Memo To: Henry Kissinger
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Peacetime Foreign Policy
Of course I was intemperate in my memo to you, but I thought it might be the only reason you would take the trouble to read it and reply. I was actually discouraged by your reply, in that I am sure you still have not grasped the source of my dismay. It occurred to me today, seeing Albert Wohlstetter’s monstrosity on the editpage of The Wall Street Journal, that both you and he are intellectually adrift in this new peacetime world. The Cold War was your paradigm, and you have been unable to adjust. The big difference is that while all is fair in love and war, not all is fair in peacetime.
In my shrill memo to you, I expressed alarm that you would retrospectively wish we had “finished off” Saddam in 1991, when for the last few years I had been holding up you to me friends as a model of intellectual integrity for supporting the decision to stick to our coalition agreement. For you to now say you made a mistake tells me that I had mistakenly ascribed to you superior statesmanlike motives, when they were merely Machiavellian. It meant something to me that we did not enter the Gulf War until we had persuaded Saudi Arabia that Saddam was about to invade her, and that she had in turn rallied the other Gulf states and Egypt, which in turn enabled us to rally Western Europe and even Moscow and Japan. For us to tell the coalition to screw off, because we really wanted to “finish off” Saddam, is not the kind of sporting thing a great power does if it wants to assemble future coalitions.
Just as Bob Dole is respected because he is a man of his word, a great nation has the respect of all nations only when it keeps its word. You still seem to be arguing that a great nation can do whatever it pleases, simply because rank has its privileges. Even the reason you cite in your note to me seems pathetically trivial: “In my view, we should have tried to finish off Saddam to be able to see an alternative emerge who could have been used as a counterweight to Iran in the Gulf. Our present policy leaves us suspended between evils, unable to resolve any of our complexities.” In other words, shoot the bastard, and hope someone better comes along.
To me, the solution of all these impossible complexities you find in our present situation seems childishly simple. It has been suggested by the Turkish foreign minister and by Assad: Negotiate with Saddam. Diplomacy. Man-to-man stuff, as with Nixon in China. Tell Saddam that he can sell all the oil he wants to sell on the world market, as long as he behaves himself. Get all the coalition partners to agree to this pact, and to agree that if he misbehaves, we will all come down on him like a load of bricks. Turkey will agree to this, so will the Egyptians and so will the entire Arab world. The multinational oil companies might get heartburn. So might Goldman, Sachs and our greedy bankers who dominate foreign policy in peace and war. But it would solve our complexities. In your prime, Henry, you would have worked this one out before breakfast.
The same is true of all the tinhorn dictators around the world who we are pumping into monsters, so that we can justify another fleet of B-2 bombers @ $1 billion each. A President Dole need only announce that all the Castros and Khadafys and Saddam Husseins that are left straggling around are welcome to present themselves at the White House, and that we will kill the fatted calf and celebrate after they have agreed to several simple demands. What demands? I would leave that up to President Dole and his Secretary of State, Colin Powell. As long as the Castros of the world know they are dealing with men who keep their word, they can afford to do a reasonable list of penances, even including a graceful exit after five more years in power. If they don’t, the whole world would of course stand behind our embargoes. A wise and generous Emperor or King or Czar would have acted thusly. Why not an American President?
Please do not find this letter intemperate. I am serious about wrenching you back from your wartime paradigm into this extraordinary peacetime window of opportunity. It is absolutely essential that we begin to conduct ourselves in the manner of a wise and kind father, who tells his children they will be punished if they do X and rewarded if they do Y, and merely loved and respected if they do everything in-between, which is enough for most kids. In wartime, it is permissible to lie and cheat and steal and destabilize elections and use the CIA for all kinds of foul purposes, designed by Albert Wohlstetter in his prime. In peacetime, we should keep our word.