Anticipatory Defense in the War on Terror
Condoleezza Rice is National Security Advisor to US
President George W. Bush. She spoke with NPQ editor Nathan Gardels on
NPQ | The "Bush Doctrine" that
has emerged since 9/11 last year argues that since the threats of the
future are not so much big power conflicts as terrorism, the development
of mass destruction weapons must be stopped before they become operational
and can fall into the hands of terrorists-even if it means regime change
as in the case of Iraq. In other words, preemption or "forward deterrence."
What is to prevent this doctrine from being universally applicable by
other states, for example, India against Pakistan?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE | The concept of not waiting to be attacked goes
back a long way in history. It isn't new in that sense. But it is also
the case that preemption or "anticipatory defense" ought to
be used sparingly. It isn't a blanket policy.
There are certain kinds of regimes that, if they acquire weapons of mass
destruction, we must consider a danger because we know their history.
The history here is extremely important. Anticipatory defense should not
be used as a cover for aggression. It really should be a rare occurrence.
There are threats amenable to being dealt with in other ways, whether
through diplomacy, or even coercive diplomacy, or, in the case of India
and Pakistan, the involvement of the United States and Great Britain in
helping to resolve the conflict.
But there are a few cases that may get beyond other means.
Then, you have to reserve the right to use force.
Finally, there is a difference between preemption of capabilities and
regime change. They are not the same. You may more often, as the United
States has done in the past, preempt capability. But preempting for regime
change ought to be a very rare occurrence.
NPQ | Then is it up to any given power to decide on its own when
preemptive action is justifiable? Ought the United Nations be involved?
RICE | The US is going to maintain a right to self-defense. But
let me be clear: We are not going to militarily preempt every time we
see a threat. There are other options. But when it gets to the place where
a lot has been tried, and it looks dangerous, then you have to act.
NPQ | Which leads us to Iraq: What is so urgent now that the policy
of containing Saddam is no longer sufficient?
RICE | I would start exactly there. The policy of containment has
been fraying and disappearing for a number of years. The cornerstone of
containment was a disarmament regime with weapons inspections that would
certify to the world that Iraq was no longer actively pursuing or maintaining
weapons of mass destruction. That has not been in place for four years.
So, it is a little hard to talk about containment when the cornerstone
has not been in place for so long.
We also know that the other cornerstone of containment-the sanctions regime-has
been frustrated and cheated upon. Saddam Hussein is using illicit oil
revenues to fund his activities.
Containment simply isn't there with Iraq.
NPQ | Is your fear that Saddam will use the weapons against the
US or that they will fall into the hands of, or be given to, terrorists?
RICE | We have to be concerned about both. I've heard the argument
that "if we don't bother him, he won't bother us." Well, there
is nothing in his history to suggest this is a status quo regime. He's
attacked his neighbors twice. He's gassed his own people. He's tried to
assassinate a former president of the US. He's paid $25,000 to suicide
bombers, one of whom walked into Hebrew University and killed five Americans.
I just don't buy the argument that if we leave him alone, he leaves us
So whether he uses his weapons against us or someone else does is a distinction
without a difference.
NPQ | What is the role of the UN resolutions here?
RICE | The absence of UN resolutions is not the problem. Let us
be realistic here. There have been lots of resolutions and demands of
Saddam Hussein to comply, and he hasn't done it. Let us not deceive ourselves
that he doesn't know what to do.
He continues to defy. And in continuing to defy, the problem gets worse.
So, in response to "why now?" I would ask instead, "why
later?" given his history.
The "blessing" for action here was the disarmament regime set
in place in 1991 with which Saddam has not complied.
We've always said that weapons inspections are not an end in themselves.
This is supposed to be a disarmament regime. They may be useful in some
part. But we must remember the history here: Saddam Hussein has managed
to frustrate and conceal things from the inspectors. And he ultimately
threw them out. He negotiates with the UN as if he won the war.
NPQ | Some Arab and European leaders argue that the focus on Iraq
is a diversion from the war on terrorism launched after 9/11. But Henry
Kissinger, for example, argues that dealing with Iraq is a "precondition"
for the war on terrorism. Not to act, he says, is to indicate a lack of
will on the part of the US and the West to protect itself in the face
of this Iraqi accumulation of weapons. That will only encourage terrorism,
in his view. Is that the proper way to see Iraq in the context of the
RICE | This is certainly an important point. When you have an international
outlaw who has so thoroughly defied the international system and the constraints
put on him after he lost the Gulf War, what does that say about your willingness
to act? After all, we know that willingness to act is the basis for being
able to deter bad behavior-if it is deterrable. We may question whether
Saddam is deterrable, but that is another matter. Terrorists and regimes
of this kind may well not be "deterrable."
NPQ | In many ways North Korea is closer operationally to a threat
because it has ballistic missiles and, some say, a few nuclear bombs already.
But now North Koreans are talking to the South Koreans and Kim Jong Il
plans to meet Japanese Prime Minister (Junichiro) Koizumi.
Are they opening up precisely because they feel the heat of the credible
threat of military action against Iraq?
RICE | I do believe it has helped that the president of the US
has spoken in clear terms and acted upon the terrorist threat the world
faces. It has gotten the attention of some regimes that constitute that
We'll see where the North Korean regime goes. It is a major problem, not
only for what it is acquiring itself, but the fact that it has become
the merchant of ballistic missile technology around the world. It is a
regime whose ambitions, fortunately, are not like those of Saddam Hussein.
But it is still a threat.
NPQ | What about the other "axis" in the "axis of
evil"-Iran? In a couple of years, its Russian-built nuclear reactor
at Bushehr will come on line with the capacity to produce fuels it can
use for a nuclear weapon. What does the US intend to do about that?
RICE | We are in very close consultation with the Russians. We
simply don't see how the Russians can have any national interest in seeing
the Iranians get a nuclear weapon. Bushehr is a reactor we think should
never have been built. If it is completed, it will be extremely important
that it be seriously safeguarded. The Russians are going to have to take
some responsibility for what they are bringing into being here.
NPQ | Otherwise, Iran and Bushehr might be the next case of US
RICE | As I said, military preemption ought to be something contemplated
very rarely, when there is no other way to achieve the security goal.
At this point, there are other ways to deal with proliferation in many
places besides military action. We are exploring these alternatives-there
are non-proliferation efforts by many powers, there are efforts to interdict
and make sure things never happen. And, of course, there are efforts to
control the flow of fissile materials and our efforts with the Russians
at cooperative threat reduction.
There are lots of ways to deal with these issues. We can try to deny weapons
materials to hostile states. However, there may come a time when those
efforts fail. And in the case of certain types of regimes, there may come
a time when there is no other option than military preemption.
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