Monday, January 13, 2003
10:30 A.M. - 11:45 A.M.
At the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC
The Arms Control Association's annual membership meeting and luncheon were held Monday, January 13, 2003 from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC.
- Michael Eisenstadt, Senior Fellow, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
- Michael O'Hanlon, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
- Joel S. Wit, Senior Fellow, International Security Program, The Center for Strategic and International Studies
- Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, The Arms Control Association
- Questions and Answers
Thank you very much for coming this morning and for coming to this briefing on countering the so-called "axis of evil," assessing the Bush administration's policies toward Iran, Iraq, and North Korea.
I'm Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association. We're a private, nonpartisan organization that has, for the last three decades, dedicated itself to education about arms control, promotion of effective arms control policies to make America and the world safer.
We've organized this briefing this morning, I think, at a very, very interesting time. We are here to assess how the United States and the international community can most effectively address the urgent chemical, biological, and nuclear proliferation challenges in Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, and how the actions of these three states are influenced by regional security issues and by United States policies.
Before I introduce our panel of experts who are going to address each of these states, let me begin by making a few remarks to frame our discussion and to raise some issues that I hope the panelists will cover.
As you will recall, 40 years ago the Cuban missile crisis and the prospect of dozens of nuclear weapon states drove U.S. leaders-Democratic and Republican-to pursue arms control strategies to manage the dangerous nuclear, chemical, and biological arms competition with the Soviet Union, and also to stop the dangerous spread of weapons of mass destruction to new states.
In the last decade, the bedrock of that effort that emerged out of that period-the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty-has been under tremendous stress as the recognized nuclear-weapon states have not fulfilled their nuclear disarmament commitments and as states such as India, Pakistan, and Israel have maintained and advanced their nuclear weapons programs with relative impunity.
At the same time, a new wave of nuclear proliferation and chemical and biological weapons proliferation has erupted, particularly concerning Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. How the United States and the United Nations respond to these immediate challenges will profoundly affect American credibility, the future of the nonproliferation regime, and the future security of millions of people in the United States and around the globe.
In many ways, the security debate surrounding these cases right now has been shaped by last year's State of the Union address by President Bush in which he prominently labeled Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as part of an axis of evil that is supporting terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. The president is to be commended for focusing attention on the ongoing threat of nuclear, chemical, and biological proliferation and missile proliferation from these dangerous states, but I would say that his administration's gratuitous name calling and its allergy to multilateral diplomatic and arms control strategies, and its strong rhetorical emphasis on coercive pre-emption, including the possible use of nuclear weapons to defeat chem and bio threats, has complicated the United States' task in addressing these proliferation problems, particularly in North Korea, where recently, as we all know, North Korea has unfrozen its plutonium facilities and declared that it will leave the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty-I would say a reflection of the failure of the administration's approach toward North Korea in the last couple of years.
And though the recent announcement by the United States that it will resume talks or is willing to talk with North Korea and Governor Bill Richardson's mediation efforts is a good sign that provides some hope, there are many, many obstacles that lie ahead.
With Iraq, of course, we are on the verge of a war to deal with its weapons of mass destruction capabilities. After leaning toward unilateral military action this summer, the president did respond to domestic and international opinion and criticism and sought a new and stronger UN Security Council resolution aimed at returning UN inspectors to Iraq under a stronger mandate, with better tools and greater cooperation. But as the process continues, it's not clear whether Iraq will continue to comply with Resolution 1441-if it is, some would say-whether inspectors will find positive evidence that Iraq maintains WMD, or whether the United States will or should pursue an invasion without such evidence and without Security Council backing.
In Iran, President Bush has all but given up on establishing a dialog with Iran's reformists and seems to be resting hopes on cutting off nuclear cooperation from Russia, which continues to this day, and we now have new, fresh news reports that suggest that Iran might be building secret nuclear facilities, facilities that the IAEA will soon be inspecting. So a year after the president's "axis of evil" speech, it's clear that blunt talk and practical accomplishments are not quite the same thing.
To help us explore how U.S. policy can better address these proliferation challenges, we have three expert panelists, and I'm going to briefly introduce each one, and then we're going to hear from them, and then we're going to take questions from the audience.
First we'll hear from Michael Eisenstadt. He's senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy where he specializes in Arab, Israeli, and Persian Gulf security affairs. He is going to provide us with his perspective on Iran's WMD capabilities and motivations, the impact of administration policies, and the challenges to address in the near future.
Following him, we will hear from Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a very active writer and commentator on a wide range of issues. Michael will provide his assessment of Iraq's nuclear ambitions, chemical and biological weapons capabilities, and the differing threats these weapons pose as well as whether military action against Iraq is justified under the current circumstances that we have.
Finally we'll hear from Joel Wit, who has been very busy in the last few days. We're happy to have him with us here today. He is senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He served for 15 years in the Department of State in various positions; most recently and most relevant to our session today as the coordinator for the 1994 U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework, and was responsible for implementation of that agreement. And Joel has also authored a comprehensive article on the current North Korean crisis in the most recent issue of Arms Control Today, and there will be copies of that article outside as you leave when the panel session is over.
So following their comments, we'll take questions. The floor is yours, Michael.
If Iraq is a crisis at our doorstep and North Korea is a crisis we keep kicking down the road, then Iran, I believe, could well turn out to be the crisis just around the bend in the road. This is not only because Iran is the example par excellence of a state that supports terrorist groups with global reach and it possesses weapons of mass destruction. To paraphrase from President Bush's last State of the Union address, it is also because Iran may, within just a few years, be standing at the nuclear threshold, either through its own clandestine efforts or as a result of the emergence of North Korea as a supplier of nuclear technology and, perhaps in the near future, nuclear weapons.
In the past 10 to 15 years, Iran's missile and WMD programs have been plagued by numerous problems and delays. These continue. As a result, progress in these programs has generally been slow and incremental, though in the nuclear arena, recent revelations about heretofore unknown nuclear facilities hint at greater progress than previously appreciated.
With regard to ballistic missiles, during the tenure of President Bush, Iran has continued to expand its family of strategic rockets, tested its first solid fuel short-range ballistic missile, the Fateh 110, in May 2001, and conducted its fifth test flight of the Shahab 3 medium-range ballistic missile in July of 2002. This last flight test was reportedly a failure, indicating that Iran is still encountering problems with the Shahab 3, and most of the speculation circles around the engines, and reportedly, Iran has acquired additional engines from North Korea to put in the indigenously produced airframes. Despite these problems, the Shahab 3 has probably been introduced into operational service in small numbers.
Iran's missile programs continue to benefit from assistance from Russia, China and North Korea. Iran is also involved in a Chinese-led consortium to produce a civilian earth-imagining satellite. This could eventually abet long-standing Iranian ambitions to build a military reconnaissance satellite of their own.
In the nuclear arena, the Bushehr 1 reactor may finally be completed in the next year or so. According to Russian press reports, Iran may take delivery of reactor fuel from Russia by the end of this year or early next year, so the status of efforts to conclude an agreement on the return of reactor fuel to Russia for reprocessing remains uncertain. And as an aside, I would say the Russians, under U.S. pressure, have stated that the fuel will not be shipped to Iran until such an agreement is signed.
Delays have, however, dogged the nuclear program from its inception, and additional delays during the final stages of construction or teething problems during the break-in period are likely to arise, further delaying start-up of the reactor.
On the other hand, the successful completion of Bushehr 1 could pave the way for the construction of additional reactors at Bushehr and Ahvaz and eventually result in the production of prodigious quantities of plutonium in the form of spent fuel sitting in cooling pools awaiting shipment back to Russia. In a protracted crisis or a war, the temptation to divert the spent fuel in order to separate the plutonium and use it for proscribed purposes could be overwhelming.
Iran is also apparently constructing a number of fuel-cycle-related facilities, including a heavy water production plant at Arak and a uranium-enrichment facility of some sort, and the speculation centers around the gas centrifuge plant at Natanz.
The existence of these facilities, which was first revealed publicly last August and confirmed by U.S. government officials last December, raises troubling questions. If there is a heavy-water-production plant, where is the heavy-water-moderated reactor, and if there is a gas-centrifuge plant, where is the uranium-conversion facility? And are there other such facilities in Iran, and what else do we not know about Iran's nuclear program?
Finally, Iran continues its cooperation with other proliferators. In the past, it has cooperated with Syria on its missile program, and there have been reports in the past year that Iran has been providing support for Libya's missile program, in particular, the production of Scud-type missiles in Libya. And according to a report by an authoritative Israeli journalist, this year North Korea has been engaged with Iran in building a gas-centrifuge-enrichment plant, though it's unclear what the article is referring to-whether this is a small lab or a pilot-scale plant, or perhaps the aforementioned plant at Natanz, which reportedly is very large.
Given past close cooperation between North Korea and Iran in the missile arena and recent reports of cooperation in the nuclear arena, one must seriously consider the possible transfer of nuclear material or weapons from North Korea to Iran following start-up of the reactor at Yongbyon, if it occurs.
Now with regard to U.S. policy toward Iran, thus far the Bush administration's nonproliferation policy toward Iran has been marked more by continuity than change over the policies of its predecessors. The U.S. continues to rely on policy instruments that have in the past yielded some notable successes, such as political pressure, export controls, interdiction operations and sanctions, to disrupt and delay Iranian proliferation efforts. Moreover, the U.S. continues to hold formal nonproliferation consultations with Russia regarding the latter's missile and nuclear-related technology transfers to Iran, though with no more success than past efforts by the Clinton administration.
There are, however, hints of possible changes in store, which can be found in the emphasis on pre-emption in the speeches of President Bush and in various U.S. government strategy documents published since September 11. More on that in a minute.
Be that as it may, there has been a dramatic, albeit largely unheralded change in overall U.S. policy toward Iran. At various times in the past, the U.S. has sought to bolster moderates or reformers against their conservative rivals and has sought to alter Iranian policy concerning various issues of concern to the U.S.
Today it is doing none of the above. Rather it is encouraging the Iranian people in their struggle to change the Iranian political system. The U.S. is pursuing regime change in both Iraq and in Iran, though the means to the end in each case are very different. And just to give you a flavor of how much has changed in about the past decade, what I'd like to do is read to you some passages from Martin Indyk's original dual containment speech, which was given in 1993; in particular, the sections having to do with Iran, and then I would like to read excerpts from a speech given by Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad, who is a senior national security council official who is responsible for U.S. policy toward Iran, so you could see the contrast.
Now in Indyk's original speech, which was given as I said in 1993, and which in many ways was a template and really set the tone for U.S. policy for nearly a decade after that, he identified what he called a five-part challenge to the United States in terms of Iranian policy, which was problematic for us, and he talked about Iran being the formal state sponsor of terrorism and assassination, their efforts to thwart peace talks between Israel and the Arabs, Iran's efforts to subvert governments that are friendly to the U.S., their efforts to acquire offensive weapons-conventional weapons, that is, and their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.
He then goes on to say, and I quote, "I should emphasize that the Clinton administration is not opposed to Islamic government in Iran. Rather we are firmly opposed to these specific aspects of the Iranian regime's behavior as well as its abuse of the human rights of the Iranian people. We will not normalize relations with Iran until and unless Iran's policies change across the board. We are willing to listen to what Iran has to say, provided that it comes through authoritative channels."
Now the talk-Khalilzad's speech, which was given in August of this year. He starts off by saying that the United States is pursuing a dual-track policy toward Iran, based, quote, unquote, "on moral clarity." One, tell the world specifically what is destructive and unacceptable about Iran's behavior: sponsorship of terror and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and repression of the clearly expressed desires of the Iranian people for freedom and democracy; two, while laying out a positive vision of partnership and support for the Iranian people.
What's interesting is that the emphasis is not on changing the behavior, but I think policymakers have come to the conclusion, after a decade of trying, that there is probably not a lot we can do to change its behavior, and that's I think why-where we get to or why we are looking at regime change, in addition to the fact that I would also mention that conditions in Iran are considered by many specialists on the country to be ripe for-or may in the near future be ripe for change, and provide a congenial environment for U.S. efforts to encourage an evolution of the system there.
Further on, he states that U.S. policy is not to impose change on Iran, but to support the Iranian people in their quest to decide their own destiny. Our policy is not about Khatami or Khamenei, reform or hardline. It is about supporting those who want freedom, human rights, democracy, and economic and educational opportunity for themselves and their fellow countrymen and women.
The U.S. government's vision for a future of Iran, however, is unclear. Exactly what a post-clerical regime would look like is not spelled out in U.S. policy documents, nor are the implications of regime change for proliferation. As best we can tell, Iranian motivations to proliferate are not specific to the current regime. The Shah wanted the bomb, so do the mullahs, and whoever follows him is likely to follow suit. Moreover, support for these efforts, to the degree that these matters are discussed and debated in Iran-which for the most part they are not, as far as I could tell-comes from across the political spectrum. For many Iranians, the issues of WMD, the country's military power, is not a partisan political issue but a matter of national pride and national security. There is therefore no reason to believe that political change will necessarily lead to changes in Iran's proliferation policies.
That is not to say, however, that proliferation by Iran is inevitable or that a regime change will not create new opportunities to deal with Iran's proliferation. A deal with a new regime may be do-able if Iran's nuclear capabilities are still relatively immature and if the new regime can be convinced that by acquiring the bomb, it will pay a high price in terms of its other vital or key interests, such as its ability to attract foreign investment, to resuscitate the economy, and to improve its relations with the United States.
At the very least, even if a deal with the new regimes proves untenable or unworkable, a new regime that eschews the use of terrorism and the pursuit of an aggressively anti-Israel foreign policy would be easier for the United States to deal with, and in this way, the U.S. might at least be able to mitigate the consequences of a nuclear Iran if and when it happens.
That change in Iran will occur seems certain. When change will occur is unclear. Accordingly, the U.S. has to consider the possibility that the current regime may be around for a number of more years, that relations with Iran might get worse before they get better, and that Iran might acquire the bomb before it's increasing beleaguered, conservative clerical leadership can be removed from power.
Now where does this lead us in the future with regard to policy recommendations? First, because the current regime in Tehran might be around for awhile, the U.S. needs to continue with its policy of delaying Iran's efforts to acquire missiles and WMD through arm twisting, arms control, and sanctions in order to buy time for political change in Tehran and for the U.S. and its allies to strengthen their defense against missiles and WMD.
At the same time, Washington must continue seeking ways to curtail Russian assistance to Iran's missile and WMD programs and strengthen safeguards on ongoing activities, and the U.S. should continue to urge the IAEA and its allies to press Iran to adopt the additional protocol under the IAEA 93+2 program.
Second, the U.S. must seek to leverage regime change successes in Afghanistan and, perhaps in the near future, Iraq, by ensuring stability and successful political transitions in both countries in order to encourage and embolden those seeking political change in Iran. We should likewise use these military successes to bolster (unintelligible) capability vis a vis Iran.
Third, the U.S. government needs to seriously and systematically contemplate the risks and benefits of pre-emptive action against Iran's nuclear infrastructure, if it isn't doing so already.
Now again, this is not an imminent threat or imminent necessity, but it's something that might have to be considered down the road. In considering U.S. options regarding pre-emption, the United States will need to balance the imperative of preventing an Iranian nuclear breakout against the imperative not to squander the reservoir of pro-American goodwill among the Iranian people or to derail the positive evolutionary trajectory of the Iranian political by a reckless act that could discredit Westward-leaning Iranians and generate a popular backlash against the United States. Perhaps the only way to square the circle is through covert action so that the U.S. can preserve at least a thin veneer of deniability.
Finally, North Korea must be part of the solution. North Korea must not be allowed to become an exporter of nuclear technology, materials, or weapons, for then, should Tehran's own efforts to acquire nuclear weapons fail or be thwarted to the U.S., it might have the option of buying from the North Koreans. For these reasons, the coming year is likely to be a fateful year, a year of decisions that will influence the future of nuclear proliferation in East Asia and the Middle East for many years to come.
Kimball: We'll move on to our other Michael-Michael O'Hanlon.
Michael O'Hanlon: Thanks, Daryl. It's a treat to be here. I'm, I think, the least specialist on my assigned topic talking about the most over-analyzed issue of the three, so I'll try to make up for that by being brief, and the overall theme of my short remarks is that I'm becoming a reluctant supporter of the administration's apparent proclivity now to go to war to overthrow Saddam. I'm not a major proponent of this, but even given the evidence available now, I would not personally fall on my sword to oppose this war. I'm going to give you my reasons why in just a second. I hope there will be clearer evidence, however, that will allow those of us who are in my sort of shoes to feel more comfortable advocating one way or another whatever decision is made. We would like to have that final convincing piece of evidence if we have to go to war, and we'd like most of all to still figure out how not to go to war. I think there's some small chance of that, but the chance is pretty tiny. So let me explain how I get to this nuanced position of being willing to support the president's apparent decision to go to war without being a major proponent of it myself.
There's pro and con, clearly, for any decision about going to war to overthrow Saddam, and I'm going to focus primarily on the WMD aspect of this question. I'm not going to get into questions of estimating casualties in a war or this or that, but focusing primarily on the WMD issue.
If you want to argue against war, you can say that, listen, Saddam has chemical and biological weapons. He is denying that he does, but we all know he almost certainly does, but big deal. He's had them for a quarter century, he's generally been deterrable in his use of those weapons when we've made it clear that we care a lot about whether or not he does. He probably does not have smallpox; there is some worry that he might -- these longstanding ties to certain Soviet-era scientists, but there's, to my mind-and others in this room may know this question much better-to my mind, not a convincing enough stream of data or circumstantial reports to lend a lot of credence to this worry, so chances are he has sort of a garden variety arsenal of chemical and biological agents, and what's the big deal. Granted, it's a big deal in the 1980s if you're an Iranian or a Kurd, but at this point in time, Saddam is not going to be able to use those weapons, even against those populations, without almost certainly incurring a major international response, and he won't use them against us out of the blue based on the track record. So that's one argument that says let containment work, let sleeping dogs lie.
Another argument would be that even if you're worried that the nuclear question is a different sort of issue and that a Saddam Hussein with nuclear weapons might become emboldened to again attack his neighbors, or again become aggressive in the region, or again threaten Israel, believing that those weapons gave him some measure of protection or regime survival insurance because we would surely not dare go after him if he had a nuke, just as we apparently don't dare go after the North Koreans because-perhaps Saddam's thinking is that their nuclear program gives them some insurance. Even if that's your worry, that this possible Iraqi acquisition of a nuclear capability is something that would radically change the whole situation and make Saddam less deterrable, it appears that he's not making much progress toward nuclear weapons. The recent discussion about why he was trying to buy aluminum tubes last summer seems to suggest that, one, he didn't get them-which is the most important fact of all; and two, he may not have been trying to get them for a nuclear program in any case.
So if you look at the evidence of how far he's come, granted, as [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld says, we don't know what we don't know, but what we do know is actually a fair amount on the nuclear issue, and it tends to be pretty reassuring. Of course Saddam Hussein hasn't given up his desire for nuclear weapons. No one in his right mind is going to argue that Saddam has reformed himself in some fundamental way. The question is not his intention so much here as his capability or his progress toward a future capability, and there the evidence suggests there isn't much progress. And moreover, the evidence suggests that inspectors can actually do a fairly good job of keeping a nuclear program from getting started because, unlike chemical and biological programs, nuclear issues, nuclear programs, even if they are basement-bomb-style technologies, they're pretty elaborate, pretty sophisticated, and fixed technology. It's hard to put these things into an 18-wheeler and move them around the country or to somehow make it look like they are a hospital laboratory one day and producing illicit weaponry the next day.
So the kinds of worries we have about chemical and biological production in Iraq probably are not nearly as serious for the nuclear question. There is a very good chance that especially now, with inspectors inside of Iraq, we can be pretty confident Saddam is not making any progress toward a nuclear capability. So you put all this together and the WMD argument doesn't seem all that compelling for war, and it looks like deterrence and containment can continue to work here pretty well.
A couple more quick points sort of arguing against war and then I'll get to the case for why I'm not quite so confident as these considerations may sound or make me sound.
Saddam has generally been deterrable, as I mentioned earlier, and certainly when we have made it clear what we oppose and which actions of his we would take counteraction against, he has tended to be deterrable, and this is not just in regard to the last few years, but even in 1994 he thought about testing Bill Clinton, moving some brigades south toward Kuwait, and we responded with Operation Vigiliant Warrior, and he backed down. There are a number of other situations. He hasn't used WMD since the late 1980s, he didn't use WMD against us in Desert Storm, he hasn't attacked our allies in the region since Desert Storm, and so it looks like he is deterrable, that for the most part he values his own neck more than he does willy-nilly aggression or adventurism.
Another argument is that he doesn't seem to have any major ties to al Qaeda, and this is something where Donald Rumsfeld again has tried to make a mountain out of a molehill. There may be a tie we don't yet know about, and some of these occasional passings through Baghdad by one al Qaeda operative or another may really just be the tip of the iceberg, but from what we can tell, there has been no material Iraqi collaboration in any major anti-Western terrorism since the attempted assassination of President Bush in 1993. That's the bottom-line view of the U.S. intelligence community last I was able to ascertain, and that suggests that the links between Saddam and al Qaeda, if they exist at all, are very tenuous, very limited, and really have to do as much as anything with the fact that some of these terrorist organization do have joint and multiple memberships, and sometimes there may be sort of a-almost a circumstantial or accidental contact, but it doesn't seem to be advanced to the point of material collaboration. That could be false, but based on the evidence that I've seen, that's the best assessment.
Finally, Richard Betts just wrote a very good article in Foreign Affairs talking about the risk to the homeland of possible Iraqi response to any American invasion, and that suggests that-it's sort of a different sort of argument against war, but it suggests that to the extent Saddam does have WMD today, chemical and biological agents in particular, the overall logic of the situation suggests that leaving him alone is the better course of action and the one that's more likely to produce our best security because going after him changes the whole logic of deterrence. He no longer has reasons to hold back; he has reasons to threaten, certainly, and perhaps even carry out terrorist action against Western or American targets, and that, too, argues against war.
That's the overall argument. It's mostly an argument about containment and deterrence, but it has also got that little asterisk at the end, the Richards Betts argument about how we maybe should be a little bit nervous that if we upset the apple cart, Saddam will no longer be deterred the way he has been.
Moving now quickly-in a talk that I promised would be brief-to arguments for using force, let me go quickly down the list because these are all familiar to everyone in this room.
First of all, Saddam may have only limited links to al Qaeda, if any, but he has enough links to other terrorist organizations, and there are enough sort of occasional contacts with al Qaeda that you have to be a little bit worried. And you combine that with the attempted assassination of former President Bush in 1993, and you recognize in Saddam a certain over-developed sense of vengeance and a certain willingness, perhaps, to go after people if he thinks he can get away with it. If he can convince himself there's a chance he'll get away with a vengeance attack against the United States, his own personal track record, specifically the '93 attempted assassination, suggests that we'd better be a little more worried than some proponents of containment and deterrence are.
And here I think that Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer went a little too far in their Foreign Policy article of recent times suggesting that deterrence was relatively airtight. I think you have to take the '93 attempted assassination into serious account when you're trying to understand Saddam's mentality, and granted, maybe it was just one aberrant example, but can you imagine if it had succeeded? What if he had actually carried out that attack successfully? And there is little doubt any more about the fact that Iraqi intelligence was behind that attempt and their real clear goal was to kill the former president. What does that tell us about Saddam's deterrability?
We also have to be a little bit nervous that Saddam passed up $150 to $200 billion in oil revenue in order to hang on to weapons that he probably could have manufactured again in the future if he had just let us come in, inspect, eliminate them, set up some long-term monitoring, and then found a way to produce a little bit on the side here and there. He probably could have had his cake and eat it too. Somehow his desire or attachment to these WMD capabilities was so great that he was willing to forego perhaps $200 billion now in oil revenue to thwart the international community's efforts and his own obligations to disarm. That has to make you a little bit worried, too, about where he is coming from.
Finally, his own track record-he has used WMD in the past, so there is clearly a stronger argument for going after someone who has already done this than just the average person who is holding WMD as sort of a deterrent of last resort. For Saddam it's clearly not a weapon of last resort. It's also not a weapon of first resort, and so he's not in the category, perhaps, of al Qaeda. He would clearly recognize that there are different qualities to these weapons, and if he uses them, he's running risks above and beyond the use of other weapons, but he has used them before.
And the whole integrity of the UN system, to some extent, is at stake here, and I think on this point President Bush is correct, that the idea that Saddam could be required to give up his WMD and not do it for a decade should be of concern to all of us who care about nonproliferation, not just because it's one more country keeping it's WMD stocks, but because it suggests the international community, even in this extreme case, was unable or unwilling to back up its demands with enough action to produce the results that were required.
And the December 7 declaration by Saddam in this regard has to be seen for what it is. [Secretary of State] Colin Powell-who many of us in this room, I suspect, see as the most pragmatic, moderate, reasonable, thoughtful member of this administration's senior foreign policy team-nonetheless was scathing in his assessment of the December 7 declaration. The polite way to describe it is incomplete. The blunt way to describe it is a bunch of lies, and I subscribe to the latter more than the former.
Right now that declaration is not a sufficient basis for doing inspections in Iraq. He told us nothing about weapons of mass destruction that he almost certainly has, and people in this room, again, are familiar with the evidence, but it's not just U.S. evidence; it's a whole body of UN-accumulated evidence throughout the 1990s about precursor chemicals and growth media and all sorts of things that Saddam imported and never could account for.
Now you can believe if you want to that they spilled them off in some hole in the ground near Baghdad and just forgot to write it down. That's the sort of thing you have to believe multiple times over to believe that Saddam really has no weapons of mass destruction today, and if we let him get away with small lies right now, even as we have nearly 100,000 American troops in the Persian Gulf, what's going to happen in a year or two once that troop presence can no longer be maintained at that level, and perhaps George Bush is no longer president, and the whole international consensus in favor of action has eroded? What's going to happen to the WMD elimination and inspection process at that time?
So I come reluctantly to believing that something has to give. It's not good enough to just sort of play this process out indefinitely, and therefore, while I still hope for more clear evidence before we have to make a decision on war, I would be prepared to support the administration even today should it make that decision-let's say after the January 27 report by the UN inspection teams to the UN Security Council.
My overall preference-and I'll finish on this point-is still that we can convince Saddam, with the threat now of 100,000 American forces soon to be in the region and pushing 150,000 by February, that under those circumstances he will finally see the light-that we are serious, that he'd better not try to split the international community too much because at some point we'll do it with a small coalition, if necessary, and without a second resolution, if necessary-and he'll see the light and realize he's got to take some action to come clean on his WMD holdings.
If that is finally his decision, I think he has to take irreversible action at that time-not simply admit to a few little holdings here and there, but actually produce and come clean on most of the weaponry we know he had and allow us to destroy it quickly-the chemical and biological stocks and production capabilities. If we can still produce that outcome this winter and eliminate these stocks, then I think as an arms controller and as a believer in trying to resolve this problem, if possible, without force, that we could be satisfied. But otherwise, my bottom line is we're in a tough position here, and the overall ledger is pretty mixed, but given the UN demands on Saddam, given the history of 12 years of resolutions, and given his blatant lies on December 7, I am in the reluctant position of having a hard time seeing how we can avoid war unless we get a fundamental change in his behavior from this point on.
Thanks a lot.
Kimball: Thank you, Michael.
Kimball: Joel Wit, the floor is yours. Are you going to stay there?
Michael mentioned that Iraq is over-analyzed, and I think North Korea is rapidly overtaking Iraq as being over-analyzed, so I'm not sure if I'm going to have a lot new to say, particularly since I see in the audience there are some of our Korean colleagues from the embassy who have heard a lot of this before, and people like John Steinbruner, who participated in discussion groups on this. But let me just try to give you kind of a brief overview of the situation today in terms of North Korea's programs, the U.S. administration's policies, and maybe what we should be doing next.
I think it's fair to say that we stand now at the threshold of North Korea becoming a growing nuclear power for everyone to see. And let me just briefly go through what their programs are just so you have a sense of where they are at the moment.
There are three components to North Korea's nuclear program. The first is, as everyone knows, it has a very well developed plutonium production program that was frozen by the 1994 agreement and now probably will restart within the next month or two. Initially that program will churn out small amounts of plutonium, at least until the end of 2004, but at that point, if North Korea resumes construction of two larger reactors, their production may start ramping up to a point where they will be able to produce about 250 kilograms of plutonium a year, and depending on how much they use for a bomb, that could be as much as 35 to 40 nuclear weapons a year.
The second component of their program is the one we've heard a lot about recently, and that's this secret uranium-enrichment program they've had. It's much smaller, as far as we know; the information is very sketchy about it. It's not clear where it's located, although I'm sure that there are some sites that are suspected. The best we can tell, this program started in the late 1990s as a research and development effort. If you go back to that time period, there are press reports of North Korea looking to acquire equipment for uranium-enrichment overseas, and there were also press reports about contacts with Pakistan.
According to more recent information, this program took off in 2001, the first year of the Bush administration, when Pyongyang started to buy large amounts of material to build a production facility. And as best as I can tell from the press, the estimates are that it will be completed in one to three years, which is a pretty broad range of uncertainty, and when it is done, it will be able to produce enough enriched uranium for one to two bombs by mid-decade.
The third component of the program is the weaponization effort. Once again, as far as we can tell, North Korea has been trying to produce a weapons design for at least 15 years, if not longer, and the reason I say that is we know that in the late 1980s North Korea conducted high explosives tests at its nuclear facilities, and there are also press reports more recently, in the late 1990s, of more high-explosive tests-maybe not at those facilities, but at other places.
Still, it's not clear whether North Korea can actually build a bomb, although some of us would probably give them the benefit of the doubt after all this time. The 1993 intelligence estimate, which is cited in the press so often, said that there was a better-than-even chance that North Korea had one to two nuclear weapons, but there were no smoking guns that led the intelligence community to that conclusion, and it was the most controversial part of the estimate.
The nonproliferation and security implications are, of course, quite clear. On the first count, having a hostile North Korea in the middle of Northeast Asia with a growing nuclear weapons arsenal right next door to two major U.S. allies-Japan and South Korea-and also with 37,000 American troops across the DMZ [demilitarized zone] is not a good situation, and it's really amazing that the administration could say publicly that this really doesn't matter, it's not a big deal.
I'm not sure whether this development would trigger South Korea and Japan to acquire nuclear weapons, but it would certainly set off a new political dynamic in the region, and, at the very least, it would trigger a debate in both of those countries about whether they should re-evaluate their defense posture, and I'm almost certain there will be other military countermeasures that will follow, including possibly a stepped-up effort for theater missile defense.
On the second count, the proliferation risks-once again they are fairly obvious. Aside from the negative impact on the nonproliferation treaty, it's quite possible that North Korea could send plutonium to other countries or even sell it to terrorists, although I think that is still something of a stretch for the North Koreans. But this link between North Korea and countries like Iran, I think, is very interesting, and North Korea would be the only game in town in terms of being able to supply technology and material to these other countries.
Michael is taking his watch away, so I need to see how much-(audio break, tape change)-policy been and why? Well, I think the answer is pretty clear. The administration's policy has been not only ineffective, but I would say very ineffective. The fact is the Bush administration has never had a policy toward North Korea. There have always been deep splits in the administration about how to deal with the North, and those splits have never been resolved. And those deep splits are between what my colleague, Bob Einhorn, has called the far right, the near right, and the center.
The far right in the administration wants North Korea to go away. They want them to collapse. So they see North Korea building nuclear weapons as an avenue to getting what they want. And the theory is that if North Korea builds nuclear weapons, everyone will band against them, isolate them, and then they will collapse. Well, it's a nice idea, and it has a certain logic to it, but I think it's pretty risky, particularly if North Korea doesn't collapse. And in the past, North Korea has, of course, confounded many predictions that it was about to go away. The near right-extremely leery about talking to North Korea under any circumstances, and particularly the current circumstances where we would seem to be succumbing to blackmail-I'm not sure if they really know what to do about the situation. The center, well, it's an endangered species in this administration, and I think that the center at least realizes that at this point we have no choice but to sit down and talk to North Korea and maybe even cut a deal with them.
These splits have been manifested in a number of different ways, if you look back over the past two years of U.S. policy, and I'll just briefly mention a few of them.
The initial policy review that was conducted during the first half of 2000 never resolved anything. It just papered over the differences and actually came to a conclusion only because the South Korean foreign minister was about to visit the United States in June 2001. The second manifestation has been the administration's inability to engage North Korea over the next year, in spite of statements that it would meet anywhere, anytime, and in spite of periodic feelers from Pyongyang that it would like to talk to the United States. The third manifestation has been periodic hostile statements about North Korea by administration officials and the president himself. The fourth one, [Assistant Secretary of State James] Kelly's visit to North Korea in October, which essentially threw the gauntlet on the table in terms of dealing with North Korea's uranium-enrichment program; it was not a problem-solving approach, and I think that is the reason why the meeting ended so badly. And finally, and most obviously, these splits are reflected in the administration's current approach, which, as far as I can tell, consists of no negotiations, no economic sanctions, and no military measures, but we would be willing to talk, not negotiate, and provide incentives to Pyongyang after it unilaterally quickly dismantles its uranium-enrichment program.
The other, I think, really major manifestation of this mismanagement has been the deterioration of relations with South Korea, which in the past has been our closest ally in dealing with the North. Now, to be fair, South Korea is undergoing a number of dynamic domestic changes that would make it difficult for any administration to deal with Seoul. But nevertheless, I think the administration's track record in U.S.-South Korean relations is particularly bad. It got off on the wrong foot from the very beginning with [South Korean] President Kim's visit to Washington in 2001, and it really hasn't recovered since then. It's made no secret of its distaste for his policies-his Sunshine Policy toward the North-and it's made no secret of its hope that a more conservative candidate would be elected president. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened.
In short, the United States, in this administration, has maneuvered itself into a position that every U.S. government official in the past has realized must be avoided at all costs when dealing with South Korea, and that is that it looks like we are sacrificing South Korean interests for our own interests. That creates an enormous amount of tension between our two countries.
This close relationship, and the deterioration of it, I think in part accounts for why we're in such a bind now, because in order to take tough measures against North Korea, such as seeking sanctions or even considering some military steps, we need South Korean support. We don't have that now, and indeed, what we have is a South Korean effort to mediate between the United States and North Korea, and that's something that most of us thought we would never see in our lifetime.
For the moment, I'll just skip over the other regional players, but needless to say, the others are not going to pull our bacon out of the fire. In spite of what the administration says publicly, China, Russia, and others are not going to support the current U.S. approach. So the third question I was asked to answer is, what should the U.S. and allies now do to curb proliferation dangers? Someone told me-I haven't read the Wall Street Journal today-but someone said that there was an op-ed or an article or an editorial that's in there that said the best way to deal with the North is to deal with Iraq first, and that will send a message to the North Koreans. Well, you know, I would submit that's probably one of the worst ways to deal with North Korea. It's not quite as bad as some of the other trial balloons I've seen floated, like encouraging Japan to become a nuclear-weapon state or withdrawing U.S. troops from South Korea, but it probably ranks third behind those two.
The fact is there are a couple of problems with that approach. First of all, we can't wait that long. We are not determining the pace of events here. I think it's very clear to most of us-and maybe not to some in the administration-but to most of us that North Korea is determining the pace of events. And the next event will be when North Korea actually restarts some of the nuclear facilities that it has said it will restart, particularly its reprocessing plant. That could come in February or March. So time is not on our side. But secondly, there is no substitute for a real policy here. You know, we're not going to find a magic bullet by waiting until after we deal with Iraq, or by doing these other crazy things. We need a real policy for dealing with North Korea, and unfortunately we've dug a very deep hole for ourselves.
As far as I can tell, the only way to recover our footing at this point is to sit down with North Korea and hold a true dialogue with them on what it will take to stop the current crisis. And I'm not advocating that we should sit down and negotiate and, you know, that's all we should be doing, but negotiations, sitting down with Pyongyang, are key to being able to regenerate our ability to take some of these tougher measures. We can't move forward very far in the United Nations without the support of other countries like South Korea, China, and Russia, and yet we are not going to get that support without starting some sort of dialogue with North Korea and demonstrating that it may be them, not us, who are intransigent. We can't get support for maybe taking military steps-and I'm not talking about pre-emptive strikes; I'm talking about other steps short of that-we can't get support for that from South Korea unless we demonstrate that we've tried to negotiate. So it's key that we move into this negotiations phase and also start to regenerate these other two tracks that I'm talking about.
Immediately I think what we need to do is to seek a freeze on the current situation on both sides; no more steps that will make it get worse until we can sit down and talk. The other thing we need to do-and this is purely from the U.S. angle-is I think the U.S. seriously needs to consider appointing a Korea czar. We've heard this idea before, and indeed the Clinton administration did it at the end of the administration when it appointed [former Defense Secretary William] Perry. I think this administration is desperately in need of someone, some senior American, with enough prestige and influence to pull our policy together.
And it's not only to deal with the current crisis, but the fact is-and this will be my last point-the fact is that I think there is a 50-50 chance that even if we take this approach we can't resolve the situation. It may be-and none of us know for sure-but it may be that North Korea has already decided that it's going to move forward no matter what, and that its public statements that it's interested in negotiating may just be a smokescreen for moving forward with their nuclear weapons program. If that's the case, I think the czar is still important because in the aftermath of that, when it becomes apparent to everyone that North Korea is moving forward no matter what, there's going to be a lot of serious work that needs to be done between the United States-certainly first and foremost between the United States and its regional allies, South Korea and Japan.
So I'll stop there. I think my 15 minutes are up.
Mr. Kimball: Thank you very much for your presentation. We'll move to the questions. Actually, before we do, if someone has a large SUV outside illegally parked, it's going to soon be pre-empted by the D.C. police.
Question: You mentioned military measures other than pre-emption. Can you give us some examples of that?
Wit: I see all my South Korean colleagues are poised to write this down (chuckles), but the fact is this is no mystery. During the 1994 crisis, in fact, the United States took a number of military steps to prepare for whatever contingencies might take place if the crisis deteriorated. A lot of those steps had to do with ensuring the readiness of U.S. forces on the peninsula and in the region, as well as moving some additional forces to the Korean Peninsula in the guise of modernization programs, which in fact were supposed to happen but which were accelerated at that time.
So there is a broad range of steps that you can take without provoking a North Korean response, and that was very critical. The North Koreans knew that we were taking these steps, yet they were not major enough to provoke some sort of military response on their part. And it's just a way of communicating to them that we're serious. Right now, I can't see how they would think we were serious about anything. We've said no sanctions, we've said no military measures; we're not going to negotiate. I mean, if I was sitting in Pyongyang I would [think] that, you know, the United States is pretty confused about what it's going to do, and I may use this opportunity to kind of run for the door and start building more weapons.
Question: Do you think it was a mistake to take the military option off the table?
Wit: I don't want to be too unfair here. I think the fact is that without South Korean support, it's very difficult to take some of these steps. And unfortunately we've mismanaged our relationship with South Korea so much that it's going to be very hard to regenerate these possibilities.
Kimball: John Rhinelander.
Question: Let me ask a question for each of these sequentially, and that's on what I would call the U.S. decision-making process, or absence of it.
I'd like to hear your views in terms of the involvement of the president and the involvement of the vice president in each area, kind of from inauguration date forward, because I see in some cases there has been, at least recently, I think, a well-coordinated one (off mike)-a total absence of what we used think as a process. But I would like to get the views of each of you in the areas you've addressed today.
Kimball: Gentlemen, if you can try to answer that-it may not be possible. (Chuckles.)
Eisenstadt: Sitting where I sit, the process is rather opaque, so it's really hard for me to make a judgment. All I'll say is this though: I think in the Middle East, the administration has been heavily preoccupied with planning for Iraq, and recently-well, it's receding into the past now, the efforts to manage the Arab-Israeli-the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Despite that, I think it's interesting to see that the administration did unveil a new policy toward Iran, despite its preoccupation with these other issues. And this was, as I read to you before, a dramatic departure from past policy. But, again, I think our ability to get there will have to be deferred until after a war with Iraq, although I think for a lot of people in this administration, war in Iraq is seen as a facilitator for achievement of our policy objectives in Iran-if you will, a necessary condition-or at least successful regime change in Iraq and the creation of a transition toward a broad-based representative government and eventual democratization there for many people in this administration is seen as a facilitator for achieving our policy objectives in Iran.
I can't talk about the process, but I can say that-I'll just throw out this prediction: just as after the 1991 Gulf War, the profile of Iran grew dramatically after the defeat of Iraq in Desert Storm. I believe that after, barring a quagmire in Iraq, we'll see Iran's profile rise dramatically, and that will be quite possibly the next major issue in the Middle East after Iraq. But I can't really speak to the process and the role of the president and V.P.-I'm sorry.
O'Hanlon: This is just a guess, but I think in short the story on Iraq is that after September 11, the hardliners in the administration succeeded in putting Iraq on the policy agenda on a very high position, right after al Qaeda. And, clearly, during the summer of 2002, you heard [Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul] Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, and Vice President Dick Cheney all very clear in their desire to go to war promptly at a time when the president, you know, was subjecting himself to parody by saying things like, my Iraq policy is they've got to get serious-now watch this drive. And we all remember that golf course episode; he didn't quite seem to have his mind on the issue. Meanwhile, Cheney is out giving speeches about how inspections can't work, and Rumsfeld is alleging major ties between al Qaeda and Saddam.
And so in the summer, the hardliners had not only won in elevating Iraq high as the policy issue, they seemed to be foreshadowing an eventual decision to go quickly to war. And then I think, in a very historically important situation and set of events, Powell and Bush put the hardliners in their place. And I think the hardliners flat-out lost, at least on the tactics of how to address the Iraq situation, and created the entire U.S. process ultimately leading up to UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which gave Saddam a way out of this if he had been smart enough to choose it. And unfortunately, from my point of view, he didn't choose it. The way to choose it was to 'fess up on the chemical and biological stuff in his December 7 declaration. And maybe Saddam thought this administration was going to find a way to go to war against him no matter what he said and decided to do, so you might as well not admit to previous crimes, but I think he made a fundamentally incorrect decision.
Nonetheless, I think Powell and Bush told Cheney, Wolfowitz, and Rumsfeld, we're doing this through the UN, which means focusing on the WMD and giving Saddam the final, clear chance to avoid war, should he want it. Now, again, at this point I don't know what Cheney's role will be because now we're into sort of act four. If act one was getting the issue high on the agenda, act two was the summer set of speeches, act three was Powell and Bush going through the UN, now we're into act four. We're in this murky area where Saddam did not come clean the way he should have, and yet there is no smoking gun and the inspections are working sort of visibly on the surface okay. We're back in a tough position from a policy point of view, and maybe Cheney will now win act four the way he won, or seemed to win, act one and then lost his momentum by act three.
That's the way I would sum it up. It's obviously all speculative, and I can't do nearly as good of a job as Bob Woodward, so I probably should just pass, but that's how I would sum it up.
Kimball: Who's in charge, Joel?
Wit: Oh, boy. You know, it's very interesting. I think we've all read periodic public blurbs from the president about how he feels about [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Il, and I can't quite figure out where these have come from, but he seems occasionally to blurt out how much he hates Kim Jong Il. I mean, he called him a pygmy once and, you know, other statements like that, which, you know, I think we could all agree that North Korea is an awful place, but I'm not sure how that plays into the decision-making process, except I think it gives you a flavor for, you know, what it might be like sitting in a principals committee meeting talking about North Korea.
I have friends in the State Department who have told me that the interagency papers are really fascinating because, you know, they of course read the North Korean party newspaper, and you've heard about it in the press recently; all the shrill statements about the United States. And my friends say, well, you know, the administration's interagency papers sound like the North Korean party newspaper, except from the opposite vantage point.
I mean, what we're talking about here, I think, is a decision-making process that is colored, to a large degree, by these very ideological thoughts, and at times is dragged back into reality, it seems to me, not just by the current crisis but also by our need to deal with South Korea and our alliance relationship with South Korea. And I'm pretty sure that centrists in the administration use that as a way of banging the right and the far right over the head about how the U.S. needs to change its position. I'm not sure whether ultimately that will work or not, but it seems to be the only lifeline that the center people have at the moment.
Kimball: All right. We'll take a couple more questions. Greg, please.
Question: I've been especially struck lately that using the term "weapons of mass destruction" will ultimately lead to confusion rather than clarity, and I'm afraid Michael Eisenstadt has given me another example in a statement he made about Iran, and I want to deconstruct a little bit.
For Iran, developing WMD is a matter of pride and national security. If I'm not mistaken, Ayatollah Khomeini said that nuclear weapons were immoral. The Iranians developed chemical weapons very reluctantly in response to continual usage by Iraq against them. So I would assume that for CW and BW-and I'm not knowledgeable about what kind of BW Iran has-it is a matter of national security and not national pride. And I assume from your statement that you're really talking about nuclear weapons, but I wonder if you could break that down, without asking you to publish a matrix, which WMD are you talking about, and (off mike)?
Eisenstadt: Yeah, I think you raise some valid points there, but I would say I think nuclear weapons most of all, you know, have the greatest psychological cache. And clearly this is what separates the big boys-or the men from the boys internationally. So I think, from the point of view of national pride at least, nuclear weapons are probably the most important, but the fact is those are not capabilities that they have right now. And right now their capabilities are limited, at least as far as we know, and their capabilities are limited to chemical and biological weapons.
The idea, though, you know, the reason I use the term WMD, it's because I'm not sure that people in Iran-there isn't, as far as I can tell, a sophisticated public debate on these issues. You know, people tend to be focused more on the issues of day-to-day survival and the economy and social and political conditions in the country. I think in general, you know, the category of WMD can be subsumed under the larger category of national strength, and most Iranians want to have a strong country in order to preserve their independence, in order to ensure that Iranian national interests are preserved, and to the degree that chem and bio, or in the future, nuclear weapons, are seen as key to ensuring the country's national security, Iranians, I think, of all political stripes will support the country's pursuit of WMD even though they are also signatories to every major arms control agreement.
Now, this poses a dilemma for some people of a certain political stripe in Iran. For the conservatives, who are not so much interested in relations with the Western world and Iran's integration into the international community and who see the Islamic world as more Iran's natural milieu, they're not so concerned about the impact of the violation of arms control treaties, although I think they recognize it's important to go forward with these programs in a certain way in order to minimize unnecessary costs to Iran.
But for those Iranians who do want Iran to be integrated into the community of nations, who want to improve the economy and want to attract foreign investment, they have a dilemma, because on the one hand they want Iran to be strong, and WMD writ large, nuclear weapons in particular, are the fastest way to that route for them, given their economic circumstances. On the other hand, they realize if they go down that route and violate their arms control obligations, it could be at the price of attracting foreign investment and fixing the economy and improving relations with the outside world.
Again, you know, I gave kind of a wave-top assessment here. If you go down one level further, things are more complicated. I would say that, you know, the differences among Iranians on these issues provide policy opportunities for us in the future. But, you know, the bottom line is I think national pride is extremely important in the context of Iran, and the power of Iranian nationalism cannot and should not be underrated. I subscribe to a number of Iranian news groups, and it comes through on the e-mails-you know, when you have debates about, you know, the Persian versus Arab Gulf, and you know on any number of issues you could raise you could see how it's a factor.
So I would not underrate the importance of national pride with regard to the full range of WMD, especially nukes, but they don't have nukes now, so CBW is important in that context.
Kimball: Admiral Turner-and we'll take one more question.
Question: Michael O'Hanlon, I wonder if we're being realistic with expecting Saddam Hussein to comply completely with 1441 right off the bat. In our culture, we make an agreement, and we try to live up to it exactly. This (unintelligible) a Middle Eastern desire. Isn't this a negotiation in which the UN made the first move-1441? Saddam Hussein made the second move with much greater compliance than he did in 1991 in terms of letting the inspectors in and so on. The third move comes on January 20 when Blix goes back to Iraq-and who knows what Saddam may put on the table? And then the fourth move will be the UN response to that.
I mean, are we not asking too much from a Middle Eastern mentality to say, I'm going to come totally clean in one sweep here? You bargain this thing down the line. Don't we have a chance of getting a reasonable deal out of this in the long term?
Kimball: That's a good question. If I could just add one question to that, which is that in your case for possible military action you cited the importance of maintaining the integrity of the UN system, the international rule of law. What would it do to the UN system, the international rule of law, if the United States decides to take military action, absent positive evidence from the inspectors that there has been a violation of 1441?
O'Hanlon: Well, two good questions. Admiral Turner, it seems to me that we do have to force this issue within roughly, say, a year. I think Rumsfeld, again, is up to his ways, and he's trying to force the issue this winter by making troop deployment at such a high level that we can't sustain them very long. And I question just how much internal dialogue led to that consensus decision; of how much really Powell has to understand that too, as do you, as do other people who know the military well. But somehow this seems to be getting a little bit ahead of the game. I'd rather keep the numbers in sort of the 50,000 to 75,000 range until we've made a decision. But if you were to do that, and walk back a little from what Rumsfeld's doing in the way of a buildup, I think you have maybe a year.
I'm not sure you have a lot more than that-maybe you wouldn't disagree, I don't know-but it seems to me you do have to take advantage of the fact that we have forced this to the top of the policy agenda, and it won't stay there naturally unless we do something about this, and once we do something about it, it's fairly short order.
I'm not sure Saddam is behaving fundamentally better than he did in 1991. In the early years, it seems to me, he did not impede inspectors very much; he just hoped we wouldn't find anything. And for a while that strategy worked. Then we did start to find things, and he let us find whatever we found-it didn't help-and then his son-in-law defected-you know the history better than I.
But, in any case, all he's doing now is letting us walk around in places that have no illicit weaponry inside of them. That's not a great concession on his part. My real worry is over time, if we seem uncommitted to resolving this, at some point he'll start to thwart the inspectors, put conditions on their movement, and that will give his nuclear scientists more confidence they can begin a nuclear program. That's my real worry. If he keeps the few chemical and biological agents for a long time, I don't really care that much-you can live with that and deter that-but to the extent he can weaken the inspection process over time and then ultimately start a nuclear program, that is worse. So I think we have to push this within the next year and a half or so-maybe not this winter.
In terms of international law, again, here I'll take the point that right now our case is-I think the case is convincing. But it's convincing to me; it's not convincing to most of the world. And part of what international law is is a body of well-accepted judgments and principles. And, so to the extent that you can make the case in sort of a lawyerly point-by-point manner-and I think you can-international law should not be seriously impeded. And I don't believe 1441 really requires a second resolution. It certainly requires a second debate, but I think we can again argue that we don't have to have a second resolution to go to war.
On the other hand, international law is partly about politics and partly about consensus and partly about international public opinion. And in that sense, if we have to go to war based on current evidence, we are in a bit of a pickle. So it's going to be-there will be some strengthening elements and some weakening elements if we have to go to war under current circumstances.
Kimball: All right. One last question, sir, and if the panelists can keep their answers brief, that would be helpful.
Question: James Rosen, McClatchy Newspapers. There has been talk on and off for the last six to eight months about the timing of a war in Iraq, with all sorts of constraints that are mentioned. Some of them, Mr. O'Hanlon, you just mentioned-(off mike) and so forth. People talk a lot about climate and weapons.
The question for either you or any of the panelists is, do you believe that there are absolute constraints of any sort on the timing of a war happening late winter, early spring? In other words, is there an absolute last deadline, beyond which if it doesn't happen, then we're into a waiting period? And if so, what do you think the constraints are?
O'Hanlon: I'll give a quick start, and anybody else can follow-up. First of all, if you could fight at night, you could fight any time. The desert cools enough at night that-at least in Iraq and Baghdad-it's in the 70s even in July, at night. So if you wear chemical protective gear and you can fight at night, you'd be okay. The problem is, of course, that we can't always dictate the length of tactical engagements. And if you want to make sure that most of your fighting occurs when the temperature is in the 70s because you think you have to be in chemical protective gear, you really have to finish this thing by sometime in April. By mid-April, average daily highs in Baghdad are 85; by early May they're 90; by mid-May they're 95. And I think you have to work under the assumption that we're going to have to wear chemical protective gear and that we're sometimes going to have to fight in the heat of the day.
So based on that set of arguments, I would say you want to either have this war, if you have to have it at all, in March-primarily in March of 2003, or wait until next fall and winter and do it in 2004. But I personally would say that even though we certainly can win the war anytime of year, the difficulty of fighting with chemical protective suits will go up astronomically. We may have to make that terrible choice of whether we want to fight without chemical protective gear or wear our troops down in the space of 15 to 20 or 30 minutes while they are wearing it during the summer.
Kimball: All right. Thank you.
Yes, Stanley? Please.
Question: Just one more question. On the inspection, we apparently haven't given Blix much of our classified information. From today's Times, I gathered that the French and the Russians are indicating that they want to have some of our (off mike) before they act. How do you see that playing out? Have we really hard data? Will we produce it? And if we don't appear to, then what do you see at the result?
O'Hanlon: It's a tough question, and maybe I want to, again, invite others who may want to comment on this as well. My sense is we don't have a smoking gun at any site because if we did we would have already either bombed it or produced that evidence in the course of making our case for war earlier. So I think what we have is places we're highly suspicious about that you might want to send inspectors to, but even there it's going to take some luck, good or bad, depending on your perspective, to find anything. And I think all we have, again, is the set of-we've watched a lot going on there; we know where trucks are coming in and out at different hours, we know where there is more electricity usage than there probably would otherwise be, based on certain data about those facilities. We have reasons to be suspicious about a number of places. We have some defector reports that the Iraqis moved things around, so whatever the defectors knew a year ago may no longer be true.
My guess is we don't have hard data, and I think it's not going to provide a clear answer in the end unless we get awfully lucky.
Kimball: We're going to have to stop there. This conversation is obviously incomplete, and there are more developments that we will see in the days and weeks ahead. I want to thank everyone for coming. Please thank our panelists for their presentations. (Applause.) And for those of you who are joining us upstairs for the luncheon with Congressman John Spratt, please move upstairs, either the elevators or the stairs, register outside, and we'll look forward to seeing you there in a few minutes.
(End of panel discussion.)