This partial transcript of The Beltway Boys, November 24, 2001 was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House. Click here to order the complete transcript.
FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Welcome back to THE BELTWAY BOYS.
Joining us to talk about what's next in the war on terror is Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard and a Fox News contributor.
Welcome back, Bill.
WILLIAM KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, thanks for having me.
BARNES: You know, Elliot Cohen of SAIS writes in "The Wall Street Journal," or did a couple days ago, this, Bill: "The U.S. should continue to target regimes that sponsor terrorism. Iraq is the obvious candidate. The Iraqi military is weak, and the consequences of finishing off America's arch-enemy in the Arab world would reinforce the awe so badly damaged by a decade of cruise missiles flung at empty buildings."
Well, what would happen -- let me turn that around. What would happen -- what are the consequences if the U.S. does not finish off this Saddam Hussein as the second step in the war on terrorism?
KRISTOL: It would mean that the president, having declared a global war on terrorism, didn't follow through, didn't take out the most threatening terrorist state in the world, a state that itself is a regime of terror and that has used terror, that has trained terrorists. I think it would be disastrous for U.S. credibility, and it would lead to a much more dangerous world; a world in which other nations will see that it's in their interest to get weapons of mass destruction.
You'll have Iraq sitting there, Iran will feel they have to increase their already dangerous weapons of mass destruction program. What does Israel think, confronted with those two nations? It's extreme -- it's such a dangerous scenario that I do not believe it is conceivable that one way or the other we do not target Iraq in this war on terrorism.
MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Bill, what do you understand to be the current state of the debate and the policy on Iraq in this administration? I mean, they've obviously put it on -- put it sort of on a back-burner, although they -- various spokesmen hint about it every once in a while. But what do you think they actually have in mind?
KRISTOL: Well, but as you know, Mort, I think it's a bit on a back-burner, but I think there's been a real change over the last few weeks. One person close to the debate said to me this week that it's no longer a question of if, it's a question of how we go after Saddam Hussein.
The State Department wants to do what you suggested earlier, give Saddam an ultimatum to let inspectors back in, but not allow endless months of debate about the details. And one assumes that he doesn't comply with that ultimatum, and then sustained bombing over a few weeks to try to take out the weapons of mass destruction.
But don't explicitly target Saddam himself, don't try to make regime change an objective.
The Defense Department's answer to that is, Look, we don't know where all the weapons of mass destruction are. Saddam moved a lot of them in those first two weeks after September 11. That's why people like Wolfowitz are interested in possibly pouncing on Saddam right away -- right after September 11; we didn't do that. The Defense Department doesn't believe we can just use bombing to get those weapons of mass destruction. They like the Afghanistan model, which was bombing plus using friendly local troops; and we do have friendly local troops up north and in the south.
What -- I don't believe you can confidently do that, though, without having U.S. paratroops in reserve. And so the truth is, we'll have this debate, but I think in for a dime, in for a dollar. I think we're looking at a big confrontation with Iraq.
BARNES: Hey, Bill, "The Economist" magazine, in their new issue, says this -- says: "There has -- there will have to be a process, not a pounce. The buildup of diplomatic pressure, reforming of sanctions, demanding new U.N. inspections, the credible threat of military action if Saddam Hussein does not comply." Why wouldn't that work?
KRISTOL: Well, I don't think...
BARNES: That whole process?
KRISTOL: Well, the process gives him an awful lot of notice. I -- look, I think the president could easily pounce if he wanted to. If he said this week, you know, if he asked for TV time at 7:00 p.m. and got on TV at 8:00 p.m. one night and said, We have evidence that Saddam has been building weapons of mass destruction, that he has worked with terrorist groups, including al Qaeda over the last few months and years. We have therefore launched bombing raids in Iraq as we -- as the president speaks, he would say, to take out those weapons of mass destruction. And we will follow up to do what is necessary to remove this threat to world peace and security.
He'd have total support from the American people. He would have adequate support, I think, from our European allies, and he would have silence, mostly, or ritual complaints from the Arab world. But he could do that.
KONDRACKE: Bill, I mean, where -- just to follow up on the tactics of all this -- I mean, do these planes have to fly from the United States and Diego Garcia? Are they -- they're not going to be -- they're -- we're not going to be able to fly from Saudi bases. Or maybe we can fly some fighter planes, I guess, from aircraft carriers. But, Bill, where do we base this from?
And are -- aren't you worried that countries that are now cooperating with us in police action and financial ways to root out terrorism will stop doing it because they think that we've gone a bit too far here?
KRISTOL: Look, obviously if you can consult with allies ahead of time a little bit, it's better. But we could base them from carriers, we could base them in Turkey, and we could base, obviously, from Diego Garcia, from the continental U.S. and elsewhere. That's certainly adequate for strategic bombing.
Now, if you're going to actually do ground offensives and you need tactical air support, whether you can do it from Turkey and Kuwait, for example, and from carriers, whether you need to go to the Saudis and say, Look, this is serious, we're here to stay, and we're going to get rid of Saddam this time, we're going -- we need your -- we need to use our base there, that's an -- I don't know, that's a military and operational detail that I just am not qualified to judge.
I think our allies will go along. We won't lose anything substantial in the way of financial support or diplomatic support.
Look, we have to do it. We have -- we cannot afford a world, in my view, and I think the president has laid down the marker pretty clearly on this, especially over the last two or three weeks, you cannot have a state that is clearly a sponsor of terrorism which is clearly building weapons of mass destruction. That's -- he's said that that is unacceptable, and I think he's right.
BARNES: Bill, let me ask you about what someone who was an unknown factor when this Bush administration began, that's Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser. She seems to have emerged as a major figure in this administration. Where does she come down?
KRISTOL: Well, she's been sounding pretty hawkish, not so much -- she hasn't explicitly addressed the issue of regime change, I wouldn't say, getting rid of Saddam, but she's one of those who has continued to -- over the last couple of weeks, tie together weapons of mass destruction and the war on terrorism. I think that's been the big development over the last two and a half weeks, that once you tie together terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, then you've got to take out Saddam.
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