"Historical Document: Holbrooke on Iraq, January 2001"
I’ve written in the past in praise of the Clinton administration’s focus on terrorism as it closed out its second term, and the misguided nature of the Bush administration’s decision — from Day 1 — to refocus things on Iraq. Of course, not all Clinton administration officials were especially prescient on this score:
The effort to contain Iraq over the past 10 years, “while it is far from satisfactory,” has been better than nothing, Holbrooke said. However, “the lack of sufficient solidarity among the enforcing nations and voting nations has undermined” the effort, he added.
The economic embargo imposed after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait remains in force until the UN certifies that Iraq has eliminated its weapons of mass destruction. But nations have violated the sanctions and three permanent members of the UN Security Council have been pressing for the certification. In the meantime, Iraq has refused to allow UN weapons inspectors into the country since December 1998. “Saddam Hussein’s activities continue to be unacceptable and, in my view, dangerous to the region and, indeed, to the world,” Holbrooke continued, “not only because he possesses the potential for weapons of mass destruction but because of the very nature of his regime.
“His willingness to be cruel internally is not unique in the world, but the combination of that and his willingness to export his problems makes him a clear and present danger at all times,” he said.
The Bush administration “will have to deal with this problem, which we inherited from our predecessors and they now inherit from us,” Holbrooke said.
Now the good news is that Holbrooke didn’t follow that up with “so Bush should invade the country for no real reason.” Then again, neither did Bush start saying we should invade Iraq for no real reason back in January 2001. But after 9/11, Bush saw a political opportunity to build support for an invasion of Iraq, and Holbrooke agreed with him since, after all, Saddam’s “willingness to be cruel internally is not unique in the world, but the combination of that and his willingness to export his problems makes him a clear and present danger at all times” so an invasion seems like a good idea once it’s politically possible.
I’m not very excited by the prospect of Hillary Clinton making him Secretary of State.