What happens to France's, Germany's, and Russia's prior oil contracts once the dust settles in Iraq? Aren't they leaving themselves in a poor negotiating position should they block U.S. action? Also, is it possible that Hussein is paying some of the "Coalition of Unwilling" "protection money" for their Nay vote? — George, Petersburg, IN
You raise a valid point, and one that is under serious discussion within the governments of France and Russia as they contemplate how to handle the upcoming vote on the second resolution at the United Nations. Germany is not as relevant in this discussion because its role in Iraq's oil industry is minimal to nonexistent. There is no question that France and Russia will lose lucrative oil development contracts in Iraq, as well as access to under priced U.N. OIL-FOR-FOOD oil wrapped in under-the-table commissions to a select group of companies and individuals. Whatever changes take place will happen at the hands of the democratically elected government the U.S. leaves behind when it has completed the disarmament task. In other words, the people of Iraq will remember who helped liberate them and who didn't, and those like France and Russia who don't will not receive a share of the business that needs to be done to rebuild Iraq, and in my opinion, rightly so.
Lucrative oil contracts, construction and building contracts and other official business of the country's infrastructure industry have always been the reward for loyalty in Iraq during Saddam's era.
Thank you for your wonderful insight into a culture that is at times very difficult to understand. My question pertains to homicide bombing. Is it realistic to expect homicide bombings to become a part of our lives in America? Also, what can be done to transform the current homicide bombing culture in the Middle East, short of the total destruction of Israel? — David, Wichita, KS
I firmly believe we are on the verge of collapsing the pre-9/11 infrastructure of Al Qaeda and its cells within the U.S., as well as in other parts of the world. The arrest last weekend of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed provided a veritable gold mine of information which we are using to assist U.S. and foreign law enforcement agencies in rooting out sleeper cells before they can activate and commit terrorist acts. The arrest of five Al Qaeda operatives in Kuwait yesterday is a good example of how quickly the data U.S. and Pakistani authorities got was translated into action.
However, the direct answer to your question, regrettably, is yes. Keep in mind that 67% of the U.S. economy (approx. $10 trillion in size) is built on the service economy. The soft targets underlying the service economy will remain in the sights of terrorists until our technological ability to defend against random terrorism is improved.
In the Middle East, until the Palestinian people are prepared to implement structural reforms that root out corruption and bring to the fore a new generation of leadership not bred with the culture of hatred and violence, there will be little hope for peace. Arafat has to go. When he does, and he is replaced by moderate, corruption-free and truly democratic leaders, then Israel will be able to respond with more than the erection of walls and rumble of tanks.
Israel's dramatic shift to the right politically is, in my view, an understandable reflexive response from a democracy to protect its citizens against terrorism from Palestinians who know nothing but hate. But the shift has become so riddled with military interventionist elements that Sharon's policies are breeding a new cycle of violence from disenfranchised Palestinians. Israel would also do well to remember that hatred is born as much of ignorance as it is of fear, and that helping to raise up those Palestinians in their midst who do not believe in violence as the long-term solution would make the ground fertile for lasting peace in the future.
If and when we capture bin Laden, do you think there will be a delay in releasing that information to the public since sleeper cells may immediately begin to carry out terror attacks against us? — C. Machina, Malvern, PA
No. The capture of bin Laden would immediately be spread on Al Qaeda's underground network, both by Internet and by word of mouth. So keeping the information from the general public would not achieve the objective you rightly state as one of the key concerns we should have. I believe that by the time we have apprehended him, or killed him, his global infrastructure to commit terrorist acts will have been sufficiently dismantled that any contemplated retaliation will be minimal and manageable. Bin Laden is nothing more than a mafia boss whose money to fund terrorism is running out, and whose jihadist call-to-arms is sounding more and more like desperate last gasps of a mafioso who knows his time has come.
Keep in mind that while Al Qaeda runs its global operations on a shoestring budget, and the 9/11 attacks were carried out on minimal expenditure of resources, there is a large part of their existing money transfer system that is going to soon be frozen by authorities around the world — actions that are made possible by the patient and well-executed raid last weekend of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's Pakistani safe house. With Al Qaeda's funds frozen further, fewer radical sheikhs in the Gulf region are either willing or able to fund its acts of terror and therefore the cycle that once fed bin Laden's terror operations is now being systematically wound down.
And if you don't have the money, it's very difficult to mount large-scale attacks.
I have heard a number of theories lately concerning the stand France and Germany have taken against action toward Iraq (namely Saddam). One being that France and Germany have made agreements worth hundreds of billions of dollars with Saddam for cheap oil in exchange for "controlled" weapons of mass destruction technology. They are [reportedly] positioning themselves as the leaders of the EU and are in essence coordinating an economic coup to gain world influence while reducing that of the US. Technically supplying Saddam with weaponry would protect their oil interests and cause even more chaos in the region at the expense of the U.S. (furthering their agenda). Would you comment on this possible scenario? — Jeff
France and Germany are dissenting from the US position for very different reasons. In France's case, three reasons dominate their thinking: first, the French president, Jacques Chirac, is possessed by the need to demonstrate his country's relevance to world affairs. He has chosen to do this by trying to limit the display of America's overwhelming military power by using the only weapon he has — his mouth, and his United Nations veto. Last night, President Bush effectively challenged France to use it so the world will know once and for all that at a crucial moment in the war against terrorists, France stood with terrorism's enabler-in-chief. The second driving motivation is fear of being found out. France has for years allegedly been supplying every manner of technology, goods and services to Saddam's regime and would prefer the world not know what exactly they gave Iraq to enable its continued development of weapons of mass destruction. Finally, there is greed. The deals you speak of are that component, but the larger point is that France wants to limit America's unilateral rise of power.
Germany is a different case. The Germans are, much like the Japanese, paralyzed by fear that they not be accused of warmongering. Their histories, in which Hitler and the Axis rose up to slaughter millions of innocent men, women and children, is ingrained like a genetic inhibitor in their actions today. As you will recall, Chancellor Helmut Kohl spent his entire political career making a united Europe that would be able to keep checks and balances on German power a reality. Chancellor Schroeder, the current leader of Germany, is an extreme version of that vision. Germany has simply withdrawn from all matters of importance on the world stage because they fear blame for any action that could result in the mass loss of life, no matter the benefits from, for example, disarming a dictator like Saddam. Remember, Germany was the original staging ground for the 9/11 attacks, and the fear that it could be used again, or that by participating in the coalition to disarm Saddam it invites terrorism to its soil are genuine concerns that we should be more sensitive to.
As Americans, I feel we probably should forgive the Germans for their genetic disposition, the history that underlies it and how these factors can translate into their non-action in today's unipolar world. The French, however, are demonstrating complicity in buttressing terror's distribution, and there is no forgiving that.
What are the chances that "our firends," France, Russia and China, will provide intelligence (on U.S. troop deployments, communications, etc.) to Iraq when the fighting starts?
I think such betrayal is unlikely, although I believe we are not sharing much with them anyway, nor do they know much. We have been wise to the French ways of spying on us (electronic surveillance techniques, etc.) for years. The opposition these countries have is rooted in a desire to limit America's unilateral demonstration and projection of military power. It is not ideologically driven (i.e., not opposed to disarming terrorists and terror-sponsoring states by force).
What can we do to communicate to and convince both the surrounding Arab nations and to the other nations of the world that civilian casualties will be Saddam's responsibility? I am concerned that there will be a lot of civilians killed because the armaments will be placed in the middle of civilian areas and that the Iraqi government will use this to try to unite the Arab world against us.
Unfortunately, the use of civilian shields by Saddam is a reality of the war we are being forced to commence to disarm a tyrant. Arab governments hostile to the U.S.-allied effort will use their deaths as propaganda to do the only thing they can, mouth off at Americans for projecting power on the other side of the world. We as Americans have to accept this as a small price to pay for insuring the security of the world from Saddam's poison recipes, biological weapons and other forms of chemical weapons falling into the wrong hands. What will change the Arab world's mind about American intentions toward them is combining the speed, efficiency and accuracy of our military action with the speed of developing institutional frameworks that enable democracy, and then removing our military presence once we have achieved full disarmament. As long as we don't stay there or try to exploit Iraq's oil wealth for our own gain, we are going to be seen as the liberators we are.
I would like to ask you about the situation in North Korea. In your judgment, how do you think the U.S. would handle the situation? We both know North Korea is no Iraq. With long-range missiles capability and strong Army, the U.S. will be up for a war that it cannot stop. Do you think the balance of power in the area will shift because of that? Thank you for taking time to answer my questions. — David
Only China exerts real control over North Korea's political and military activities. Therefore, you can assume that until China believes there is a problem, North Korea's threats are more bluster than reality. Pyongyang's demands that it only talk to the U.S. and no other party to resolve the crisis is ludicrous because North Korea's behavior first and foremost affects South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and China. This is a regional problem, not a U.S. problem. Also keep in mind that Beijing revels in the fact that a tiny bankrupt rogue nation which China could force to back down in one telephone call gives so much heartburn to Washington's policy planners.
China uses North Korea as a tool to manage our ambitions for democracy in the region much the way we have used Taiwan to express the hope for open, democratic and capitalist societies there. But no matter what the motivations of countries in the region, the U.S. cannot be seen to bow to terrorist regimes threatening to blow up the world — no matter where they are. Kim Jong Il only understands the use of force because that is what all tyrants are made of — imposing force on innocent people. A freedom loving nation like the U.S. cannot negotiate with tyrants like Kim. That is the lesson of our failure to take out Saddam in 1991, to extradite bin Laden to the U.S. when offered in 1996, and to not do more to stop nuclear technology from getting to North Korea during the late 1990s.
The only interim solution is to insure quarantine of all North Korean seagoing vessels so that plutonium cannot be easily transferred into Al Qaeda hands on a Philippino pirate ship run by Abu Sayyaf. If we can track North Korean submarines and ships and insure they are not able to offload dangerous cargoes, we have a good chance of avoiding the most dangerous outcome from Pyongyang's nuclear blackmail. I would like to also refer you to the following link for an article that lays other components of the solution out for you. It is a joint op-ed that I co-authored with R. James Woolsey, former director of Central Intelligence.
[01/12/03, LOS ANGELES TIMES, Cut Pyongyang's Nuclear Supply Lines http://www.latimes.com/archives co-authored w/ R. James Woolsey]