What Ever Happened to John Deutch?
When we last heard from former CIA Director John Deutch back in 2000, he had been reprimanded by the Agency for keeping thousands of highly classified intelligence documents on his home computer in violation of government security rules. Confronted with this security lapse and the fact that his computer contained pornography downloaded from the internet, Deutch’s response was to erase the contents of his hard drive in a clumsy cover-up attempt. He was later pardoned by President Clinton on the last day of his presidency.
Now a professor of chemistry at MIT, Deutch recently appeared as a Op-Ed contributor in the New York Times. In an editorial titled "Time to Pull Out. And Not Just From Iraq", Deutch argues that the United States should pull its military forces completely out of Iraq, and eventually, the Middle East. First, Deutch provides us with the appropriate context:
American foreign policy should be guided by two general principles: the first is advancing our security and political interests; the second is encouraging prosperity and responsive government for all people. It may be that with our encouragement and example, many countries will choose to adopt democracy and a market economy, presumably adapted to their own culture. Of course, others will follow a very different road for some time, perhaps indefinitely, as ethnic differences, poverty and historical and religious traditions affect and constrain choices.There is a general reluctance among liberals to say that one culture is superior to another, particularly in its adaptability toward democratic principles. However, what Deutch is trying to say, in a racially-sensitive manner, is that the US not likely to succeed in imposing democracy on countries in the Middle East because of "cultural differences". Never mind that successful free elections were held in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past year, and millions of joyous Iraqis and Afghanis voted in spite of terrorist death threats, holding their ink-stained fingers up in triumph. America has a long and honorable tradition of establishing democratic governments with military forces on the ground in countries once thought hostile to democracy—just ask Germany, Italy and Japan.
America embarks on an especially perilous course, however, when it actively attempts to establish a government based on our values in another part of the world. It is one matter to adopt a foreign policy that encourages democratic values; it is quite another to believe it just or practical to achieve such results on the ground with military forces. This is true whether we are acting alone, as is largely the case in Iraq, or as part of an international coalition.
It seems that many in the Bush administration believed that an invasion to topple Saddam Hussein would result in a near spontaneous conversion of Iraq, and with luck much of the Middle East, to democracy. But the notion of intervening in foreign countries to build a society of our preference is not just a Republican or conservative failing. The corresponding Democratic or liberal failing is the view that America has a duty to intervene in foreign countries that egregiously violate human rights and a responsibility to oppose and, where possible, remove totalitarian heads of state. This Democratic rhetoric quickly moves from "peacekeeping" in a country torn by strife to "peacemaking" and to "nation-building."
Instead, Deutch favors the diplomatic approach towards bringing peace to the Middle East region, bolstered with economic incentives. He provides some examples:
If we want to influence the behavior of nations, we would be better served by combining diplomacy with our considerable economic strength. Even North Korea saw the advantages, for a period of time, of constraining (albeit selectively and temporarily) its nuclear weapons activities for the economic benefits that accompanied the "agreed framework" of 1994. More recently, Libya backed off its secret pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, apparently on the sole expectation of economic benefit. The demise of the apartheid regime in South Africa after an embargo showed what sometimes can be done by collective economic action.It is fitting that Deutch chooses North Korea as his first example. There is perhaps no better illustration of the failure of combining diplomacy with economic aid (i.e. bribery) than North Korea. Claims that the Clinton-negotiated "Agreed Framework" Treaty prevented the North Koreans from developing nuclear weapons are utterly false. The North Koreans themselves have admitted that they cheated on the agreement by secretly pursuing a uranium enrichment program ("selectively"), and now they boast of having recently manufactured several plutonium-based bombs to serve as a deterrent to US attack ("temporarily").
Equally as puzzling is his citing of Libya’s recent dismantling of its nuclear weapons program "on the sole expectation of economic benefit". Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi began the process of negotiating an end to these programs just days before the start of the US invasion of Iraq, and finally capitulated to US & British demands within 5 days of Saddam Hussein’s capture by US forces. A coincidence? I think not. I would believe that watching a dirty, disheveled Hussein getting pulled out of a "spider hole" by US troops in December 2003–as well as the invasion of Iraq itself–did much in convincing Gaddafi to surrender his nuclear booty.
Certainly, we have come to expect a fair amount of revisionism coming from the pages of the New York Times. That Clinton-appointee Deutch in a 1,200 word piece on the Middle East would fail to mention "al Qaeda", "Osama Bin Laden"or even "Afghanistan" is also not at all surprising, for it was largely under President Clinton that al Qaeda was allowed to flourish in Afghanistan during the 1990s, setting the stage for the climatic terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
But even more troubling than rewriting history and cultural bias is Deutch’s conclusion that Iraq is a lost cause:
I do not believe that we are making progress on any of our key objectives in Iraq. There may be days when security seems somewhat improved or when the Iraqi government appears to be functioning better, but the underlying destabilizing effect of the insurgency is undiminished. When, after the fall of Baghdad, the decision was taken to disband the Iraqi Army, an impossible security situation was created: a combination of hostile ethnic factions supported by demobilized, but armed, military and security units with surrounding nations actively supporting them.Deutch’s myopic view of the Iraq situation typifies the pre-9/11 thinking pervading through much of today’s Democratic Party, and completely ignores the lessons learned from American inaction against terrorism throughout the 1980s and 1990s. A quick retreat from Iraq as proposed by Deutch would surely be perceived as a sign of American weakness, and invite further attacks by terrorists on US interests throughout the world. Indeed, Osama bin Laden himself repeatedly cited American withdrawals from Lebanon (1983) and Somalia (1993) in speeches and interviews leading up to his 1998 "Fatwa Against All Jews and Crusaders"--the al Qaeda declaration of war on the United States.
The insurgency cannot be overcome easily by either United States military forces or immature Iraqi security forces. Nor would the situation be eased even if, improbably, the United Nations, NATO, our European allies and Japan choose to become seriously involved.
Our best strategy now is a prompt withdrawal plan consisting of clearly defined political, military and economic elements. Politically, the United States should declare its intention to remove its troops and urge the Iraqi government and its neighbors to recognize the common regional interest in allowing Iraq to evolve peacefully and without external intervention. The first Iraqi election under the permanent constitution, planned for Dec. 15, is an appropriate date for beginning the pullout.
The ironies abound in having Deutch lecture New York Times readers on US policy relating to terrorism and Middle East. The breakdown in intelligence leading up to the September 11 attacks and the 2003 Invasion of Iraq are very familiar topics to Professor Deutch, who served as Deputy Secretary of Defense from 1994 to 1995 and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1995 to 1996. But in spite of this, the New York Times continues to serve up Op-Eds from Clinton administration retreads and apologists, believing that absent-minded readers will forget about ineffective missile attacks on Sudanese pharmaceutical factories and Afghan terrorist encampments, and billions in aid given to the Palestinians and Arab governments–all prior to 9/11.
Perhaps the Times can keep the ball rolling by having Sandy Berger review the finer points of handling classified documents, or allowing Janet Reno to examine the Bush administration’s hostage negotiation tactics in its Op-Ed pages. But given their current slate of Op-Ed columnists, that may not be necessary.