The neocons (neo-conservative policy makers and thinkers) became deeply entrenched in high level positions in the DOD, the Office of the vice president, and those outside government in key pressure groups.4 In the first term, among the most important political actors were Vice President Dick Cheney and his chief of staff Lewis (Scooter) Libby, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Weekly Standard Editor and co-founder of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) William Kristol, and former Reagan Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security and former Chair of the Defense Policy Board Richard Perle (see Hirsh 2003; Hosenball, Isikoff, and Thomas 2003: Tanenhaus 2003; Mann 2004). The neocons oppose containment, promote an aggressive and unilateral assertion of hegemony, are critical of United States membership in multilateral organizations, and are the most active proponents of preventive war and expanding the war on terrorism to include the use of military force against states that promote terrorism (Mann 2004). While Cheney and Rumsfeld are the most publicly visible neocons, the most important is Wolfowitz (Danner 2002).
The neocons are descendants of President Reagan and his 1983 “Evil Empire” speech. That is, their vision of the world is defined by the notion that there is both good and evil, us versus them (Hirsch 2003). The neocons argue that in the absence of the Soviet Union, American power should be used to change the world and eliminate threatening regimes. They also perceive multilateralism as useful only if it benefits U.S. interests. As conveyed by Richard Perle in a 2002 interview,
[m]ultilateralism is fine in principle. What is not fine is having our interests adversely affected by the inability to gain a sufficient degree of multilateral support. And what is not fine is subsuming American interests, particularly where security is concerned, in some larger notion that, if the only option in [sic.] unilateral, we should be paralyzed. We can’t do that. We cannot abdicate responsibility for our own security. So, multilateralism is preferable, if we can get a consensus. But if the only way you can get a consensus is by abandoning your most fundamental interests, then it is not helpful. So it's a question of how much multilateralism in what circumstances. (Perle 2002)
Much of the Bush Doctrine that emerged after 9/11 is a clear reflection of the ambitious positions taken by the neocons well before the Al-Qaeda attacks. In Robert Jervis’ view (2003), the Bush Doctrine is composed of
a strong belief in the importance of a state's domestic regime in determining its foreign policy and the related judgment that this is an opportune time to transform international politics; the perception of great threats that can be defeated only by new and vigorous policies, most notably preventive war; a willingness to act unilaterally when necessary; and, as both a cause and a summary of these beliefs, an overriding sense that peace and stability require the United States to assert its primacy in world politics. (193)
One of the key propositions of the Bush Doctrine is that the United States reserves the right to overthrow regimes that pose a significant threat to the national security interests of the United States. President Bush highlighted the notion of preventive war in a 2002 speech at West Point when he asserted that “[w]e cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants, who solemnly sign non-proliferation treaties, and then systemically break them. If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long” (Bush, G. W. 2002b). One nation that was viewed as a serious threat to U.S. national security was Saddam Hussein's Iraq; Kim Jong Ill's North Korea, and the mullahs of Iran are also seen as potential future targets of American military intervention.
A critical organization that has supplied the neocons with much of their intellectual coherence is the PNAC, which was formed largely by the efforts of William Kristol and Donald Kagan in the mid-1990s as a think tank to advance what they called a “Reaganite policy of military strength” (PNAC 1997). The goals of the PNAC would later saturate U.S. foreign policy after 9/11 in that it promotes major increases in defense spending, and the transformation of the armed forces from the Cold War era two-theater war approach to a modern military that can be rapidly deployed anywhere to confront and challenge “regimes hostile to our interests and values” (PNAC 1997).5
The realists are a coalition of reluctant warriors who occupied positions in the Department of State during George W. Bush's first term or served in the George H. W. Bush and Clinton administrations. On the whole, they are largely viewed as a voice of restraint. Led by first term Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage, along with former Director of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff Richard Haas, former Clinton special coordinator for the Middle East Dennis Ross, George H. W. Bush Secretaries of State James Baker and Lawrence Eagleburger, G. H. W. Bush's National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, and President George H. W. Bush himself, the realists were highly resistant to engagements in which the use of military force is the first option.
Perhaps the most visible and vocal leader of the realists was Powell, who had been tutored by former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, Scowcroft, and Baker (Thomas 2003; Kessler and Pincus 2003). An important indication of how Powell would approach his role as secretary of state was his strong public advocacy of the so-called Weinberger-Powell doctrine. The doctrine holds that prior to a military commitment: (1) policymakers must secure public and legislative approval; (2) force is to be used only as a last resort when nonmilitary options have been exhausted; (3) force size must be overwhelming; and (4) there must be a clear military objective and an exit strategy in place before military action commences. It was fundamentally a realist doctrine, focusing on the instruments of power and national interests (Weinberger 1986; Mann 2004, 44; Woodward 2004). Challenging neoconservatives calling for US hegemony, Powell cautions that “where we should not use force we have to be wise enough to exercise restraint” (Powell 1992b). Clearly, Powell believed in the use of economic, political, and diplomatic means to control conflict; to buttress those elements, he knew the presence of a powerful military was necessary. Therefore, his belief in the adherence to an established “exit strategy” helped guide his prescriptions for action when necessary (Arnel Enriquez 2004; Howard 2002; von Hippel 2000). Both he and Deputy Secretary of State Armitage have contended that the doctrine calls for more than just avoidance of gruesome quagmires; it is a demonstration of American leadership with the support of its allies in the pursuit of goals with decisive force (Donnelly 2000).
On the whole, the realists were pragmatists who wanted Bush to keep his options open. They viewed foreign policy as a patient management of alliances, competition, and struggle among states and nonstates (Krauthammer 2001). In other words, the realists believed that American power does not have to be the projection of overwhelming American military might. A similar point was made by Dennis Ross in a 2002 interview.
If we’re looking at problems like terrorism, terrorism by definition requires a coalition, because it depends upon intelligence, and it can’t only be our intelligence. It depends upon law enforcement, and it can’t only be our law enforcement. It depends upon cutting financial flows, and we can’t do that unilaterally. So there are, by definition, certain issues—whether it's terrorism or its [sic.] environment or its [sic.] health, like AIDS—these are each problems that are going to have to be taken on, on a multilateral basis. Proliferation, much the same. (Ross 2002)
Furthermore, the realists decried the notion of focusing too much on states as threats, especially because it could harm American efforts in the global war on terrorism. For Brent Scowcroft (2002, 22), “the most serious cost would be the war on terrorism. Ignoring that clear sentiment would result in a serious degradation in international cooperation with us against terrorism. And make no mistake, we simply cannot win that war without enthusiastic international cooperation.” According to the realists, such a strategy would not only bankrupt the United States and lead to significant casualties, it would contribute to the image of American imperialism in the Middle East and actually increase the frequency of terror attacks against the United States at home and abroad.6
Waging the War about the War
Struggles between these two groups can be illustrated with the battle over the G. W. Bush administration's policy regarding Saddam Hussein and Iraq. While a cursory assessment of the neocons may reveal that this group first advanced its policy interests in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, a deeper examination demonstrates that the neocons sought to advance their objectives shortly after the 1991 Gulf War. The neocons contended that President George H. W. Bush ended the Persian Gulf War prematurely and that Bush, Scowcroft, Baker, and Powell talked themselves into falsely believing that Saddam's days were numbered (Tanenhaus 2003). According to an interview with William Kristol (2002), the decision
fit in with the general view of the world, where you don’t change regimes unless you absolutely have to. It puts a high premium on stability. It put a high premium on accommodating our Arab friends. They had a big interest in stability, since they didn’t like the idea that people might get used to changing regimes and all that. So I think it was just part of a general worldview of Bush and Scowcroft and others.
The neocons pointed to Saddam's ability to endure in office as evidence that containment is unacceptable and underestimates the degree to which tyrants will go to remain in power. Even leading neocon Richard Perle acknowledged that “on the day the decision was made to end the war, I don’t think any of the principals believed that Saddam would be there. And the idea that he would be there a decade later would have been considered preposterous” (Perle 2002).
Attention after the Gulf War turned to what the American role would be in the post-Cold War. The realists perceived the Gulf War as a great success and hoped some new world order might emerge with the United States in a leadership position based on a broad international consensus. President George H. W. Bush made a number of speeches in which he delineated his vision of the “new world order” that he and his advisers hoped would materialize in the Gulf War's aftermath. For example, in April 1991, he stated that the new world order
describes a responsibility imposed by our successes [in the Gulf War]. It refers to new ways of working with other nations to deter aggression and to achieve stability, to achieve prosperity and, above all, to achieve peace. It springs from hopes for a world based on a shared commitment among nations large and small to a set of principles that undergird our relations: peaceful settlements of disputes, solidarity against aggression, reduced and controlled arsenals, and just treatment of all peoples. (Bush, G. H. W. 1991)
President Bush's vision of the new world order did not rule out force as an option. However, unlike the vision of his son's administration, the elder Bush believed in a doctrine of multilateralism as the preferred option, even when faced with impending military action. He clearly laid out this vision in the last month of his presidency in a speech at West Point (1993).
Once we are satisfied that force makes sense, we must act with the maximum possible support. The United States can and should lead, but we will want to act in concert, where possible involving the United Nations or other multinational grouping. The United States can and should contribute to the common undertaking in a manner commensurate with our wealth, with our strength. But others should also contribute militarily, be it by providing combat or support forces, access to facilities or bases, or overflight rights. And similarly, others should contribute economically. It is unreasonable to expect the United States to bear the full financial burden of intervention when other nations have a stake in the outcome.
For the realists, after Gulf War I, Iraq became a secondary factor. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, the realists believed democracy and capitalism would spread to become the preferred political and economic system around the globe. In fact, they believed any U.S. military move against Iraq would destabilize the entire Middle East.7 Indeed, the 1990s were an optimistic time, and understandably so, given that the United States emerged victorious from the Cold War and entered into a sustained period of economic wealth and prosperity.
The neocons countered by claiming that the elder Bush and Clinton failed to take advantage of the opportunities made available by the demise of the Soviet Union to forcefully advance American interests and assert global U.S. supremacy. The neocons believed that the world was brewing with potential conflict and that democracy was not on the rise, but to the contrary, being threatened by North Korea, Iraq, Syria, and Iran. For neocons, America's use of overwhelming force against Iraq was a necessary springboard to demonstrate the preeminence of U.S. power, especially in the Islamic Middle East (see Kaplan and Kristol 2003). However, the opportunity for the neocons to exercise serious influence would not present itself until after 9/11.
The Defense Planning Guideline and the Project for a New American Century
One attempt to influence the process was utilized by the neocons in 1992 when Wolfowitz, along with Cheney and Libby, supervised a DOD policy draft detailing how the United States should respond to the collapse of the USSR. The result was the Defense Planning Guidance (DPG), which argued that the United States should increase defense spending, assert itself as the sole superpower, and squash the rise of regional hegemons that could potentially take advantage of the void left by the Soviet Union (Tyler 1992). In the original draft, the idea of forming new “coalitions of the willing” was first advanced. That is, if the United States could not persuade multilateral organizations to go along, it “will go with whoever we can convince and at the same time we’ll try to keep the coalitions behind us” or “act alone in defense of our interests” (Gellman 2003). Furthermore, the notion of preventive war was advanced in the document—a precursor to the Bush Doctrine which would emerge post-9/11 (Gellman 1992).
President G. H. W. Bush, Scowcroft, and other leading realists were unhappy with the DPG, not only for the reason that the declaration was leaked to the press before it was received by the White House, but also because it conflicted with the administration's foreign policy goals, which held that the United States would not be the world's policeman (Kristol 2002).8 More importantly, the DPG's suggestion that the defense budget be sharply increased clashed with Bush's desire to cash in on the peace dividend in a crucial election year in which the Cold War was rapidly coming to an end. Realists in the administration, namely Scowcroft, Powell, and Baker, were able to fend off the neocon's bold assertions by moderating and softening the DPG's recommendations. In 1998 Richard Haas referred to Wolfowitz's DPG as the “Pentagon Paper” and disagreed with the notion that the United States could transform states as the world's lone superpower. “For better or worse, such a goal is beyond our reach. It is simply not doable. The United States cannot compel others to become more democratic” (Lemann 2002, 42).
As a result, the White House ordered the DOD to sanitize the DPG, remove any references to unilateral action, preemption, and preventive war, reaffirm containment strategy in dealing with Weapons of Mass Destruction, and reiterate America's commitments to multilateral organizations (Mann 2004). While the realists, most members of Congress, and the Clinton administration rejected the 1992 DPG draft, it would later be used by the neocons as a policy foundation from which to initiate the Bush Doctrine in response to 9/11.
The neocons also sought to gain the attention of the Clinton administration. In January 1998, the neocon's PNAC issued an open “Letter to President Clinton on Iraq,” in which they counseled that “the policy of ‘containment’ of Saddam Hussein has been steadily eroding over the past several months,” and that a new strategy “should aim, above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power” (PNAC 1998).9 In the summer of 1998, the PNAC successfully lobbied for a meeting between Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Perle and Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, and recommended that the Clinton administration topple Hussein. In response, Clinton decided on a public campaign to win support for military action, which backfired following student resistance against Berger, Secretary of State Madeline Albright, and Secretary of Defense William Cohen at Ohio State University and other venues (see Nelan 1998).
While they were not successful in convincing President Clinton to move on Iraq (though Clinton did order limited air strikes on Iraq during Operation Desert Fox), the neocons were growing into a highly organized coalition. In 1999 both the neocons led by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and a loose association of realists represented by Powell and Rice traveled to Austin, Texas to throw their support behind the Republican frontrunner, Governor George W. Bush. Throughout the 2000 presidential campaign, Bush avoided making claims that promoted a major doctrinal or policy shift away from containment to preemption or preventive war. When he did speak on world issues, his positions reflected the influence of Rice, his tutor and future national security adviser, who was very skeptical of many of the proposals put forth by the neocons. In his first major speech on world politics in November 1999, Governor Bush asserted that “a President must be a clear-eyed realist,” a statement which places significant emphasis on maintaining the policy status quo and acknowledging the importance of great power politics (Marinucci and Podger 1999). His views were shaped by Rice who argued in an article published in Foreign Affairs arguing that realism and great power politics should be acknowledged as potent forces after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Even those uncomfortable with notions of the “national interest” are still queasy with a focus on power relationships and great power politics. The reality is that a few big powers can radically affect international peace, stability, and prosperity. These states are capable of disruption on a grand scale . . . Great powers do not just mind their own business. (Rice 2000, 46)
The neocons had to be delicate in exercising influence with Bush for two reasons. First, it appeared that Bush was already taking his cues from Rice who seemed initially sympathetic to the realists. Second, the neocons could not be too forceful with Bush, because it was his father they were most critical of.
The First Days of George W. Bush
Following Bush's controversial electoral victory over Al Gore, both the neocons and the realists petitioned Bush with aspirants for important positions in the new administration. The realists scored Powell as Secretary of State, Armitage as Deputy Secretary of State, and Haas as Director of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff. The neocons ended up with Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense, Wolfowitz as Deputy Secretary of Defense, and of course Cheney as Vice President and Libby as his chief of staff. The appointments of Powell, Armitage, and Haas, as well as General Richard Myers as Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair, should be interpreted as counterweights to Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz. While neither coalition really knew where it stood with the president prior to 9/11, the neocons were especially frustrated. According to Kristol,
[w]e didn’t have great hopes for Bush as a foreign policy president. Indeed, once he became president, we were pretty critical of him in those first several months . . . I think you could make a case that on Sept. 10, 2001, it's not clear that George W. Bush was, in any fundamental way, going in our direction of foreign policy. (2002)
There was some evidence, however, that the neocons were winning the early battle for the heart and soul of George W. Bush. Just one day before the 9/11 attacks, a Time cover ran with Colin Powell's picture asking “Where Have You Gone, Colin Powell?” as part of a story suggesting that the neocons had succeeded in neutralizing Powell's standing within the administration. As the article suggested,
[i]t comes as one of the biggest surprises in the emerging Bush 43 era that Colin Powell, the man many thought would walk into the presidency himself a few years ago, is leaving such shallow footprints. By the cruel calculus of Washington, you are only as powerful as people think you are. Powell's megastar wattage looks curiously dimmed, as if someone has turned his light way down. (McGeary 2001, 28)
When terrorists struck on 9/11, everything about the Bush administration changed, especially its foreign policy orientation. The attacks made it possible for the neocons to persuade Bush to safely begin the process of building his doctrine in principle and in practice.10 The principles set forth in the 1992 DPG suddenly reappeared. In a speech on the night of September 11, at the urging of the neocons, the president stated “we will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them” (Tanenhaus 2003). These words established the principle that the United States would not just retaliate against the 9/11 planners, but aggressively pursue countries that supported them.
On September 12, in the first meeting of his war cabinet, Bush stated that the terrorist attacks the previous day “were more than acts of terror, they were acts of war,” thus declaring to the world that 9/11 was not just an isolated crime, but the beginning of a war against states and nonstates that the United States believed were threatening, challenging, and rivaling its power (Woodward 2002, 51–2). An important explanation for how and why the neocons were able to gain Bush's ear so quickly lies in large measure to the fact that while Cheney, Rice, and the NSC staff were locked down in the White House and in close communications with Rumsfeld at the Pentagon and the president on Air Force One on 9/11, Powell and his staff were incommunicado en route from South America. Given these circumstances, by September 12 the war about the war on terror was well underway.
Following 9/11, U.S. policy makers grappled with the questions of how to respond, with what means and, most importantly, where to strike. The neocons saw this as a prime opportunity to persuade the president to attack Iraq whereas the realists favored moving on Al-Qaeda and overthrowing the Taliban in Afghanistan (Tanenhaus 2003). The two coalitions publicly clashed over how to proceed. In a press conference at the Pentagon, Wolfowitz lobbed the first volley.
These people try to hide, but they won’t be able to hide forever. They think their harbors are safe, but they won’t be safe forever. I think one has to say it's not just simply a matter of capturing people and holding them accountable, but removing the sanctuaries, removing the support systems, ending states who sponsor terrorism. And that's why it has to be a broad and sustained campaign. It's not going to stop if a few criminals are taken care of. (Wolfowitz 2001)
This was the first public inference by a senior member of the administration that the United States should move against Iraq and a clear attempt at manipulating the policy-making process toward the neocon's policy interest. It was also a slap at the State Department. The same afternoon, an alarmed and irritated Powell retaliated. “We’re after ending terrorism. And if there are states and regimes, nations that support terrorism, we hope to persuade them that it is in their interest to stop doing that. But I think ending terrorism is where I would like to leave it, and let Mr. Wolfowitz speak for himself” (Powell 2001).
Convinced that Iraq was not directly linked to 9/11, Powell and Armitage argued that the United States should invade Afghanistan and provide all necessary support to Northern Alliance forces. Their argument was that public support precipitated a military response in Afghanistan and that any action against Iraq would have to be more incremental (Tanenhaus 2003). On October 8, 2001 the United States began its bombing campaign on Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan. A month later Al-Qaeda was on the run and the Taliban government collapsed under the weight of devastating air strikes and ground assaults. Until the end of 2001, Bush focused his attention on capturing Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Mohammed Omar of the Taliban government throughout Afghanistan and Western Pakistan.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the PNAC wasted little time urging the Bush administration to rethink its Iraq policy. Just as they did during the Clinton administration, PNAC issued a public letter to President Bush on September 20 recommending a series of steps that would be “necessary parts of a comprehensive strategy” in the war on terror. Among others, PNAC suggested that
[i]t may be that the Iraqi government provided assistance in some form to the recent attack on the United States. But even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism. (PNAC 2001)
Though the neocons were initially unsuccessful in getting Iraq on the agenda, it became clear that Afghanistan was just phase one of the U.S. response (Cheney 2002). Throughout 2002 and early 2003, U.S. military action in Afghanistan became a war in the shadows as the neocons influenced the president to begin phase two: Iraq. The official road to war began on September 17, 2001 when Bush signed a secret order to invade Afghanistan that included a plan to soon attack Iraq (Kessler 2003, A20). However, the public campaign for military action against Iraq began on January 29, 2002 in the State of the Union Address, after Iraq was placed in the so-called axis-of-evil along with Iran and North Korea. Though one might have expected Powell and Armitage to have balked at the use of the controversial language, they in fact signed off on the speech. The furor it set off in the rest of the world did, however, take many in the administration by surprise (Mann 2004, 317–21; Woodward 2004, 87–95).
By August 2002, the realists and neocons were embroiled in a highly public war over Iraq. The realists were concerned with the negative implications associated with the public expression of American unilateralism, which could threaten support for any action against Iraq and multilateral cooperation in the war on terrorism (Mann 2004, 336–8). By mid-2002 the increasing talk of attacking Iraq resulted in significant global resistance to such a venture, as public opposition shot up to 87 percent in Russia, 81 percent in Spain and Italy, 75 percent in France, 69 percent in Germany, and 51 percent in Great Britain with favorable views of America and Americans dropping below 50 percent in all six countries (Pew Research Center for the People and the Press 2003). Antagonism in France and Russia were of particular concern, if the president was going to consult with permanent members of the United Nations (UN) Security Council.
The realists utilized two key political tactics to push their policy interests with the president. The first was when Powell successfully lobbied Rice for a private dinner with Bush at the White House on August 5, 2002. Powell convinced the President that he should be mindful of international opposition to a unilateral war without additional UN weapons inspections and the potential costs and consequences for the United States and the Middle East (Woodward 2002, 103–4, 333–5). Clearly, Powell's role was important to the president as he was the only advisor in the entire administration with the stature and respect to present an alternative course of action. Besides, it was Powell who built the coalition in support of U.S. force in Afghanistan that toppled the Taliban in matter of a few weeks.
The second tactic was carried by out by realists outside the administration. On August 15, 2002 Brent Scowcroft wrote an Op. Ed. piece in the Wall Street Journal calling on the president to avoid a costly war against Iraq for fear that it would delegitimize the global war on terrorism and destabilize the Middle East. He argued that
[t]here is scant evidence to tie Saddam to terrorist organizations, and even less to the September 11 attacks. Indeed Saddam's goals have little in common with the terrorists who threaten us, and there is little incentive for him to make common cause with them . . . The central point is that any campaign against Iraq, whatever the strategy, cost and risks, is certain to divert us for some indefinite period from our war on terrorism. Worse, there is a virtual consensus in the world against an attack on Iraq at this time. So long as that sentiment persists, it would require the U.S. to pursue a virtual go-it-alone strategy against Iraq, making any military operation correspondingly more difficult and expensive. The most serious cost, however, would be to the war on terrorism. Ignoring that clear sentiment would result in a serious degradation in international cooperation with us against terrorism. And make no mistake, we simply cannot win that war without enthusiastic international cooperation. (Scowcroft 2002, 22)
Ten days later, James Baker (2002) published an Op. Ed. piece in the New York Times arguing that the United States should build a coalition against Iraq and consult with the United Nations beforehand.
We should try our best not to have to go it alone, and the president should reject the advice of those who counsel doing so. The costs in all areas will be much greater, as will the political risks if we end up going it alone or with only one or two other countries . . . The United States should advocate the adoption by the United Nations Security Council of a simple and straightforward resolution requiring that Iraq submit to intrusive inspections anytime, anywhere, with no exceptions, and authorizing all necessary means to enforce it . . . Seeking new authorization now is necessary, politically and practically, and will help build international support. (21)
The neocons responded by rallying around Vice President Cheney. One day after the publication of Baker's article, Cheney shot back at his former colleagues in a speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Nashville. “A return of inspectors would provide no assurance whatsoever of his compliance with U.N. resolutions. On the contrary, there is a great danger that it would provide false comfort that Saddam was somehow ‘back in his box.’ ” Cheney then went on to make the claim, later shown to be false, that “simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction” (Cheney 2002).11
While Powell, Scowcroft, and Baker did not halt the administration's highly public drive to topple Hussein, they did succeed in influencing the president to appeal for multilateral support (Woodward 2004; 2002). As a result, a compromise was struck that reflected the policy interests of both the neocons and the realists. In an address to the UN on September 12, 2002 Bush called for a new UN resolution on Iraq and stated “[m]y nation will work with the U.N. Security Council to meet our common challenge . . . We will work with the U.N. Security Council for the necessary resolutions.” He also put the General Assembly on notice that that “the purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced—the just demands of peace and security will be met—or action will be unavoidable. And a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power” (Bush, G. W. 2002a). In response, the UN Security Council voted 5-0 in favor of Resolution 1441, which restarted weapons inspections in Iraq and represented a tactical victory for Powell and the State Department.
At the same time the president was seeking international support, a bureaucratic war developed within the Department of Defense between key neocons and realists over how many troops would be needed to carry out a successful occupation of Iraq. According to former Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki and former Secretary of the Army Thomas White, a smaller fighting force would make it difficult to successfully stabilize Iraq, eliminate potential insurgents, to secure Iraq's borders, and to provide humanitarian relief. To carry out such post-invasion missions, they favored an armed force of roughly 400,000 troops, which was far more than the 75,000 troops Rumsfeld was willing to provide (Fallows 2004, 43).
Three weeks before the invasion, the conflict became public when Shinseki claimed the United States needed at least “several hundred thousand troops” in the post-invasion phase of the war (Engel 2003, 1). Rumsfeld rebutted Shinseki by arguing that, “the idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces I think is far from the mark” (Gordon 2003, 1). Wolfowitz added,
[s]ome of the higher end predictions we have been hearing recently, such as the notion that it will take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq are wildly off the mark. First, it is hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam's security forces in his army. Hard to imagine. (Fallows 2004, 70)
Army Secretary White would later claim that “there is a certain amount of arrogance to both of them in this regard. Neither man I would say is burdened by a great deal of self-doubt. Their view is that they would be absolutely right . . . Our view is that they were terribly wrong” (White 2004). Success in a post-Hussein Iraq was certainly different for both neocons and realists.
While the decision to attack Iraq may represent a victory for the neocons, the post-war situation has lasted considerably longer and at a much greater cost in terms of casualties and money than originally thought by the administration.12 In fact, postwar Iraq highlights the stark differences between the two Bush administrations’ foreign policies. George H. W. Bush’s speech to West Point on January 5, 1993, is very instructive.
In every case involving the use of force, it will be essential to have a clear and achievable mission, a realistic plan for accomplishing the mission, and criteria no less realistic for withdrawing U.S. forces once the mission is complete. Only if we keep these principles in mind will the potential sacrifice be one that can be explained and justified. We must never forget that using force is not some political abstraction but a real commitment of our fathers and mothers and sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors. You’ve got to look at it in human terms.