The New Yorker (pg. 42)
April 1, 2002



The Bush Administration may have a brand -- new doctrine of power.

By Nicholas Lemann

When there is a change of command -- and not just in government -- the
new people often persuade themselves that the old people were much
worse than anyone suspected. This feeling seems especially intense in
the Bush Administration, perhaps because Bill Clinton has been
bracketed by a father-son team. It's easy for people in the
Administration to believe that, after an unfortunate eight-year
interlude, the Bush family has resumed its governance -- and about
time, too.

The Bush Administration's sense that the Clinton years were a waste,
or worse, is strongest in the realms of foreign policy and military
affairs. Republicans tend to regard Democrats as untrustworthy in
defense and foreign policy, anyway, in ways that coincide with what
people think of as Clinton's weak points: an eagerness to please, a
lack of discipline. Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national-security
adviser, wrote an article in Foreign Affairs two years ago in which
she contemptuously accused Clinton of "an extraordinary neglect of the
fiduciary responsibilities of the commander in chief." Most of the top
figures in foreign affairs in this Administration also served under
the President's father. They took office last year, after what they
regard as eight years of small-time flyswatting by Clinton, thinking
that they were picking up where they'd left off.

Not long ago, I had lunch with -- sorry! -- a senior Administration
foreign-policy official, at a restaurant in Washington called the Oval
Room. Early in the lunch, he handed me a twenty-seven-page report,
whose cover bore the seal of the Department of Defense, an outline map
of the world, and these words:

[Text missing.]

One of the difficulties of working at the highest level of government
is communicating its drama. Actors, professional athletes, and even
elected politicians train for years, go through a great winnowing, and
then perform publicly. People who have titles like Deputy Assistant
Secretary of Defense are just as ambitious and competitive, have
worked just as long and hard, and are often playing for even higher
stakes -- but what they do all day is go to meetings and write memos
and prepare briefings. How, possibly, to explain that some of the
documents, including the report that the senior official handed me,
which was physically indistinguishable from a high -- school term
paper, represent the government version of playing Carnegie Hall?

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Dick Cheney, then the Secretary of
Defense, set up a "shop," as they say, to think about American foreign
policy after the Cold War, at the grand strategic level. The project,
whose existence was kept quiet, included people who are now back in
the game, at a higher level: among them, Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy
Secretary of Defense; Lewis Libby, Cheney's chief of staff; and Eric
Edelman, a senior foreign-policy adviser to Cheney -- generally
speaking, a cohesive group of conservatives who regard themselves as
bigger-thinking, tougher-minded, and intellectually bolder than most
other people in Washington. (Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of
Defense, shares these characteristics, and has been closely associated
with Cheney for more than thirty years.) Colin Powell, then the
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, mounted a competing, and
presumably more ideologically moderate, effort to reimagine American
foreign policy and defense. A date was set -- May 21, 1990 -- on which
each team would brief Cheney for an hour; Cheney would then brief
President Bush, after which Bush would make a foreign-policy address
unveiling the new grand strategy.

Everybody worked for months on the "five-twenty-one brief," with a
sense that the shape of the post-Cold War world was at stake. When
Wolfowitz and Powell arrived at Cheney's office on May 21st, Wolfowitz
went first, but his briefing lasted far beyond the allotted hour, and
Cheney (a hawk who, perhaps, liked what he was hearing) did not call
time on him. Powell didn't get to present his alternate version of the
future of the United States in the world until a couple of weeks
later. Cheney briefed President Bush, using material mostly from
Wolfowitz, and Bush prepared his major foreign-policy address. But he
delivered it on August 2, 1990, the day that Iraq invaded Kuwait, so
nobody noticed.

The team kept working. In 1992, the Times got its hands on a version
of the material, and published a front-page story saying that the
Pentagon envisioned a future in which the United States could, and
should, prevent any other nation or alliance from becoming a great
power. A few weeks of controversy ensued about the Bush
Administration's hawks being "unilateral" -- controversy that Cheney's
people put an end to with denials and the counter-leak of an edited,
softer version of the same material.

As it became apparent that Bush was going to lose to Clinton, the
Cheney team's efforts took on the quality of a parting shot. The
report that the senior official handed me at lunch had been issued
only a few days before Clinton took office. It is a somewhat bland,
opaque document -- a "scrubbed," meaning unclassified, version of
something more candid -- but it contained the essential ideas of
"shaping," rather than reacting to, the rest of the world, and of
preventing the rise of other superpowers. Its tone is one of
skepticism about diplomatic partnerships. A more forthright version of
the same ideas can be found in a short book titled "From Containment
to Global Leadership?," which Zalmay Khalilzad, who joined Cheney's
team in 1991 and is now special envoy to Afghanistan, published a
couple of years into the Clinton Administration, when he was out of
government. It recommends that the United States "preclude the rise of
another global rival for the indefinite future." Khalilzad writes, "It
is a vital U.S. interest to preclude such a development -- i.e., to be
willing to use force if necessary for the purpose."

When George W. Bush was campaigning for President, he and the people
around him didn't seem to be proposing a great doctrinal shift, along
the lines of the policy of containment of the Soviet Union's sphere of
influence which the United States maintained during the Cold War. In
his first major foreign-policy speech, delivered in November of 1999,
Bush declared that "a President must be a clear-eyed realist," a
formulation that seems to connote an absence of world-remaking
ambition. "Realism" is exactly the foreign-policy doctrine that
Cheney's Pentagon team rejected, partly because it posits the
impossibility of any one country's ever dominating world affairs for
any length of time.

One gets many reminders in Washington these days of how much the
terrorist attacks of September 11th have changed official foreign-
policy thinking. Any chief executive, of either party, would probably
have done what Bush has done so far -- made war on the Taliban and Al
Qaeda and enhanced domestic security. It is only now, six months after
the attacks, that we are truly entering the realm of Presidential
choice, and all indications are that Bush is going to use September
11th as the occasion to launch a new, aggressive American foreign
policy that would represent a broad change in direction rather than a
specific war on terrorism. All his rhetoric, especially in the two
addresses he has given to joint sessions of Congress since September
11th, and all the information about his state of mind which his aides
have leaked, indicate that he sees this as the nation's moment of
destiny -- a perception that the people around him seem to be
encouraging, because it enhances Bush's stature and opens the way to
more assertive policymaking.

Inside government, the reason September 11th appears to have been "a
transformative moment," as the senior official I had lunch with put
it, is not so much that it revealed the existence of a threat of which
officials had previously been unaware as that it drastically reduced
the American public's usual resistance to American military
involvement overseas, at least for a while. The Clinton
Administration, beginning with the "Black Hawk Down" operation in
Mogadishu, during its first year, operated on the conviction that
Americans were highly averse to casualties; the all-bombing Kosovo
operation, in Clinton's next-to-last year, was the ideal foreign
military adventure. Now that the United States has been attacked, the
options are much broader. The senior official approvingly mentioned a
1999 study of casualty aversion by the Triangle Institute for Security
Studies, which argued that the "mass public" is much less casualty-
averse than the military or the civilian elite believes; for example,
the study showed that the public would tolerate thirty thousand deaths
in a military operation to prevent Iraq from acquiring weapons of mass
destruction. (The American death total in the Vietnam War was about
fifty-eight thousand.) September 11th presumably reduced casualty
aversion even further.

Recently, I went to the White House to interview Condoleezza Rice.
Rice's Foreign Affairs article from 2000 begins with this declaration:
"The United States has found it exceedingly difficult to define its
'national interest' in the absence of Soviet power." I asked her
whether that is still the case. "I think the difficulty has passed in
defining a role," she said immediately. "I think September 11th was
one of those great earthquakes that clarify and sharpen. Events are in
much sharper relief." Like Bush, she said that opposing terrorism and
preventing the accumulation of weapons of mass destruction "in the
hands of irresponsible states" now define the national interest. (The
latter goal, by the way, is new -- in Bush's speech to Congress on
September 20th, America's sole grand purpose was ending terrorism.) We
talked in her West Wing office; its tall windows face the part of the
White House grounds where television reporters do their standups. In
her bearing, Rice seemed less crisply military than she does in
public. She looked a little tired, but she was projecting a kind of
missionary calm, rather than belligerence.

In the Foreign Affairs article, Rice came across as a classic realist,
putting forth "the notions of power politics, great powers, and power
balances" as the proper central concerns of the United States. Now she
sounded as if she had moved closer to the one -- power idea that
Cheney's Pentagon team proposed ten years ago -- or, at least, to the
idea that the other great powers are now in harmony with the United
States, because of the terrorist attacks, and can be induced to remain
so. "Theoretically, the realists would predict that when you have a
great power like the United States it would not be long before you had
other great powers rising to challenge it or trying to balance against
it," Rice said. "And I think what you're seeing is that there's at
least a predilection this time to move to productive and cooperative
relations with the United States, rather than to try to balance the
United States. I actually think that statecraft matters in how it all
comes out. It's not all foreordained."

Rice said that she had called together the senior staff people of the
National Security Council and asked them to think seriously about "how
do you capitalize on these opportunities" to fundamentally change
American doctrine, and the shape of the world, in the wake of
September 11th. "I really think this period is analogous to 1945 to
1947," she said -- that is, the period when the containment doctrine
took shape -- "in that the events so clearly demonstrated that there
is a big global threat, and that it's a big global threat to a lot of
countries that you would not have normally thought of as being in the
coalition. That has started shifting the tectonic plates in
international politics. And it's important to try to seize on that and
position American interests and institutions and all of that before
they harden again."

The National Security Council is legally required to produce an annual
document called the National Security Strategy, stating the over-all
goals of American policy -- another government report whose importance
is great but not obvious. The Bush Administration did not produce one
last year, as the Clinton Administration did not in its first year.
Rice said that she is working on the report now.

"There are two ways to handle this document," she told me. "One is to
do it in a kind of minimalist way and just get it out. But it's our
view that, since this is going to be the first one for the Bush
Administration, it's important. An awful lot has happened since we
started this process, prior to 9/11. I can't give you a certain date
when it's going to be out, but I would think sometime this spring. And
it's important that it be a real statement of what the Bush
Administration sees as the strategic direction that it's going."

It seems clear already that Rice will set forth the hope of a more
dominant American role in the world than she might have a couple of
years ago. Some questions that don't appear to be settled yet, but are
obviously being asked, are how much the United States is willing to
operate alone in foreign affairs, and how much change it is willing to
try to engender inside other countries -- and to what end, and with
what means. The leak a couple of weeks ago of a new American nuclear
posture, adding offensive capability against "rogue states," departed
from decades of official adherence to a purely defensive position, and
was just one indication of the scope of the reconsideration that is
going on. Is the United States now in a position to be redrawing
regional maps, especially in the Middle East, and replacing
governments by force? Nobody thought that the Bush Administration
would be thinking in such ambitious terms, but plainly it is, and with
the internal debate to the right of where it was only a few months

Just before the 2000 election, a Republican foreign-policy figure
suggested to me that a good indication of a Bush Administration's
direction in foreign affairs would be who got a higher-ranking job,
Paul Wolfowitz or Richard Haass. Haass is another veteran of the first
Bush Administration, and an intellectual like Wolfowitz, but much more
moderate. In 1997, he published a book titled "The Reluctant Sheriff,"
in which he poked a little fun at Wolfowitz's famous strategy briefing
of the early nineties (he called it the "Pentagon Paper") and
disagreed with its idea that the United States should try to be the
world's only great power over the long term. "For better or worse,
such a goal is beyond our reach," Haass wrote. "It simply is not
doable." Elsewhere in the book, he disagreed with another of the
Wolfowitz team's main ideas, that of the United States expanding the
"democratic zone of peace": "Primacy is not to be confused with
hegemony. The United States cannot compel others to become more
democratic." Haass argued that the United States is becoming less
dominant in the world, not more, and suggested "a revival of what
might be called traditional great-power politics."

Wolfowitz got a higher-ranking job than Haass: he is Deputy Secretary
of Defense, and Haass is Director of Policy Planning for the State
Department -- in effect, Colin Powell's big-think guy. Recently, I
went to see him in his office at the State Department. On the wall of
his waiting room was an array of photographs of every past director of
the policy-planning staff, beginning with George Kennan, the father of
the containment doctrine and the first holder of the office that Haass
now occupies.

It's another indication of the way things are moving in Washington
that Haass seems to have become more hawkish. I mentioned the title of
his book. "Using the word 'reluctant' was itself reflective of a
period when foreign policy seemed secondary, and sacrificing for
foreign policy was a hard case to make," he said. "It was written when
Bill Clinton was saying, 'It's the economy, stupid' -- not 'It's the
world, stupid." Two things are very different now. One, the President
has a much easier time making the case that foreign policy matters.
Second, at the top of the national-security charts is this notion of
weapons of mass destruction and terrorism."

I asked Haass whether there is a doctrine emerging that is as broad as
Kennan's containment. "I think there is," he said. "What you're seeing
from this Administration is the emergence of a new principle or body
of ideas -- I'm not sure it constitutes a doctrine -- about what you
might call the limits of sovereignty. Sovereignty entails obligations.
One is not to massacre your own people. Another is not to support
terrorism in any way. If a government fails to meet these obligations,
then it forfeits some of the normal advantages of sovereignty,
including the right to be left alone inside your own territory. Other
governments, including the United States, gain the right to intervene.
In the case of terrorism, this can even lead to a right of preventive,
or peremptory, self-defense. You essentially can act in anticipation
if you have grounds to think it's a question of when, and not if,
you're going to be attacked."

Clearly, Haass was thinking of Iraq. "I don't think the American
public needs a lot of persuading about the evil that is Saddam
Hussein," he said. "Also, I'd fully expect the President and his chief
lieutenants to make the case. Public opinion can be changed. We'd be
able to make the case that this isn't a discretionary action but one
done in self-defense."

On the larger issue of the American role in the world, Haass was still
maintaining some distance from the hawks. He had made a speech not
long before called "Imperial America," but he told me that there is a
big difference between imperial and imperialist. "I just think that we
have to be a little bit careful," he said. "Great as our advantages
are, there are still limits. We have to have allies. We can't impose
our ideas on everyone. We don't want to be fighting wars alone, so we
need others to join us. American leadership, yes; but not American
unilateralism. It has to be multilateral. We can't win the war against
terror alone. We can't send forces everywhere. It really does have to
be a collaborative endeavor."

He stopped for a moment. "Is there a successor idea to containment? I
think there is," he said. "It is the idea of integration. The goal of
U.S. foreign policy should be to persuade the other major powers to
sign on to certain key ideas as to how the world should operate:
opposition to terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, support for
free trade, democracy, markets. Integration is about locking them into
these policies and then building institutions that lock them in even

The first, but by no means the last, obvious manifestation of a new
American foreign policy will be the effort to remove Saddam Hussein.
What the United States does in an Iraq operation will very likely
dwarf what's been done so far in Afghanistan, both in terms of the
scale of the operation itself and in terms of its aftermath.

Several weeks ago, Ahmad Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National
Congress, the Iraqi opposition party, came through Washington with an
entourage of his aides. Chalabi went to the State Department and the
White House to ask, evidently successfully, for more American funding.
His main public event was a panel discussion at the American
Enterprise Institute. Chalabi's leading supporter in town, Richard
Perle, the prominent hawk and former Defense Department official,
acted as moderator. Smiling and supremely confident, Perle opened the
discussion by saying, "Evidence is mounting that the Administration is
looking very carefully at strategies for dealing with Saddam Hussein."
The war on terrorism, he said, will not be complete "until Saddam is
successfully dealt with. And that means replacing his regime.... That
action will be taken, I have no doubt."

Chalabi, who lives in London, is a charming, suave middle-aged man
with a twinkle in his eye. He was dressed in a double-breasted pin-
striped suit and a striped shirt with a white spread collar. Although
he and his supporters argue that the Iraqi National Congress, with
sufficient American support, can defeat Saddam just as the Northern
Alliance defeated the Taliban in Afghanistan, this view hasn't won
over most people in Washington. It isn't just that Chalabi doesn't
look the part of a rebel military leader ("He could fight you for the
last petit four on the tray over tea at the Savoy, but that's about
it," one skeptical former Pentagon official told me), or that he isn't
in Iraq. It's also that Saddam's military is perhaps ten times the
size that the Taliban's was, and has been quite successful at putting
down revolts over the last decade. The United States left Iraq in 1991
believing that Saddam might soon fall to an internal rebellion;
Chalabi's supporters believe that Saddam is much weaker now, and that
even signs that a serious operation was in the offing could finish him
off. But non-true believers seem to be coming around to the idea that
a military operation against Saddam would mean the deployment of
anywhere from a hundred thousand to three hundred thousand American
ground troops.

Kenneth Pollack, a former C.I.A. analyst who was the National Security
Council's staff expert on Iraq during the last years of the Clinton
Administration, recently caused a stir in the foreign-policy world by
publishing an article in Foreign Affairs calling for war against
Saddam. This was noteworthy because three years ago Pollack and two
co-authors published an article, also in Foreign Affairs, arguing that
the Iraqi National Congress was incapable of defeating Saddam. Pollack
still doesn't think Chalabi can do the job. He believes that it would
require a substantial American ground, air, and sea force, closer in
size to the one we used in Kuwait in 1990-91 than to the one we are
using now in Afghanistan.

Pollack, who is trim, quick, and crisp, is obviously a man who has
given a briefing or two in his day. When I went to see him at his
office in Washington, with a little encouragement he got out from
behind his desk and walked over to his office wall, where three maps
of the Middle East were hanging. "The only way to do it is a full-
scale invasion," he said, using a pen as a pointer. "We're talking
about two grand corps, two to three hundred thousand people
altogether. The population is here, in the Tigris-Euphrates valley."
He pointed to the area between Baghdad and Basra. "Ideally, you'd have
the Saudis on board." He pointed to the Prince Sultan airbase, near
Riyadh. "You could make Kuwait the base, but it's much easier in
Saudi. You need to take western Iraq and southern Iraq" -- pointing
again -- "because otherwise they'll fire Scuds at Israel and at the
Saudi oil fields. You probably want to prevent Iraq from blowing up
its own oil fields, so troops have to occupy them. And you need troops
to defend the Kurds in northern Iraq." Point, point. "You go in as
hard as you can, as fast as you can." He slapped his hand on the top
of his desk. "You get the enemy to divide his forces, by threatening
him in two places at once." His hand hit the desk again, hard. "Then
you crush him." Smack.

That would be a reverberating blow. The United States has already
removed the government of one country, Afghanistan, the new government
is obviously shaky, and American military operations there are not
completed. Pakistan, which before September 11th clearly met the new
test of national unacceptability (it both harbors terrorists and has
weapons of mass destruction), will also require long-term attention,
since the country is not wholly under the control of the government,
as the murder of Daniel Pearl demonstrated, and even parts of the
government, like the intelligence service, may not be entirely under
the control of the President. In Iraq, if America invades and brings
down Saddam, a new government must be established -- an enormous long-
term task in a country where there is no obvious, plausible new
leader. The prospective Iraq operation has drawn strong objections
from the neighboring nations, one of which, Russia, is a nuclear
superpower. An invasion would have a huge effect on the internal
affairs of all the biggest Middle Eastern nations: Iran, Turkey, Saudi
Arabia, and even Egypt. Events have forced the Administration to
become directly involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as it
hadn't wanted to do. So it's really the entire region that is in play,
in much the way that Europe was immediately after the Second World

In September, Bush rejected Paul Wolfowitz's recommendation of
immediate moves against Iraq. That the President seems to have changed
his mind is an indication, in part, of the bureaucratic skill of the
Administration's conservatives. "These guys are relentless," one
former official, who is close to the high command at the State
Department, told me. "Resistance is futile." The conservatives' other
weapon, besides relentlessness, is intellectualism. Colin Powell tends
to think case by case, and since September 11th the conservatives have
outflanked him by producing at least the beginning of a coherent,
hawkish world view whose acceptance practically requires invading
Iraq. If the United States applies the doctrines of Cheney's old
Pentagon team, "shaping" and expanding "the zone of democracy," the
implications would extend far beyond that one operation.

The outside experts on the Middle East who have the most credibility
with the Administration seem to be Bernard Lewis, of Princeton, and
Fouad Ajami, of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International
Studies, both of whom see the Arab Middle East as a region in need of
radical remediation. Lewis was invited to the White House in December
to brief the senior foreign-policy staff. "One point he made is, Look,
in that part of the world, nothing matters more than resolute will and
force," the senior official I had lunch with told me -- in other
words, the United States needn't proceed gingerly for fear of
inflaming the "Arab street," as long as it is prepared to be strong.
The senior official also recommended as interesting thinkers on the
Middle East Charles Hill, of Yale, who in a recent essay declared,
"Every regime of the Arab-Islamic world has proved a failure," and
Reuel Marc Gerecht, of the American Enterprise Institute, who
published an article in The Weekly Standard about the need for a
change of regime in Iran and Syria. (Those goals, Gerecht told me when
we spoke, could be accomplished through pressure short of an

Several people I spoke with predicted that most, or even all, of the
nations that loudly oppose an invasion of Iraq would privately cheer
it on, if they felt certain that this time the Americans were really
going to finish the job. One purpose of Vice-President Cheney's recent
diplomatic tour of the region was to offer assurances on that matter,
while gamely absorbing all the public criticism of an Iraq operation.
In any event, the Administration appears to be committed to acting
forcefully in advance of the world's approval. When I spoke to
Condoleezza Rice, she said that the United States should assemble
"coalitions of the willing" to support its actions, rather than feel
it has to work within the existing infrastructure of international
treaties and organizations. An invasion of Iraq would test that policy
in more ways than one: the Administration would be betting that it can
continue to eliminate Al Qaeda cells in countries that publicly
opposed the Iraq operation.

When the Administration submitted its budget earlier this year, it
asked for a forty-eight-billion-dollar increase in defense spending
for fiscal 2003, which begins in October, 2002. Much of that sum would
go to improve military pay and benefits, but ten billion dollars of it
is designated as an unspecified contingency fund for further
operations in the war on terrorism. That's probably at least the
initial funding for an invasion of Iraq.

This spring, the Administration will be talking to other countries
about the invasion, trying to secure basing and overflight privileges,
while Bush builds up a rhetorical case for it by giving speeches about
the unacceptability of developing weapons of mass destruction. A drama
involving weapons inspections in Iraq will play itself out over the
spring and summer, and will end with the United States declaring that
the terms that Saddam offers for the inspections, involving delays and
restrictions, are unacceptable. Then, probably in the late summer or
early fall, the enormous troop positioning, which will take months,
will begin. The Administration obviously feels confident that the
United States can effectively parry whatever aggressive actions Saddam
takes during the troop buildup, and hopes that its moves will
destabilize Iraq enough to cause the Republican Guard, the military
key to the country, to turn against Saddam and topple him on its own.
But the chain of events leading inexorably to a full-scale American
invasion, if it hasn't already begun, evidently will begin soon.

Lewis (Scooter) Libby, who was the principal drafter of Cheney's
future-of-the-world documents during the first Bush Administration,
now works in an office in the Old Executive Office Building,
overlooking the West Wing, where he has a second, smaller office. A
packet of public-relations material prompted by the recent paperback
publication of his 1996 novel, "The Apprentice," quotes the Times'
calling him "Dick Cheney's Dick Cheney," which seems like an apt
description: he appears absolutely sure of himself, and, whether by
coincidence or as a result of the influence of his boss, speaks in a
tough, confidential, gravelly rumble. Like Condoleezza Rice and Bush
himself, he gives the impression of having calmly accepted the idea
that the project of war and reconstruction which the Administration
has now taken on may be a little exhausting for those charged with
carrying it out but is unquestionably right, the only truly prudent

When I went to see Libby, not long ago, I asked him whether, before
September 11th, American policy toward terrorism should have been
different. He went to his desk and got out a large black loose-leaf
binder, filled with typewritten sheets interspersed with foldout maps
of the Middle East. He looked through it for a long minute,
formulating his answer.

"Let us stack it up," he said at last. "Somalia, 1993; 1994, the
discovery of the Al Qaeda-related plot in the Philippines; 1993, the
World Trade Center, first bombing; 1993, the attempt to assassinate
President Bush, former President Bush, and the lack of response to
that, the lack of a serious response to that; 1995, the Riyadh
bombing; 1996, the Khobar bombing; 1998, the Kenyan embassy bombing
and the Tanzanian embassy bombing; 1999, the plot to launch millennium
attacks; 2000, the bombing of the Cole. Throughout this period,
infractions on inspections by the Iraqis, and eventually the
withdrawal of the entire inspection regime; and the failure to respond
significantly to Iraqi incursions in the Kurdish areas. No one would
say these challenges posed easy problems, but if you take that long
list and you ask, 'Did we respond in a way which discouraged people
from supporting terrorist activities, or activities clearly against
our interests? Did we help to shape the environment in a way which
discouraged further aggressions against U.S. interests?," many
observers conclude no, and ask whether it was then easier for someone
like Osama bin Laden to rise up and say credibly, 'The Americans don't
have the stomach to defend themselves. They won't take casualties to
defend their interests. They are morally weak.""

Libby insisted that the American response to September 11th has not
been standard or foreordained. "Look at what the President has done in
Afghanistan," he said, "and look at his speech to the joint session of
Congress" -- meaning the State of the Union Message, in January. "He
made it clear that it's an important area. He made it clear that we
believe in expanding the zone of democracy even in this difficult part
of the world. He made it clear that we stand by our friends and defend
our interests. And he had the courage to identify those states which
present a problem, and to begin to build consensus for action that
would need to be taken if there is not a change of behavior on their
part. Take the Afghan case, for example. There are many other courses
that the President could have taken. He could have waited for
juridical proof before we responded. He could have engaged in long
negotiations with the Taliban. He could have failed to seek a new
relationship with Pakistan, based on its past nuclear tests, or been
so afraid of weakening Pakistan that we didn't seek its help. This
list could go on to twice or three times the length I've mentioned so
far. But, instead, the President saw an opportunity to refashion
relations while standing up for our interests. The problem is complex,
and we don't know yet how it will end, but we have opened new
prospects for relations not only with Afghanistan, as important as it
was as a threat, but with the states of Central Asia, Pakistan,
Russia, and, as it may develop, with the states of Southwest Asia more

We moved on to Iraq, and the question of what makes Saddam Hussein
unacceptable, in the Administration's eyes. "The issue is not
inspections," Libby said. "The issue is the Iraqis' promise not to
have weapons of mass destruction, their promise to recognize the
boundaries of Kuwait, their promise not to threaten other countries,
and other promises that they made in '91, and a number of U.N.
resolutions, including all the other problems I listed. Whether it was
wise or not -- and that is the subject of debate -- Iraq was given a
second chance to abide by international norms. It failed to take that
chance then, and annually for the next ten years."

"What's your level of confidence," I asked him, "that the current
regime will, in fact, change its behavior in a way that you will be
satisfied by?"

He ran his hand over his face and then gave me a direct gaze and spoke
slowly and deliberately. "There is no basis in Iraq's past behavior to
have confidence in good-faith efforts on their part to change their

Copyright 2002 The Conde Nast Publications, Inc.