Harold William Rood is Keck Professor of International Relations emeritus of Claremont McKenna College and a Fellow of the Claremont Institute. In addition to Kingdoms of the Blind (1980), which won a best book award from the Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge, he has published numerous articles on strategy and diplomacy (most recently "The War for Iraq: A Study in World Politics") and has served as a government consultant. He is a teaching legend among Claremont McKenna College graduates and leading scholars and government officials involved in strategy. The interview was conducted by e-mail and fax, in early March and concluded on March 17, 2003, less than 24 hours before the shooting began.
Ken Masugi: Is this appeasement of Saddam the 1930s all over again?
Harold W. Rood: The appeasement of the 1930s was on the presumption that Germany would not want to go to war and therefore would not do so if Germany's territorial requirements were reasonably addressed by the powers [viz., Great Britain and France] in order to satisfy some of them, in part as a recognition of Germany's position in Europe and its equality among the powers.
The underlying attitude and the purpose of British policy may be discerned in British diplomatic correspondence of the 1930s. Note for example Neville Henderson's letter of March 5, 1938 to Viscount Halifax, then the Foreign Minister. That correspondence, incidentally, refers to Herr Hitler's "sense of values" as "abnormal," and to the Fuehrer as an "instructive genius, a builder and not a mere demagogue."
The appeasement of Italy in Abyssinia was considered important to persuade Italy not to join with Germany a joining that would threaten both French and British strategic interests in the Mediterranean and North Africa.
The declaration of the ending of the Cold War, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Conventional Forces Agreement in Europe seemed to offer an opportunity to reduce U.S. military forces—cut the defense budget. That was a process planned for in 1989. (See, e.g., "Bush to Offer to Reduce U. S. Forces in Europe," Los Angeles Times, May 27, 1989; and "Bush Announces Sweeping N-Cuts: Tactical Arms Deployed in South Korea, Europe Are Destroyed," The Korea Herald (Seoul), September 29, 1991.)
The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait didn't interrupt the process. The VII Corps brought from Germany, which was part of U.S. forces in "Operation Desert Storm," was brought home to be disbanded after Desert Storm, and the reduction in forces was continued under the Clinton administration. The presumption that Iraq was subdued by Desert Storm was wrong—Iraq had accepted the conditions of ceasefire. But then Hitler had accepted the Munich Agreement that included his word not to attack Czechoslovakia after the Sudetanland was annexed.
No measures were put in place to discourage Hitler from taking the rest of Czechoslovakia. Only the Soviet Union had the military capability to enforce on Germany the agreement that Hitler had made with France and Britain. And it chose, in effect, to support Germany.
KM: What is the tradition in American foreign policy for pre-emptive strikes? I was wondering about America's continental expansion in the 19th century.
HWR: Pre-emption involves military operations undertaken to prevent or interfere with an adversary's taking a likely course of action harmful to the side pre-empting.
Examples: Sir Francis Drake attacked Cadiz where the Armada was being concentrated for an attack on England. Philip of Spain intended the Armada to destroy the English Fleet and hold the narrow seas in order that the Duke of Parma's army, in the Netherlands, might invade England. Drake's raid helped to delay the sailing of the Armada until the following year, 1588.
Copenhagen I: Nelson, under Hyde Parker (1801) destroyed the Danish Fleet in harbor, which was about to be employed as part of the Northern Convention against England in the Baltic.
Copenhagen II: Under Treaty of Tilsit (July 7, 1807) the Danish Fleet was to be seized by Napoleon and used to close the Baltic to the English. The British seized the Danish fleet.
Mers el Kebir and Oran: British Force H under Sir James Somerville demanded (July 3, 1940) that the French ships in port join the British, sail to North America, or scuttle themselves. The French admiral refused and the French ships were destroyed save for Strasbourg. The British intention was to prevent the French Fleet being used by the Axis, a condition of the Franco-German Armistice. It is evident that the British action was intended, aside from its immediate strategic affect in the Mediterranean and for the defense of home waters where a German invasion was expected, to reassure President Roosevelt that Britain, despite the fall of France, intended to continue the war against Germany and Italy. (see Sir Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill: Final Hour, 1939-1948, (Vol. IV in Series).
Chemulpo and Port Arthur (February 8, 1904): Attack on both ports by Japanese warships. At Port Arthur, torpedo boats entered the Harbor in the night and the following day, the Japanese Fleet finished its destruction of the Russian Fleet there. Negotiations had [been] going on until those attacks that opened the Russo-Japanese War.
Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941): A Japanese carrier task force launched an attack on the Battle Force of the Pacific Fleet and on Naval, Marine and Army Air Force installations on Oahu to prevent the Battle Force advancing to the Far East to interfere with Japanese operations against the Philippines, Malaysia, and the Netherlands East Indies. Shortly after noon on December 8 (far eastern time), within hours of the Pearl Harbor attack, raids on Nichols and Clark fields destroyed most of the B-17s and P-40s of the Far East Air Force, preventing their interference with the Japanese advance.
Arab-Israeli War (1967): After reports from Soviet sources that Iraq, Egypt and Syria were moving troops to the Israeli border—see International Defense Review, June, 1967—Israel pre-empts by destroying on the ground the air forces of those countries. In the '73 war, it is evident that the U.S. persuaded Israel not to pre-empt—thus leading to Egypt crossing the canal and, in effect, gaining the Sinai. Also, the Israeli attack on the Osiris nuclear facility in Iraq on June 7, 1981. See Strategic Survey: 1981-1982 and Le Point (Paris) September 20, 2002, p. 1.
There is no clear indication that the United States ever pre-empted an attack on its forces, but took action after the attack. But the Battle of Manila Bay seems a strategic pre-emption of Spain's plans to sell the Philippines to Germany, this after Spain had transferred the Marshalls, Carolinas and Marianas (same for Guam) to Germany.
KM: What about Grenada, as an example of pre-emption?
HWR: The U.S. sought to pre-empt work on the airport, remove a clearly pro-Soviet and pro-Cuban regime. See, for example, "Grenada," in the Statesman's Yearbook: 1986-1987. U.S. policy sought to isolate Nicaragua from its Libyan and Soviet connections (see Department of State Report of August 1986, "Libyan Activities in the Western Hemisphere").
KM: What are the relevant precedents for dealing with a post-Saddam Iraq?
HWR: The best precedent is Italy, liberated from its dictatorship, cleared of the Germans and reconstructed by the Italians after the war.
KM: What accounts for the disparate treatment given North Korea and Iraq? To what extent are they in cahoots? How would you confront North Korea, given the preoccupation with Iraq? Might there be a brutal way of dealing with North Korea that would actually help us with Iraq?
HWR: Iraq and North Korea are client states of Moscow and China—see Iraq's order of battle in The Military Balance (2001-2002) that includes Chinese Type 59 tanks, C-60 missiles, and Chinese F-7 fighters. North Korea is entirely equipped chiefly by the former USSR, but also by the PRC.
Beijing's plans to encircle the West were made plain as early as September, 1965. (See "Peking's Plan to 'Encircle' the West," San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 3, 1965; reprinting a New York Times story.) In Maoist theory the "cities of the world" (or the West) could be encircled by the remaining rural areas or the countryside. In this connection, Kim Il Sung's father's visit to Daniel Ortega's Nicaragua in March of 1983 should not be forgotten.
The difference between Iraq and North Korea is that Iraq is remote from Moscow and Beijing, although Russian advisers are still in Iraq. Consider television news reports of February 28, 2003, in which we see dependents of Russian advisers being evacuated from Iraq.
North Korea has common border with Russia and the People's Republic of China. Remember that North Korea pre-empted (well, attacked without warning in June 1950) after having been armed and equipped by the Soviet Union.
Since the first Bush Administration reduced U.S. Armed Forces and the reductions were maintained by the Clinton Administration, U.S. Armed Forces cannot build-up forces against Iraq and do anything similar against North Korea. And as the first Bush Administration withdrew all tactical and battlefield nuclear weapons from our forces, there aren't any in Korea. And both China and Russia have naval forces in the waters off Korea and Air Forces within easy reach of Korea and Japan, and both have strategic and intermediate range nuclear weapons.
For example, the U.S. Pacific Fleet has 27 submarines from the Pacific coast to Japan, China has 67, Russia has 10 in its Far Eastern Fleet and another 27 on call. North Korea has 26, of which 22 were supplied by the PRC.
Dealing directly and ruthlessly with Iraq might influence North Korea—but North Korea is protected by Moscow and Beijing. It will follow its betters in defying the U.S. Better start arming Japan, provide it with an air and missile defense and the same for South Korea. It's going to be a long war.
KM: If an American President or Secretary of State were to address Europeans in order to instruct them about their failings, what would the message be? What do some of the Europeans fear?
HWR: The West European powers get their oil and natural gas chiefly along those Russian pipelines from Siberia and so forth—remember when Reagan took exception to European help for their construction; or from Libya and the Middle East, or from Venezuela now in the hands of the left. The President and Secretary of State might encourage France, Italy, and Germany to seize Libya and strengthen their support for Turkey. Otherwise, give us a free hand in Iraq and thus reassure Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Oman, etc. that the West can win in the Middle East. But France and Germany are in the hands of the socialists, for now, and the fact is Russia is the strongest military power in Europe. So that those powers, France and Germany, will do little of importance without looking over their shoulders to the East in case Russian moderation is merely a cover for Moscow's policy toward Western Europe. Decisive action by the United States gives Europe some hope.