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Home > Special Topics > Europe Report Last Updated: 15:17 03/09/2007
Europe Report #124: February 25, 2005

Gary Hart: See Iraq Through, Japan Should Keep its Distance in Six-Party Talks

Gary Hart (Former Senator and Presidential Candidate) and J. Sean Curtin (Fellow, GLOCOM and Asia Times)

Sean Curtin: If I understand you correctly, you argue that President Bush would never have been able to sell the American people the idea of a preemptive war of liberation in Iraq. You say he was forced to justify his actions using other reasons.

Gary Hart, Former Senator and Presidential CandidateGary Hart: That's correct.

Sean Curtin: However, now US forces, and their allies, are in Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein is a fait accompli, is there any other choice but to pursue the strategy that the Bush administration is currently following of trying to create a democratic Iraq or is there another alternative?

Gary Hart: The foreign policy realist school represented by the fact that we are there, and by people like you and me, thinks we have to see it through.

I know there is a school of thought that says, "declare victory and leave." I do not think it is going to happen, but there will be a tipping point. I know from a European perspective that you think that Bush can do what ever he wants to, but that is not the case.

Just go back and look at the Vietnam War in about '68/69, the Tet Offensive.* When more than half of Americans say they have had enough, and that is usually some mother who has just learnt that her son has been killed, then the people take to the streets. It takes a long time as we saw in Vietnam, but that is the beginning of the end.

A President can say that we are going to be in Iraq for the next 25 years, but if the American people say no, then we are not going to be there for the next 25 years. That is what President Bush has got to deal with.

I think we have got to get the international community in there and the President has finally come around to that point of view. But if you are France or Germany, you say, "We were not onboard when this thing took off, so we not going to be onboard for the landing." It's a tough sell. That is why Condoleezza Rice was over in Europe last week.

On North Korea, Senator Hart said that he thought the hermit kingdom was the greatest threat to world peace, much more serious than anything prewar Iraq had posed.

Gary Hart: Unlike the Iraqis, the North Koreans have a million men under arms. They don't have much to do there. They are what, some 36 miles from Seoul, have an unbelievable number of artillery pieces that can reach Seoul and that can reach the city or get very near. They have probably tunneled under most of South Korea now and for all I know they can get to the tip of the peninsula by now. We do know that there are massive tunnel networks. They can put their armies in those and pop up all over the place. The situation is not an easy one.

This is why I think that the doctrine of preemption has its limits. Not only because you exhaust your army in one preemptive war and therefore it is not available for three more, but also not all circumstances are alike. All nations' armies are not going to be directly in the line of the American army. Some nations, including North Korea have other options, including moving south on mass.

Now, I do not think that the United States of America is prepared to put ten army divisions back into South Korea, and roll six carrier battle-groups and all the rest of the equipment to Korea. By the time we got there, even with the better sea and airlift capabilities that we have now compared with ten years ago, by the time we got them there, the war could well be over.

If the North Koreans chose to use the [nuclear] weapons they now claim they have, it would be a nightmare. So, I think the President and the people around him are now beginning to meet reality.

I have always felt, and feel even more strongly now, that the Chinese are the key to solving this problem. We have heard form the Chinese in the last 48 hours in rather harsh tones after the North Korean declaration [that they have nuclear weapons capability] saying that this is not the right thing for North Korea to do. If I were making foreign policy or were to send a memorandum to the President it would say, "Get the Chinese involved in this big time followed by the Russians second, and the Japanese in a distant third place."

The Japanese and the Koreans do not all get along very well, they haven't for a long long time. For this reason, I would keep the Japanese more in the background. Definitely get the Chinese and the Russians involved in the process as they have a stake in its outcome. North Korean missiles can certainly reach every Asian capital. The [Taep'o] dong II [TD2]** can get two-thirds of the way across the Pacific and if they add another stage to it, and extend its range, it could reach Seattle. So, the US has a concern, we have to do something about it, but it is clearly going to have to be diplomatic and not military.

On the numbers of those killed and injured in Iraq, Senator Hart made the following remarks.

Gary Hart: Casualty, as defined in the Oxford Dictionary, is killed, maimed or injured in war. So, American casualties are listed as 1500, but are close to 25,000. That figure includes 10 or 12 thousand non-combat casualties of whom it is estimated 1000 to 1500 have been sent home because of psychological and psychiatric disorders from having killed civilians or witnessed their deaths.

The Senator expressed deep sorrow over the brutal assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who he considered a personal friend.

Gary Hart: Rafik Hariri was a great man, I had the great honor of getting to know him.

* The Tet Offensive was a series of battles and suicide attacks in the Vietnam War. It was a major offensive by the North Vietnamese Army and the National Liberation Front coinciding with the traditional Vietnamese New Year celebrations (29 to 31 January).It involved military action in most of the major cities in southern Vietnam and attacks on the US firebase at Khe Sanh.

** The Taep'o-dong-2 (TD-2) is said to be a two or three stage missile with a range estimated at approximately 3,650 to 3,750 km with a 700 to 1,000 kg payload. Other sources give the TD-2/NKSL-X-2 a range of 4,000 to 4,300 km. North Korea has given various names to the Taep'o-dong missile, such as No-dong-3, Hwasong (Mars)-2 and Moksong (Jupiter)-2.

Profile: Senator Gary Hart

Represented the State of Colorado in the US Senate, 1975-87; candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for President, 1984 and 1988. In 1984, he was the runner-up candidate for the Democratic Party's nomination for president. As a senator, Hart established a reputation as a political reformer. He founded the Military Reform Caucus in the Congress, a bipartisan effort that contributed substantially to contemporary defence policy.

Hart's mastery of security issues and grasp of foreign policy led him to make multiple and tragically unheeded predictions, one as late as September 5, 2001, that America would be attacked by terrorists using weapons of mass destruction.

Hart was a key foreign policy adviser to the Kerry campaign in the 2004 presidential election. His latest book "The Fourth Power. A Grand Strategy For the United States in the Twenty-First Century " was published last year by OUP. In it, he argues that today, even as America asserts itself globally, it lacks a grand strategy to replace "containment of communism" and offers a new foreign policy orientation for the 21st century.

Most recently, Hart co-chaired both the U.S. Commission on National Security/ 21st Century, which issued three public reports forecasting the age of terrorism and outlined a new, post-Cold War national security policy, as well as the Council on Foreign Relations task force on homeland security, which recently released its report "America? Still Unprepared, Still in Danger".

During 1970-1972, Hart managed Senator George McGovern's campaign for the presidency. He has also served as an appellate attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice, a special assistant at the U.S. Department of the Interior, and senior counsel to one of America's oldest international law firms, Coudert Brothers, where he helped pioneer the development of joint business ventures in Russia and in Central Europe.

Hart is the author of more than a dozen books, including three novels (one co-authored with former Secretary of Defense William Cohen). In 2001, he earned a doctor of philosophy degree from Oxford University. His thesis, "Thomas Jefferson's Ideal of the Republic in 21st Century America," culminated a decade-long exploration of the idea of restoring the republican ideals of civic virtue and citizen duty.

A native of Kansas, Hart has spent his adult life in Colorado with his wife of forty-four years, Lee. They have two children; Andrea Hart, a policy analyst, and John Hart, a lawyer and financial analyst; and one granddaughter, Tatum. Hart holds law and divinity degrees from Yale University and completed his undergraduate studies, with emphasis in theology and philosophy, at Southern Nazarene University.

The above comments were made at Chatham House (Royal Institute for International Affairs) in London on 15 February 2005

Copyright 2005 Asia Times Online Ltd. A few sections from this article have appeared in Asia Times Online, http://www.atimes.com, and those parts are republished with permission.

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