“Reflections on U.S. Policy Towards Iraq”
By Michael McPhee
ClarkWesley K. Clark, retired general of the US Army, was the distinguished guest of the John W. McCormack Institute of Public Affairs on October 10. Over seventy-five people came to hear the former Supreme Allied Commander of Europe discuss his reflections on the US policy towards Iraq.
Edmund Beard, director of the McCormack Institute, introduced Clark and gave an account of the general’s impressive military career, which includes command at every level from company to division. Clark is both a soldier and scholar, graduating first in his 1966 class of the United States Military Academy at West Point and holding a master’s degree in philosophy, politics, and economics from Oxford University, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar.
Clark, who was the NATO commander in charge of the effort to stop the crisis in Kosovo in 1999, spoke of his experiences in Bosnia, where he learned first-hand about the chaos of unleashed ethnic hatreds. It is exactly this chaos that has led Clark to raise a voice of concern over possible conflict with Iraq. Clark believes that a military war with Iraq could be over in as little as two weeks. He is concerned with the lack of a long-range plan for the chaos that would ensue among the Kurds, Shiites, and those factions loyal to Saddam Hussein, which Clark believes would play out on a much larger scale than what took place in Bosnia.
Clark spoke of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, seeing it as a time when the U.S. lost its adversaries and failed in its foreign policy strategy. At that time there were two groups in Washington debating the role of the military; one group saw the military merely as the fighter and winner of wars; another group, led by Madeleine Albright, saw the military as a useful tool in aiding third world countries.
In comparing the two most recent presidencies, Clark described the Clinton administration as pursuing a foreign policy of engagement and reaching out as opposed to the Bush administration’s preemption policy and striking out.
Clark, when asked where the push to invade Iraq was coming from, rejected the idea that it was the military that wanted to go to war. He blamed civilian advisors to President Bush who were pushing in that direction.
Clark stated his view that terrorism is the problem, not Iraq. He also voiced concern that Americans not blame Islam, and spoke of his belief that US interests are best served in reaching out to those who do not embrace the ideals of radical Islam.