Interview with Richard Perle, Chairman of the U. S. Defense Policy Board

PBS, October, 2001


PBS: The secretary of state's policies seem to be, to some extent, based on the fact that you need the coalition, and the coalition is endangered if one, for instance, goes after Iraq. What is correct or wrong about that belief?


Perle: First of all, I have serious doubts about the extent to which we need a coalition. I don't know what this coalition is, who's in it, who's out of it, where you get your membership card. Can you be expelled if you're not doing certain minimum things? Are the Saudis in it? Are they out of it? The Syrians support terror -- are they in, are they out? It's a very vague concept, and an insubstantial one.


Under the best of circumstances, a coalition is a means to an end. If we confuse means and ends and the coalition becomes an end in itself, then we won't win the war on terror, because a broad coalition is not dedicated to winning the war on terror.


PBS: So why does Colin Powell believe this?


Perle: I think Colin Powell is simply wrong about this, just as I think he was wrong about the end of the Gulf War. He was in favor of leaving Saddam standing, and we now know that that was a very costly mistake. Tens of thousands of people have died since, and Americans are exposed to an unprecedented danger. I think he's wrong now in believing that the coalition is more important than effectively going after those states that sponsor terrorism. If the coalition is going to protect a terrorist state like Saddam, then to hell with the coalition.


Some will say that a coalition is necessary for intelligence reasons, for financial closing down of systems. ...


All of these claims about the benefits of coalition are subject to detailed analysis. Are we getting intelligence that we can rely on that we would not get if it were our policy to go after Iraq? I haven't seen anyone demonstrate that any country is giving us valuable intelligence that would be withheld if it were our policy to replace Saddam Hussein. Indeed, some of the intelligence that we're getting is coming from countries who would be delighted if we went after Saddam Hussein.


The Unilateralist

A conversation with Paul Wolfowitz, U. S. Deputy Secretary of Defense

by James Fallows

The Atlantic, March 2002


 As for [Wolfowitz’] impatience with procedure, around the world the Bush foreign-policy team is criticized as "unilateralist"—a group that scoffs at alliances and international organizations and doesn't take treaties seriously. To people who share Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld's views, these criticisms reflect a confusion of ends and means. If arms-control talks simply continue the arms race, these people think, then it's time to step away from the table. As long as the United Nations or NATO goes in the general direction the United States thinks wise, we should act through those alliances. But humoring allies counts for little in itself, and negotiating for its own sake has no appeal...

... I did manage to ask whether Wolfowitz, who a year before taking office had written in Commentary that a new round of "great-power conflict" would be the main threat to future peace, thought this was still true. He said he did.


A century ago, he said, the international problem was the appearance of new great powers—mainly Germany and Japan—whose appetites and grievances the existing world order could not accommodate. Now another crop of new powers was appearing.


"China is the most obvious one," he said. "In East Asia in general you have this stunning growth in economic power, which means ultimately, potentially, military power. A unified Korea is itself the size of a major European power. Only in Asia does Vietnam look like a small country—its army is tough and big. And then you've got the Indians ... It's a question of how to achieve balance of power in East Asia, among these growing powers, without going through the experience Europe went through to get there, because that's a little too costly."


Russia, the familiar "great power," would not be part of the new problem—"not at all, no," he said. "During the Cold War we were trying, with the opening to China, to help a weak China deal with a threat from a very powerful Soviet Union. I think in the future we may be trying to figure out how to help a weak Russia deal with an increasingly powerful China. I think we really are in a new era in U.S.-Russian relations. It will go through bumps and starts, and it's not a new era in the sense that suddenly they love us and we love them. But our interests coincide in so many ways that they didn't before." With that he was back to the current war.