(Extensions of Remarks - December 09, 2003)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E2508-E2509]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                             WARS OF CHOICE


                           HON. BARNEY FRANK

                            of massachusetts

                    in the house of representatives

                        Monday, December 8, 2003

  Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, one of the most important 
debates now being carried on in the United States has to do with the 
reasons for our war in Iraq. The administration and its defenders have 
argued that we had to go to war as a matter of self-defense. In varying 
combinations, the administration has argued that Iraq was deeply 
involved with al Qaeda and that the Iraqi war to a great extent was a 
logical next step after the war in Afghanistan, and also that Iraq 
possessed weapons of mass destruction that were ready to be used 
against us. In short, they argued that this was a war of necessity.
  Many of us believe to the contrary that the linkage between Iraq and 
al Qaeda was slight, and that the weapons of mass destruction argument 
had been grossly exaggerated. Of course evidence since America's 
military victory have strengthened greatly the case of those of us who 
were skeptical on both counts.
  But the debate continues to be an important one. I was therefore 
struck by the article in the November 23 Washington Post by Richard 
Haass. Mr. Haass who is now the President of the Council on Foreign 
Relations was a very high ranking national security official of the 
Bush administration from its early months in office until June of this 
year--after the major military activity in the war against Iraq. While 
he does not explicitly rebut the Bush administration's case for the 
war, his article is in fact a strong argument against it.
  Talking of the distinction between wars of necessity--which is how 
the administration has characterized the war in Iraq--and wars of 
choice, in which countries use war as a means of policy, Mr. Haass, the 
Director of the State Department's policy planning team while the war 
was being planned and carried out, clearly asserts that Iraq was an 
example of the latter.
  As he notes, ``the debate can and will go on as to whether attacking 
Iraq was a wise decision, but at its core it was a war of choice. We

[[Page E2509]]

did not have to go to war against Iraq, certainly not when we did. 
There were other options; to rely on other policy tools, to delay 
attacking, or both. Iraq was thus fundamentally different from World 
War II or Korea or even the Persian Gulf War, all of which qualify as 
wars of necessity.'' Mr. Speaker, the significance of this analysis 
from a man who occupied so high a post in the Bush administration is 
great, and because of that, I ask that Mr. Haass's very thoughtful 
article be printed here.

               [From the Washington Post, Nov. 23, 2003]

                             Wars of Choice

                         (By Richard N. Haass)

       Any number of lessons can be learned from the handling of 
     the aftermath of the war in Iraq, but none is more basic than 
     this: Democracies, in particular American democracy, do not 
     mix well with empire.
       Empire is about control--the center over the periphery. 
     Successful empire demands both an ability and a willingness 
     to exert and maintain control. On occasion this requires an 
     ability and a willingness to go to war, not just on behalf of 
     vital national interests but on behalf of imperial concerns, 
     which is another way of saying on behalf of lesser interests 
     and preferences.
       Iraq was such a war. The debate can and will go on as to 
     whether attacking Iraq was a wise decision; but at its core 
     it was a war of choice. We did not have to go to war against 
     Iraq, certainly not when we did. There were other options: to 
     rely on other policy tools, to delay attacking, or both.
       Iraq was thus fundamentally different from World War II or 
     Korea or even the Persian Gulf War, all of which qualify as 
     wars of necessity. So, too, does the open-ended war against 
     al Qaeda. What distinguishes wars of necessity is the 
     requirement to respond to the use of military force by an 
     aggressor and the fact that no option other than military 
     force exists to reverse what has been done. In such 
     circumstances, a consensus often materializes throughout the 
     country that there is no alternative to fighting, a consensus 
     that translates into a willingness to devote whatever it 
     takes to prevail, regardless of the financial or human costs 
     to ourselves.
       Wars of choice, however, are fundamentally different. They 
     are normally undertaken for reasons that do not involve 
     obvious self-defense of the United States or an ally. Policy 
     options other than military action exist; there is no 
     domestic political consensus as to the correctness of the 
     decision to use force. Vietnam was such a war, as was the war 
     waged by the Clinton administration against Serbia over 
       Wars of choice vary in their cost and duration. Vietnam was 
     long (lasting a decade and a half from the American 
     perspective) and costly in terms of both blood (more than 
     58,000 lives) and treasure (hundreds of billions of dollars). 
     By contrast, Kosovo took all of 78 days, claimed no American 
     lives in combat and cost less than $3 billion.
       What these experiences suggest is that the American people 
     are prepared to wage wars of choice, so long as they prove to 
     be relatively cheap and short. But the United States is not 
     geared to sustain costly wars of choice.
       We are seeing just this with Iraq. The American people are 
     growing increasingly restless, and it is not hard to see why. 
     We have been at war now in Iraq for some eight months. More 
     than 400 Americans have lost their lives. Costs are in the 
     range of $100 billion and mounting.
       The Bush administration knows all this; hence the 
     accelerated timetable to hand over increasing political 
     responsibility for Iraq to Iraqis. Such a midcourse 
     correction in U.S. policy reflects in part the political 
     realities of Iraq, where enthusiasm for prolonged American 
     occupation is understandably restrained; even more, though, 
     the policy shift reflects political realities here at home. 
     Domestic tolerance for costs--disrupted and lost lives above 
     all--is not unlimited. As a result, the president is wise to 
     reduce the scale of what we try to accomplish. Making Iraq 
     ``good enough''--a functioning and fairly open society and 
     economy if not quite a textbook model of democracy--is plenty 
       None of this is meant to be an argument against all wars of 
     choice. There may be good and sound reasons for going to war 
     even if we do not have to, strictly speaking. Such reasons 
     can range from protecting a defenseless population against 
     ethnic cleansing or genocide to preventing the emergence of a 
     threat that has the potential to cause damage on a large 
       But wars of choice require special handling.
       First, it is essential to line up domestic support. 
     Congress and the American people need to be on board, not 
     just in some formal legal way but also to the extent of being 
     psychologically prepared for the possible costs. Better to 
     warn of costs that never materialize than to be surprised by 
     those that do.
       Second, it is equally essential to line up international 
     support. The United States needs partners: to facilitate the 
     effort of fighting the war, to share the financial and human 
     costs of war and its aftermath, to stand with us 
     diplomatically should the going get tough. We possess the 
     world's most powerful military and economy, but the United 
     States is not immune from the consequences of being stretched 
     too thin or going deeply into debt.
       Third, no one should ever underestimate the potential costs 
     of military action; no one should ever assume that a war of 
     choice, or any war, will prove quick or easy. Here as 
     elsewhere the great Prussian military theorist Carl von 
     Clausewitz had it right: ``There is no human affair which 
     stands so constantly and so generally in close connection 
     with chance as war.''