December 9, 2003 - Issue: Vol. 149, No. 176 — Daily Edition108th Congress (2003 - 2004) - 1st Session
WARS OF CHOICE
(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 Kosovo. 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 ambitious. 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 scale. 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.'' ____________________