Expert Considers Consequence of Leaving Iraq Zbigniew Brzezinski, professor of American foreign policy at Johns Hopkins University, thinks that Iraq is not yet in a civil war. But he wonders whether the consequences of civil war would be worse than staying the course. He talks with Robert Siegel about why he favors pulling troops out by the end of the year.

Expert Considers Consequence of Leaving Iraq

Expert Considers Consequence of Leaving Iraq

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Zbigniew Brzezinski, professor of American foreign policy at Johns Hopkins University, thinks that Iraq is not yet in a civil war. But he wonders whether the consequences of civil war would be worse than staying the course. He talks with Robert Siegel about why he favors pulling troops out by the end of the year.


Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was National Security Advisor in the Carter administration, made a speech last week calling for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, and he faulted the U.S. presence there for diminishing American influence around the world. He also faulted his own party, the Democrats, for failure to produce a coherent alternative position on Iraq. Zbigniew Brzezinski joins us. Welcome back to the program.

Dr. ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI (Professor of American foreign policy, Johns Hopkins University): Nice to be with you.

SIEGEL: And I'd like to ask you first about something that you said in your speech that came up in this morning's White House news conference, when a reporter actually alluded to these times of war and the president being a wartime president. You said in your speech that that construct of a nation at war, a wartime president, is both misleading and dangerous. How so?

Dr. BRZEZINSKI: Because, first of all, it's not accurate. And, secondly, it's demagogic. And, thirdly, it has all sorts of political implications which are not all that healthy. Let me amplify. If we are at war, who are we at war with? You can't be at war against some abstraction. When we had World War II, we knew whom we were fighting. When there was a war in Korea, in Vietnam, away from the United States, no president, Democratic or Republican, claimed that we are a nation at war. But it has implications. It sort of implies that the president is Commander in Chief, that his power should be increased, that deference should be given to whatever claim he makes. And all of that, I think, is quite pernicious.

SIEGEL: Well, can one square the usage with saying we're a nation in a small war? That is, the president is the commander in chief and there are U.S. forces fighting somewhere, and therefore…

Dr. BRZEZINSKI: Well, we certainly are in a war in Iraq. But this is not what he is talking about when he says we are a nation at war. He's talking about a war on global terrorism, which he himself has proclaimed, and which talks about a war on a technique. Terrorism is a technique for killing people. It's not a specific enemy. No other nation in the world has adopted that position, even though quite a few nations have been exposed to terrorism more than the United States.

SIEGEL: You have suggested that the U.S. ask Iraqi leaders to ask us to leave Iraq. The president has said, though, repeatedly, in his appearance in Cleveland, in his news conference at the White House today, that if the U.S. leaves Iraq, he would say too soon, or if it sets a deadline that everyone's aware of, that that plays into the hands of terrorists.

Dr. BRZEZINSKI: I don't see how that plays in the hands of terrorists, because he says we'll leave, too, except he says we'll leave after a victory, which is becoming increasingly a little bit like the horizon, namely an imaginary line that recedes as you move towards it. But if we were to set, for example, a date for leaving, because “we won,” the terrorists would still know when we're leaving. So that really is not very relevant. The point is that if we say we're leaving, the Iraqi leadership will have to concentrate on deciding how it's going to conduct itself when it's responsible for Iraq. The Shiites and the Kurds will have to concert and jointly approach the Sunnis. The Sunnis will have to decide whether they will accommodate or to resist. And they would probably split. In brief, we would stop treating the Iraqis as some sort of colonial wards, which they're not, and we would give them the responsibility which they need if they are ever to govern themselves.

SIEGEL: President Bush spoke in very combative terms today about the Democrats, who he said if they want to campaign as the party that wants to deny the government the tools of the Patriot Act or of surveillance, let them go ahead and say that. If I read you, you're saying the Democrats should run as a party of let's say when we're getting out of Iraq and get out of Iraq. Is that a practical piece of advice to the party?

Dr. BRZEZINSKI: I think the Democrats should have a credible plan for dealing with the problem of Iraq, and I have offered a four-point program. We talk to the Iraqi leaders and say we would like them to ask us to leave, and some of them have already previously said we should leave. Once they have decided to ask us to leave, secondly, we then then concert with them on a date. And I would estimate roughly a year. Thirdly, the Iraqi Government, then on its own, would convene a conference of neighboring Muslim countries regarding the question of stability in Iraq, regarding which all of the neighbors have an interest. And perhaps even some of the more distant Islamic countries might be invited to participate. And then last but not least, we would organize a donor conference among the richer countries further away from Iraq, who might then participate. And would be more likely to participate once we're gone in helping to recover, restore Iraq.

So that is the plan. If the Democrats have a better plan, they should offer it. But simply criticizing the war, in my view, is insufficient. They do have the responsibility to offer an alternative.

SIEGEL: Dr. Brzezinski thank you very much for talking to us today.

Professor BRZEZINSKI: Thank you.

SIEGEL: Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was the National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter speaking with us from his office in Washington D.C.

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