The Cost of Multilateral Iraq Action

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, Feb. 25, 2003, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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JOHN GIBSON, HOST: President Bush is doing everything possible to gain U.N. approval for the new resolution against Iraq. But the French are accusing us of trying to buy votes, a charge the White House strongly denies.


ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If anybody thinks that there are nations, like Mexico, whose vote could be bought on the basis of a trade issue or something else like that, I think you're giving — doing grave injustice to the independence and the judgment of leaders of other nations.


GIBSON: Still, we are seeing quite a few offers on the table, like the $26 billion package for Turkey. To quote one observer, "Is this a coalition of the willing or a coalition of the bought?"

Danielle Pletka is vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. Well, let's take one issue at a time, Danielle. The Turks suffered during the Gulf War. Their economy suffered. they had actual losses.


GIBSON: Can't we kind of understand how they would want to be protected from further losses on a second war?

PLETKA: Oh, absolutely. I think the Turks felt that they were very badly done by. Not only did they lose access to an oil pipeline from Iraq and have to deal with enormous refugee flows, but they lost all this enormous free trade with Iraq. They suffered a genuine, devastating economic hit, and they're right to ask questions. They're not right to go too far and ask for $90 billion, but they're right to ask questions, and to look for economic assurances from us.

GIBSON: OK. But what about the others, the Angolas, the Cameroons, the Mexicos? Apparently, undersecretaries of states are flying around in Air Force IIs saying to people, "You really better vote with us. You really better."

PLETKA: Well, I know some of those undersecretaries and assistant secretaries who are flying around. And all they're really doing is trying to make a persuasive case. Is there assurance? Are there economic loans out there? Is there aid out there? Of course there is. There are real costs to siding with the United States in a war against Iraq. There are real economic costs that will be imposed by people opposed to that war, like the French, who have some nerve, by the way, accusing us of doing that when that is, in fact, their stock and trade.

GIBSON: I mean, if we weren't leaning on Angola and Cameroon, somebody else would be, right?

PLETKA: Well, I would just point to last weekend and the somewhat disgraceful summit with Africa that the government held, in which they included the likes of Zimbabwe and Robert Mugabe. If they weren't leaning on people at that point to sign up against the United States, I don't know what they were doing.

GIBSON: Okay. But what about this. Does it constitute a reason to not go to war if we have to pay people to come along, to put it bluntly? When last time they actually paid us to do it? The coalition last time paid the bulk of the cost of the war and contributed troops. This time, basically, all these countries are going to do is say, "Okay. Go if you want to."

PLETKA: Well, I think it does make sense. I think the concern that you expressed in your introduction was that we weren't, in fact, buying them but perhaps were renting them. And that is sometimes a worry. But the truth is that we are doing this because it is right. It is in our national security interest to do so. And if we can bring people along with us who agree with us, then at the end of the day, they are going to be in the same place as we are, dealing with a different and newer Iraq and gaining the benefits there are from that. I think it's also important to point out that there are real costs to not going to war. Look at Sept. 11. How much did that cost us? I can assure you, to our economy, it cost a great deal more than any war with Iraq.

GIBSON: Danielle Pletka, vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. Daniel, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

PLETKA: Thank you.

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