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Interview with Dr. Charles B. Cushman, Jr. - 2002-09-11


MR. BORGIDA:
Now joining us live, Dr. Charles Cushman, Associate Professor at George Washington University here in Washington. His focus is congressional politics and the role Congress plays in setting defense and foreign policy.

Welcome to our set today, Dr. Cushman.

DR. CUSHMAN:
“Thank you.”

MR. BORGIDA:
This speech the President delivers Thursday at the U.N. General Assembly on Iraq is clearly a pretty important one for the foreign policy of this country. What does the President have to do to sell the world on his policy on Iraq?

DR. CUSHMAN:
“I think he really can't sell the world on his preferred policy of unilateral preemption by the United States. I think it has become obvious over the last few weeks that the world community wants a say in this and that if the United States is going to lead a world coalition against Iraq, it needs U.N. support to do so. And so the President really I think has to step away from his desire to announce "We're going in," and figure out how to convince the rest of the world that we, as a global community, need to stop the threat that Saddam poses to his neighbors.”

MR. BORGIDA:
And what are his chances? He is out there with Prime Minister Blair at this point and not much other support. What does he have to do to make some progress?

DR. CUSHMAN:
“I think he has to make the case that Saddam Hussein represents a real threat to stability in the region. It is hard to imagine that Saddam Hussein really can challenge the United States, which has demonstrated for the last 10 years it's the only superpower. A country as weak as Iraq simply can't challenge the United States. But it can destabilize its region by threatening its neighbors or developing weapons that could eventually threaten its neighbors.

And so the President has to really focus very closely I think on that case, that the region is so unstable right now that any further gains by Saddam Hussein really are too dangerous and the world has to step in and see to it that his weapons go away.”

MR. BORGIDA:
In your view, having worked on Capitol Hill with members of the Congress, how did the President handle the last few weeks really, when members of Congress came back from their August recess? He appeared to be backing off, as you put it, his unilateral view, seeking their authorization. Does he have the same challenge with members of the Congress as he does with members of the U.N. General Assembly?

DR. CUSHMAN:
“I think it's the exact same challenge. In fact, several leading members of the House and the Senate have both come out of those secret hearings that they had with the Secretary of Defense and the Vice President, saying that they hadn't seen any evidence that convinced them that there was a compelling case to move immediately and unilaterally.

And so the President is going to have to make the same case to them, that the United States has to build a global coalition to go back in and remove those weapons from Saddam's grasp. And it's going to be hard for him to do that.”

MR. BORGIDA:
Very briefly, Dr. Cushman, do you expect that there will be some compromise, perhaps three weeks, for inspectors to go into Iraq and then the threat of military action?

DR. CUSHMAN:
“I think that's very reasonable, both because the global community and many of our strong allies, with the exception of Great Britain, has said that they need time to develop support for some kind of global coalition against Saddam, and also because we hear news from U.S. Central Command, which is our military headquarters in the region, that it will take at least two months for them to collect all the forces and supplies that they would need to take any offensive action against Iraq.

So, we obviously have to wait a couple of months before we could do anything anyway. It would be very smart for us to use that time to build the coalition in the U.N. to move ahead.”

MR. BORGIDA:
Well, we all look ahead to the President's comments to the U.N. on Thursday.

The views of Dr. Charles Cushman, of George Washington University here in Washington. Dr. Cushman, thanks for joining us.

DR. CUSHMAN:
“Thank you.”

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