the time Haass took over, its responsibilities ranged from speechwriting for the secretary of state to occasionally recommending specific policy initiatives, but never again would it reach the hallowed status associated with actually shaping U.S. grand strategy, as it had done under the directorship of George Kennan, at the outset of the Cold War.

Powell himself was not the dominant figure in the small cluster of officials whom President George W. Bush consulted about his post-9/11 fixation on Saddam and his alleged weapons of mass destruction. Already by July 2002, according to Haass, the president — driven by the dynamics of a "war on terror" that he had declared — had decided to go to war against Saddam, come what may. Condoleezza Rice, then serving as the national security adviser (in the first Bush administration, she had been Haass’ colleague and friend on the National Security Council), bristled when she dismissed Haass’ misgivings about the rush to war. The issue of war or peace, she indicated firmly, was closed.

It is now abundantly clear — and Haass’ account provides a powerful confirmation — that the "war of choice" was not the product of careful deliberation but a choice based on conviction. It was made by the great "Decider," who was prone to Manichaean oversimplifications, and it was passionately promoted within his administration by a cluster of neoconservative advocates. In Haass’ telling, the antiheroes — in addition to the younger Bush — are Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and Paul Bremer, who headed the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad.

Especially damning is Haass’ account of the inadequacy of the decision-making process. Haass notes repeatedly that the State Department was marginalized (unlike when James Baker ran it during the first Iraq war), with Bush holding it in "low regard." In early 2003, Haass himself produced a memorandum for Powell in which possible alternatives to immediate military action were outlined. He reports, "I wanted Bush to know he retained a way out." But the memorandum went nowhere.

The credibility of Haass’ account is heightened by his honest admission that initially he was open to considering the "war of choice." As he puts it, "I myself harbored no doubts" regarding Saddam’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction. Although troubled by the arbitrary and one-sided character of the decision-making process, his uneasiness "was not fundamental."

This admirably frank admission is pertinent to the key distinction that Haass emphasizes and that he uses as the title of his book. As he puts it, a war of necessity (the first Iraq war) is one in which the United States reacts to external actions of other states and goes to war when it is judged that those actions threaten vital U.S. interests. A war of choice, in contrast, is one in which the United States seeks to alter the character of other states and justifies going to war with ambitious ideological and moral goals…

It is now evident that in the case of the second war, the national shock induced by 9/11 — abetted (for whatever reason) by a campaign to stimulate public fear, fueled by demagogic and undiscriminating language about "Islamofascists," "jihadists," and "Muslim terrorism," not to mention apocalyptic references to "mushroom clouds" and "World War III" — created a toxic atmosphere. A democratic society was stampeded into endorsing (note the large number of Democratic senators who de facto voted for war) what initially only a few top decision-makers ardently desired. The president himself, as the national cheerleader, at one point even discussed with British Prime Minister Tony Blair the possibility of generating a casus belli for a war that he fervently believed was necessary…

Haass’ reflections give rise also to broader questions regarding the performance of the United States during the last several decades in shaping the geopolitics of the Middle East, especially with regard to the tragic Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The outcome of the first Iraq war could have been the point of departure for a more decisive and constructive U.S. policy regarding this troubled region. Coinciding with the fall of the Soviet Union, it stamped the United States as the winner in the prolonged but peacefully concluded global geopolitical and ideological conflict. The United States stood tall, basking in global admiration. As Haass notes, there were signs at the time that the first President Bush was ready to assert U.S. leadership in order to end the historically bitter and regionally radicalizing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The 1991 Madrid peace conference was the first tangible fruit of his evident determination. The United States pressured the Palestine Liberation Organization to moderate its stand regarding Israel’s existence, and at the same time, Bush voiced strong objections to Israel’s continued construction of settlements on Palestinian lands. His secretary of state, Baker, in a major statement to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (known as AIPAC), had earlier urged Israel "to lay aside, once and for all, the unrealistic vision of a greater Israel." (The speech was drafted by Haass, along with Dennis Ross and Daniel Kurtzer.)..

Although he is circumspect on this, Haass does provide some hints as to what he would favor if he were to have a third crack at policymaking in the U.S. government. In his view, a genuine peace must provide security for the Israelis and fairness for the Palestinians. To that end, he argues, the U.S. president should explicitly define in a major speech the key elements of a genuine peace of compromise and eventual reconciliation. George W. Bush’s failure to do so led a vague "roadmap" to peace to become a roadmap to an unknown destination; meanwhile, Bush’s public endorsement of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as "a man of peace" further alienated the Arabs. The result has been a fatalistic intransigence on the part of both the Israelis and the Palestinians. In Haass’ frankly stated verdict, the United States has failed to act…

President Barack Obama should draw an important lesson from Haass’ insightful memoir. If the new president is to avoid in the Middle East not only the gross errors of his immediate predecessor but also the much too long-lasting passivity of the Clinton years, he truly has to lead. Admittedly, making matters more difficult for him is the legacy of the last 16 years, when a subtle shift took place in the U.S. approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the United States moved from being a genuine mediator seeking to nudge both sides toward peace to holding a posture of thinly veiled partiality in favor of one of the parties to the conflict. The result has been detrimental to the prospects for peace — for without engaged and genuinely forthright U.S. mediation, the two parties to the conflict have shown themselves to be unable to reach a genuine compromise.

To make matters worse, Islamist extremism is gaining ground among a growing number of Palestinians, and Israeli politics are currently moving in an increasingly intransigent direction. In the months to come, the next Israeli prime minister may try to prod the United States to go to war with Iran, while arguing disingenuously that the Palestinians must first become economically more developed before an Israeli-Palestinian peace can be seriously considered. The argument regarding the Palestinian issue, in effect, will be for leaving things as they are, notwithstanding the danger that the prolonged stalemate (with its periodic violence and the relentless expansion of the settlements that it allows) is already poisoning the prospects for a two-state solution.

In these circumstances, continued U.S. passivity in the face of ugly necessity and painful choice will hurt the United States’ own national interest, show disregard for the suffering of the Palestinians, and eventually threaten Israel’s survival. In the Middle East, it is already quite late — although still not too late — for the United States to finally demonstrate the needed audacity of leadership.

A Tale of Two Wars – The Right War in Iraq, and the Wrong One (Review by Zbigniew Brzezinski of Richad Haass’ book ‘War of Necessity, War of Choice’ in Foreign Affairs)

CFR President Richard N. Haass was one of a handful of top government officials–along with Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and Bob Gates–involved in the decision-making process during both Iraq conflicts. In his new book, ‘War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars’ (Simon & Schuster), Haass–a member of the National Security Council staff in the George H. W. Bush administration and the State Department director of policy planning for Bush II–argues that the first Iraq war was both necessary and well-executed, and that the second was a war of choice, and a bad choice at that, as unwarranted as it was poorly conceived and implemented.

Haass explains precisely how and why the two Iraq wars resulted from two very different policymaking processes and two fundamentally different approaches to U.S. foreign policy, as well as two vastly different presidential personalities. Moreover, Haass looks to the future as much as the past, joining the ongoing debate about America’s purposes in the world and how it should go about achieving them.

The two Iraq wars, Haass contends, are of great importance not only in and of themselves, but for what they represent: the two dominant and competing schools of American foreign policy. The first represents a more traditionalist school, often described as "realist," that sees the principal purpose of what the United States does in the world as influencing the external behavior of states and relations among them. What goes on inside states is not irrelevant, but it is secondary. This was the approach of the country’s founders, of FDR and Harry Truman, of Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, and of Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush. The second Iraq war reflects an approach to foreign policy that is at once more ambitious and more difficult. It believes that the principal purpose of what the United States does in the world is to influence the nature of states and conditions within them, both for moral and ideological reasons as well as for practical ones, in the sense that mature democracies are judged to make for better and more peaceful international citizens. This was the foreign policy of Woodrow Wilson, to some extent that of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, and clearly that of George W. Bush.

Haass defends the first Iraq war as necessary for reasons both symbolic and strategic, judging that it was largely successful in its aims at a relatively modest cost. He also notes that the first Iraq war is consistent with the precepts of the just war: it was fought for a worthy cause, it was likely to succeed, it was undertaken with legitimate authority, and it was waged only as a last resort. On the other hand, Haass declares, "The second Iraq war was not necessary. …The United States could well have accomplished a change in regime behavior and a change in regime threat without regime change."

Further, Haass disagrees strongly with those who concede that the second Iraq war was not necessary but argue that it was justifiable or desirable nonetheless. The ouster of Saddam Hussein was a positive development, to be sure, but Haass maintains that any benefit from it is far outweighed by the war’s devastating human, military, economic, moral, diplomatic, and political costs. Mindful that events in Iraq are still unfolding, Haass nevertheless remains highly skeptical that any additional benefits from an increasingly stable Iraq would ever come close to outweighing those costs.

Haass, who first visited Iraq some thirty years ago and was most recently there this April, also takes issue with those who argue that the main problem with the second Iraq war was its implementation rather than its rationale. Even if the United States had conducted the war and its aftermath with far more troops and much better handling of Iraqi reconstruction, it is far from certain that the outcome would have been successful. In short, Haass concludes, "Using military force to oust regimes and build democracies is simply too costly and too uncertain in results to constitute a sustainable approach to U.S. foreign policy."

Yet Haass’s point is not to rule out all wars of choice. He writes: "The standards for wars of choice must be high if the human, military, and economic costs are to be justified. There are unlimited opportunities to use military power–but limited ability to do so. …Even a great power needs to husband its resources. American democracy is ill-suited to an imperial foreign policy where wars are undertaken for some ‘larger good’ but where the immediate costs appear greater than any benefit. Wars of choice are thus largely to be avoided–if only to make sure there will be adequate will and ability to pursue wars of necessity when they materialize.">War of Necessity, War of Choice: CFR President Richard Haass’s Memoir of Two Iraq Wars – Newsrelease

Onverbeterlijke messianist Tony Blair blijft zijn steun voor Bush’s heilloos-contra-productieve invasie van Irak volhouden en roept op tot een ‘oorlog’ tegen islamisme. Hij ontkent een samenhang tussen islamisme in het Midden-Oosten en het zionistisch beleid van Israel, alsook de historische invloed van Westers kolonialisme. Wel heeft hij door dat deze ‘oorlog’ niet alleen met militaire middelen kan worden gewonnen.

Tony Blair calls on world to wage war on militant Islam (


One thought on “The Right War in Iraq, and the Wrong One (Review by Zbigniew Brzezinski)

  1. OBAMA maakt deel uit van de machtige zionistische (Pro-Groot)-Israel lobby. Het enige punt waarop de twee zouden kunnen botsen is de kwestie van het brutale misdadige geweld, dat er op is gericht andere mensen tot op het bot te vernederen. Dat is de essentie van de zionistische machtspolitiek. Anderen die kritiek hebben demoniseren, terugbrengen tot een dingmatige toestand waarin je er alles mee mag doen.
    OBAMA zegt tegen MARTELEN te zijn. Israel is daar altijd voor geweest.

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