Wes Clark on the Iraq War

June 18, 2007

“We have to find the right way to back out of this”

Filed under: Budget, Diplomacy, Interviews, Military Force, Occupation, Strategy, Withdrawal — faithinwes @ 3:26 pm

Ed Schultz radio show 6/18/07

Ed Schultz: General Wesley Clark here on the Ed Schultz Show. The website is securingamerica.com. General Clark, if things won’t improve by September, this means that the Congress is going to have to go back and fund, continually fund these operations. Is that correct?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think even if it does improve in September, the Congress is going to continue to have to fund the operations.

Ed Schultz: We’re going to have this vote all over again then. Aren’t we?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: We’re going to have this vote for the next few years unless something catastrophic happens that causes us to reconsider and pull the plug on the whole operation.

Ed Schultz: If we were to do that, pull the plug on the whole operation, what’s your prediction as to what would happen, General Clark?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: We’d, um, we, we’d have a hard time disengaging from the region, Ed. We’ve got security responsibilities to the Gulf States. We’ve got Security interests with Israel. We’ve got friends in Lebanon. We’ve got many different issues that are effected by the outcome in Iraq. So, If we pull the plug on the operation, you could probably physically remove the troops in six to eight months in good order.

If you saw a larger war go, would you want to be back in? How ’bout if you saw Al Qaeda taking over provinces? How ’bout if you saw the collapse in the West Bank and aid flowing in through Syria from Iran and a corridor being cut across Iran, across Iraq by the Iranians to facilitate that, and you saw widespread deployment of, let’s say, Iranian Revolutionary Guards inside Iraq, would you want to be back in at that point? And so, I, there’s so many unpredictables in this that I’m one of those who’s counseled against just getting frustrated and pulling the plug.

I wouldnt’ve gone in in the first place. It was a huge strategic mistake. We have to find the right way to back out of this.

Ed Schultz: And doing that is almost impossible in your opinion. So, we’re, we’re in it, and we got to make the best of it somehow. And the best thing we can have happen is for the Iraqis to a-accept what’s going on governmentally and get involved in the process and, and Americans are feeling like that’s a pipe dream at this point. How could we have gotten all of this so wrong? And I’m just hearing you, General, say that, you know, we’re so, we’re into this so thick it- there are just few options that we have at this point.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: And with each succeeding month, the options diminish. The people that we could talk to on the ground in Iraq are compromised. The leverage that we hold over Iran erodes. The strength of the Israeli position weakens. With each successive month, we’ve been getting weaker. Now, the Saudis put in a good strategic effort over the last eight months to try to salvage this. It hasn’t worked.

Ed Schultz: What about arming Sunni insurgents to fight Al Qaeda? Is that a good idea?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, that’s one of the issues, and certainly if we can strengthen localities inside Iraq, and if we can be sure they’re actually fighting Al Qaeda, that’s a good thing. But what if, in doing that, they’re bringing Al Qaeda in and not simply strengthening the resistance to Al Qaeda? That’s what we don’t know about. Apparently, some of the weapons that were-, I’m told that some of the weapons that ended up in the refugee camps in Lebanon, that the Lebanese Army’s been fighting against, because the weapons were being used by Al Qaeda in Lebanon, those weapons were paid for as part of the Saudi initiative to arm the Sunnis to fight against Iran.

Ed Schultz: What a mess. What an absolute mess.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: It is a mess. It’s a really difficult set of issues.

March 27, 2007

Wes Clark on “Averting the Next Gulf War”

Filed under: Diplomacy, Iran, Occupation, OpEds, Strategy — faithinwes @ 5:19 pm

The troop “surge” in Iraq is also a signal to Iran—but stopping Tehran’s nukes for good will require a different kind of leverage.

-snip

In essence, the policy issues come down to a debate over leverage—how much and what type of leverage is required for Iran to dismantle and bar the resumption of any nuclear weapons programs. The administration would argue that it currently lacks leverage, and so must continue to apply pressure and use indirect dialogue—that the Iranians are stubborn, only understand the use of force, can’t be given the impression that they are winning, and so forth. The administration seems to consider “sticks” the only form of leverage. But the truth is that the Iranians have survived almost thirty years of isolation, hostility, and war. The U.S. intervention in Iraq probably altered permanently the sectarian balance of power in the region in Iran’s favor. And whether our allies in the region appreciate Iran or not, its population of nearly 70 million people, enormous wealth of resources, and strong heritage make it a significant power. A policy of sticks alone is unlikely to persuade Iran to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

The administration’s dogged pursuit of leverage by sticks, unfortunately, is too much a holdover of the tough-guy, new-sheriff attitude that landed us in the Iraq mess. But another kind of leverage—carrots—could succeed. The United States is the largest economic power in the world, and has control, or very near controlling influence, over almost every international institution of significance to the Iranians. I believe we can gain far more from Iran by dispensing some carrots—and can also apply the sticks more effectively—if we are in face-to-face dialogue. Dangling some carrots now in an unconditional dialogue with Tehran while the surge in Baghdad is only beginning could prove decisive.

What can Congress do to help? First, push the administration to support Iraq with the nonmilitary resources that are essential to progress there. Congress should hold immediate hearings to investigate why the nonmilitary elements of the administration’s strategy have failed so badly, and why the appropriate resources cannot be brought to bear. Second, add pressure on al-Maliki to convince him to take the tough measures required to settle the issues of oil revenues, federalism, and the militias. Congress should strengthen its efforts to investigate corruption inside the economic-development program, and demand stronger accounting for the Iraqi government’s and leaders’ relationships with Iran. And third, demand that the Bush administration commence an unconditional dialogue with the regional powers and each of Iraq’s neighbors immediately. This is the next sense-of-the-Congress resolution that is required.

For the United States, the possible use of force against Iran must remain on the table. But military conflict is not inevitable, and neither is Iranian nuclear weaponry. It is a matter of strategy and leadership. It’s time for the United States to stop isolating those it disagrees with, pretending that other nations have more influence, asking others to carry the burden of dialogue, and leaving our soldiers in Iraq to struggle without an adequate diplomatic strategy to reinforce their efforts. The evidence of the administration’s lack of diplomatic leadership is evident in the new agreement with North Korea, which could have been reached four years ago before the North Koreans acquired fuel for additional nuclear weapons. We cannot afford more delays with Iran while we pursue a misplaced strategy. Congress and the American people should demand that the administration step forward and lead.

By Wesley Clark | Washington Monthly, April 2007

November 21, 2006

Next move in Iraq?

Filed under: Diplomacy, Occupation, Oil, OpEds — faithinwes @ 10:01 pm

Americans want a new approach. Withdrawal? A bad idea. Partitioning? Won’t work. The right approach is one that addresses U.S. interests in the entire region.

By Wesley Clark

The mission in Iraq is spiraling into failure. American voters have sent a clear message: Bring our troops home, but don’t lose. That’s a tall order both for resurgent Democrats, some of whom are calling for a quick withdrawal, and the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which is presumably crafting new options.

Instead of cutting and running or staying the course, it is time for us to begin to redeploy. But how can we do this and improve our prospects for success?

First, we have to think past Iraq and above partisan politics, folding actions in Iraq into a strategy to protect broader U.S. interests throughout the region.

Neither the Bush administration’s latest pronouncements nor the current political dialogue has adequately engaged these vital interests. The calamity in Iraq has hogtied the Bush administration, inviting disarray, if not instability, in neighboring countries that also require our attention.

U.S. interests include dissuading Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons and its hegemonic aspirations, providing security assurances for the rapidly developing Arab Gulf states and working with our friends in the Middle East to ensure access to oil resources and regional stability. (more…)

June 15, 2003

“Postwar planning, and the postwar effort, didn’t receive the priority”

Filed under: Occupation — faithinwes @ 8:52 pm

MR. RUSSERT: Were we properly prepared for the peace, for the reconstruction?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think the answer is obviously–it’s obvious we weren’t. We weren’t.

MR. RUSSERT: Why?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: I don’t know. There’s a variety of possible explanations on this. I was concerned from the outset when I talked to people on the inside that they had done a lot of thinking about how to fight a war. They hadn’t done their homework in terms of what happens next. I got various indications. They said, “Look, we got to focus on the war first.” Some people said, “We don’t want to talk about what happens next.” I think there were some assumptions that we would be more warmly welcomed than perhaps we were in some cases. I think there was an inclination to say that if you get overly focused on what happens next, you are going to lose sight of the real problem. The problem is weapons of mass destruction. The problem is keeping the American people’s attention focused so you can do this. So I think that, for a lot of different reasons, the postwar planning, and the postwar effort, didn’t receive the priority that many of us felt that it should have.

MR. RUSSERT: How long will we be in Iraq?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Several years. But I think the extent of it is uncertain.

MR. RUSSERT: What kind of force level?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think it depends really on what happens down at the third level and how much anti-Americanism there is. At some point, if all of the Iraqi people rise up, and there are hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in the streets, saying, “Please leave. Thanks a lot for getting rid of Saddam, but please leave,” I think it will be very hard for the United States to stay.

My guess is that the situation will be more ambiguous than that. There’s a power struggle that will emerge inside Iraq between the continuing leadership groups. And we’ll be there. We’ll be trying to sort that out. We’ll have other reasons to be in the region. Several years, maybe–we’d like to get the numbers down to 75,000 troops or less. It’s not clear if that can be done. Let’s see the results of this operation and of the one afterwards over the summer.

Right now the United States Army is about 70 percent committed between Afghanistan, Iraq, the remnants of that’s in the Balkans. And we’ve got another 10 percent in Korea. So, I mean, there’s not a lot of flex right here for the United States Army. They’re the people on the ground. I know there’s every effort being made to reduce that force. But the simple fact is as long as there’s a threat over there, you can’t reduce the force. So I think we’re going to be there in a substantial number for a long time.

Meet the Press 6/15/2003

March 23, 2003

OCCUPATION: No Model for This One By Wesley K. Clark

Filed under: Military Force, Occupation, OpEds — faithinwes @ 1:30 am

He had been a hero in World War I, and a very young Army chief of staff. As a retired general, he accepted an appointment to the Philippines and was later recalled to active duty. As the commander there, he suffered the humiliation of early defeat and the loss of his force. He fought back, later accepted Japan’s surrender, and, as the supreme commander of the occupation forces, set out to remake a nation. And he largely succeeded.

Under Douglas MacArthur’s tutelage, Japan emerged from the grip of a belligerent military-industrial complex and became a democracy. From an aggressive imperialist power, it was transformed into a peaceful state, using its vast resources to support international institutions and diplomacy around the world.

No wonder many are searching for the next MacArthur, someone to deal with the problems of postwar Iraq. As a model for regime change, it is neater and nobler than the untidy task of sorting out bickering Iraqi factions or relying on Iraqis with obscure or dubious intentions for themselves and their country. And for an administration run by corporate executives, there must be appeal in seeking a latter-day MacArthur to act as Iraq’s chief operating officer. Already last week retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the military’s director of postwar planning, arrived at a Kuwaiti beachside resort with a large team from the Pentagon’s newly created Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance.

But the circumstances of Japan and its transformation bear so little resemblance to those of present-day Iraq that both the analogy and the pursuit of a new MacArthur are off the mark. Almost nothing from the lessons of postwar Japan can be applied directly to Iraq, and consequently, neither the approach nor the character of a MacArthur are appropriate for the mission in Iraq. Just consider the facts. (more…)

February 20, 2000

Clark’s Iraq War opposition timeline

February 15, 2002:
Clark said any Iraq operation had to take aftermath into account. On February 15, 2002, Clark said, regarding a possible invasion of Iraq, “I think what comes out of it is if we’re going to go into this operation in the future, we’ve got to be sure before we undertake it that we can go all the way, not only to Baghdad, not only Saddam Hussein, but to know what happens next, to make sure we have our allies and supporters lined up so that there’s not chaos and slaughter in Baghdad or in the south or in the Kurdistan areas after we complete the military phase of the operation.” [CNN, 2/15/02]

August 2, 2002:
Clark said “We Seem to Have Skipped Some Steps in the Logic of the Debate,” on Iraq. On August 2, 2002, Clark said, regarding a possible invasion of Iraq, “We seem to have skipped some steps in the logic of the debate. And, as the American people are brought into this, they’re asking these questions.” [CNN, 8/2/02]

August 29, 2002:
Clark said there is “War Fever Out There Right Now in Some Quarters of the Leadership Elements in this Country…Where is That Coming From?” On August 29, 2002, Clark said regarding a proposed invasion of Iraq, “Well, taking it to the United Nations doesn’t put America’s foreign policy into the hands of the French. What you have to do as the United States is you have to get other nations to commit and come in with you, and so you’ve got to provide the evidence, and the convincing of the French and the French public, and the leadership elite. Look, there’s a war fever out there right now in some quarters of some of the leadership elements in this country, apparently, because I keep hearing this sense of urgency and so forth. Where is that coming from? The vice president said that today he doesn’t know when they’re going to get nuclear weapons. They’ve been trying to get nuclear weapons for — for 20 years. So if there’s some smoking gun, if there’s some really key piece of information that hasn’t been shared publicly, maybe they can share it with the French.” [CNN, 8/29/02]

August 29, 2002:
Clark said aftermath of Iraq invasion was “More Boiling in the Street.” On August 29, 2002, Clark said, regarding a possible invasion of Iraq and its aftermath, “I think — but I think that underneath, what you’re going to have is you’re going to have more boiling in the street. You’re going to have deeper anger and you’re going to feed the recruitment efforts of Al Qaeda. And this is the key point, I think, that we’re at here. The question is what’s the greater threat? Three thousand dead in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon underscore the fact that the threat we’re facing primarily is Al Qaeda. We have to work the Iraq problem around dealing with Al Qaeda. And the key thing about dealing with Al Qaeda is, we can’t win that war alone.” [CNN, 8/29/02]

August 29, 2002:
Clark said “I’d like to see us slow down the rush to go after Saddam Hussein unless there’s some clear convincing evidence that we haven’t shared with the public that he’s right on the verge of getting nuclear weapons.” On August 29, 2002, Clark said, regarding a possible invasion of Iraq, “My perspective would be I’d like to see us slow down the rush to go after Saddam Hussein unless there’s some clear convincing evidence that we haven’t had shared with the public that he’s right on the verge of getting nuclear weapons.” [CNN, 8/29/02]

August 30, 2002:
Clark said “Going After Iraq Right Now is at Best a Diversion, and at Worst it Risks the Possibility of Strengthening Al Qaeda and Undercutting Our Coalition at a Critical Time.” On August 30, 2002, Clark said, regarding a possible invasion of Iraq, “Going after Iraq right now is at best a diversion, and at worst it risks the possibility of strengthening Al Qaeda and undercutting our coalition at a critical time. So at the strategic level, I think we have to keep our eye on the ball and focus on the number one strategic priority. There are a lot of other concerns as well, but that’s the main one.” [CNN, 8/30/02]

August 30, 2002:
Clark said disarming Saddam Hussein needed to be done “in the Right Context, and That Context is the Adherence to Full Weight of International Law.” On August 30, 2002, Clark said, regarding a possible invasion of Iraq, “I think it’s a serious problem with Saddam Hussein. I think he should be held to his pledge to give up his weapons of mass destruction, but we need to do so in the right context, and that context is adherence to full weight of international law, bringing our coalition partner all along with us, perhaps taking it to NATO, and putting a united front together to press Saddam Hussein.” [CNN, 8/30/02]

August 30, 2002:
Clark said invasion of Iraq of “Supercharge….Radical Groups in the Middle East.” On August 30, 2002, Clark said, regarding a possible invasion of Iraq, “It seems that way to me. It seems that this would supercharge the opinion, not necessarily of the elites in the Arab world, who may bow to the inevitability of the United States and its power, but the radical groups in the Middle East, who are looking for reasons and gaining more recruits every time the United States makes a unilateral move by force. They will gain strength from something like this. We can well end up in Iraq with thousands of military forces tied down, and a worse problem in coping with a war on terror here in the United States or Europe, or elsewhere around the world.” [CNN, 8/30/02]

September 16, 2002:
Clark said Congress shouldn’t give a “blank check,” to Use Force Against Iraq. On September 16, 2002, Clark said, regarding Iraq and possible Congressional authorization to use force, “Don’t give a blank check. Don’t just say, you are authorized to use force. Say what the objectives are. Say what the limitations are, say what the constraints and restraints are. What is it that we, the United States of America, hope to accomplish in this operation?” [CNN 9/16/02]

September 23, 2002:
Clark said force should only be used as a last resort, “Not Because of a Sense of Impatience With the Arcane Ways of International Institutions.” On September 23, 2002, Clark said, regarding Iraq and possible Congressional authorization for the use of force, “When you’re talking about American men and women going and facing the risk we’ve been talking about this afternoon… you want to be sure that you’re using force and expending American blood and lives in treasure as the ultimate last resort. Not because of a sense of impatience with the arcane ways of international institutions.” [Senate Committee on Armed Forces 9/23/02]
http://armedservices.house.gov/openingstatementsandpressreleases/107thcongress/02-09-26clark.html

September 25, 2002:
Clark urged work on post-war issues. On September 25, 2002, Clark said, regarding a possible invasion of Iraq, “If we go in there, this government will be displaced, and there will be a new government put in place. But what about the humanitarian issues? What about the economic development? What about the energy? What about the opening of commerce? What about tariffs? What about taxes? What about police? What about public order? All those issues, we should be working on now, because they will help us do a better job of reducing the adverse, potentially adverse, impact of the war on terror if we have to do what we might have to do?” [CNN 9/25/02]

October 5, 2002:
Clark said it appeared that “Administration Jumped to the Conclusion That It Wanted War First and Then the Diplomacy Has Followed.” On October 5, 2002, Clark said, regarding debate on Congressional authorization for war against Iraq, “The way the debate has emerged, it’s appeared as though to the American people, at least to many that talk to me, as though the administration jumped to the conclusion that it wanted war first and then the diplomacy has followed.” [CNN 10/5/02]

January 23, 2003:
Clark said “There Are Problems With the Case the U.S. is Making,” for War Against Iraq in Order to Gain Allies at the U.N. On January 23, 2003, Clark said, regarding the case the United States had made for war against Iraq to the United Nations, “There are problems with the case that the U.S. is making, because the U.S. hasn’t presented publicly the clear, overwhelming sense of urgency to galvanize the world community to immediate military action now…..You need the cover of legitimacy, and afterwards, you’re going to need allies and other people to help share the burdens of peacekeeping.” [CNN 1/23/03]

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