Why the Pentagon Needs Villains
Jude Wanniski
January 21, 2004


Memo: To Website fans, browsers, clients
From Jude Wanniski
Re: Gary Hart & Libya

President Bush devoted almost half his hour-long State of the Union message Tuesday night to foreign policy and the “war on terrorism.” One of the points he made in justifying the pre-emptive war against Iraq was that it let the world know the U.S. would use its military might to get what it wants on matters of security. Here is how he put it:

Because of American leadership and resolve, the world is changing for the better. Last month, the leader of Libya voluntarily pledged to disclose and dismantle all of his regime’s weapons of mass destruction programs, including a uranium enrichment project for nuclear weapons. Colonel Qaddafi correctly judged that his country would be better off, and far more secure, without weapons of mass murder. Nine months of intense negotiations involving the United States and Great Britain succeeded with Libya, while 12 years of diplomacy with Iraq did not. And one reason is clear: For diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible, and no one can now doubt the word of America.

Mr. Bush might actually believe all this, but if he had been following developments in the Islamic world as long as I have he would have known that Libya and Qaddafi have been trying to reach a diplomatic solution to their differences with the USA for years -- ever since it became clear the Cold War was ending with their patrons in Moscow on the losing side. The same has been true of Iraq, Iran, North Korea and even Cuba. The problem has always been what President Eisenhower loosely called “the military-industrial complex.” That is, if the USA comes to terms with all the rogue states of the world who were aligned with Moscow or Beijing in the Cold War, there would no enemies to guard against or to defeat if they were deemed imminent threats. Public support for defense spending would dry up and the Pentagon would wind up living on crumbs, as it was in the 1930's.

There is of course something to be said for those intellectuals who worry about a world at peace, which leaves them nothing to do but celebrate bygone days of glory, but it is possible they went a bit too far in Iraq. The evidence on the table indicates diplomacy was working perfectly and there was no need to spill any blood to achieve what had been accomplished. These are the issues that are going to be hashed out in the presidential campaign. The Democratic nominee – whether John Kerry or Howard Dean or Wesley Clark - will be making the case for diplomacy backed by the threat of force, not force backed by the threat of diplomacy.

One bit of evidence on this count will be the one Mr. Bush raised about Libya. Gary Hart, a Senate Democrat from Colorado who won the New Hampshire presidential primary in 1984 and for awhile looked like he might be the nominee, on Sunday wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post, “My Secret Talks With Libya, and Why They Went Nowhere.” He was approached by Libyans in 1992 when he was a private citizen, they asking him to serve as intermediary with the US State Department to work out a diplomatic resolution to the estrangement. It is a role Jimmy Carter has played in similar situations.

Hart worked at it for several months, but no matter how open-ended the offers from Tripoli, the State Department was not interested. Hart tells me he has always assumed the administration preferred to have Libya remain “a villain.” He concluded his op-ed: “This account suggests, and strongly so, only one thing: We might have brought the Pan Am bombers to justice, and quite possibly have moved Libya out of its renegade status, much sooner than we have. At the very least it calls into serious question the assertion that Libya changed direction as a result of our preemptive invasion of Iraq.” He now more or less blames himself for not having come forward sooner to tell this story, which you can read here: