The Werther Solution: A Modest Proposal
September 11, 2003
Discussion Threads - Comment #s: 489, 490, 491
[Ref.1] Robert Kuttner, "Neo-Cons Have Hijacked US Foreign Policy," Boston Globe, September 10, 2003
The last three Comments discussed the grand strategic crisis facing the United States. What must be done to evolve a corrective course of action?
My good friend Dr. Werther has studied these Comments and has written an essay describing what he thinks is needed to correct matters. Some of you who find Werther Solution (which some old timers may call a modified vertical stroke) to be a little too radical. Others are thinking along the same lines, albeit not as globally. I urge you to read [Ref 1] carefully ... and then go out a buy the September-October issue of Foreign Affairs, the moderate voice of the American Foreign Policy Establishment, for a less radical course of action.
A Modest Proposal
As the administration's Iraq "policy" careens out of control like a car stolen by joy-riding teenagers, critics are confronted with the inevitable retort: "But what would you do? Be constructive!" In truth, this rejoinder is a red herring: people who had no role in creating this mess have no moral "responsibility" for solving it; the authors of the mess have. And to the extent one accepts responsibility for rescuing the situation, one implicitly believes that one actually has a role in governing this erstwhile republic. In reality, the neo-con-artists, Big Oil plutocrats, and "defense" contractors will not release their iron grip on U.S. foreign policy until their avaricious hearts cease to beat.
But in the constructive spirit of Jonathan Swift's "Modest Proposal," we herewith offer a few eminently constructive suggestions:
1. Clean house at the Pentagon. Show Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et al., the door. Disband the Office of Special Plans (or whatever its successor might be named) and send Douglas Feith back to writing position papers for Benjamin Netanyahu. Abolish the Defense Policy Board and banish Newt Gingrich to the rubber chicken circuit and Richard Perle to the Borscht Belt. Revoke the security clearances of all these luminaries so that further damage is limited. Appoint Anthony Zinni (Gen USMC Ret.) as Secretary, and empower him to appoint, free from White House interference, subordinates of professional competence and moral probity. The same conditions would apply to his direction of the officer corps, including the Chairman, JCS.1/ And at the NSC, replace the over-credentialed and underwhelming Condoleeza Rice with a certifiable adult such as Brent Scowcrowft.
2. Rescind the reconstruction contracts of Halliburton, Bechtel and the other corporate welfare clients. The political influence of these ghoulish corporations was a prime mover in provoking the Iraq war in the first place. In Halliburton's case, its first Iraq oil field contract dates to December 2001, i.e., 15 months before the war [see note 2/], so their collusion in this tragedy is central. In any event, their over-priced, no-bid contracts are mulcting the taxpayer while hardly providing "reconstruction." Take the money they disgorge and pay able-bodied Iraqi males of military age $15 or $20 per day to wield picks and shovels for true reconstruction. The work might actually be more cost efficient, and in any case would avert the "idle hands are the Devil's playground" truism.
3. Give GEN Sanchez an ultimatum: "Kill Saddam Hussein by 31 December 2003 or you are commanding a radar site on Adak." The death of our erstwhile client and bulwark against Iran may not be functionally necessary, but would be a political boon and usufruct to salve the wounds of our national security Illuminati and justify this whole misguided operation to the public (an important consideration as November 2004 looms). And since GEN Sanchez has so often claimed that "we" are closing in on Saddam, he should bear some responsibility for turning words into deeds. It could at least justify a withdrawal from Iraq on the basis that, "there were no WMDs, but we did whack Saddam. Mission accomplished!" And why the deadline of 31 December?
4. Set a date of 31 December for withdrawal. Since the administration's initial plan was to occupy Iraq for six months, why should a stay of nine months seem like precipitate flight? It might even reduce U.S. casualties. While the current spin depicts the resistance in Iraq as robotic fanatics who laugh in the face of death, the truth is more complex. There may be some guerrillas who would kill Americans at any hazard, but if U.S. troops were going to leave Iraq in a short time in any case, some resisters might be less inclined to risk their own lives in a pointless exercise. What the United Nations or "our coalition partners" would or would not do thereafter is of secondary importance. As former Senator George Aiken famously said, "declare victory and get out."
5. Repair the damage to our military personnel. Our troops were obliged to redeem the lies of the American Enterprise Institute, The Weekly Standard, and other plague bacilli, with their time, absence from their families, and their blood. Honorable service in Iraq should net every enlisted person a bonus of $10,000, tax free, above and beyond any other special pays. Junior officers would reap $5,000; field grade officers, $2,500. General and flag officers would receive the thanks of a grateful Nation, suitable for framing. Granted, a gratuity is somewhat crass, but one does not notice many CEOs foregoing performance bonuses even when the share price of their company tanks. And given that millionaires received, on average, $86,000 back from Uncle Sam from the most recent tax cut, this proposal should not be too onerous. One is certain that Halliburton and Lockheed executives would be eager to contribute generously to the General Fund of the Treasury to defray the cost of this thank you to our men and women in uniform.
6. Appoint a special prosecutor. Armed with plenary powers of subpoena, this bulldog would comb the documents of the Defense Department, the White House, the Energy Task Force, and other agencies for any evidence that our elected public officials violated 18 U.S.C. 1001 (making false statements to Congress), 18 U.S.C. 371 (the broad anti-conspiracy statute that would apply in the case of provoking a war), or any other statute or Constitutional provision that may have been violated in prosecuting a pre-emptive war on false pretenses. Faced with prolonged hospitality at Allenwood, some of the Thors and Wotans who rule over us might be induced to practice a refreshing candor, for once.
7. Begin the greatest untangling operation since Watergate. Induce Congress (an admittedly hopeless bunch, whose membership more and more resembles the idiotic Senator Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate) to investigate the connection between the think tanks, their "defense" contractor contributors, public relations firms like Hill & Knowlton or the Benador Group, foreign agents of influence, and the Federal Government. Much as the mid-1930s Nye Committee unveiled the relationships between government boards, munitions trusts, financiers, and British propagandists, such an investigation would reveal how a gullible public was led into the quicksand of the Middle East for the sake of yet another "war to end all wars."
(1) The incumbent JCS chairman, GEN Richard Meyers, is on record making one of the most astounding statements of any public figure in our Nation's history: "The goal has never been to get bin Laden." (interview on "Novak, Hunt & Shields," CNN, 5 April 2002). The relative obscurity of this statement is astonishing , given that our political class is obsessed with relative trivia such as President Clinton's "I did not have sex with this woman," or President George H. W. Bush's "read my lips." Chalk it up to 50 years of television and bad government schooling.
(2) See, e.g., the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' web site for contract details: http://www.hq.usace.army.mil/cepa/iraq/factsheet.htm
Heavy web site traffic may result in the information's being sanitized. The same information, however, is provided in the following: "Halliburton's Deals Greater Than Thought," The Washington Post, 28 August 2003, Page A1.
* Werther is the pen name of a defense analyst based in Northern Virginia.
"A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." - James Madison, from a letter to W.T. Barry, August 4, 1822
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Neo-Cons Have Hijacked US Foreign Policy
By Robert Kuttner
September 10, 2003
More important, Rubin documents that another path to ousting Saddam Hussein was possible, had the administration been more patient. Other nations, even France, were in fact prepared to use force against Saddam, but insisted on letting the inspections process work first. Rubin demonstrates that every major European nation "would have been prepared to support or at least sanction force against Iraq if it had not fully disarmed by [fall 2003.]" The administration repeatedly rebuffed British entreaties to pursue this other course, which would have preserved a much broader coalition and shared responsibility for reconstruction.
Foreign policy is not something Bush closely follows. Mainly, he fell in with the wrong crowd. A determined band of neo-conservatives far outside the foreign policy mainstream persuaded the president that invading Iraq would demonstrate American power to tens of millions shocked and awed Arabs. Instead, it has demonstrated the limits of American power (but limitless arrogance), and stimulated a new round of fundamentalism, nationalism, and terrorism.
The same neo-cons persuaded Bush that nation-building and collaboration with bodies like the UN were for sissies. But now, Bush has blundered into nation-building in the worst possible circumstances, in which Americans are viewed as inept invaders rather than liberators. And he is begging for aid from the UN and the very nations he scorned.
US Representative David Obey, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, recently sent the president a letter
Obey goes on to recommend that the military be restored to its proper role of military planning and that government-wide coordination of intelligence be resumed. All of this is by way of pointing out that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, with little knowledge of the region, arrogated to themselves diplomatic, intelligence, and operational functions, and made a mess of them all.
Robert Kuttner is co-editor of the American Prospect. His column appears regularly in the Globe.