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Interview with Jack Spencer, Heritage Foundation - 2002-10-31


The constant United States message of a possible war with Iraq, combined with the United Nations’ current debate on that country, have many concerned about the possibilities. VOA-TV’s David Borgida spoke with Jack Spencer, of the Heritage Foundation, about a potential military confrontation with Iraq. Mr. Spencer explores the difference between the U.S. mission and approach during the Gulf War ten years ago to the current situation with Iraq. In addition, Mr. Spencer provides his rationale of why U.S. forces should act soon and not wait for UN support.

MR. BORGIDA:
Joining us now live in our studio, Jack Spencer, a security and defense expert at Washington's Heritage Foundation. Thanks, Mr. Spencer, for joining us today.

MR. SPENCER:
Thank you.

MR. BORGIDA:
This Russia story first, the drug-based fentanyl, what do you know about that and how is it possible that what might appear to be a fairly benign kind of a substance might be so deadly?

MR. SPENCER:
Well, first of all, it is an opiate-based substance. Apparently it is used for anesthesia normally. And I think what happened here and what the Russians are reporting happened, and what seems to be consistent in reports in the news media, is that the people inside the theater simply were not in as healthy a state as what someone in a hospital situation would be. And when they were confronted with this substance, it took a worse toll on them than what was anticipated. I think what we see here is that there were a lot of unintended consequences with the use of this substance.

MR. BORGIDA:
Well, let me throw this at you. Is it possible that there was just simply too much of it used?

MR. SPENCER:
Yes, I think that is the case. I think that the Russians did not do adequate testing under adequate situations to understand exactly what the outcome would be.

MR. BORGIDA:
And this substance is not banned by any agreement?

MR. SPENCER:
No, it absolutely is not banned. In fact, the Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty does not ban countries, signatories of that treaty, from using such substances in domestic law enforcement activities. That convention is mainly geared towards state-to-state combat situations.

MR. BORGIDA:
An interesting morsel of information there. Let's move, if we can, over to the situation regarding Iraq. If the United States and the United Nations were unable to reach some sort of a resolution to get the inspectors in Iraq and some kind of a military effort was made, how would that differ, from a strategic point of view, from the Gulf War 10 years ago?

MR. SPENCER:
Well, our objectives are totally different. Let's remember, in the Gulf War our objective was to get Iraq out of Kuwait, and nothing beyond that. And that's precisely what we did. We often hear the first President Bush and Schwartzkopf being criticized for not going to Baghdad. Well, the mandate was not to go to Baghdad; it was only to expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. This time I think that our objectives will be somewhat different. First, I think it will be to get rid of any terrorist infrastructure that is there as well as weapons of mass destruction capabilities. And secondly, it very well could be regime change, getting rid of Saddam Hussein and his governing mechanisms. And that is going to lead to a different way to approach this. A second thing that will lead to a sort of different approach will be the technology we have available. Back then, we basically had a Cold War military. We were applying our Cold War military that was built to face the Soviet Union to fight Saddam Hussein. But since then, although our military really has not transformed to the extent we need it to to be relevant to today's threats, we have made some progress -- in things like precision-guided munitions and things of that nature. Then the third element is our basing options. Back then, in 1991, because of the large coalition, we had really unlimited basing options. We could surround Saddam Hussein. This time we will have to build a coalition and use whatever basing options we are able to based on the coalition we have available to us.

MR. BORGIDA:
Now, how would you think that Saddam Hussein might respond in the event that a military effort or some attack would be successful? There are many analysts who say he would reach into his arsenal of chemical and biological weapons and use them, particularly threatening Israel. What is your view on that?

MR. SPENCER:
I have no doubt that he will. And that is precisely why we need to move now. Because with every day that passes, Saddam's weapons of mass destruction arsenal will increase, to the point where he may have a nuclear weapon at some point in time, which he will use to achieve his foreign policy objectives, which he has a history of doing. And that's precisely why we need to act as soon as possible. We cannot be fearful of his possibly using a weapon of mass destruction; we have to assume that he will. Because we have to assume that he is going to be backed into a corner and he will use whatever he possibly can. But we have to understand that if we don't do it now, he will use those weapons at some point in the future.

MR. BORGIDA:
So, Mr. Spencer, in about 30 seconds, what do you say to all those antiwar critics -- and we saw some of them massed in American cities in recent days -- that it is not time to go to war with Iraq, that it's not necessary, that a diplomatic or a peaceful solution is the best way?

MR. SPENCER:
I think that Saddam Hussein has a history of using weapons of mass destruction. We know that he has them. And there is a whole litany of U.N. resolutions that he has defied. In order to maintain peace and stability in that region, or to secure peace and stability, we need to ensure that Saddam Hussein is not allowed to continue to behave aggressively as he has done.

MR. BORGIDA:
The views of Jack Spencer, of Washington's Heritage Foundation. Thanks so much, Mr. Spencer, for joining us.

MR. SPENCER:
Thank you. (End of interview.)

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