Hearing of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations: "Securing America's Interests in Iraq: The Remaining Options: Iraq in the Strategic Context"
SEN. BIDEN: The meeting will come to order.
Mr. Chairman, before we begin the hearing, I'd like to make a very brief comment on Senator Warner's resolution on Iraq.
Three weeks ago before this committee, Secretary Rice presented the president's plan for Iraq. Its main feature is to send more American troops into Baghdad in the middle of what I believe to be a sectarian war. The reaction on this committee from Republicans and Democrats alike ranged from profound skepticism -- at least skepticism -- profound skepticism to outright opposition throughout this committee, and that pretty much reflected the reaction across the country.
Senators Hagel, Levin and Snowe and I wrote a resolution to give senators a way to vote what their voices were saying. I believe we -- that was the quickest way, most effective way, to get the president to reconsider the course he's on and demonstrate to him that his policy has little support across the board in this body.
After we introduced our resolution, Senator Warner came forward with his. The bottom line of our resolution is the same as Senator Warner's. The president's -- Mr. President, don't send more troops in the middle of a civil war.
There was one critical difference. As originally written, Senator Warner's resolution left open the possibility of increasing the overall number of troops in Baghdad as well as in Iraq overall. We believed -- the sponsors of my resolution -- that that would send the wrong message. We ought to be drawing down and redeploying within Iraq rather than ramping up to make clear to the Iraqi leaders that they must begin to make the hard compromises necessary for the political solution virtually everyone acknowledge is needed to bring this conflict to a somewhat successful end.
We approached Senator Warner, my co-sponsors and I, several times to try to work out our differences, and I'm very pleased that last night we succeeded in doing just that. The language of the Warner resolution removed -- the language that Senator Warner removed from his resolution removed the possibility that it can be read as calling for more troops in Iraq. With that change, I am pleased to support Senator Warner's resolution.
When I first spoke out against the president's planned surge before the New Year, I made it clear that I hoped to build a bipartisan opposition to his plan because this is the best way to have him reconsider, and that's exactly what we have done. We'll see what happens on the floor, but that's exactly what we have done with the Biden-Levin-Hagel-Snowe and the Warner-Nelson, et cetera, resolution now, all of us joining Senator Warner as amended.
Now, we have a real opportunity for the Senate to speak clearly. Every senator will be given a chance to vote on whether he or she supports or disagrees with the president's plan as outlined by Secretary Rice. The president does not listen to -- and assuming that the majority is where I believe it is, with Senator Warner and myself and others -- if the majority of the Congress and the majority of the American people speak loudly, it's very difficult, I think, for the president to totally dismiss that. But this is an important first step.
Before we begin, let me make clear that our purpose from the outset was to get as much consensus as we could on the president's overall plan and that's why I am delighted to join and work off of Senator Warner's resolution, which quite frankly, is even a more powerful statement than, quote, a "Biden resolution" coming from one of the leading Republicans in the United States Senate.
And today marks the final day of our initial series of hearings. I remind our members what they already know: that this committee will, as under my friend and former chairman and future chairman of this committee -- because we've been here for changes, an awful lot of changes back and forth over the years -- that we will continue to engage in aggressive oversight in the coming weeks, in the coming months and throughout this year.
We are joined this morning by two very distinguished former national security advisers. First, we'll hear from General Brent Scowcroft, and later we'll hear from Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski. They are among the best strategic thinkers in America and we're honored that they're here to join us.
And without further ado, I will put in the record, since I did not know I was going to -- that we would have worked out a compromise with Senator Warner last night -- rather than read the remainder of my statement, I'll ask unanimous consent to be placed in the record, and welcome you, General. It's truly an honor to have you here. You're one of the most respected men in this country, and I will now yield to my colleague, Senator Lugar.
SEN. RICHARD G. LUGAR (R-IN): Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I thank you for holding this hearing and I welcome our distinguished former national security advisers.
This is, by our count, the 14th meeting of this committee on Iraq since the committee began its series of hearings on January the 9th. And just parenthetically, Mr. Chairman, I congratulate you, your staff, for working so well with our staff in a bipartisan way on bringing before the committee and, therefore, before the Senate and the American people, a galaxy of remarkable people, both American and Iraqi, who have addressed this issue, with profit to all of us.
These bipartisan hearings have given us the opportunity to engage administration officials, intelligence analysts, academic experts, former national security leaders, Iraqi representatives and retired military generals on strategy in Iraq and the broader Middle East, and this process has provided members a foundation for oversight as well as an opportunity to conduct a dialogue with each other.
On Tuesday, our committee hosted Secretary of State James Baker and Representative Lee Hamilton, the co-chairs of the Iraq Study Group. Both witnesses voiced the need to move Iraq policy beyond the politics of the moment.
Even if Congress and the president cannot agree on a policy in Iraq in the coming months, we have to find a way to reach a consensus on the United States' role in the Middle East.
Yesterday, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger recalled a half century of U.S. involvement in the Middle East. He argued that this history was not accidental. We have been heavily involved in the region because we have enduring interests at stake and these are interests that are vital to our country. Protecting those interests cannot be relegated to a political timeline. We may make tactical decisions about the deployment or withdrawal of forces in Iraq, but we must plan for a strong strategic posture in the region for years to come.
Both the president and Congress must be thinking about what follows our current dispute over the president's troop surge. Many members have expressed frustration with White House consultations on Iraq. I've counseled the president that his administration must put much more effort into consulting with Congress on Iraq, on the Middle East, on national security issues in general. Congress has responsibility in this process. We don't owe the president our unquestioning agreement but we do owe him and the American people our constructive engagement.
I appreciated the administration wants a chance to make its Baghdad strategy work and therefore is not enthusiastic about talking about Plan B. Similarly, opponents in Congress are intensely focused on expressing disapproval of the president's plan through nonbinding resolutions. But when the current dispute over the president's Baghdad plan has reached a conclusion, we will still have to come to grips with how we are to sustain our position in the Middle East.
At yesterday's hearing, I noted that Secretary Rice had taken steps to shift the emphasis of U.S. Middle East policy toward countering the challenges posed by Iran. Under this new approach, the United States would organize regional players -- Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, the Gulf states and others -- behind a program of containing Iran's disruptive agenda in the region. This would be one of the most consequential regional alignments in recent diplomatic history, and such a realignment has relevance for stabilizing Iraq and bringing security to other areas of conflict in the region, including Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.
Moderate states in the Middle East are concerned by Iran's aggressiveness and by the possibility of sectarian conflict beyond Iraq's borders. They recognize the United States is an indispensable counterweight to Iran, and a source of stability. The United States has growing leverage to enlist greater support for our objectives inside Iraq and throughout the region. In this context, the president's current Iraq plan should not be seen as an end game, but rather as one element in a larger Middle East struggle that is in its early stages.
The president should be reaching out to the Congress in an effort to construct a consensus on how we will protect our broader strategic interests regardless of what happens in Baghdad in the next several months. Without such preparation, I'm concerned that our domestic political disputes or frustration over the failure of the Iraq government to meet benchmarks will precipitate an exit from vital areas and missions in the Middle East.
We need to be preparing for how we will array U.S. forces in the region to defend oil assets, target terrorist enclaves, deter adventurism by Iran, provide a buffer against regional sectarian conflict and generally reassure friendly governments the United States is committed to Middle East security.
We look forward to the insights that will be brought to us by our distinguished witnesses this morning on the strategic and political dynamics involved in our Middle East policy.
I thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much, Senator.
General, the floor is yours.
MR. SCOWCROFT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to commend you, Senator Lugar and the committee for undertaking this series of hearings. By any measure, the U.S. finds itself in a most difficult situation in Iraq. If there were an easy solution to our difficulties, we would have found it before now.
In our search for resolution, we must above all keep our focus on the U.S. national interests. It is with this in mind that I would like this morning to look at Iraq in a regional context.
The conflict in Iraq has brought to the surface a number of seemingly disparate tensions, issues and conflicts which have stirred various parts of the Mideast region in a way in which they have now become interrelated, yet we still generally tend to consider Iraq as if it were in a regional vacuum.
For example, the costs of staying in Iraq are brutally apparent to us daily: troops killed, hundreds of millions of dollars spent. But the costs of leaving Iraq are almost never mentioned. It is almost as if pulling out our troops and leaving Iraq were cost-free. Even those who do not support pulling out assert that our patience is not unlimited or that President Maliki must step up to his responsibilities or else. Or else what?
In fact, however, the costs for U.S. withdrawal before a stable Iraq emerges are enormous. Our friends would feel abandoned, left to cope by themselves with a debacle we had created. Our opponents would be emboldened and encouraged to take the offensive. Terrorists everywhere would trumpet the driving of the "great Satan" from the region. Moderates in the region who are our great hope would be demoralized and run for cover.
I could go on, but the almost inevitable result would be a region in chaos, our friends in disarray, radicalism on the march, and U.S. credibility in the region and the world at large seriously damaged.
But just as the region would suffer if we abandoned Iraq, the region can help us deal with Iraq. It is clearly in the interests of the countries of the region to help. After all, countries in the region provided troops and money for the 1991 Gulf War. Even Syria joined us in that conflict. But, since then, it has come to be seen by our friends to be dangerous to be identified with the United States.
We need a diplomatic initiative to change that, one which involves the entire region; that means Syria, Iran and the Arab- Israeli peace process. A vigorously renewed effort to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict could change both the dynamics in the region and the strategic calculus of key leaders. Hezbollah and Hamas would lose much of their rallying appeal. American allies like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states would feel liberated to assist in stabilizing Iraq, and Iraq would finally be seen by all as a key country that had to be set right in pursuit of regional stability.
Resuming the peace process is not a matter of forcing concessions from either side. Most of the elements of a settlement are already agreed as a result of negotiations in 2000 and the road map of 2002. What is required is to summon the will of Arab and Israeli leaders, led by a determined American president, to forge the various elements into a conclusion that all parties have publicly accepted in principle.
As for Syria and Iran, we should not be fearful of opening channels of communication, but neither should we rush to engage them as negotiating partners. Moreover, they should be dealt with separately. Their interests, their concerns are different, and we should not treat them as a duo.
Syria cannot be comfortable in the sole embrace of Iran. It also has much to gain from a settlement with Israel, and it may be even more eager if it sees the peace process moving forward without it.
Iran is a different matter. Nuclear issues, first of all, should be dealt with on the U.N. track, not as a part of a regional forum. In its present state of euphoria, Iran has little interest in making things easier for the United States. However, if the peace process makes progress and other regional states become more interested or engaged in stabilization in Iraq, Iran may be more inclined to negotiate seriously.
In Iraq itself, we should continue to encourage moves toward reconciliation and a unified government.
With respect to the surge, I consider it a tactic rather than a strategic move. If it is successful in stabilizing Baghdad, that could begin to change the climate and bring a new self-confidence to Iraqi forces which could be important. But it will not end the problem. As I say, it is a tactic, rather than a strategy.
As a general proposition, I believe American troops should gradually be deployed away from intervening in sectarian conflict. That must be done by Iraqi troops, however well or badly they are able to do it. Our troops should concentrate on training the Iraqi army, providing support and backup to the army, combating insurgents, attenuating outside intervention and assisting in major infrastructure protection.
That does not mean that the American presence should be reduced. That should follow success in our efforts, not the calendar or the performance of others.
As I said at the outset, there are no easy answers to the problems we face. As we move ahead, we will not find impatience a quick fix or seeking partisan advantage a friend to the U.S. national interest over the long run. It is going to be hard to make a bad situation better. It will be easy to make it worse.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much, General.
We'll have seven-minute rounds with these two witnesses, all right?
General, thank you for your testimony. It's quite clear. As I understand it, we can't win in Iraq -- succeed in Iraq -- without a political settlement.
We can't leave Iraq -- and I agree with these propositions -- we can't leave because of the regional global consequences if we did, absent a settlement. We need regional cooperation, but our friends are reluctant to be associated with us in this present atmosphere so it's unlikely to get regional cooperation. But one way to get it would be if we demonstrated a sincere effort to get the Israeli- Palestinian peace process back on track.
Let me ask you specifically whether you believe that the Israelis see benefit in getting the peace process back on track.
MR. SCOWCROFT: I don't know, Mr. Chairman, exactly what the Israelis are thinking now. Their government is in a very difficult situation. Its popularity is near zero. A tough response for the prime minister is very difficult. It seems to me in his inner heart he must feel that this could be his salvation.
It, after all, is Israel's salvation. Israel cannot permanently live surrounded by hostile -- hostile forces. And so a solution to this problem is very much in Israel's interest, just as our leaving the region would be the worst possible outcome for Israel.
SEN. BIDEN: My instinct is that Prime Minister Olmert understands that. What I get fed back from different and disparate sources in Israel is -- let me characterize it a different way. Were you the national security adviser today, would you be pushing the president -- any president -- to have a much more focused and clear attempt to get this peace process back on track?
MR. SCOWCROFT: Yes, I would. I believe the administration, at least from all appearances, is moving in that direction.
SEN. BIDEN: One of the things that perplexes me, anyway, is that -- how long it took the administration to engage the Israelis and the public in any utterances with regard to the war in Lebanon. How -- I mean, we just don't seem to have anybody of real consequence on the ground full-time that the Israeli leadership knows has the ear of the president of the United States. This is a risk, I know. I've been here for seven presidents, and every president, I know, calculates the risk of getting himself deeply involved in trying to resolve this crisis.
But I guess what I'm asking you is isn't it necessary for the president to get deeply involved in not telling Israel what to do, but making it clear that we are willing to take risks along with them to get this process under way?
MR. SCOWCROFT: I think it is critical for the president to be involved because the states of the region are very nervous. They're worried about the spread of radicalism. If you noted at the time of the Lebanese incursion, the first word from the Arab governments was condemnation of Hezbollah for kidnapping the soldiers. That turned, in about three days, to condemnation --
SEN. BIDEN: Seems to me we missed a significant opportunity to -- I see a common interest with the Sunni states and Israel right now. And I -- as I exchange -- or I don't know if I want to formalize it -- as I have dialogue with leaders in the leading Sunni states, from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, they seem much more concerned about this -- they refer to the "Shi'a crescent." It seems to me there's a mutuality of interest here. It seems to me they're in the position where they may be prepared to be much more responsible than they have in the past -- excluding Egypt; I think they've been responsible by and large -- to actually be a proactive player in bringing about a positive settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.
From my perspective, it even looks as though Syria is in an unholy alliance with a country that they don't have a real shot for a long-term future with, Iran. So I happen to agree with your assessment that it should be -- I think there's an opportunity here for really some solid diplomacy.
Let me conclude by asking you this: Many of our witnesses we've had have laid out in sort of historical terms that when you deal with a country that was literally the consequence of a diplomat's pen on a map, like the Balkans, like Syria; we could name other places in Africa, as well -- that one or two formulas seem to be the only two that can work.
Either you have a strongman take hold to hold that country together, or two, you have some form of a loosely federated system in the central government with some significant authority in the regions, particularly over their own security. That was what happened in Dayton. It's happened other places.
Can you comment briefly on what you see down the road as the outlines of a political settlement that might hold that country together -- Iraq -- where it's not a threat to its neighbors, where it's not a haven for terror, and where we can be a positive influence in providing assistance for both those things? United and not a haven.
MR. SCOWCROFT: I believe that it's possible to have a centralized Iraqi state, but it won't be easy, and it may take a long time to resolve itself.
It is similar, in some respects, to Yugoslavia. The difference, however, a loosely federated or even independent states in Yugoslavia has worked reasonably well, although if our troops left Kosovo or our troops -- or the troops that are still in Bosnia left, I fear we'd find it was not over. But Iraq happens to be surrounded by powerful neighbors, relatively powerful neighbors, with intense interests in the future of Iraq. I think a loosely federated system would be an invitation to meddling and would perhaps even hasten the regionalization of a conflict.
SEN. BIDEN: Well, if there's a second round, I will come back and talk to you a little bit about the Iraqi constitution, which is explicit in setting out Kurdistan as one of those loosely federated areas, by definition, and lays out where any of the 18 other governorates. Any of the 18 governorates can conclude they have local control over their security. But I'd like to talk to you, but my time is up.
SEN. LUGAR: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
General Scowcroft, I would just you to think aloud about Iraq in this sense: We've had testimony from Iraqis that our military forces obtained military victory over Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi armed forces essentially disintegrated. People fled, leaving their uniforms and their arms and were no longer identified with the military force.
In addition to that, we heard that the police forces, various other coercive elements, also dissipated to a point that not only the celebrated sacking of the museums in Baghdad or the things that would attract international recognition occurred, but back in the provinces people who were robbers, thieves and ne'er-do-wells really terrorized the people.
Now, the question that was raised by these Iraqis comes down to this: We have worked, the United States and our allies, with some Iraqi politicians to bring about a constitution, even elections, a parliament, people that are meeting on occasion, a prime minister. But at this point, the whole country lacks what -- at least these Iraqis said -- were coercive elements, not in the sense of torture and debilitating people but simply keeping some degree of order, some law and order so that ordinary people could go about without being hit by predators. Some people have formed militias, not the celebrated ones with thousands of people, but simple groups to protect themselves in a variety of ways.
Now, all of that is there and we're still involved in armed conflict with insurgents or with sectarians. It's not clear, at least to me as I've listened to all of this, how order comes to this situation and whether our aspirations -- I mean the United States -- seeing Iraq as a model example of democracy in the Middle East works really in this situation.
Can you give some thought as to -- you ruminated about Yugoslavia and various other places as they try to struggle, but they had much more of an institution, a building situation there before it began. This is sort of a wipeout in Iraq in an area of unstable countries. And what sort of prognosis can you give? What would be a reasonable government situation in Iraq that would fit with the rest of the surrounding territories and fit with our strategy, perhaps, of withdrawal from sectarian violence but presence to batten down the hatches with regard to terrorists or those that would be totally disruptive of borders?
MR. SCOWCROFT: You've asked a very difficult question, Senator, and I think for the United States, Iraq is perhaps sui generis. You know, we've had heavy involvements in Korea, heavy involvements in Vietnam, and so on, but there we participated alongside a government which was constituted, which was operating, which had people who knew how to run a government. Iraq has none of those; it is destroyed. It's a blank slate seething with the sectarian, religious, ethnic tensions that resulted from it being an artificial state. So we have to put the whole thing together. And it's not as if Maliki were part of a government firmly in power and so on; we're trying to set up a government.
The situation is much more like Somalia, for example, than it is like Vietnam. And I don't know how we end this (stuff ?). I think we have to push for reconciliation. We have to try to train -- not just train the Iraqi army, but convince them what they're fighting for, who they're fighting for. Is it a sect? Is it a religion? Is it an ethnic group? Or is it the symbol of the state of Iraq? And I don't think we're there yet. We're apparently closer in the army than we are in the police, which is badly infiltrated by these -- let's call them "private forces."
To me, that's going to take time, and I think it's going to take patience, and it's going to take a presence -- hopefully, over time, a decreasing presence -- as they start to learn how to govern themselves. Most of the people in the government now have never held any kind of office. You can't expect an instantaneous democracy to emerge. You may have to go through strongmen phases and so on, but hopefully we can be increasingly a big brother, offering helpful hands, admonishing here, helping there. As we and, if we're successful in the region, as the regional partners of Iraq begin to play a role, we can succeed, but there's no magic wand and it's a redoubtable task.
SEN. LUGAR: What you've described is something perhaps like a South American democracy that arose -- this is a broad characterization, but the army was a powerful group and it provided some order and then a new course that said, "We're tired of governing; we want to invite some civilians in to participate and then provide some elements of democracy." And sometimes when the civilians don't do well, the Army returns, dismisses the civilians and tries again. Is this roughly what you're talking about?
MR. SCOWCROFT: Well, there are a number of models of democracy -- the Latin American model, the Turkish model -- there are lots of them, and each culture has to figure out its own, but we have a heavy responsibility now in Iraq figuring out its own without plunging the entire region into turmoil with all those consequences.
SEN. LUGAR: Thank you very much.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much.
Senator, welcome. It's nice not to have to wait all this time, isn't it?
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD) (?): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
General Scowcroft, thank you very much for your service to our country and for you being here. We very much appreciate your advice.
I'm having some difficulty in reconciling the additional troops being sent into Baghdad and your advice that we should be redeploying troops away from the sectarian violence as part of our strategy. It seems to me that the president's announcements move in the wrong direction there, but also give a signal to the Iraqis that we intend to keep our troops in the center of where sectarian violence is the worst.
But I want to -- I would like to concentrate more on the Israel- Palestinian conflict because I think you've raised some very valid concerns.
We've been talking about this for a long time, but the framework for resolving the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is fairly well defined. Not to say it wouldn't be very difficult to achieve it, but it's well defined parameters in which the discussions have taken place. And I don't believe time works to the advantage of resolving the issue. I think there is an opportunity, we should be taking advantage of that opportunity, and it requires a very strong presence from the United States -- as the chairman said, not to dictate the terms of the peace, but to be the force for keeping the parties at the table to resolve their differences and to implement a peace plan.
So if I might, if you were to give the president advice as to how we could elevate and move forward with the Israel-Palestinian peace process, could you share with us how you would see the president elevating that issue? And secondly, advice to Congress, what we can do to try to move forward with the Israeli-Palestinian peace issues.
MR. SCOWCROFT: Certainly, Senator. I think a strong sense of presidential leadership is essential in order to give heart to our friends in the region who -- most of whom have been vocal in wanting to pursue the peace process but are afraid to get out in front of the United States. If the president shows some determination that he wants to press forward, I think he will find a lot of help, and a lot of help is needed.
One of the conventional arguments is that Israel now has a government under siege and is not in a position to negotiate, and on the Palestinian side, there's a struggle between Fatah and Hamas and there is no negotiator. I believe those problems are fixable. The more difficult one probably is the Palestinian issue, but even there, there's some movement.
The Hamas external leader in Damascus recently said that Israel is a reality; there will remain a state called Israel; this is a matter of fact. Now, that's not recognizing Israel, which we have demanded of Hamas, but it's certainly a step, a big step away from driving Israel into the sea.
So there's something there we can work with. And the Egyptians are working hard to resolve that problem. So those are the things I think we need to pay attention to originally, to get the negotiators ready to talk at the table. As you say, if they sit down, most of the issues have already been agreed, and those that haven't, the outlines of an agreement are still there. It will take tough negotiating, but I think it is there.
SEN. CARDIN (?): Is there a specific positive role that you see the United States Congress in this regard?
MR. SCOWCROFT: I think the Congress should be supportive of that kind of effort.
I certainly am not prepared to tell the Congress what it ought to do. On your first point about the surge, there's no question that the surge is in contradiction to my general statement we need to get out of sectarian conflict, but there is a particular problem right now in Baghdad, and if Baghdad should become a single-sect city, we would have a new and different kind of a problem for the whole of Iraq.
So I think there is a rationale for trying to stabilize the situation in Baghdad which violates the general rule that we shouldn't do that.
SEN. CARDIN (?): I would point out that there are right now in Iraq so many displaced individuals as a result of the sectarian violence that -- I understand the importance of Baghdad to maintain ethnic diversity, but it seems like Iraq has moved in a wrong direction now for a period of time.
MR. SCOWCROFT: Well, I wouldn't disagree with that. And as I say on the surge, the president has decided he wants to surge. I think that the Congress role here is unlikely to be helpful in the direction that it's going in the sense that what you send is signals abroad that if they just push a little harder then the president may have to change his mind.
SEN. CARDIN (?): I would argue that if the president would work with Congress and listen to perhaps our hearings here, there could be much more unity in our position in Iraq.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for --
MR. SCOWCROFT: My guess is the president is listening attentively right now.
SEN. CARDIN (?): I hope so.
SEN. BIDEN: Senator Hagel.
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R- NE): Mr. Chairman, thank you.
Welcome, General Scowcroft. It's always pleasant, enlightening, informative to have you before us, and we always appreciate your thoughts.
Just a quick response to a point you made, and then I want to go back a comment in your testimony and ask a question.
We all appreciate, I think, that there are no clear comparisons of past conflicts that the United States has been involved in with Iraq. You noted that Somalia may be in many regards closer to a comparison with Iraq than Vietnam. But because you have served as national security adviser to two presidents and your entire career has been about national security, very few understand it as well as you do -- but I would make this observation: I do think there is one clear comparison with Vietnam, where we are in Iraq, and that is if we continue to get bogged down more and more -- when the president is talking about sending 22,000 more U.S. troops, you can define that in any way you want, but that's an increase in our involvement -- our military involvement.
The president will soon be coming before the Congress for another $100 billion emergency supplemental, most all of that for Iraq. That is certainly an additional amount of involvement.
We have the largest embassy -- U.S. embassy in the world, by far, in Iraq and we continue to building up that embassy. That certainly is a significant increase in our involvement.
So rather than going the other way, we continue to bog ourselves down in the country, and the consequences of that -- you, being a career professional military man, certainly are aware, just as The Washington Post noted a couple of days ago, what this is doing to our force structure, specifically our equipment, that we will not have enough equipment. And I had the secretary of the Army in my office two days ago; asked him about that. The rotation patterns -- all the consequences that most people don't understand. You do.
So it's my observation that that is the one clear comparison, just like Vietnam. Just send more troops; send more money; send more involvement; give us more time. I don't think that there is any way you can escape that reality.
Now that leads me into a question that was prompted by a comment you made, and you I think said something -- I don't have your testimony so I can't quote exactly -- but something to the effect that our withdrawal or decrease of involvement should follow -- not timelines, or any other definitions, but it should follow, I believe in your words, success in our efforts.
Well, next month it'll be four years that we have been there. We are nearing 3,100 deaths. And I was just at a funeral of a Nebraska Army lieutenant who was one of those abducted in Karbala. We are over 23,000 wounded, and I can recite all the other numbers, which you are familiar with.
So after four years, then, based on what you said, we should base any withdrawal or plans for decreasing our involvement -- that should follow success in our efforts.
My question is what do you define success as being? And the other question picks up a little bit on your exchange with the distinguished senator from Maryland -- do you believe the Congress has a role in this? You mentioned something about resolutions sending the wrong signals. Do you believe the Congress has a constitutional responsibility and role in war? What is that? And I'd like you to define that, if you would, and answer that question.
So two questions, General, and thank you.
MR. SCOWCROFT: Absolutely.
To answer the last one first, of course I think Congress has a role. One of the distinguished constitutional jurists whose name I can't recall now said, "In matters of war and international relations, the Constitution is an invitation to struggle between the executive and the legislature." And I'll just leave it there.
Do I think Congress has a role? Absolutely. And the ultimate role that Congress has in the making of war is the power of the purse. There's no question about that.
SEN. HAGEL: I appreciate that, and of course, there are more definition of our role, which is heavy in precedent over the last 230 years, as well -- not just the power of the purse, as you well know. But we're not here before the Judiciary Committee.
But please, sir. Thank you. If you'd answer the other question as well. I appreciate your comments.
MR. SCOWCROFT: Now the other question --
SEN. HAGEL: The other question was, based on your testimony, when you said that U.S. withdrawal or --
MR. SCOWCROFT: Oh, yes.
SEN. HAGEL: -- or any efforts to move out should be --
MR. SCOWCROFT: Right.
SEN. HAGEL: -- your words, "Should follow success in our efforts." Now after four years in all that we've put in we continue to put more in, what is your measurement of success? You said this should -- this may go on for years and years. We may go through strongmen. What is our responsibility --
MR. SCOWCROFT: I think --
SEN. HAGEL: -- and what is that measurement of success?
MR. SCOWCROFT: I think our responsibility is a state which is stable enough to be a force for stability in the region, not for disruption in the region.
And our goal, I think, has to be the region itself now. And I think we cannot afford chaos in the Middle East.
SEN. HAGEL: Well, that's not my question.
And we all agree with that. But what is your -- we hear a lot of rhetoric, General --
MR. SCOWCROFT: It -- I --
SEN. HAGEL: -- from the president and others saying, "We ought to have a measurement; we ought to know when we're going to threaten and we're going to pull out and we're going to have benchmarks." Well, when is that measurement of some precision so that you know? Or is it beyond our control?
MR. SCOWCROFT: I don't -- I don't know what the precision is.
We have troops in Korea 50 years after that war was over.
SEN. HAGEL: But you're surely not making a comparison to Korea?
MR. SCOWCROFT: No, I'm not making a comparison to Korea. But I don't know when you can let the (hen ?) -- when you're training your child with training wheels on the bicycle, how do you know when to take the training wheels off?
SEN. HAGEL: Well, again, I wouldn't use that analogy either.
MR. SCOWCROFT: I don't know.
SEN. HAGEL: And when you got 70 percent or more of the Iraqi people who don't want us there and over 60 percent say it's okay to kill Americans, and we're going to put a number of new troops in Baghdad, which you have just noted that you don't, I guess to some extent, agree with -- you've noted that sectarian -- those are sectarian issues.
So then isn't there some jumble in all this? And when you say we ought to have, in your words, a success in our efforts, well how do you measure success in our efforts?
MR. SCOWCROFT: No. It would be nice to be precise and to have all these benchmarks that everybody can see and so on. This is not that kind of a problem. We're in a mess and we've got to work our way out of it.
SEN. HAGEL: Well, that's true, but how will you do that?
MR. SCOWCROFT: And we've got to work our way out of it, not into a bigger mess -- a regional mess, where one of the results will make $60 oil look like a bargain.
SEN. HAGEL: Do you do that by continuing to put more troops in Baghdad?
MR. SCOWCROFT: I did not say put more troops in.
SEN. HAGEL: Well, how do you work your way out of the mess?
MR. SCOWCROFT: Well, I can repeat what I said: You focus on training; you focus on backing up the army; you focus on lines of communication; you focus on infrastructure; you focus on keeping the outsiders from intervening, and you encourage reconciliation and consolidation of the government.
SEN. HAGEL: Then how do you measure that?
MR. SCOWCROFT: The way you measure anything.
SEN. HAGEL: Would you give us a good grade over the last four years of measuring success?
MR. SCOWCROFT: No.
SEN. HAGEL: Are things getting better?
MR. SCOWCROFT: No.
SEN. HAGEL: So another four years we take another look and maybe the Congress should look at a resolution and maybe it shouldn't?
MR. SCOWCROFT: I think this problem is not going to be over inside a decade.
SEN. HAGEL: Does that mean more American troops --
MR. SCOWCROFT: No.
SEN. HAGEL: -- fed into the grinder and --
MR. SCOWCROFT: I do not believe we need more American troops --
SEN. HAGEL: My time is up.
Thank you, General. Thank you.
MR. SCOWCROFT: -- because I want to get out from in-between the sectarian violence.
SEN. BIDEN: Senator Casey.
SEN. ROBERT P. CASEY JR. (D-PA): Thank you very much.
Senator Menendez has graciously allowed me to jump ahead.
General, I'm grateful for your presence here and your service to the nation. And I'm going to ask you maybe two questions about Iraq specifically. But before I do that, I wanted to ask a question which I think is on the minds of a lot of people now that -- when the American people think about Iraq and they think about the sacrifice that both you and Senator Hagel were just reviewing, in terms of the loss of life. In my state, the state I represent, along with Senator Specter, we've lost the third highest number. So we're cognizant of that.
I think a lot of Americans are concerned about what happens next, not just with regard to Iraq but what happens next with regard to Iran.
Someone that I respect greatly -- I won't use his name -- but many moths ago said to me -- made the assertion, and I'll paraphrase -- that if this government were to strike Iran, one of the immediate and direct consequences of that would be the slaughter of GIs, hundreds if not thousands, right away. And I don't know if that's correct or not, but I wanted to ask you that question based upon your experience as a national security expert, your experience in war, in what you've seen and read and analyzed with regard to what's happening now in the Middle East as it now pertains to Iran.
Do you think -- and let me just put it plainly to you -- do you think that if there is a military strike by this government on Iran, do you think it is highly likely or unlikely, maybe -- maybe you have a third option -- that a large number of American GIs would be slaughtered in Iraq?
MR. SCOWCROFT: Well, Senator, I can't really tell you there. I must say that the utility at this point of a strike on Iran escapes me, so I haven't pursued what the consequences will be. It seems to me that there are many other options open with Iran, there being a very difficult person in the region at the present time -- both their general sectarian threats and the nuclear issue. But I think we have maneuvering room with them and time with them. And I don't think that the Iranian structure is quite as unified and monolithic as it appears to some, and that with some very careful diplomacy we might be able to uncover more fissures there. And I would certainly pursue diplomacy.
Iran didn't just rise yesterday, from the ashes, to be a threat. Iran has been there for a long time. We've had problems with them since the fall of the shah. But I see no reason that those problems suddenly have become overwhelmingly menacing.
SEN. CASEY: But can you assess the question I just asked about American troops in Iraq?
MR. SCOWCROFT: Well, if I were an Iranian leader, having been struck by a U.S. air attack, for example, having no means to retaliate directly on the United States, I would do whatever I could to take it out on U.S. interests where I could reach them.
SEN. CASEY: I also wanted to point to -- and I appreciated your statement today, some of which was contained in a New York Times op-ed on January 4th. I was struck by a number of statements in your op-ed.
One was that -- I want to read, in part -- when you're speaking of Iran, you talked about failure in Iraq or withdrawal being the catalyst for an expansion of Iranian influence in the region. Then you go on to say, and I quote, "Our air" -- this is in the context of some kind of withdrawal -- quote, "Our Arab friends would rightly feel we had abandoned them to face alone Iraq radicalism that has been greatly inflamed by American actions in the regions and which could pose a serious threat to their own governments," unquote.
I was struck by the juxtaposition of the sense that you would have that they would -- our Arab friends would feel abandoned, but also your assertion that that radicalism in the region has been greatly inflamed by American actions in that region. I just wanted to have you talk about that in terms of what actions have inflamed that radicalism in the region.
MR. SCOWCROFT: Well, I think the situation in Iraq has inflamed it. It has exacerbated the century-old tension between Sunnis and Shi'as. And it has brought to the fore conflicts, again historic but quiescent, between Persians and Arabs. And all of those now are surfaced and are boiling. And I think the Iraq developments have helped to create that kind of a situation.
SEN. CASEY: And I almost am out of time, General. Let me just see if I can get one more in.
Again, on the question of Iran, you assert -- with regard to the reaction that Iran would have if our forces were withdrawn or largely redeployed -- just specifically; I know we only have a few seconds -- but what do you think the Iranian reaction would be to a total withdrawal of U.S. forces?
MR. SCOWCROFT: Oh, that's very speculative, Senator. I don't know. I think in some respects they may be dismayed, but in other respects I think they would be very encouraged because they could see the way open for the expansion of Iranian or Shi'a influence through out the region, with us having vacated, and I think that would probably be the predominant -- they would think they had won a victory.
SEN. CASEY: Thank you, General.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much.
Before I move to Senator Menendez, I have to make a point that we're going to be having three votes in a row, I'm told, around 12:00 noon. And we have need for business meeting to pass out a resolution to the committee which is pro forma but it sets out the budget for the committee -- for the 110th Congress.
So I'm going to suggest to my colleagues, between the second -- the first and second vote on the floor we go down to our Foreign Relations Committee meeting room in the Senate on the first floor -- that's 107, and we'll take 30 seconds to vote out the resolution.
With that -- excuse me --
MR. : (Off mike.)
SEN. BIDEN: Oh, I'm sorry, Senator Coleman. I beg your pardon.
SEN. NORM COLEMAN (R-MN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Following up on Senator Casey's comment about the Iran reaction in The New York Times article you talked about withdrawal and use a phrase "our opponents would be hugely emboldened and our friends would be equally demoralized."
One of the things that we've heard -- and I was trying to get a note on the -- about 50 hours of hearings that we've had here -- 15 meetings, 12 of them hearings, briefings, markups -- really an extraordinary job of examining -- one obvious thing is this is a complex issue. There's not a silver bullet here.
And there are consequences for the things that we do -- understanding Iraq is a mess today, it could be much worse tomorrow. Is that a fair statement? If we precipitously withdraw, as the Iraqi (sic/Iraq) Study Group talked about -- I think your New York Times piece also talks about that -- counts al Qaeda emboldened; our allies having long-term doubt about American reliability -- why join with us?; those who have stepped up to the front in Iraq probably slaughtered -- and so great consequences.
One of -- the whole issue of American -- the perception of America on the global arena -- right now folks think, "This Iraq, it's terrible." But if we do the wrong thing in Iraq, if we simply abandon Iraq, that perception could be worse. Would that be a fair statement?
MR. SCOWCROFT: I believe it's a fair statement, Senator. I think we would be perceived in the world "Well, America's lost it." You know, we're a force of the past; we're fading; we're not up to the challenges. I think that would be wrong, but I think that would be the perception.
SEN. COLEMAN: What are the consequences of that perception?
MR. SCOWCROFT: Well, it would be a subtle shifting of where you want to put your confidence. Who do you want to stand with? Who do you want to be careful about? And so on and so forth. And I think it would be significantly deleterious.
SEN. COLEMAN: One of the challenges that we have -- there are some of us who understand the consequences of failure, and again, as laid out both in the Iraqi (sic) Study Group; Secretary Kissinger talked about it yesterday, Secretary Baker talked about it -- who believe that we're going to be in Iraq for a long time -- a long time -- hopefully, though, not in the middle of a sectarian civil war, but simply to let our allies -- let the Iranians know we're not leaving Iraq and let al Qaeda know we're not walking out on Iraq. But we don't want to be in the middle of this sectarian battle.
What is the -- you've commanded troops. We have this debate in the Senate; we pass resolutions -- in this case discussion about a resolution that may challenge an aspect of the president's policy.
Can you help me understand -- does that have an impact on the folks on the ground? Does that have an impact -- the nature of this debate -- does that have an impact upon -- does it embolden our enemies? Or is it simply, this is the way the United States works, the way the Congress works, and folks understand that?
MR. SCOWCROFT: I think it -- I don't think it has much effect on the troops. Troops know what they're doing. They're following the orders. They're doing their damndest. And I don't think the Congress voting a non-concurrence or something in what the president has done will affect their attitudes or anything.
I don't know how it will effect those who are opposing us over there, if they would think, "Well, look, you know, we've got the president on the run now; if we just push a little harder, he'll cave." I don't know that; that's pure speculation.
SEN. COLEMAN: Certainly as I approach this -- I don't want to do anything to undermine the resolve of the folks on the ground. I want them to know we support them. We may disagree with the aspect of what the president is doing. But in the end we still want to see -- at least I want to see -- success, however it's defined -- success perhaps being some stability, al Qaeda not having a base on the ground in which to sow greater uncertainty and instability in the region.
But on the other hand, we have this -- I think -- our own constitutional responsibility and the responsibility representing our citizens to say -- if we're troubled by something, to say if -- that's an important question; I appreciate the response.
Let me ask about benchmarks.
Secretary Kissinger said yesterday that he was concerned about this issue of benchmarks and the consequences of holding -- Iraq has consequences if they don't reach them. I believe in your article in the Times -- New York Times -- also you talked about benchmarks and that if the Iraqis failed to reach benchmarks, what do we do about it?
Part of the problem -- and I hope this debate helps -- they have to understand that our patience is not infinite, that maybe we'll leave them to kill each other in Baghdad and be on other areas, not to let the Iranians come in. I don't know whether they're tired of killing each other. I don't know whether they're exhausted from that yet. So if they don't reach benchmarks, how do we insist or let them know that they've got to do some things that have to be done for us to continue with the sacrifice of blood and treasure?
MR. SCOWCROFT: Well, one of my problems with benchmarks is that it sort of presupposes that the government is not doing its best -- the Iraqi government. Well, by our lights, they're not doing their best. But it's not that they're disinterested and just sitting on their hands. They believe passionately, but not all in the same thing. And they're killing each other for their beliefs. And what we're trying to do is to put together a government which can draw together these disparate elements in some kind of a unified approach that you could call Iraq.
And the problem with benchmarks is, as this government struggles, if they don't meet the first benchmark, we draw down some almost making certain they can't meet the second benchmark. And so it begins to look like a recipe for withdrawal, of blaming the Iraqi government.
And is the Iraqi government what we would wish? No. But it's -- we're trying to set up a government from zero. There is no government in Iraq. When we destroyed Saddam Hussein and the Ba'athists -- there is nobody left who had any experience in governing. And so all of the tensions, all of the sectarian and religious tensions boil up. And you put in a bunch of people and your write a constitution in a little while and you hope that it's going to work. But it's going to take time.
SEN. COLEMAN: I see that my time has expired.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. BIDEN: Senator Menendez.
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D-NJ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
General, thank you for your service to our country. Thank you for your testimony.
I have a couple of questions that I hope you could be helpful with.
You know, many of our colleagues who are concerned about challenging our present course of action -- we all want to achieve success. The question is, how does one do that?
And some who challenge and say the consequences of failure make that a linkage in the case for escalation -- but overwhelmingly the testimony that we have heard here, including from experts who come from both sides of the political divide, have said largely that you cannot achieve victory here through a classic military context. And so, you know, I don't quite buy the escalation aspect as the pivotal issue as to whether we have success or failure in Iraq.
But that goes to the broader question -- aren't in essence what we are doing here with our troops is the role of nation-building? Is that an appropriate mission for the United States military?
MR. SCOWCROFT: It is an appropriate role for the United States military in a situation where conflict is a predominant fact of the nation. Yes.
Hopefully we can gradually get out of that. But right now, without the military there would be no hope.
SEN. MENENDEZ: But General, I asked you that question because when I served in the House of Representatives, for a long time I heard my colleagues on the other side of the aisle rail against the context of nation-building, about having the military be an integral part of nation-building. But it seems to me that's very much what we're doing.
But to further go down this line, I looked at your January op-ed piece and I read it with great interest. There's a couple of things that you said there that concern me with our present course of action. You said, quote, "American combat troops should be gradually redeployed away from intervening in sectarian conflict." And you also said that controlling the sectarian conflict, quote, "is a task for Iraqi troops, however poorly prepared they may be." And that's where I want to take off the next line of questioning with you.
Everything we hear from the administration suggests -- tries to suggest to the American people and to the Congress that it is the Iraqis who are leading this effort, that it is Iraqis who are going to be on point and that we are there filling in in the background along the way and being helpful and talking about embedding. But when I look at the some of the most recent news reports from the front lines, I see an incredible lack of troop strength and training of Iraqi forces and the confusion that comes along with having them take the lead.
You know, here's one quote form an article: "As the sun rose, many of the Iraqi army units who were supposed to do the actual searches of the building did not arrive on time, forcing the Americans to start the job on their own. When the Iraqi units finally did show up, it was with the air of a class outing, cheering and laughing as the Americans blew locks off door with shotguns. Many of the Iraqi units that showed up late never seemed to take the tasks seriously, searching haphazardly, breaking dishes, rifling through personal CD collections in the apartments."
In the article, a lieutenant colonel of the 3rd Stryker Brigade talked about the difficulty of conducting such operations. He said, quote: "This was an Iraqi led effort, and with that comes challenges and risk. It can be organized chaos."
Twenty-some-odd thousand more troops into that scenario? That is -- I don't understand that. And then let me balance that when (sic) your answer with, how do we, in such a scenario, send 20,000 more troops? And secondly -- and you say that at some point, no matter how poorly prepared they may be, they should lead in this effort -- I probably agree with you. They need to stand up at some point for their own, particularly in the sectarian conflict.
And why is it that, notwithstanding your recommendations and the recommendations of so many others, we do not seem to have an administration willing to engage in a very vigorous way, as so many members in a bipartisan effort here have called for, in the regional summits and the high level of engagement of other countries in the region, which you yourself call for, as a significant comprehensive part of this plan? Why is there such a reticence, from your perception, of the administration to do that?
If you could pursue those two lines I would appreciate it.
MR. SCOWCROFT: Well, I think as to the surge, as I said, I describe the surge as a tactical maneuver, not as a strategic move. The reason for it that I would adduce is that Baghdad is a special case. And if one can stabilize Baghdad then it would have a great psychological impact in the country and also might give the Iraqi forces a greater sense of self-confidence than the article that you read indicates that they have.
But it won't change the situation fundamentally in Iraq. It might be a blip. It might be a positive blip. But it won't -- and as Senator Hagel said -- you know, we've got a long, hard slog here. And this is -- it might be helpful. If it doesn't work, it might be harmful. But it's -- you know, I didn't focus on it because it's a decision that the president has made and it is being implemented even as we speak.
Now, I think the administration is moving to greater regional involvement. And I think that Secretary Rice's last trip where she spoke some and listened a lot will encourage them to move further.
What I worry about is that it's going to take not just gradual movement; it's going to take visible determination in order to rally our friends behind us.
SEN. MENENDEZ: I -- Lee -- my time is up but Lee Hamilton and Jim Baker were here, and they -- I think that one of the things that -- I think it was Lee Hamilton who specifically said that -- the sense of urgency. And on the diplomatic side, I don't get the sense of intensity and urgency that is necessary in order to achieve our goals. But I hope both these sets of hearings and the vote that will soon take place will have the administration understand the sense of urgency -- certainly on the diplomatic side.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LUGAR: Well, thank you very much, Senator Menendez.
The chairman has been called to the floor for a moment. The thought is that we will recess the hearing and wait for Dr. Brzezinski's appearance, which should be in a few minutes.
Let me just ask before I take that action whether there are members who have additional questions for General Scowcroft.
Seeing no further questions, we thank you very much for coming once again to be a part of a very important hearing. You've made a wonderful contribution. And we look forward to seeing you again soon.
MR. SCOWCROFT: I thank you all for listening to me. Thank you very much.
SEN. LUGAR: For the moment the committee is recessed, and we will wait for Dr. Brzezinski's appearance.
SEN. LUGAR: (Sounds gavel.) The committee is called to order. We welcome Dr. Brzezinski , a wonderful friend of the committee for this very important appearance today. And our situation is such that we've asked Dr. Brzezinski to present an opening statement, and he will do that, and then we will proceed to questions.
I think senators know that we're heading toward roll call votes at noon or shortly thereafter, and therefore we'll begin immediately, given the chairman's instructions.
Dr. Brzezinski, we're delighted to have you. And would you please proceed?
MR. BRZEZINSKI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you indeed.
Your hearings come at a critical juncture in the U.S. war of choice in Iraq, and I commend you and Senator Biden for scheduling them.
In my view, it is time for the White House to come to terms with two central realities. First, the war in Iraq is a historic strategic and moral calamity undertaken under false assumptions. It is undermining America's global legitimacy. Its collateral civilian casualties, as well as some abuses, are tarnishing America's moral credentials. Driven by Manichean impulses and imperial hubris, it is intensifying regional instability.
Secondly, only a political strategy that is historically relevant rather than reminiscent of colonial tutelage can provide the needed framework for a tolerable resolution of both the war in Iraq and intensifying regional tensions.
If the United States continues to be bogged down in protracted, bloody involvement in Iraq -- and I emphasize what I am about to say -- the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran, and with much of the world of Islam at large.
A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks, followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure, then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the United States blamed on Iran, culminating in a quote-unquote "defensive" U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire, eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Indeed, a mythical historical narrative to justify the case for such a protracted and potential expanding war is already being articulated. Initially justified by false claims about WMDs in Iraq, the war is now being redefined as the decisive ideological struggle of our time, reminiscent of the earlier collisions with Nazism and Stalinism. In that context, Islamist extremism and al Qaeda are presented as the equivalents of the threat posed by Nazi Germany and then Soviet Russia, and 9/11 as the equivalent of the Pearl Harbor attack which precipitated America's involvement in World War II.
This simplistic and demagogic narrative overlooks the fact that Nazism was based on the military power of the industrially most advanced European state, and that Stalinism was able to mobilize not only the resources of the victorious and militarily powerful Soviet Union but also had worldwide appeal through its Marxist doctrine.
In contrast, most Muslims are not embracing Islamic fundamentalism. Al Qaeda is an isolated fundamentalist, Islamist aberration, most Iraqis are engaged in strife because of the American occupation, which destroyed the Iraqi state, while Iran, though gaining in regional influence, is itself politically divided, economically and militarily weak. To argue that America is already at war in a region with a wider Islamic threat of which Iran is the epicenter is to promote a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I then go on, Mr. Chairman, to compare the posture of the United States insofar as negotiations are concerned and in some ways reminiscent of the moralistic self-ostracism that the United States practiced in the early 1950s towards Communist Chinese, but for the sake of time I will not read this passage.
Let me end this introductory remark before advocating some policy by noting that practically no country in the world -- no country in the world -- shares the Manichean delusions that the administration so passionately articulates. And the result, sad to say, is growing political isolation of and pervasive popular antagonism towards the U.S. global posture.
I think it is obvious, therefore, that our international interest calls for a significant change in direction. There is, in fact, consensus in America in favor of a change, a consensus the war was a mistake. It is a fact that leading Republicans have spoken out and expressed profound reservations regarding the administration's policy. Again, I simply invoke here the views of former President Gerald Ford, former Secretary of State Baker, former National Security Adviser Scowcroft and several of your colleagues, Mr. Chairman, including Warner, Hagel, Smith, among others.
And hence the urgent need today for a strategy that seeks to create a political framework for a resolution of the problems posed both by the U.S. occupation of Iraq and by the ensuing civil and sectarian conflict. Ending the occupation and shaping a regional security dialogue should be the mutually reinforcing goals of such a strategy, but both goals will take time to be accomplished and require genuinely serious U.S. commitment.
The quest to achieve these goals should involve four steps. First, the United States should reaffirm explicitly and unambiguously its determination to leave Iraq in a reasonably short period of time.
Let me comment.
Ambiguity regarding the duration of the occupation in fact encourages unwillingness to compromise and intensifies the underlying civil strife. Moreover, such a public declaration is needed to allay fears in the Middle East of a new and enduring American imperial hegemony. Right or wrong, many view the establishment of such a hegemony as the primary reason for the American intervention in a region only recently free of colonial domination. That perception should be discredited from the highest U.S. level. Perhaps the U.S. Congress could do so by a joint resolution.
Second, the United States should announce that it is undertaking talks with the Iraqi leaders to jointly set with them a date by which U.S. military disengagement should be completed and the resulting setting of such a date should be announced as a joint decision. In the meantime, the U.S. should avoid military escalation.
It is necessary to engage all the Iraqi leaders, including those who do not reside within the Green Zone, in a serious discussion regarding the proposed and jointly defined date for U.S. military disengagement, because the very dialogue itself will help to identify the authentic Iraqi leaders which the self-confidence and capacity to stand on their own legs without U.S. military protection. Only Iraqi leaders who can exercise real power beyond the Green Zone can eventually reach a genuine Iraqi accommodation. The painful reality is that much of this current Iraqi regime, characterized by the administration as representative of the Iraqi people, defines itself largely by its physical location: the four square-mile-large U.S. fortress within Baghdad, protected by a wall in places 15 feet thick, manned by heavily armed U.S. military, popularly known as the Green Zone.
Third, the United States should issue jointly, with appropriate Iraqi leaders, or perhaps let the Iraqi leaders issue an invitation to all neighbors of Iraq and perhaps some other Muslim countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Pakistan, to engage in a dialogue regarding how best to enhance stability in Iraq in conjunction with U.S. military disengagement and to participate eventually in a conference regarding regional stability.
The United States and the Iraqi leadership need to engage Iraq's neighbors in a serious discussion regarding the region's security problems, but such discussions cannot be undertaken while the U.S. is perceived as an occupier for an indefinite duration. In fact, I would argue, Mr. Chairman, that the setting of a date for departure would trigger a much higher probability of an effective regional dialogue because all of the countries in the region do not want to see an escalating disintegration in the region as a whole.
Iran and Syria have no reason, however, to help the United States consolidate a permanent regional hegemony. It is ironic, however, that both Iran and Syria have lately called for a regional dialogue, exploiting thereby the self-defeating character of the largely passive and mainly sloganeering U.S. diplomacy. A serious regional dialogue, promoted directly or indirectly by the United States, could be buttressed at some point by a wider circle of consultations involving other powers with a stake in the region's stability, such as the EU, China, Japan, India and Russia. Members of this committee might consider exploring informally with the states mentioned their potential interest in such a wider dialogue.
Fourth, and finally, concurrently the United States should activate a credible and energetic effort to finally reach an Israeli- Palestinian peace, making it clear in the process as to what the basic parameters of such a final accommodation ought to involve.
The United States needs to convince the region that the United States is committed, both to Israel's enduring security and to fairness for the Palestinians, who have waited for more than 40 years now for their own separate state. Only an external and activist intervention can promote the long-delayed settlement, for the record shows that the Israelis and the Palestinians will never do so on their own. Without such a settlement, both nationalist and fundamentalist passions in the region will in the longer run doom any Arab regime which is perceived as supportive of U.S. regional hegemony.
After World War II, the United States prevailed in the defense of democracy in Europe because it successfully pursued a long-term political strategy of uniting its friends and dividing its enemies, instead of dividing our friends and uniting our enemies, while soberly deterring aggression without initiating hostilities, all the while, also, exploring the possibility of negotiating arrangements.
Today, America's global leadership is being tested in the Middle East. A similarly wise strategy of genuinely constructive political engagement is now urgently needed. It is time for the Congress to assert itself.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much.
MR. BRZEZINSKI: And welcome, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. BIDEN: Great.
I read as -- I commended your testimony this morning to my colleague who was about to read it and has read it. I apologize for being absent for a moment. I had to be on the floor.
As usual, you are direct, cogent and insightful, and I appreciate your availability to the committee and also availability to a number of us individually that seek your advice.
We just heard from a man we all regard well, one of your successors, who cautioned that, if we were to "leave," quote-unquote, Iraq there would be these dire consequences. I read with incredible interest your paragraph on Page 1 of your testimony, saying "If the United States continued to be bogged down in a protracted, bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and much of the world of Islam at large."
Now, the two -- the argument the president is making is, the conflict with Islam intensifies if we withdraw. You're making the argument that continuing to be bogged down here is more likely to result in that outcome. Could you expand on that for me?
MR. BRZEZINSKI: Conflict, by its very nature, is not self- containable. It either diminishes because one side has prevailed or because there's an accommodation, or it escalates. If we could prevail militarily and in a decisive fashion, even though I opposed the war, there would be a strong case to be made for it. But I think we know by now that to prevail we will need to have 500,000 troops in Iraq, wage the war with unlimited brutality, and altogether crush that society because it would intensify probably its resistance. So that's a no-starter.
Escalating the war as a consequence of protracting it is hardly an attractive option for the United States, because before too long, as I say in my statement, we could be facing a 20-year-long involvement not only in Iraq but Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. And think how precarious Pakistan is and how uncertain the situation in Afghanistan is becoming.
So it's in our interest to isolate the conflicts and to terminate them. And we have to exploit -- at least try to exploit -- the political possibility, the political option.
Now in the end, I cannot dogmatically argue that it is certain to succeed, but if we don't try, we know we'll never have had the chance --
SEN. BIDEN: You seem to be arguing that if we stay on this particular course we're on now, it will not succeed. You're confident the present course will not succeed.
MR. BRZEZINSKI: Well, I think every indicator over the last three or so years indicates that. The situation is worsening, hostility towards the United States is intensifying, our isolation worldwide is both being perpetuated and in some respects becoming more culturally grounded. Look at the public opinion polls. I think we have to take a hard look at what the options are.
Now, I realize there are risks in a strategy in which the goal is to find an alternative outcome than a military victory. But at the same time, we shouldn't become prisoners of apocalyptic and horrific scenarios, in some respects reminiscent of those which were described and drawn in the latter phases of the Vietnamese war and which did not take place.
I'm not sure that if we were to disengage from Iraq that the consequence is this kind of horrific set of dominoes falling all over the Middle East. Moreover -- and please note this carefully -- in my statement, I'm not saying we should unilaterally disengagement.
SEN. BIDEN: I understand that.
MR. BRZEZINSKI: We should work with the Iraqis on setting a date and use that as a trigger for an international conference of Iraq's neighbors, because I don't believe, if you look carefully at the interests of Saudi Arabia or Jordan or Syria or Iran, that they have a stake, an interest in making the explosion get out of hand.
SEN. BIDEN: Well, quite frankly --
MR. BRZEZINSKI: They're volatile regimes.
SEN. BIDEN: That's -- unless I'm missing something -- that was pretty much the consensus of most of the witnesses that we've had in the last four weeks, and that is they have an interest in it not exploding.
You echo the comments made yesterday and the day before and throughout this hearing process about Iran when you say, I agree -- you say, Iran is, quote, "politically divided and economically and militarily weak."
Now the question is, if that is true, and I think we overlook how politically divided it is and overlook how economically -- at what economic difficulty it's in -- we seem to be building it up to be, you know, 20 feet tall and that this is the new superpower in the region. As a matter of fact, some have used that phrase.
Give me your assessment of the present threat that Iran poses in the region and what you think, if you can, if you will, what a continued protracted American presence in Iraq will do to impact on that assessment, whether they grow weaker, stronger, et cetera.
MR. BRZEZINSKI: I think some form of American presence in Iraq is going to be a fact, assuming even a political settlement. But it will not be the same as a militarily occupation and a political hegemony imposed by a militarily successful campaign.
I think that kind of presence, Iran has no choice but to --
SEN. BIDEN: Do you think that was the objective of the -- of this administration initially?
MR. BRZEZINSKI: I have no idea what his initiative objective was because the motives he provided for the action proved to be entirely erroneous, and if they were the real motives, then the whole campaign was based on false assumptions.
SEN. BIDEN: It's unfair to ask you to be a soothsayer. I apologize.
MR. BRZEZINSKI: Now, if there were hidden motives, I can imagine potentially several. One would be to gain American domination over the region's oil, to put it very simplistically. Another could be to help maximize Israel's security by removing a powerful Arab state. Another one could have been to simply get rid of an obnoxious regime with which the United States had accounts to settle going back to '91 and the alleged assassination attempt against President Bush Sr. There could be a variety of motives.
But the official motives were WMDs.
SEN. BIDEN: If you complete the notion about -- I interrupted you -- Iran, is the basis of your concluding that it is politically divided, economically and militarily weak. Can you expand on that slightly?
MR. BRZEZINSKI: It is economically weak because it is an economy that hasn't been thriving and it's one-dimensional and it's relatively isolated. It's politically divided in the sense that, in my judgment, the mullahs are Iran's past and not its future and that its fundamentalist regime is not very popular -- (inaudible) -- particularly with the younger generation, much of which is very pro- American.
But sadly, it is also more united nationalistically, in part because of our attitude towards Iran, which has been exceedingly hostile and which has gelled together a kind of residual national sentiment, particularly in support of the nuclear program. And I think our policy has unintentionally -- I hope unintentionally; maybe it was devilishly clever -- but I think unintentionally helped Ahmadinejad consolidate himself in power and exercise a degree of influence which actually his position doesn't justify.
You know, most Americans, when they say President Ahmadinejad, they think he's the equivalent of President Bush. He's not. He's roughly a third-level official who doesn't even control the militarily resources of the country.
SEN. BIDEN: That's an important point to make. I think the vast majority of Americans would think he controls the security apparatus.
MR. BRZEZINSKI: Yeah. And he doesn't.
SEN. BIDEN: Well, I thank you very much.
SEN. LUGAR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Brzezinski, just to follow through on that question of the chairman, you've called for U.S. military disengagement and -- but, however, this would be jointly set with the Iraqi leadership and the time of that.
Now, as I just heard you speaking, this would not necessarily mean or it could be that in these talks with the Iraqi leaders they decide that there should be some United States military presence in Iraq for an indefinite future. Is that a contingency of these talks?
And there's military disengagement -- it means out of the nine districts in Baghdad or -- and there are, really, very few other fronts where there are conventional battles going on. But what I'm wondering is, as we engage in the talks with the Iraqi leadership, if it would not come at least into their minds that they don't want the United States to depart altogether from Iraq, nor in fact if we were to get into the second part of your thought, and that is having got into these talks, or even gotten into a date or a time frame, the other countries might very well come to a conclusion that an American presence in Iraq of some sort, of some quantity, was a very important problem or issue for them.
Are these potential consequences of these talks that you've prescribed?
MR. BRZEZINSKI: Absolutely.
I have drafted the statement very carefully to take into account the existing situation. I felt some time ago that we should have indicated a deadline for our departure, and roughly a year or more ago I said we should aim at a year.
But I'm also aware of the fact that during the intervening period of time, the situation has deteriorated and the consequences of our departure are probably going to be more difficult than had we done it a year or a year and a half ago, and time is not working in our favor.
Nonetheless, having said this, I would personally use these discussions with the Iraq leaders -- not only the ones in the Green Zone, I emphasize -- to identify those Iraqi leaders who have the sense of confidence to stand on their own feet, and then set with them a date. I would still advocate roughly a year, but I would certainly consider favorably any Iraqi desire for residual American presence, and I can envisage it occurring in a variety of ways.
For example, the Kurdish leaders might say that they would welcome some residual American presence because they are understandably fearful that either the Iranians or the Turks could use our departure as an excuse for dealing with what they view as a Kurdish irredenta directed against them. I can envisage some situation in which we will want to retain a military presence perhaps in Kuwait and thereby in the immediate proximity. Theoretically, one could envisage some residual American presence in some remote base in Iraq if that was the wish of the Iraqi leaders.
And I think these are the kinds of things we can discuss with them, with a deadline in mind, and then negotiate a mutually satisfactory deadline.
And then that deadline, I think, would make it easier to trigger a serious negotiating process with all of the neighbors regarding stability in Iraq, and their stake in this stability.
SEN. LUGAR: Well, that's a very nuanced and thoughtful suggestion. I think it's important to make a part of the record, because frequently in these debates senators or the general public get the idea of everybody in, everybody out. There aren't too many nuances in this. So the rush -- the Vietnam embassy is given as symbolic, with the helicopter lifting the last persons out. This is obviously not what we're talking about here, particularly in the context of Afghanistan nearby, in which the counsel right now of our NATO allies, quite apart from our situation, is that probably we should do more. That comes then into some conflict with our military's ability to stretch to do a number of things at the same time.
But let me just ask: Furthermore, you're saying things may have deteriorated. Indeed, as Secretary Rice has made the rounds, that's certainly what she seems to have found some of the parties. So this would lead those countries that have Sunni affinity to hope that, at least for the time being, that the United States was not in a rush for the borders. And that sort of conference that you're suggesting of the neighbors, which I think is an excellent idea, would bring together all these parties that we're dealing with bilaterally but increasingly appear to have some common themes, which includes a United States presence of some sort as a stabilizing factor.
You've certainly not precluded that in calling for this conference of the surrounding nations after the Iraqis and -- both in and out of the Green Zone -- have gotten together with us. But I just (laboriously ?) want to trace through what I think are excellent suggestions to make sure that the nuances of this are understand by senators and by the public that may take seriously your testimony as we do.
I want to ask, finally, given the fact that the amount of government anywhere in Iraq is, in some cases, almost de minimus at this point -- one of the effects of our invasion and military operations is we've seen not only the army disintegrated, so did the police force, so did what some Iraqis have -- (inaudible) -- almost any coercive ability to bring about order. The period of rebuilding is likely to be very long and it's not really clear who helps do this rebuilding, aside from us.
And I'm troubled by that because we've had testimony from Iraqis that the problem is not just insurgents and militia and sectarian violence, it's just common criminals, thousands of them preying upon Iraqis who do not have much protection, wherever they may be in the country. We have some responsibility for that, and at the same time it's not really clear how you fulfill a rebuilding of Iraqi, at least in that comprehensive sense.
And I hope maybe that might be a part of this leadership parlay between the Iraqi leaders and ourselves. Maybe the United States doesn't do all of the nation building, but very clearly someone will have to try to help restore some fabric in the provinces in addition to the Baghdad situation that we visited about.
MR. BRZEZINSKI: I very much agree with what you say, Senator Lugar. Let me just add one preliminary point and then address specifically the points you have just raised.
My horror scenario is not a repetition of Saigon, the helicopters on top of the embassy and the flight out of the country. My horror scenario is that by not having a plan -- and I understand that my friend yesterday discussed perhaps the possibility of a secret plan that the administration has -- my fear is that the secret plan is that there is no secret plan.
SEN. BIDEN: (Laughs) It's a good bet.
MR. BRZEZINSKI: My horror scenario is that if we simply stay put this will continue, and then the dynamic of the conflict will produce an escalating situation in which Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks will be blamed on the Iranians. There'll be, then, some clashes, collisions, and the war expands.
Now as far as dealing with the rebuilding of Iraq in a setting in which we commit ourselves to disengage and the commitment to disengage, set jointly, becomes the trigger for an international conference, I think a great deal depends not on us engaging in nation- building but on the surfacing of a genuine Iraqi motivation. I personally view with great skepticism all this talk about us creating an Iraqi national army and creating a nation, building -- nation- building and so forth.
The problem is we have smashed this state. We have given an enormous opportunity for narrow sectarian interests and passions to rise. What is needed again is a sense of Iraqi nationalism, and that residually still exists. But to make it possible, it has to be led by Iraqi leaders who are viewed by their country as authentic. And I'm sorry to say, but the leadership sitting in an American fortress, which doesn't venture outside, is not very authentic. The authentic leaders are those who have their own bodyguards -- indeed, their own militias -- and their own capacities to assert their power. They have to be engaged in a dialogue and then in the solution -- a political solution. And that's what we very badly need.
SEN. LUGAR: Thank you very much.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Brzezinski, thank you for your testimony.
Let me ask you: We've had other witnesses here who have said that, in their opinion, our engagement in Iraq, that the biggest winner as a result of our policies there, to date at least, has been Iran.
Would you agree with that?
MR. BRZEZINSKI: Yes. I wouldn't use the word "winner," but I would say geopolitical beneficiary, yes. They've benefited a great deal.
SEN. MENENDEZ: You started off your statement today saying that if the U.S. "continues to be bogged down in a protracted, bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran, and with much of the world of Islam at large." That's a pretty dire assessment.
Could you take us through what you see happening if we don't change the course of events?
MR. BRZEZINSKI: Well, I've alluded to it but you cannot be precise because the future is always so full of contingencies there simply is no way of picking out which ones you think really will happen.
But basically, escalation, accusations, some incidents -- there have already been some incidents between us and the Iranians. There are some allegations that the Iranians are responsible for certain acts -- allegations but not facts. And that would spark, simply, a collision. It could even be in some fashion provoked.
Let me draw your attention to something that your staff should give you, and I think this might be of interest to some other members of this committee. And that's a report in The New York Times dated March 27, 2006. It's a long report on a private meeting between the president and Prime Minister Blair two months before the war, based on a memorandum of conversation prepared by the British official present at this meeting.
And in it, according to this account, the president is cited as saying that he's concerned that there may not be weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq and that there must be some consideration given to finding a different basis for undertaking the military action. And I'll just read you what this memo allegedly says, according to The New York Times.
The memo stated, "The president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq."
This is two months before the war.
"Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation.
And he described, then, several ways in which this could be done, and I won't go into that. I don't know how accurate these ways were. They're quite sensational, at least one of them.
And if one is of the view that one is dealing with an implacable enemy that has to be removed, that course of action may, under certain circumstances, be appealing.
I'm afraid if the situation in Iraq continues deteriorating, and if Iran is perceived as in some fashion involved or responsible -- or the potential beneficiary thereof -- that temptation could arise.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Isn't it -- if the Iranians are training Shi'ite militias, as I think there's a general perception that they are, isn't the administration also, despite all of its recent statements about how it's going to deal with Iranian personnel in Iraq and the carrier group that went into the Gulf, isn't it equally as important to tell Prime Minister Maliki that he has to be as forceful in demanding that Maliki cut ties to these groups and clear about the consequences if he refuses? Isn't that equally as important as the messages we're sending to the Iranians?
MR. BRZEZINSKI: The problem here is that we have destroyed the Iraqi state. The Iraqi so-called national army is composed of people with very strong sectarian loyalties, and that the militias that exist are, in some respect -- they're real expressions of existing, residual political power in Iraq.
If Maliki undertakes an assault on some of these militias -- and some are said to be well-armed and as large as 60,000 men -- he's going to be further isolated and further weakened.
So in a sense, he's being asked to undertake an impossible assignment. A political settlement has to aim at drawing in those elements in the Iraqi political spectrum, which is now very volatile and very confused, that have a long-term interest in the existence of an Iraqi state.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Well, let me ask you, then, on that point: How is it -- if the people we need to be engaged with are the people who are beyond the Green Zone and have power by virtue of the militias and the political backing of elements of Iraqi society, what is the catalyst that gets them to the table, to move them in the direction to achieve the goal, if it's possible -- if it's possible -- of a government of national unity? That's the first question.
And the second question in the remaining time I have is: It seems to me that Iraq's neighbors, while they should have a stake, it has not gotten to a point sufficiently bad to catalyze a change in the behavior of Iraq's neighbors. They haven't seemed to be incentivized. For as long as they believe that we will shed our blood and our national treasure, they are, I believe, reticent to do anything. We have not led a real effort to get them engaged in any significant way. It seems to me that sometimes -- there are other witnesses here who have said things have to get worse before they in fact can cross the threshold of understanding what their interests are.
So I'd like your perceptions on those two things. What is it that catalyzes these groups that you suggest are the essential elements to try to achieve some success in a political context? How do we get these other countries who we believe have a stake and they probably think they have a stake but don't believe that it's time for them to pull the trigger yet?
MR. BRZEZINSKI: Well, actually, my answer is the same to both questions -- namely, the realization that the United States is not there indefinitely, and that within a reasonable period of time, with a jointly set date, the United States will disengage. That will have the effect of forcing, first of all, the various Iraqi parties to think of the consequences of American departure.
Right now, in a curious way, the occupation, even though resented by most Iraqis, is an umbrella for internal intransigence. Nobody really feels any incentive to compromise because ultimately they know the situation is being kept more or less afloat by our occupation, though most Iraqis dislike it.
And as far as the neighbors are concerned, they don't fear any real explosion in Iraq because we're there. And hence, they may have different interests -- the Saudis certainly have different interests than the Iranians. But they know that there is a kind of enduring volatile status quo, at our expense, but which doesn't confront them with any real choices.
But if we were to set jointly -- and I keep emphasizing jointly -- the date with Iraqis for our departure, it would have the effect of forcing all of the governments around Iraq to ask themselves: "How do we deal with the problem of stability in Iraq? Do we really want to have a regional war among ourselves?" -- the Saudis and the Jordanians, theoretically, against the Iranians, and the Syrians in between. Is that really appealing to anybody in the region? Most of the regimes in the region know that that kind of a war could spread and destroy them.
And hence, we're far more likely to mobilize some degree of responsible interest in an accommodation that reinforces Iraqi stability if we do what I am advocating -- a conjunction of the two actions, one triggering the other.
And I deliberately included in my suggestions countries like Pakistan, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, because they may have some military resources that could be available for helping an Iraqi government stabilize and police internal arrangements, and develop a national army, a national army that's not developed by an occupier that's alien -- namely us -- but by fellow Muslims. They may be willing to do that.
And I would like to see other countries involved -- countries that have a stake in that region's stability because of their dependence on energy. And they could be helpful particularly in a massive international recovery program for Iraq, which would be triggered by those to two steps that I've advocated.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much.
SEN. CASEY: Doctor, thank you for your testimony, and for your great public service to the nation, continuing to this very moment because I believe what you're doing here is very important to helping the Congress play the role it must play when it comes to Iraq and our national security generally.
I want to try to ask some very brief questions, and try to get to at least three. But I want you to take your time in answering them as thoroughly as you think they warrant.
You made one assertion during your testimony about troop levels, saying that any kind of success in Iraq means, by definition, an American commitment of 500,000 troops. And I want to have you expound on that, or just indicate that that's -- that's an accurate assessment of what you testified to, that number?
MR. BRZEZINSKI: Do you want me to answer --
SEN. CASEY: Yes.
MR. BRZEZINSKI: Fine.
Look, that figure is illustrative of a larger proposition, namely: To win this kind of a war, you have to have an overwhelming force. I'm not going to fight to the death for 500(,000) -- it could be 550(,000); it could by 480(,000), or it could be 600(,000).
My point is: We're no longer trying to crush a regime with a traditional army in the field, often led by corrupt officers without much loyalty in the rank and file to the cause on the other side. We're fighting increasingly a kind of chaotic, amorphous, sectarian, ethnic, religious resistance that's more pervasive.
And we're discovering the same thing that the Russians discovered in Afghanistan, that the Israelis recently discovered in Lebanon: that that kind of a popular war requires a far higher commitment of resources on the part of the external power that has come in in order to win. And therefore, our military effort would simply have to be immeasurably greater. And that's the purpose of the 500,000.
SEN. CASEY: Certainly greater than what we have there now, even with --
MR. BRZEZINSKI: Considerably greater. Not 21,500 greater.
SEN. CASEY: I'd ask you to evaluate, or critique in any way that you think is appropriate, two basic assertions, among many, but two basic assertions by President Bush and his administration that we hear over and over and over again.
One, the most recent assertion, that any kind of engagement with Iran and Syria would be, quote, "extortion." Secretary Rice said that in her testimony; we've heard that. That's number one, and not in any order necessarily.
Number two, the assertion, ongoing now for several years, that the war in Iraq is the central front with regard to the war on terror, or the most important front with regard to the war on terror.
I guess both of those assertions, if you can respond to both of them.
MR. BRZEZINSKI: Well, "engagement equals extortion": that's a very curious way of defining diplomacy. In other words, diplomacy only makes sense if the other side, in advance, concedes our desires and indicates its willingness to accept them.
SEN. BIDEN: I think you've got it right. I think you've defined it.
MR. BRZEZINSKI: Diplomacy that way is very one-sided and unlikely to be seriously practiced. So, this is what I meant, that we're sloganeering rather than strategizing in our democracy.
We negotiated with the Soviets at a time when they could have destroyed us almost instantly. The threat we face here is not even remotely comparable.
I was responsible for four years with actually informing the president of a nuclear attack on the United States. I had four minutes in which to present the basic facts to the president. Excuse me, I had three minutes to present the basic facts to the president; the president had four minutes in which to make a decision as to how to respond. Twenty-eight minutes later, there would be nuclear exchange. Six hours later, 150 people -- 150 million people might have been dead. That is the kind of threat we faced. and yet we negotiated. In fact, negotiations were very important in marginally stabilizing that relationship.
We should negotiate with Iran. It won't be easy. We have conflicting interests. There are other conflicts outside of the region that we have with Iran, like the nuclear problem.
But, certainly, attempting a diplomacy is essential. And freezing oneself in ostracism is reminiscent, as I said in my testimony, of the position maintained by John Foster Dulles towards China in the early '50s.
On the second point, the central front: Well, if it is the central front, it's certainly self-created, because the "war on terror," quote-unquote, started two years earlier, a year and a half earlier. And we had a problem with terror -- I would never call it a war, anyway -- but we have had and continue to have a serious problem with the threat of terrorism.
But the war in Iraq has, to me, the most elusive connection with the war on terror. The Iraqi regime, abhorrent though it was, was not engaged in terrorist activity against us. And I do not see the argument that if we were not to continue the military campaign in Iraq, somehow or other, those who are opposing us in Fallujah or in Ramadi or in Najaf, would swim across the Atlantic and engage in terrorist acts in the United States. It just strains credulity to hear arguments like that.
SEN. CASEY: One final question, I only have a minute left, and I asked General Scowcroft this question this morning: It's been asserted by some, and I heard it from one individual for whom I have a lot of respect, that any military strike by the United States on Iran would, obviously, have a lot of ramifications. But one direct and immediate and unmistakable consequence of that would be the slaughter of American GIs currently in Iraq, probably mostly in Baghdad, almost like a -- President Kennedy, years ago, talked about a nuclear sort of Damocles -- in the context of Iran and Iraq, a sort of Damocles over the head of American GIs that would be an immediate consequence.
I just want to get your assessment of that, quickly, in the context of highly likely, or unlikely? And then, whatever you can do to amplify that.
MR. BRZEZINSKI: I would say, speculatively -- I'm not certain of my answer, but I would say instinctively, not very likely.
SEN. CASEY: Not very likely.
MR. BRZEZINSKI: Not very likely.
I think the resistance against us in Iraq is largely indigenous, and more or less it expresses itself in terms of its current capability. In other words, there is no sort of hidden residual capability that could suddenly be unleashed because Iran has been attacked.
The fact is, you know, that most Iraqi Shi'ites fought pretty well against Iran during the eight-year-long war. There's a kind of simplistic generalization that many people employ to the effect that the Shi'ites in Iraq are somehow or other beholden entirely to Iran. There are affinities and connections undeniably. But there is an Iraqi identity, and the Shi'ites fought very well against the Iranians.
The Iranians can do a lot of other things if we attack Iran. But that one, I think, is unlikely.
SEN. CASEY: Thank you, Doctor.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. BIDEN: Senator from Florida, Senator Nelson.
SEN. BILL NELSON (D-FL): Good morning, Dr. Brzezinski.
MR. BRZEZINSKI: Good morning. Hi.
SEN. NELSON: In your statement, I am drawn to the paragraph about calling for an international conference regarding regional stability, and I quote you, "A serious regional dialogue, promoted directly or indirectly by the U.S., could be buttressed at some point by a wider circle of consultations."
I certainly agree with you. Would you expand on that?
MR. BRZEZINSKI: Yes, Senator.
It seems to me that -- and I'm to some extent repeating myself -- that we have not yet tapped in a constructive fashion the underlying interest of the states adjoining Iraq, and we haven't tapped sufficiently their underlying fear regarding their future by engaging them in a process in which they're only likely to be engaged if they think the American occupation is coming to an end -- namely, serious discussions among themselves but also with the Iraqi authorities, whoever they are, and with us, about how regional stability ought to be preserved, and how regional stability within Iraq ought to be consolidated.
And we can't do that until and unless we, one, create the preconditions for it, by the decision to leave, and two, by engaging them in an effort, which involves discussions.
Now, you don't go to a conference simply out from the cold, all of a sudden. You engage in previous discussions. That's what we hire a secretary of State for, not to sit there and proclaim categorical statements, but to engage in the process.
And the process itself, over time, can generate some degree of responsiveness. It can identify irreconcilable issues, as well as issues in which there is some shared stake. That is the purpose of diplomacy. Diplomacy isn't the answer to everything, but it is an important component of resolving issues and avoiding conflict.
SEN. NELSON: And those who say that we should not talk to, for example, Syria, are ignoring the fact that in the past when we talked to Syria, there was some consultation and progress with regard to the closing of the border; cooperation, albeit sporadic, that precipitously cut off after the assassination of Rafik Hariri, but of which that opening has been made again, concurrently at the very time, as you have pointed out, changing circumstances, and one of those changes in circumstances is that for the first time, Syria and Iraq have now opened diplomatic relations with each other.
And thank you for your comments.
And Mr. Chairman, I know we're getting close to a vote, so I will stop so that one of our other senators can go ahead.
SEN. LUGAR: Chair recognizes Senator Webb.
SEN. JIM WEBB (D-VA): Thank you.
Procedural note: Do I call you Mr. Chairman, Senator, or is it Mr. Ranking Member?
SEN. LUGAR: Why not? (Laughter.)
SEN. WEBB: Dr. Brzezinski, I certainly appreciate being able to hear your views, and, you know, I've read your articles over the years and agree with a great, great bit of it. And I appreciate having your wisdom at the table.
I will -- also in light of the fact there's going to be a vote, I want to ask you two fairly specific questions, one of which is -- we've been trying to sort out options -- you know, if the administration were to take those options, or if the government were -- regarding how to get to this diplomatic conference or the forum where we can sort of start resolving these issues and increase the stability of the region while we pull out our troops.
And from the way that you have constructed your testimony, it -- and from what you just said, you're basically saying that we should first announce that there will be a substantial withdrawal, and then arrange for a conference to be called. Is that correct? Or is it -- you're saying this should happen concurrently, or --
MR. BRZEZINSKI: No, no. Let me just clarify what we should say, or what we should do.
But first, let me remind you, I'm your constituent, and it's good to see you here.
SEN. WEBB: You may have been the deciding vote.
MR. BRZEZINSKI: No --
SEN. WEBB: Well, I'm assuming, sir. (Laughs.)
MB. BRZEZINSKI: No, I probably was. (Laughter)
What we should make clear is that there's a finite date to our presence, set jointly with the Iraqis, and that finite date should not be too far removed, and use that at the same time as a trigger for convening this regional event, this regional undertaking, because as long as there is uncertainty about the duration of our stay, I don't think the adjoining states are likely to be engaged in helping us create regional stability even though they're fearful of regional instability.
So, these two things are interrelated, and that is why it's a strategic package, what I'm arguing for.
SEN. WEBB: Thank you.
The second question is: I'm wondering if you see any circumstances under which this administration would open up some sort of serious dialogue with Iran and Syria, and if so, what they would be. To me, that's just the ultimate sticking point in the strategy that they -- the so-called strategy that they have just announced.
MR. BRZEZINSKI: Well, I think, unfortunately, the administration has used rhetoric, terminology regarding Iran that has played into the hands of people like Ahmadinejad, thereby creating, in a sense, a process in which a dialogue, a serious, responsible dialogue -- not only regarding Iraq, but regarding nuclear weapons, the nuclear program -- has become more difficult. That has to be reversed.
And I have no way of knowing whether the administration is prepared to undertake that reversal.
I am perplexed by the fact that major strategic decisions seem to be made within a very narrow circle of individuals -- just a few, probably a handful, perhaps not more than the fingers in one hand.
And these are the individuals, all of whom but one made the original decision to go to war and used the original justifications for going to war.
So they unavoidably are in a situation in which they are reluctant to undertake actions which would imply a significant reversal of policy.
That's from the human point of view understandable, but from a political point of view troubling.
SEN. WEBB: And from our -- at least from the perspective I think of the people who are concerned about where we are, it is the conundrum that we face hearing the preponderance of testimony of people like yourselves reading the Iraq Study Group reports where the recommendations are concurrent, that there should be some sort of military -- continuation of military action to try to assist the present government but at the same time that there should be strong diplomatic action. And the overwhelming recommendation is that this include opening up dialogue with Syria and Iran, and yet if this administration refuses or consciously avoids that step, then what you have in the Baker-Hamilton report is a complete stoppage of half of what their recommendations consist of.
Chairman Hamilton mentioned the other day when I asked him that this step forward -- this procedural step forward should arguably come from the president and the secretary of State, and I don't think we're likely to see it.
Would you comment?
MR. BRZEZINSKI: I think you're right in your last comment in the sense that constitutes a kind of constitutional stalemate which can only be broken, in my judgment, given the circumstances and given the stakes involved, by congressional leadership, and hopefully bipartisan congressional leadership. Because at stake truly is the future of this country and its role in the world. And if we get bogged down into something very messy and expanding, American global leadership will be in the gravest of jeopardy. It already is largely de- legitimated worldwide.
So congressional leadership here is important and that joint leadership can only emerge, particularly the president's own party -- the leadership of the president's party -- out of patriotic concerns -- becomes convinced itself that the president has to be faced with the reality that much of the nation, and the Congress specifically, has a very different view of what is needed and has a very different assessment of what is happening.
What a major challenge.
SEN. WEBB: Thank you very much. Thank you for your testimony. Thank you for being here today.
SEN. BIDEN: That's what we're, I might add, attempting to do; whether it will work or not it is the first step.
If you have any -- I'm not being facetious here -- any additional ideas as to how to do that with specificity, they'd be welcome, but we have a vote --
MR. BRZEZINSKI: Just one point in response to just that.
SEN. BIDEN: Please.
MR. BRZEZINSKI: I think a clear congressional resolution on the fact that the United States does not intend to stay in Iraq for an indefinite period of time would be very helpful.
SEN. BIDEN: We have passed, I might add, on I think two occasions no permanent bases. It's not the same thing, you're saying.
MR. BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, it's different --
SEN. BIDEN: It is different, and we could not even get that through. But having said that, let me yield.
SEN. CARDIN: Mr. Chairman? Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I just wanted to thank Dr. Brzezinski for your testimony. I am in agreement with pretty much everything that you said. There is only one thing that disappoints me is that you're a resident of Virginia rather than Maryland.
MR. BRZEZINSKI: (Laughs.)
SEN. CARDIN: Other than that I think we're in full agreement.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. BIDEN: Well, again I want to thank you so much, Dr. Brzezinski. You're always so clearheaded in your recommendations here. No doubt about what you're proposing.
I, for what it's worth, agree with you in large part, particularly as it relates to the -- what I believe to be not only the hyping of the circumstances going in but the hyping of the threat and so on.
I agree -- I'll conclude by saying I agree with -- your worst- case scenario is the one I worry about most as well, that this becomes protracted; it gets -- my dad used to have an expression; it was not used often, but when people would talk about war he'd say, "The only war worse than one that's intended is one that is unintended".
And I worry that if we stay in -- and you're phrase is "slope" -- that that's where we could end up and that would be a disaster.
But I thank you very, very much. And thank you for being available to us. It is the intention of the committee to hold hearings on Iran in a timely way, and I would ask you to consider ahead of time whether you'd be willing to come back and talk about Iran.
MR. BRZEZINSKI: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. It's been a privilege to be here.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you.
We are adjourned. (Sounds gavel.)