BACK TO : PUBLIC DIPLOMACY (PD) and CULTURAL DIPLOMACY (CD)
New Perspectives Quarterly Special Issue on Public Diplomacy
Reverse Public Diplomacy: From Quagmire to Debacle in Iraq
1) Hostility to America Has Never Been So Great
Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security advisor to President Jimmy Carter, remains one of America's few eminent strategic thinkers. His just published book is The Choice: Global Domination or Global Leadership (Basic Books, 2004). He spoke with NPQ editor Nathan Gardels recently.
NPQ | Toward the end of your new book, The Choice, you state your ultimate thesis: "It is essential for American leadership to recognize that, in this age of worldwide political awakening and shared international vulnerability, security depends not only on military power but also on the prevailing climate of opinion, the political definition of social passions and the foci of fanatical hatreds."
With the Abu Ghraib photos and the general diplomatic and security debacle of the Iraq war, hasn't the United States already lost the battle for a sympathetic climate of world opinion, making itself even more a focus of hatred than before 9/11?
Zbigniew Brzezinski | Yes. And no. Yes, the US has certainly harmed itself badly, even dangerously. No, because the battle is a never-ending one with no final victory or defeat.
It is important for the US to try to recoup. If not, the progressive deterioration of America's position will undermine our leadership and plunge the world into intensifying chaos.
In our entire history as a nation, world opinion has never been as hostile toward the US as it is today. In the past, in particular during the Cold War, there were major waves of anti-Americanism, usually associated with the left. Today, anti-Americanism is a pervasive global outlook that embraces both the left and right. Tragically, most of that is self-inflicted.
It is not only the Iraq policy of the Bush administration that has caused this. The Bush administration is the first administration since the onset of the Cold War 50 years ago not to place itself in the political mainstream, not to reflect moderation, not to practice at least defacto bipartisanship, but to embrace extremist principles. Inevitably, extremism produces recklessness. That is what we are seeing now.
NPQ | You have written about the key global appeal of America's open society, its democracy and respect for human rights. Now, many abroad - including China and the Arab countries - see hypocrisy.
How badly has the torture and abuse of Iraqis by American forces damaged America's credibility and reputation?
Brzezinski | It is very badly damaged. And I have the moral right to say so: For years I pressed the cause of human rights, even when it was unpopular back in the 1970s. Also, I have been critical of the Bush project on Iraq all along, even at a time when most Democrats were silent and some were even cheerleaders.
However, when some of the more egregious violators of human rights abroad argue now that we are as bad as they are, they forget one central relevant aspect of all this: What happened in Abu Ghraib prison is repeated on a huge scale on a daily basis in various gulags around the world. The difference is that, elsewhere, such sadistic excesses are not usually exposed by the regimes concerned. Our system, relatively promptly - within a few months - is exposing the crimes and responding with open investigations and prospective punishments.
The fact of the matter is, it is Americans who have exposed what happened on their own and it is US senators who are investigating the matter. It is the US president, of whom I am very critical, who has apologized publicly. It is Americans who will make sure the guilty will be punished.
This same could not be said about China, or Russia, or many others, including the Arabs.
NPQ | There is another aspect of America that, in your view, has not been so appealing or helpful to the American image abroad - its mass culture, which you've labeled "out-of-control secularism" and a "permissive cornucopia."
On top of these human rights issues now, isn't there necessarily a conflict between the sensate liberalism of America's postmodern mass culture, projected globally by the media, and the socially conservative culture of Islam? When Ayatollah Sistani, the Shiite leader in Iraq, and his followers see Janet Jackson bare her breast at the Super Bowl, doesn't that provoke even more anti-American passion?
Brzezinski | Your example, actually, is rather mild considering what else goes on in American culture and finds its way to the rest of the world. There is extreme pornography, even on midafternoon TV. Many aspects of American culture are, one has to admit, objectionable, vulgar, disgusting and morally degrading.
There is thus no doubt that this intensifies the cultural cleavages in the world. Americans must face this fact because otherwise we are in no position to criticize other cultures for their religious principles or concerning relations between the sexes. Some degree of modesty about our own way of life is called for.
But that does not negate the fact that, by and large, there is a global trend toward more freedom and more democracy. In many respects, the US remains in the forefront of these trends.
NPQ | In your book, you worry that America's political isolation might lead to the rise of a "countercreed." It seems to me there are three candidates. First, the "get-rich-is-glorious-stability" creed of China. Second, the "quality-of-life" creed of Europe that rejects American mass consumption patterns. Three, political Islam that rejects globalized secularism.
Given the damage being done to the US by Bush's foreign policy, are any of those candidates in your view?
Brzezinski | All the candidates you mention have the same limitation: They can't be global creeds. Both China and Europe are inward oriented and don't generate political passions aside from self-interest. It is very difficult to see comfortable Europeans waging a global struggle on behalf of five-week vacations.
Political Islam generates passion, but it is hard to universalize it unless accompanied by some idea of global conversion to Islam. That will motivate a few, but it is unlikely to mobilize many in non-Islamic societies.
The countercreed that I fear may be arising is a combination of the widespread revulsion against globalization as a self-interested process of the relatively few rich to disempower the poor along with an intensified anti-Americanism which views the US as not only the motor of that unfair globalization but also as the source of political and cultural imperialism.
That outlook can appeal simultaneously to people in Asia as well as Latin America, in Africa as well as Europe and Russia. This strikes me as a possibility because of the intensified anti-Americanism that has resulted from the egregious way that the Bush administration misled the world about the reasons for war in Iraq, and then the mishandling of the war itself.
NPQ | What is the American strategy to avoid the rise of this countercreed?
Brzezinski | Americans need to wake up to the fact that something very signicant has happened in the wake of 9/11. We were all shocked by that, but then a small group with extremist views exploited that shock and hijacked American foreign policy. With enormous arrogance and contempt for others, they embarked on a policy that isolated us from the world as never before.
The country needs to remember that the previous 60 years of success in American foreign policy over many administrations came from the rejection of extremism - both of the right and the left. After 9/11, a group of strategic extremists managed to gain control of a president with messianic proclivities and no grasp of the complexity of the global situation. Their cumulative actions have done unprecedented damage to America's long-term interests.
That is why there is now the need for a choice: Will America return to the past successes of global leadership or damage itself critically in the extremist pursuit of global domination?
2) US Torture Sets Back Cause of Human Rights in Arab World
Boutros Boutros-Ghali is the former secretary-general of the United Nations. His comments are adapted from a conversation with NPQ on May 6.
Paris - There are three results from the revelations of abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American forces in Iraq. First, the image of the United States has become very negative, especially in the Arab world.
Second, they damage the role of organizations all around the world that deal with the protection of human rights and humanitarian law in the time of war. I am the president of the Egyptian Commission on Human Rights. It will be more difficult for me now to say, "Look, the international community is demanding that we clean up the human rights situation, to take care of this or that." The response will be: "The superpower is not respecting human rights in Iraq or Guantanamo," so the pressure is off. Different governments all over the world will say that security is more important than the protection of human rights, that in the case of terrorist action we can ignore human rights.
Third, these photos are a gift to Al Qaeda and to other terrorist groups that will be formed in the future, all over the world.
To be dynamic, terrorism needs a war. Terrorism has grown as a result of the wars in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya. Terrorists were trained in these places. They obtained arms there. These wars helped them find recruits and mobilize young terrorists.
We have the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And we have the war inside Iraq. The terrorists need this war. Nothing is more important to them. The day you have no more war in Iraq and Chechnya or confrontation in Palestine, then terrorism will wither.
The aim of the international community after 9/11 was to fight terrorism. Through the war in Iraq we aren't fighting terrorism but stimulating it.
While the revelations have certainly complicated the efforts of those who seek democratization in the Arab world, as the US has been pushing, I personally believe we must not exaggerate the negative impact. Historically, the US has done many good things, from its role in World War I and II and the Marshall Plan to giving birth to both the League of Nations and the United Nations.
Having said that, I doubt that Arab public opinion agrees with me because of the subjective attitude taken by the US in favor of the Israelis over the Palestinians. Everybody agrees there is only one mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the US. Yet, for 50 years the US has not resolved this conflict. That is because it is not an objective mediator. As result, the whole world sees the Arabs and Muslims as the underdog.
The fact that there has been no solution to the Palestinian problems complicates everything else in the region.
ON THE UN ROLE | What is clear is that the Security Council is no longer divided between those who wanted war and those who didn't. Now there is a consensus that, together, we must put an end to this war and make peace-building work, that the Iraq transition and reconstruction can't be allowed to fail and fall into civil war. Everybody understands this, even those who opposed the US invasion.
The UN has great experience with many of the issues Iraq now faces. There is, for example, the classic problem of national reconciliation among divided peoples which the UN has been able to solve on a smaller scale in El Salvador, Mozambique and Cambodia.
The UN also has relevant experience with key problems such as integrating former members of the military or rebel forces within a newly established military. These tasks require diplomacy. They must be done either by the UN or the military coalition.
At present, however, there is a crisis of credibility between the Iraqi people and the US-led coalition. The only way to overcome that is for the UN participation to be real and not just camouflage or a decoration that hides a continuing American presence. If the perception of the Iraqi people is that there is no difference between the role of the UN and the US, then the UN role will not be very constructive.
SUPERPOWER LIMITS | There are two limits: One, public opinion in the US does not favor the US playing the role of global policeman. Two, whatever the power of the US, it doesn't have the capacity on its own to cope with Iraq, let alone all the other crises that have emerged simultaneously around the world - war in the south of Sudan and genocide in Darfur, Ivory Coast, Colombia, Georgia. Even if it is outside the framework of the UN, the US needs allies and a multilateral approach for this multitude of problems. Even as the No. 1 global power, it needs others.
3) America Is No Longer the Global Standard for Human Rights
Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian human rights lawyer, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003. Her comments are adapted from a conversation with NPQ on May 15.
Tehran - Working to defend human rights in Iran is a bit like walking down the street with a bomb. You are treated by the authorities as subversive. And, indeed, 20 years ago when the powers that be wanted to insult me, they called me, in a perjorative way, "a feminist and defender of human rights" as if that was something bad.
Today, we have made progress. We have been able to establish a non-governmental human rights organization in Iran and our human rights cause has been recognized internationally by, among others, the Nobel committee.
So, it has been a long struggle.
During all those years, Eleanor Roosevelt was an always present inspiration to me because of the work she did in putting together the International Bill of Rights for the United Nations. Whenever I read that document, I could hear Mrs. Roosevelt speaking to us in Iran. For me, her name and the campaign for human rights have been inseparable.
Thanks to this legacy, I fully agree that America was recognized as the standard of human rights everywhere.
But now, when I see these pictures from Iraq, I ask myself, "What has happened to the American civilization?" Of all the apologies in order by America's current political leaders, one of the most important is an apology to the spirit of Mrs. Roosevelt. My hope is that, in the future, America can once again be recognized as the standard bearer of human rights and not for what it has been doing recently in Iraq.
NOT FOR EXPORT | Democracy is not a gift that can be given on a golden tray. It is not some kind of merchandise that can be imported on a boat or established by tanks rumbling through cities. Democracy is an historical process that must develop from within each society in order to achieve legitimacy. History requires patience. Even in Iran, one day we will get there.
Of course, outside pressure from the international community can be an important factor. But if a country sincerely believes in the spread of democracy to others, it can only be through the UN. It is only through the UN that countries which lack democracy can be told to respect human rights and be accountable to their people.
When Iraq invaded Kuwait, we saw that, because of a response endorsed by the UN, Iraq pulled back. The invasion of Iraq this time did not have such an endorsement and is thus wrong, illegal and counterproductive. It lacks legitimacy.
After this invasion, many are asking "What is the use of the UN?" But our endeavor should be to strengthen the UN, not make it weaker. Among the most important acts in support of a strong UN would be for countries - including the United States and Iran - to support the International Criminal Court.
NO DEMOCRACY, NO AID | Non-democratic countries should not receive aid from the IMF or World Bank. Credits that flow to non-democratic regimes are normally misused and siphoned off into corruption or unnecessary projects since there is no accountability or transparency. And because a dictatorship will inevitably fall one day, the people will be left with all the debt once they come to power. Eighty percent of the developing world's population is saddled with paying back debts, not one cent of the amount they owe having been used for their health or welfare.
Democratic governance should thus be a precondition of the World Bank for giving loans. They are only fooling themselves to believe that there can be economic development without political development.
HIJAB RULES | Without understanding and tolerating different cultures, there is no way we can achieve peace in the world. To insist on one's own standards for everyone else in society is not the right way. Women should be free to live as they wish. As such, I oppose the ban on headscarves in French public schools just I oppose the forced imposition of wearing the headscarf in Iran.
4) When Hard Power Undermines Soft Power
Joe Nye, dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, is also a former chairman of the CIA's National Intelligence Council. His most recent book is Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. (Public Affairs, 2004).
NPQ | In your recent book, Soft Power, you wrote: "Politics has become a contest of competitive credibility. The world of traditional power politics is typically about whose military or economy wins. Politics in an information age may ultimately be about whose story wins."
No WMD have been found in Iraq. The occupation is deteriorating. Then there are the photos of abused and tortured Iraqi prisoners. Has America's story lost?
Joe Nye | I'm afraid so. We are losing credibility. The story we told about why we went into Iraq - to find and destroy WMD - has turned out to be very thin. Part of that story was also about bringing democracy and human rights to Iraq. Instead, the story that has emerged is documented in those photos, which shattered US credibility.
All this has been very costly to American soft power - our power of attraction as an open, democratic society and market economy - as opinion polls throughout the world show. American standing has lost 30 points on average in European countries - including our supposed allies such as Britain, Spain and Italy - since the end of the Clinton administration. We've done much worse in the Islamic world. In Indonesia, the largest Muslim country, three-quarters of those polled had a positive image of the US in 2000. Now, since the Iraq war, that has tumbled to 15 percent.
Polls show that more people in Jordan and Pakistan are attracted to Osama bin Laden than George W. Bush, which is worrying since these are frontline states in the struggle against Al Qaeda.
NPQ | Is this the worst crisis of American soft power in your memory?
Nye | It is analagous to Vietnam. We have to remember how unpopular the US was toward the end of the Vietnam War. My Lai, the massacre of women and children, was worse than what has happened at Abu Ghraib.
Yet, within a decade, America had recovered from the loss of soft power. But we did it by changing our policy and projecting new policies, such as President Jimmy Carter's focus on human rights in foreign policy.
So, it is possible to recover. It won't be easy. And it won't be possible without a change in policy. Above all, to recover in the Middle East, we have to return to the kind of push for Middle East peace that nearly came to fruition under Bill Clinton. That is a litmus test.
We're also going to have to live up to our values by not only punishing corporals for the Abu Ghraib abuses. We're going to have go higher up the chain of command to assign responsibility. The fact that we, as an open democracy, are willing to criticize ourselves and take corrective action, is a critical saving grace of the American way; it will restore our credibility like nothing else.
Beyond this, the US needs to be more consultative with other countries and again engage multilateral institutions. A great deal of the loss of American soft power is because others feel we don't take into account their interests in our actions. Arrogance and unilateralism in American foreign policy has cost us.
In short, the damage is reparable. If people were repelled by American culture, that would be hard to change. If they are repelled by our policies, we can change those. It is the fund of good will that comes out of our culture that can turn things around.
NPQ | That may have been more true at an earlier time in American history. But today's postmodern mass culture is hardly appealing to those in the socially conservative Muslim world. When Janet Jackson exposed her breast at the Super Bowl, it was hard enough for many American parents to take, no less an ascetic cleric like Ayatollah Sistani, the Shiite leader in Iraq.
Nye | American popular culture can be repulsive as well as attractive. It is only soft power where it has a positive effect. The mullahs who run Iran are no doubt horrified at Hollywood movies in which divorced women wear bikinis and go to work every day. But, Iranian teenagers want nothing more than a Hollywood video to watch in the privacy of their home.
NPQ | That's a good thing or a bad thing?
Nye | The point is that not all people, even in conservative Islamic countries, are necessarily repelled by American popular culture.
Moreover, a lot of American soft power comes from our "higher culture" such as education and exchange programs. The vast majority of foreign students who study in the US return home with a positive estimation of American life.
NPQ | Would you say that America's soft power is in crisis today because it has been undermined by hard power?
Nye | The way we have gone about using our hard power has undermined our soft power. If we had been less impatient and more consultative going into Iraq, we would have done less damage.
We can now see that the devaluation of soft power can undermine hard power. Because of American arrogance, the democratic Turkish parliament refused to see the war as legitimate and wouldn't allow US troops to launch from their soil. That undermined the hard power strategy of the US in a very concrete way.
Success comes not from hard power or soft power, but by their effective combination.
NPQ | What can public diplomacy do to reverse this crisis of American soft power?
Nye | The basic rule of advertising is that you can't sell a lousy product. It will indeed be hard to sell America to the world again unless we change our policies.
Nonetheless, we are barely making the effort. In 2002, the US spent $150 million on all the exchange and broadcasting programs that comprise public diplomacy. That is about two hours worth of the annual defense budget. We spend 400 times more on hard power than soft power.
5) The Degeneration of War
Paul Kennedy is the Dilworth Professor of History and director of International Security Studies at Yale University and author or editor of 16 books, including The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.
New Haven, Conn. - I recently participated in a fascinating international conference at Yale University entitled "The Degeneration of War 1914-1945." Scholars at the conference discussed a number of disturbing case studies from both World War I and World War II where fighting had become much more deadly, military discipline had declined, and human rights had become increasingly abused. While the focus was limited to those two struggles, it is clear that the concept of the degeneration of war can easily be transferred to other times and places.
There are at least two types of degeneration - or, if you like, deterioration - in wartime. The first relates to the sheer physical increase in the lethality of the weapons used, leading to many more battlefield casualties than expected. Think of the impact of the machine gun and barbed wire upon the Battle of the Somme (1916), where the British Army suffered 60,000 dead and wounded on the first day of assaults. Lethality could also strike on the home front. Think of the evolution of strategic bombing in World War II, where the load of munitions dropped in 1939-40 by the Germans (Warsaw, Amsterdam, London) was small compared with that in 1945 by the Allies (Dresden, Tokyo). This is degeneration by body-count.
The second form of degeneration in war is even more disturbing. It concerns the lowering of standards, the disregard of the Hague and Geneva conventions, the mistreatment of prisoners and civilians, the forced expulsion of peoples, the mass slaughter of ethnic and religious groups. The history of the bloody 20th century is replete with examples of all of the above, although previous ages are also littered with atrocities (the Thirty Years War in Europe, the English settlers' onslaught upon the Indians in North America, the Ottoman capture of Constantinople).
I came away from that conference wondering sadly whether any of the leading members of the Bush administration and the neo-conservative intellectuals who encouraged the White House to march on Baghdad had ever considered that our present war in Iraq might produce its own litter of degenerations. After all, it now appears that many Army generals warned that maintaining law and order in Iraq would be much more difficult than simply ousting Saddam, that urban warfare would be horrible, and that casualties would rise. But the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz team had no intention of listening to professionals - unless, of course, the soldiers agreed with their own rosy interpretation of how the war would go.
The second, more horrible form of degeneration is right before our eyes, in the photographs and videos of what went on in the Abu Ghraib prison and, as one now hears from the International Red Cross, in various other detention camps. This has infuriated the world, and also shocked many Americans, who have hitherto had an incredibly high regard for their armed forces. Since the debacles of the Vietnam War, those forces were portrayed as having become much more professional, not only in higher levels of fighting efficiency but also in better discipline and codes of conduct. Besides, they were told by their political superiors they were not likely to encounter a Vietnam War-type deterioration in Iraq, because the great bulk of the Iraqi population was yearning to see American troops enter the country and liberate them from Saddam Hussein.
This, too, is disturbing. American public opinion was fed optimistic messages at the same time as US decision-makers were blind to the lessons of military history, which is that most wars get worse, not better, no matter the strength of your armed fist. The cynical observer is bound to wonder whether the reason the Pentagon so furiously campaigned against the International Criminal Court over the past three or more years is precisely because it foresaw this might happen, somewhere in the future, and wanted to protect US soldiers from international investigation and tribunal. International judgment is fine for criminal Serbians, and Sudanese, and Rwandans, but not for Americans.
As the first form of degeneration spread, losses grew, and the fighting became more bloody and frustrating to young American troops, the second type of degeneration began to occur - not 10 days ago, but last year. Exhausted by the conflict, annoyed that their promised return home had not been fulfilled, enraged at the death of buddies, certain American units treated their prisoners roughly.
Worst of all were the actions of the Army's prison guard units, who look to have been lower rated and less disciplined troops, with many of the habits of warders of penitentiaries in the American South before civil rights reforms. There is also the dubious matter of privately contracted prison guards, which surely Congress needs to investigate. To this can be added the misjudgments of middle officers and the neglect of senior ones. With morale and conduct breaking down at various levels, dirty deeds were done.
War is hell. As Clausewitz so frequently warned, it rarely ends up where it was planned to conclude. This is something the neo-conservative strategists never thought about. Moral degeneration in war is something that the higher military leaders, although they worried that the post-battle situation would not be pleasant, did not anticipate.
Mid-level officers, concerned to emphasize toughness and fortitude to their troops, forgot on occasions to stress the rules of war. Now a fine service is besmirched. Heads will roll, of course, not at the level where they should, that of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. But the disastrous and unintended consequences of this degenerated behavior do not cease there.
The United States has stepped further into the Iraqi quagmire, dragging the British, Australian, Polish, Italian and other allied governments into the mud with it. As it now turns to the United Nations for help - the organization Vice President Dick Cheney and company dismissed as irrelevant last year - it has no prospect of immediate support. This administration, if it is not careful, has the chance of destroying the UN system, of which President Bush's father was such a strong supporter. We desperately need a strong and respected Security Council to sort out the mire, but why should China and France get off their backsides and support America at this stage? Why should India, a clear candidate for a permanent veto seat, stir itself when the US is twisting in the wind?
Prof. Niall Ferguson's teasing and controversial new book Colossus (Penguin, New York, April 2004) has as its important sub-title "The Price of the American Empire." The US has all the power in the world, in a military and material sense, he argues, but its public cannot take serious losses on the ground in foreign wars and America cannot handle its own grave domestic scal and trade deficits. Above all, one might add, it cannot reconcile this blow (the news of blatant and grisly mistreatment of prisoners) to its ideological and cultural claims to being a "city on the hill," a light to the nations, a torchbearer of democracy and human rights.
The single photo of a young, raw, female recruit holding a naked Iraqi man on a dog leash is going to unbundle the Wolfowitzian dream of turning Iraq and the entire Middle East into something like Kansas. All that hubris is blown apart and, beneath the surface, the murmurs about retreat and abandonment are rising, even inside Washington. Yet Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's departure, if it comes, will only fan the flames.
The Arab world will rejoice, America's critics will say "I told you so," America's friends will take cover, and the mess will go on. And June 30 - when sovereignty is scheduled to revert to Iraq - looms. Anyone who claims they know the outcome is (as George Bernard Shaw used to say) a charlatan. We are in for a turbulent ride. Once you start a war, never think you can control its degeneration and its consequences.
6) The United Nations: The Indispensable Institution
Madeleine Albright is the former US secretary of State and a former US ambassador to the United Nations. She spoke with NPQ editor Nathan Gardels on May 24 before a speech to the Pacific Council in San Francisco.
NPQ | You once famously made the statement that the United States was an "indispensable power," to which (UN Secretary-General) Kofi Annan replied: The United Nations is an "indispensable institution." He now appears to be right.
What does the return of the US to the UN say about the UN role in world affairs, and about the limits of American power?
Madeleine ALBRIGHT | It is ironic that the Bush administration has spent all its time denigrating the UN and now needs it.
I continue to believe that the US is an indispensable power. I made that statement not to irritate other countries, but to invigorate Americans so they wouldn't think "we aren't needed, let someone else do it" when we had to act in the Balkans.
I feel strongly about an activist American foreign policy. But I never meant that America could act alone. Indispensable doesn't mean unilateral. And it doesn't mean ubiquitous or all powerful. It means we need to be there.
The cliche about the UN is true: It would have to be invented if it didn't exist. It is in many ways indispensable as a forum and legitimator. But the UN is just the sum of its parts. The US has to be supportive-both morally and physically-of the UN to make it effective.
It is not a derogation of our own sovereignty to cooperate with others through the UN. Working with the UN and allies is not a Lilliputian tying-down of America; it is a force multiplier.
NPQ | Does the Bush administration's turn back to the UN mean it now shares your vision?
ALBRIGHT | No. Having weakened the UN considerably, it now realizes it needs it.
That is the tragedy here. In the Clinton administration, we were on a path to strengthen the UN and the US position in it. We had worked out a lot of the modalities, for example, about cooperation on peacekeeping, and the UN was becoming effective.
Then you got this group in. Right away, they started acting as if the UN were a burden and denigrated it.
NPQ | Now that the UN is in such a weakened position, it can hardly be a panacea for the Iraq mess. As in other places, it can aid reconstruction and help organize elections. But Ko Annan has made it clear he is unwilling to do so unless there is adequate security. NATO has balked at this mission so far, as have most of America's traditional allies.
The emerging debate in the US is between those who want to set a certain date for withdrawal-because they see America's very presence as provocative-and those who want to increase American troops. Where do you stand?
ALBRIGHT | I don't know if this administration is capable of xing the security situation. It may take new leadership so the other countries that need to be involved don't suspect some kind of sleight of hand, patting the UN on the head and doing it ourselves anyway.
There needs to be a sense that the UN really can do the job and that the credibility of the UN, sustained by the US, can be re-created.
It is a real chicken and egg question. I understand why the UN doesn't want to go in without security guarantees. And I do think that if the American face is taken off the Iraq situation, other countries would join in as part of a security force.
The question is: What comes first? Ko Annan has some faith that if Iraq is legitimized by a UN Security Council resolution and it does become a genuine UN operation, then countries would join in. But the syncopation has to be right.
The American people need to know there is an end to this, but I'm not sure announcing a certain date for withdrawal is a good idea. When we did that for Bosnia, we had to change it. A certain date for leaving also sets a certain date for the enemy: They can lay low and wait it out. What we learned in the Balkans is that it is better to have benchmarks for achievements-for example, a real transfer of sovereignty, preparations for elections-rather than a set date for withdrawal. A date or an ultimatum ends up being a gun to your own head, not to that of the enemy.
If it all comes together-for example, if a NATO core with some Muslim countries attached can be assembled as the Americans systematically withdraw-it is conceivable that America can diminish its presence faster than some date set in the abstract future.
NPQ | You were very much involved in the expansion of NATO. Is providing security for Iraq something NATO should be involved in?
ALBRIGHT | One of the reasons for expanding NATO was so that it could do out-of-area missions. This is one of those missions it should take on. However, even if there is full NATO approval of such a role, it is not necessary that all NATO members participate. With so many countries now in NATO, not everybody has to do everything.
For example, the Germans apparently have some questions about sending troops to Iraq under any circumstances. They are in Afghanistan, though. If they don't want to be a part of an Iraq force, but will allow it to go forward, that would work fine for me.
Conceivably, some key NATO countries could form the core of an Iraq security force that would then attract other non-NATO members, especially from the Muslim countries such as Malaysia or Indonesia or Bangladesh as well as some Arab countries.
NPQ | Ryszard Kapuscinski, the Polish literary journalist, once summed up the lesson of all those failed revolutions of the 20th century. He said, "There are no shortcuts in history. You can't force a social and political process before its time, or it will fail."
The neo-cons behind the Bush Iraq strategy believed Francis Fukuyama's idea of "the end to history" and thought they could use force to bring free markets and democracy to the Middle East.
Would you agree that there are "no shortcuts to the end of history"?
ALBRIGHT | I've never understood this idea that history wouldn't go on after democracy has spread. But, yes, democracy is not an event, it is a process. You can't shortcut it.
We've learned something in the countries of Eastern and Central Europe. We thought that since a country like the Czech Republic had once had democracy and, if you offered it again, you could take the shortcut back. But you can't. Fifty years of communism did have an effect. People prefer to eat and have their pensions rather than vote.
While democracy was attractive to intellectuals, it didn't answer many of the needs of the ordinary people. That is why you've had swing-backs in all these countries to some renamed Socialist/Communist parties. We are seeing the same thing in Latin America.
It is clear that political development can't happen without economic development. You have to have both.
Democracy has to evolve in time. It is not elections. It is the existence of a social program, of a middle class and of effective institutions built over time. You can't shortcut this, in Central Europe or Latin America or the Middle East.
NPQ | So, you can't take this "bolshevik" approach of bringing democracy by invasion?
ALBRIGHT | Definitely not. "Imposing democracy" is an oxymoron. It doesn't work. It can't work. It has to bubble up from the bottom.
7) Making Vietnam's Mistakes All Over Again
(Retired) Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni is a decorated Vietnam veteran who served with US forces in Somalia and preceded Tommy Franks and John Abizaid as commander of Central Command, the nerve center of the US military in the Middle East. He also served briefly as a Special Envoy to the Middle East for the current Bush administration. The following is excerpted from a discussion at the Burkle Center for International Affairs at UCLA on May 14.
Los Angeles - I spoke to some very senior Arab friends recently about the abuses of Iraqi prisoners by American forces and they were just really destroyed by it. They are very pro-American, and they know the damage these images cause in their part of the world. They said to me what I already know: "You would have been better off with pictures of troops executing these prisoners, shooting them in the head, than doing what they did. In this part of the world, this is easily the worst atrocity that could have been committed, even worse than execution."
That humiliation, for them, is the worst of all situations.
I have spent my life as a United States military man in the Caribbean, in the Far East, in Africa, in the Middle East, in Southwest Asia, in Central Asia and in Europe. Our biggest flaw is that we never take time to understand the culture. Some things we do that make perfect sense to us do not make perfect sense in another culture.
As a result, look at the mistakes we've made in Iraq day by day: the de-Baathification, the disbanding of the army, bringing in exiles and propping them up as leadership - we have made every mistake we possibly could.
COMPARING IRAQ AND VIETNAM | Some of the strategic mistakes are very similar. First of all, in Vietnam we went in with a flawed strategy. Remember, the strategy was that we had to stop communism before the dominoes fell. All of Southeast Asia would come apart once Vietnam fell. Obviously it fell and the rest of Southeast Asia didn't. It was a flawed strategy.
Here we have a strategy that we can change this part of the world by going into Iraq, installing democracy, and it's going to explode throughout the region. Comments like "the road to Jerusalem leads through Baghdad," when just the opposite is true. A flawed strategy.
The second comparison is trying to draw the American people into support of the war by cooking the books. We did it with the Gulf of Tonkin situation, where we were led to believe there was an attack on our destroyers while they were innocently in international waters, when they weren't. They were in North Vietnam territorial waters supporting an ongoing operation. And here we have had the case for WMD as an imminent threat for not using international authority to go in.
We had a situation in Vietnam where we underestimated the threat or the situation. We have a case here where we underestimated the threat or the situation. We had a case in Vietnam where we went in without a viable plan. We have a case here where we have gone in with no plan, not even a less than viable plan.
We made mistakes on the ground in Vietnam. We made tactical mistakes, we made policy mistakes. As an example, one-year individual rotations, not mobilizing the reserves. We have made mistakes here, overmobilizing the reserves...de-Baathification, not understanding the situation and the culture. So there are a lot of similarities.
THE PROBLEM AT THE PENTAGON | I like somebody in the chain of command who has "smelled a little powder," as my father, who was a World War I vet, used to say. If you smelled powder, you have a different view, you think twice and you are very careful. If you haven't, it's just one big adventure until you have seen the first body. And, unfortunately, we don't have enough people. All the warriors - Rich Armitage and Colin Powell - are in the State Department. There are more medals in the State Department than there are in the Department of Defense, unfortunately.
NOW WHAT? | I think security is the most pressing problem there right now. It's hard to get past that. But the more substantial problem is jobs. You need to get the economy functioning. If the Iraqis have jobs, I think they will stand up to the extremists that are trying to destroy their country much more firmly. If you don't have a job and you are unsure of the government and the security situation is bad, you have nothing. I saw this in Vietnam. We are seeing this again here. The people feel like they are caught in between. You've got to give the people something to fight for. And it's not enough just to say they can vote somebody in. They've not only got to vote somebody in, they have to have a sense of well-being.
THE ABSENCE OF A PLAN | In 1998 we bombed Iraq. [Saddam Hussein] threw out the inspectors and we conducted an operation called Desert Fox. And we bombed facilities that could have been used to develop weapons systems for WMD because we didn't know if he had them or didn't have them, but we could hit missile-production facilities, the intelligence headquarters, etc.
At the end of that four days, an interesting thing happened. I was commander of Central Command at the time, and we started to get reports from embassies in the region that they had never seen the Iraqi government so shaken, almost paralyzed. And when I traveled around the region and spoke to Kuwaitis, Jordanians and others, they said, "You know, you are bombing them all the time, you are hitting them, and you are shaking them. What if he were to collapse? What if you got Saddam in a palace or somewhere, or the people rose up and it's chaos? What are you going to do about it?"
It struck me then that we had a plan to defeat Saddam's army, but we didn't have a plan to rebuild Iraq. And so I asked the different agencies of government to come together to talk about reconstruction planning for Iraq.
So at Central Command before I left - I retired in 2000 - I started a plan called Desert Crossing for the reconstruction of Iraq because I was convinced nobody in Washington was going to plan for it, and we, the military, would get stuck with it. So when I left in 2000, we were in the process of that planning. When it looked like we were going in, I called back down to CentCom and said, "You need to dust off Desert Crossing."
They said, "What's that? Never heard of it." So in a matter of just a few years, it was gone. The institutional memory had lapsed completely.
In February , the month before the war, I was called before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to testify on this, and the panel before me was the planner for the State Department and the planner for the Pentagon. And they were briefing their so-called plan. It was clear to me that there was no plan. The current government was way underestimating what they were getting into. That they had done virtually no planning.
Why didn't they do it? They naively misjudged the scope and the complexity of the problems they were going to have. They thought they could do it seat of the pants.
This whole war was a big mistake on our part that has produced an unneeded bag of worms. It was elective surgery that didn't need to be done.
GETTING OUT | The time has not yet come to get out - but it could be getting close, unfortunately. I hate to say that. I want to see this work, from the bottom of my heart. And I think we keep making mistakes. The first rule if you find yourself in a hole is, stop digging. We seem to keep digging.
Nobody in the world, with the exception of the crazies and extremists and jihadis, wants us to fail. Not the French, not the Arabs. They all want us to succeed. They don't agree with what we have done here and the way we've done it, the way we have gone in there, but everybody sees failure as far worse than crowing that "I told you so." They don't want that. We have to come out with a stable Iraq. I think that the key is getting a United Nations resolution, going back to that model the first President Bush put in place after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. It should have been what we did in the first place....
It might have taken six months, nine months, or a year. But who cares? There was no imminent threat. Believe me. I saw the intelligence before the war. There was no imminent threat.
We have to start there. We need a resolution by the UN that will allow other countries, especially those in the region, that can and want to help to come in. We need to set up the security forces in Iraq so they are viable. That will take a while. We need to get Iraqi businessmen and foreign investors together. We need to protect their businesses. We need to get them up and started so there are jobs for Iraqis. We need a political process that makes sense. We need to create political parties that are transparent and viable. We've got to create a program of educating the electorate so that Friday prayers from the mosque aren't where they get their voting instructions. We need to set up a system of government that they all understand. They still don't know if there is going to be a confederation, a federation or what. We don't even know who we are going to turn it over to one month from now.
And these things have to be resolved. They are political, they are economic, they are security issues that we have wasted over a year in not really addressing in any substantive way. We made a big mistake in bringing in the Gucci guerrillas from London who were the exiles that we propped up in positions of authority.
They have been rejected by the Iraqi people.
SOLVING THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT | I think there are some things that are really evident about the process. First is, the president of the US and his office need to be directly involved in this. This is so important and nothing short of that, not the secretaries or anybody else, can move this process. It takes that kind of commitment.
The closest we've ever come to resolving this is when the president has brought them to Camp David. Think about President Carter bringing Sadat and Begin there, and we have King Hussein and we get a peace agreement. When President Clinton brought Barak and Arafat, we came close. But it takes that kind of commitment. That is politically distasteful, I know. Sometimes damaging and difficult. And certainly the greatest leader of the free world, you would think, has other priorities. But that, number one, is what it takes.
The other thing that has to happen is that we have to stop this business of special envoys, of short-term, high-profile in-and-outs, touch-and-goes in this process. We need a big commitment. We need the world in there with us and a major commitment of diplomats and people on the ground working economic, political, security issues. We need to look for all sorts of ways to start programs and connections, even on the local level, not trying to solve it only at the top, only between a Sharon and an Arafat, but village to village, town to town. You have to light a thousand fires here, not try to light one fuse.
8) US Must Balance Hard Power With Soft Power
Francis Fukuyama is the famed author of The End of History and the Last Man. His forthcoming book focuses on the history of nation-building by the United States. He spoke with NPQ editor Nathan Gardels on March 24.
NPQ | After 9/11 we all understand that out of failed states like Afghanistan come terrorists like Al Qaeda. Is that why the focus of your new book is on state building - the long-term antidote to terrorism?
FRANCIS FUKUYAMA | For me, the issue goes beyond terrorism arising from failed states to the broader problem of why the rest of the Third World outside of East Asia - from Latin America to Africa to the Middle East - has been unable to develop. The old answer was that the non-developing countries just needed a new set of free market policies - "the Washington consensus" - and then they'd be on the road forward. That is only true for India, the one case where functioning self-governing institutions are in place, but until recently, their economic policies have been counterproductive. With market liberalization, India is now poised to take off in the next 20 years just like China.
The truth of the matter is that the real problem for most of the Third World is more political - bad institutions and bad governance. That has been the underemphasized aspect of development theory. Development requires governance first of all. By that I mean the core functions of a society that cannot be privatized and done by the market or outsourced - providing the rule of law, protection of property rights, protection of individual rights, physical security, infrastructure. The dominant problem in the Third World is not too much government, but not enough government or no government at all.
For the promise of "the end of history" to come true, competent self-governing institutions have to come into being. That is why state building is important.
NPQ | Mustn't a state be democratic to develop?
FUKUYAMA | Well, before you have democracy you have to have government. Period. You have to have a functioning state that can, first of all, provide security and the economic basics. It can be authoritarian and still develop. Most of East Asia has done well under authoritarian governance. It is only over the longer term as the society grows more prosperous and there are greater social demands for participation that not having democracy becomes problematic from a development standpoint.
The cutoff is usually about $6,000 per capita. At that point a country has usually transformed itself from an agricultural, raw-materials-exporting country to a largely urban, industrialized one.
Then, people are less willing to tolerate an authoritarian government. Not to have a democracy then becomes destabilizing because democracy is the basis of legitimacy in modern societies. We see this in Hong Kong today, where the per capita income is far beyond the cutoff point at about $25,000.
NPQ | Just as Marx thought industrialization had to precede socialism, for you competent government must come before democracy?
FUKUYAMA | Yes.
NPQ | The United States is trying state-building in Iraq. Where does that stand?
FUKUYAMA | The reason there is so much trouble in Iraq is that the US did not anticipate how the state would just collapse when Saddam fell. There was a vacuum of sheer administrative capacity. The people who could connect the phones, get the water running, the oil flowing and, most of all, provide physical security just weren't there.
Though the disappearance of police is a universal condition of most post-conflict situations, the Bush administration completely failed to anticipate that, and it should have.
NPQ | How much can a distant foreign power do in terms of state-building? If the US can't even get little Haiti on the right track, how can it bring good governance and democracy to Iraq and the entire Middle East?
FUKUYAMA | I don't think it can. That is why I was not very enthusiastic about undertaking the Iraq war in the first place. The historical record shows that where state-building has been successful - Germany, Japan, South Korea - American forces have stayed for at least two generations, that is 40 or 50 years. Those countries where the US has stayed five years or less - Haiti is a good example - have not had any lasting change or are worse because of US intervention.
If we had gone into Iraq with the understanding it would take that level of commitment, we might accomplish something. That is not the case. The Bush administration's lack of planning underscores the lack of seriousness with which the war was undertaken.
Nonetheless, we have to realize there are periodically times when it is in the US, and indeed global, interest to undertake the right kind of state-building commitment.
NPQ | By justifying the war on the basis of eliminating mass destruction weapons that weren't there instead of on rebuilding the Middle East, doesn't the US now lack the legitimacy to fulfill the political objective for which its military might paved the way?
FUKUYAMA | That is absolutely right. Without a buy-in by the American public, the whole state-building project is unsustainable. Typically what happens is that we get enthusiastic about the military intervention, and then interest wanes after a couple of years. The real problems begin to set in around year four or five after the intervention, usually in another presidential cycle with a president from another party who wasn't an architect of the policy.
This is what happened in Nicaragua. The US rst went in there in 1927, but then was out by 1934 after the 1932 election. Roosevelt felt it wasn't his war. More recently, Bush felt that intervention and nation-building in Haiti were Clinton's policies, not his.
Enduring change in Japan, Germany and South Korea came as a result of bipartisan strategic consensus over decades. We don't have that in Iraq.
NPQ | After the Madrid terrorist attacks, (German Chancellor) Gerhard Schroeder, (French President) Jacques Chirac and (EU High Representative) Javier Solana all said that terrorism couldn't be fought by military means alone, but by development in the Third World. Indeed, the EU security strategy calls for anticipatory or "preventive engagement" in contrast to the US strategy of "preemptive war." Isn't "preventive engagement" the same as your idea of state-building?
FUKUYAMA | If that is more than a slogan, then, yes, the idea is on the same track. Often, though, it is difficult to anticipate the outbreak of a violent and destabilizing eruption, yet it is only that outbreak that enables you to mobilize the consensus and resources to act. Politically, it is never very likely that democratic governments can act in the abstract.
Europeans pride themselves on their "soft power" approach to international problems. Nation-building fits in that category. The US has gone the other route with its "hard power" approach. Consequently, there has been a de facto division of labor where the US goes in and does all the fighting and the Europeans come in after to clean up and rebuild.
This only gets you so far because both components of power are ultimately necessary. You cannot do without either of them. For that reason, the US needs to repair all its alliance relationships damaged in its one-sided use of hard power. As the hegemonic power, though, the US can't just offload all the soft duties to the Europeans or the Japanese. We need to complement US might with a more serious commitment to state-building.