Idea Of The Day

James Woolsey’s Campaign? 


Although there’s no sure evidence to link al-Qaida with Saddam Hussein, former CIA chief James Woolseyis nevertheless telling people that he believes the Iraqi leaderwas involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. (For an analysis of the supposed evidence linking the terrorists and the head of this roguish state, read this article by Slate’s David Plotz.) On Monday, Woolseytold the American Jewish Congress that there were “too many examples of stolen identities, of cleverly crafted documentation, of coordination across continents and between states [to] stray very far from the conclusion that a state” was part of the conspiracy. Stolen identities hardly constitute evidence of state involvement, but nothing seems likely to change Woolsey’s mind. His intransigence may, however, be more personal than anything else, as Andrew Cockburnsuggests in an article that appeared in the New York Times Magazine last year. Moreover, not so long ago the same James Woolseywas advocating a less than confrontational approach to Saddam. “We can make military action more effective,” he said in February 1993, “by taking political steps—such as recognizing a government-in-exile, extending the no-fly zone over the entire country, and protecting the Kurds in the north and the Shia in the south, if they revolt. But we have to realize that this will be a difficult and long-term undertaking. A mere few days of strikes now will just be a slightly more intense version of our weak responses in 1993 and 1996.”

One could also say that Woolsey’s view reflects what Sebastian Mallabycalls a failure of realist foreign policy. Writing in the Washington Post, Mallaby says:

The more you think about this conflict, the more you spill beyond the realists’ conception of what foreign policy ought to be about. To succeed in the propaganda war, for example, it is not enough to say you are fighting terrorists and not Muslims, and it is not enough to help Afghans with food packages. To succeed in winning hearts and minds, you also need to rein in human-rights abuses by your new allies, such as Uzbekistan’s Soviet-style dictatorship. Nobody’s going to believe that you respect Muslims if your partners are seizing people with long beards and torturing them. …Yes, democratization and economic development are a grind, and progress won’t magically dissolve anti-Americanism. But the war on terrorism needs to make space for these issues, because there are no better long-term options.