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Old 07-21-2004, 10:11 PM   #1
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How Saddam Failed The Yeltsin Test

http://www.cfr.org/pub7204/stephen_r...ltsin_test.php



By Stephen R. Sestanovich

The New York Times, July 21, 2004


Most anyone who's worked in government has a story -- probably re-told often these days, given the Iraq debate -- about facing a big decision on the basis of information that then turned out to be wrong. My favorite is from August 1998 when, with Bill Clinton just three days away from a trip to Moscow, the Central Intelligence Agency reported that President Boris Yeltsin of Russia was dead.

In 1998 the news that Mr. Yeltsin had died was, of course, no more surprising than the news, in 2003, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. It matched what we knew of his health and habits, and the secretive handling of his earlier illnesses. Nor was anyone puzzled by the lack of an announcement. Russia's financial crash 10 days earlier had set off a political crisis, and we assumed a fierce Kremlin succession struggle was raging behind the scenes.

In the agonizing conference calls that ensued, all government agencies played their usual parts. The C.I.A. stood by its sources but was uncomfortable making any recommendation. National Security Council officials, knowing Mr. Clinton wasn't eager for the trip, wanted to pull the plug immediately. The State Department (in this case, me) insisted we'd look pretty ridiculous canceling the meeting because Mr. Yeltsin was dead -- only to discover that he wasn't.

Eventually we decided that the Russians had to let the deputy secretary of state, Strobe Talbott, who was in Moscow for pre-summit meetings, see Mr. Yeltsin within 24 hours or the trip was off. Nothing else would convince us: no phone call, no television appearance, no doctor's testimony. The next day Mr. Yeltsin, hale and hearty, greeted Mr. Talbott in his office, and two days later Bill Clinton got on the plane to Moscow.

When the trip was over, I phoned the C.I.A. analyst who had relayed the false report. He was apologetic -- sort of. ''You have to understand,'' he said. ''We missed the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests last spring. We're under a lot of pressure not to miss anything else.''

Some of the lessons of this episode are the same as those emerging from the Iraq debate: sensitive intelligence is often too weak to guide important decisions; if the information fits what we already believe, or what we want to do, it gets too little scrutiny.

Yet Mr. Yeltsin's ''near-death experience'' of 1998 carries another lesson that unfortunately hasn't been part of the current controversy. When policymakers have imperfect information about a serious problem (which is almost always), what should they do? The answer, then as now, is to shift the burden of proof to the other guy. If we had been denied that meeting with Mr. Yeltsin, it would hardly have proved that he was dead. But we would have canceled the trip all the same. Russian uncooperativeness -- not our poor intelligence -- would have left us no choice.

Going to war and canceling a trip are vastly different matters, but what the Bush administration did with Saddam Hussein in the run-up to war followed the same rule: it challenged him to prove that American intelligence was wrong, so that the responsibility for war was his, not ours.

Clearly, President Bush and his advisers did not expect Saddam Hussein to cooperate in this test, and might still have wanted war if he had. But even if the administration had handled other aspects of the issue differently, it would still have been necessary to subject Iraq to a test. In our debate about the war, we need to acknowledge that the administration set the right test for Saddam Hussein -- and that he did not pass it.

When America demanded that Iraq follow the example of countries like Ukraine and South Africa, which sought international help in dismantling their weapons of mass destruction, it set the bar extremely high, but not unreasonably so. The right test had to reflect Saddam Hussein's long record of acquiring, using and concealing such weapons. Just as important, it had to yield a clear enough result to satisfy doubters on both sides, either breaking the momentum for war or showing that it was justified.

Some may object that this approach treated Saddam Hussein as guilty until proved innocent. They're right. But the Bush administration did not invent this logic. When Saddam Hussein forced out United Nations inspectors in 1998, President Clinton responded with days of bombings -- not because he knew what weapons Iraq had, but because Iraq's actions kept us from finding out.

A decision on war is almost never based simply on what we know, or think we know. Intelligence is always disputed. Instead, we respond to what the other guy does. This is how we went to war in Iraq. The next time we face such a choice, whether our intelligence has improved or not, we'll almost surely decide in the very same way.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Stephen Sestanovich is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a professor of international diplomacy at Columbia University. From 1997 to 2001 he was United States ambassador at large for the former Soviet Union.
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Old 07-21-2004, 11:29 PM   #2
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Didn't Paul Wolfowitz himself say that the whole WMD thing was simply the beurocratic cover? Should that not be a little hint?!?
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Old 07-22-2004, 12:09 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally posted by Earnie Shavers
Didn't Paul Wolfowitz himself say that the whole WMD thing was simply the beurocratic cover? Should that not be a little hint?!?
Ah, no, Saddam was required by the United Nations in the 1991 Gulf War Ceace Fire Agreement to "Verifiably Disarm" of all WMD or face renewed military action to accomplish that goal. There was an ongoing process to bring this about, which over a period of 12 years had some success's but still failed to achieve the goal, which made the use of military force to achieve that goal necessary.
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Old 07-22-2004, 01:05 AM   #4
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Sh*t Sting! I didn't know that!

You're either missing the point, or you use that speech when you don't know how else to answer.

Wolfowitz is widely quoted, I think it was probably about 2 months ago, as saying that WMD's were their beaurocratic cover/distraction for going to war with Iraq, ie their public excuse. He definitely said it, and I'll try and track it down for you...
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Old 07-22-2004, 04:58 AM   #5
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Re: How Saddam Failed The Yeltsin Test

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Originally posted by STING2
Going to war and canceling a trip are vastly different matters, but what the Bush administration did with Saddam Hussein in the run-up to war followed the same rule: it challenged him to prove that American intelligence was wrong, so that the responsibility for war was his, not ours.
I think this is the central point in the article. It is also the point that shows the flaws of that rule. This isn't just a state visit you might or might not cancel, this is a war that costs thousands of deaths and injured and billions of dollars.
Then asking the other party to disprove US intelligence they won't specify (so that it cannot really debunk all the falseties point by point) or they are responsible for war is to me another lame excuse to cover up mistakes of your own. There was no way to Saddam could satisfy US demands, because the US wouldn't be satisfied with anything. By now saying that the war was Saddam's responsibility because he could not fully prove that unknown US intelligence was wrong indicates to me that they didn't have a case from the beginning and are now afraid to accept their own consequences.



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Old 07-22-2004, 07:01 AM   #6
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Re: Re: How Saddam Failed The Yeltsin Test

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Originally posted by Popmartijn


I think this is the central point in the article. It is also the point that shows the flaws of that rule. This isn't just a state visit you might or might not cancel, this is a war that costs thousands of deaths and injured and billions of dollars.
Then asking the other party to disprove US intelligence they won't specify (so that it cannot really debunk all the falseties point by point) or they are responsible for war is to me another lame excuse to cover up mistakes of your own. There was no way to Saddam could satisfy US demands, because the US wouldn't be satisfied with anything. By now saying that the war was Saddam's responsibility because he could not fully prove that unknown US intelligence was wrong indicates to me that they didn't have a case from the beginning and are now afraid to accept their own consequences.



Marty


That article is one one of the lousiest explanations I've seen as of yet.
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Old 07-22-2004, 10:37 AM   #7
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Re: Re: Re: How Saddam Failed The Yeltsin Test

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Originally posted by BonoVoxSupastar


That article is one one of the lousiest explanations I've seen as of yet.
I agree. I didn't get it at all. Saddam wanted to be another Ataturk, but he flubbed it big time. The only thing those two have in common is a secularist state philosophy.
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Old 07-22-2004, 10:48 AM   #8
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I believe Saddam saw himself as another Nasser, plus he presented himself as the Arab defender against the Persian hoards and bringer of justice for the Palestinians (they all talk big but they are full of shit when they are faced down by a real power). Ataturk represents Turkamen nationalism and secularization of the former Caliphate as opposed to the Arab Nationalism that rose from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire and subsequent Mandate rule.
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Old 07-22-2004, 12:30 PM   #9
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Originally posted by A_Wanderer
I believe Saddam saw himself as another Nasser, plus he presented himself as the Arab defender against the Persian hoards and bringer of justice for the Palestinians (they all talk big but they are full of shit when they are faced down by a real power). Ataturk represents Turkamen nationalism and secularization of the former Caliphate as opposed to the Arab Nationalism that rose from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire and subsequent Mandate rule.
Good points. It has been claimed, I can't remember by who, that Saddam modeled himself on Ataturk. It's also been claimed that he modeled himself on Nasser. Hm.................
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Old 07-22-2004, 07:17 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by Earnie Shavers
Sh*t Sting! I didn't know that!

You're either missing the point, or you use that speech when you don't know how else to answer.

Wolfowitz is widely quoted, I think it was probably about 2 months ago, as saying that WMD's were their beaurocratic cover/distraction for going to war with Iraq, ie their public excuse. He definitely said it, and I'll try and track it down for you...
I'm sorry, but it has been key feature of US foreign policy and the goal of the United Nations to see to it that Saddam was indeed fully disarmed since 1991! Saddam kicked out inspectors in 1998 begining the process that led to the war. The United States and the international community tried everything short of war for 12 years and failed to insure that Saddam was disarmed. That is why the war became a necessity and it achieved its objectives where other means had failed.

Something Wolfowitz said or did not say, or perhaps meant differently than others took it, is irrelevant to long standing US foreign policy over 3 different Presidential administrations and 12 years. Good Lord, every single administration in history has officials that sometimes either purposefully or mistakenly, make statements that seem to contradict administration policy.
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Old 07-22-2004, 07:31 PM   #11
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Re: Re: How Saddam Failed The Yeltsin Test

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Originally posted by Popmartijn


I think this is the central point in the article. It is also the point that shows the flaws of that rule. This isn't just a state visit you might or might not cancel, this is a war that costs thousands of deaths and injured and billions of dollars.
Then asking the other party to disprove US intelligence they won't specify (so that it cannot really debunk all the falseties point by point) or they are responsible for war is to me another lame excuse to cover up mistakes of your own. There was no way to Saddam could satisfy US demands, because the US wouldn't be satisfied with anything. By now saying that the war was Saddam's responsibility because he could not fully prove that unknown US intelligence was wrong indicates to me that they didn't have a case from the beginning and are now afraid to accept their own consequences.



Marty

#1 Those that were against the war need to realize their choice of action is not without costs either, cost that I feel were far worse than anything that has happened in the war this far.

#2 Its very simple. Saddam was required to VERIFIABLY DISARM of all WMD. Show me when and where Saddam accomplished that? Did Saddam ever account for the 20,000 Bio/Chem shells that UN inspectors found he had back in 1998. Did Saddam every account for 1,000 Liters of Anthrax, 500 pounds of Mustard Gas among other things on the UN inspectors list?

At the begining of March 2003, Saddam was in open violation of 17 UN resolutions passed under CHAPTER VII rules of the United Nations as well as the 1991 Gulf War Ceacefire Agreement!

Why in the world, would anyone let a man like Saddam off the hook, or simply take his word for it that he had destroyed thousands of stocks of WMD? What type of a world are we to live in, if the leaders capable and guilty of the worst crimes in human history get a gentle pass, that the anti-war crowd wished for.

The criteria for war or peace was set back in March of 1991. Saddam had to VERIFIABLY DISARM or face renewed military action to accomplish that goal. To have had a different standard or criteria when dealing with someone like Saddam would have been irresponsible.
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Old 07-22-2004, 07:54 PM   #12
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Isn't this a version of Kiergegard's "leap of faith"? If you're not familiar with this it's a notion that is pure belief. It's a faith mindset. The weapons may literally exist or they may be an abstract notion in the believer's mind, but certainly not both.
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Old 07-22-2004, 09:44 PM   #13
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^I know the Kurds of Halabja were thinking that exact same thing in 1988. These clouds of gas coming down are simple abstract figures of my imagination that never really existed.

also found this picture of Saddam embracing the Palestinian Cause,


From LGF. (http://littlegreenfootballs.com/webl...try=9321#c0020)
Quote:
1. "How about tonight, I'll be the naughty goatherd, and you be the camel."

2. They compared notes, and were surprised to find 'Friends' Matthew Perry was on both of their "lists of five."

3. "Somewhere on my body, I have hidden a weapon of mass destruction... see if you can find it..."

4. Another indication that you've picked a really bad Bed and Breakfast...

5. "Lo-o-o-o-ve... Exciting and New... Come Aboard... We're Expecting You... The Love Jihad... Soon will be bulding another bomb..."

6. This is the scariest 'Advocate' cover ever.

7. "I get so hot when you call me 'Conan.'

8. "I always wanted to be in your masculine arms when World War III started."

9. "Always in a hurry, you NEVER want to cuddle!"

10. "Ya know, it'd be funny if some infidel got a picture of this and spread it across the internet. Wouldn't that be a dandy to explain!"
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Old 07-22-2004, 09:53 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by verte76
Isn't this a version of Kiergegard's "leap of faith"? If you're not familiar with this it's a notion that is pure belief. It's a faith mindset. The weapons may literally exist or they may be an abstract notion in the believer's mind, but certainly not both.
The weapons exist, the question is where are they and in what condition are they. It would have been totally absurd for Saddam to have destroyed the weapons and say he had destroyed the weapons, yet offer no verification or evidence of that fact, when the benefits of doing so would have been the lifting of sanctions and the enrichment of himself with as much Iraqi oil he could sell on the global market.

Regardless of the condition or location of the WMD and what Saddam did or did not do with it, the international community decided in 1991 that the verifiable disarmament of Saddam was a necessity for security, stability and peace in the region and the world.
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Old 07-23-2004, 04:07 AM   #15
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I still think removing Saddam was in the best interest for the people in Iraq and peace in the region in the long run

the reasons presented why he just HAD to be removed when we did smells like a smelly skunk who is not welcomed anymore in the skunk community because he stinks too much


granted there are no UN resolutions against The Netherlands as far as I'm aware
but if we were asked to show evidence that we have dismantled weapons of mass destruction we supposedly have according to secret information we don't know about, we would probably be in trouble
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