World War IV
A speech by the Honorable James R. Woolsey
former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
November 16, 2002
I was really quite honored when David asked me a few months ago to be with you this weekend. But, to tell you the truth, in the 34 years I've been in Washington until I went straight this last summer and joined Booz Allen Hamilton as a vice president, I spent the bulk of that time, 22 years, as: A. a lawyer; and B. in Washington D.C.; and, then, I C. spent some time out at the CIA in D. the Clinton Administration. So I'm actually pretty well honored to be invited into any polite company for any purposes whatsoever.
I have adopted Eliot Cohen's formulation, distinguished professor at Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies, that we are in World War IV, World War III having been the Cold War. And I think Eliot's formulation fits the circumstances really better than describing this as a war on terrorism.
Let me say a few words about who our enemy is in this World War IV, why they're at war with us and (now) we with them, and how we have to think about fighting it both at home and abroad.
First of all, who are they? Well, there are at least three, but I would say principally three movements, of a sort, all coming out of the Middle East. And the interesting thing is that they've been at war with us for years. The Islamist Shia, the ruling circles, the ruling Clerics, the Mullahs of Iran, minority -- definite minority of the Iranian Shiite Clerics, but those who constitute the ruling force in Iran and sponsor and back Hezbollah, have been at war with us for nearly a quarter of a century. They seized our hostages in 1979 in Tehran. They blew up our embassy and our marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. They've conducted a wide range of terrorist acts against the United States for something now close to a quarter of a century.
The second group is the fascists and I don't use that as an expletive -- the Baathist parties of Iraq and really Syria as well, are essentially fascist parties or modeled after the fascist parties of the '30s. They're totalitarian, they're anti-Semitic, they're fascist.
The Baathists in Iraq have been at war with us for over a decade. For Saddam, the Gulf War never stopped. He says it never stopped. He behaves as if it never stopped. He tried to assassinate former President Bush in 1993 in Kuwait. He has various ties, not amounting to direction and control, but various associations with different terrorist groups over the years, including al-Qaeda. He shoots at our aircraft, again yesterday, over the no-fly zones. He's still at war. He signed a cease fire, which he's not observing, and so it's even clearer that he is at war. And he has been so for at least 11 years. The third group, and the one that caused us finally to notice, is the Islamist Sunni. And this is the most, in some ways, I think virulent and long-term portion of these three groupings that are at war with us, and will be at war, I think, for a long time. The Wahhabi movement, the religious movement in Saudi Arabia dating back to the 18th century and with roots even well before that, was joined in the '50s and '60s by immigration into Saudi Arabia by Islamists, or a more modern strife of essentially the same ideology, many of them coming from Egypt. And the very fundamentalist -- Islamist I think is the best formulation -- groups of this sort, more or less focused on what they call the near enemy. Say the barbaric regime in Egypt, and to some extent, the Saudi royal family -- the attacks in 1979 on the great mosques in Mecca. They were focusing on what they called the "near enemy" until sometime in the mid 1990's. Around 1994, they decided to turn and focus their concentration and effort on what they call the Crusaders and Jews, mainly us. And they have been at war with us since at least about 1994, give or take a year or so, in number of well-noted terrorists incidents, including the Cole and the cast African embassy bombings and, of course, September 11th.
What is different after September 11th is not that these three groups came to be at war with us. They've been at war with us for some time. It's that we finally, finally may have noticed and have decided at least, in part, that we are at war with them. If these are the three groupings -- and by the way, I think of these more or less as analogous to three mafia families. They do hate each other and they do kill each other from time to time. But, they hate us a great deal more and they're perfectly willing and perfectly capable to assist one another in one way or another, including Iraq and al-Qaeda.
If that's whom we're at war with, why? Why did they decide to come after us? I think there are two basic reasons. The first, and the underlying one, was best expressed to me last January by a D.C. cab driver. Now, I resolutely refuse --- since I'm not ever in elective politics, I can afford to do this -- I refuse to read any articles about public opinion polls. And with the time I save, I talk to D.C. cab drivers. It is both more enjoyable and I think in many ways, a much better finger on the pulse of the nation. And I got into a cab last January, the day after former President Clinton gave a speech at Georgetown University, in which he implied -- he didn't exactly say, but pretty well implied -- that the reason we were attacked on September 11th, was because America's conduct of slavery and the treatment of the American Indian historically. And as I got into the cab, I saw that the cab driver was one of my favorite varieties of D.C. cab drivers, an older, Black American long-term resident of D.C., a guy about my age. And the Washington Times article was open in the front seat to that story of the President's speech.
So as I got in, I said to the cab driver, "I see your paper in the front there. Did you read that piece about President Clinton's speech yesterday?" He said, "Oh, yeah." I said, "What did you think about it?" He said, "These people don't hate us for what we've done wrong. They hate us for what we do right."
You can't do better than that. We're hated because of freedom of speech, because of freedom of religion, because of our economic freedom, because of our equal -- or at least almost equal treatment of women -- because of all the good things that we do. This is like the war against Nazism. We are hated because of what the best of what we are. But even if hated, why attacked? Well, I would suggest that we have for much of the last quarter of the century -- not all, but much -- have been essentially hanging a "Kick Me" sign on our back in the Middle East. We have given some evidence of being what bin Laden has actually called a paper tiger.
My friend, Tom Moore, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and maybe known to some of you here, was a young officer at the end of World War II and participated in the interrogations of Prince Konoe and several of the Japanese leaders of the handful who were eventually hanged. And the team he was with asked all of them, "Why did you do it. Why did you attack us at Pearl Harbor?" He said, they all said pretty much the same thing. They said, "We looked at what you were doing in the '20s and '30s. You were disarming. You wouldn't fortify Wake Island. You wouldn't fortify Guam. Your army had to drill with wooden rifles [because of the opposition to rearmament-ED]. We had no idea that this rich spoiled, feckless country would do what you did after December 7 of 1941. You stunned us."
Flash forward three quarters of a century. I think we gave a lot of evidence to Saddam and to the Islamist Shia in Tehran and Hezbollah and to the Islamist Sunni that we were for a long time, essentially, a rich, spoiled feckless country that wouldn't fight.
In 1979, they took our hostages and we tied yellow ribbons around trees and launched an ineffective effort, crashing helicopters in the desert to rescue them.
In 1983, they blew up our embassy and our marine barracks in Beirut. What did we do? We left. Throughout much of the 1980's, various terrorist acts were committed against us. We would occasionally arrest a few small fry, with one honorable exception -- President Reagan's strike against Tripoli. But generally speaking, we litigated instead of doing much else with the terrorist acts of the '80s.
In 1991, President Bush organized a magnificent coalition against the seizure of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein. We fought the war superbly -- and then stopped it while the Republican guard was intact. And after having encouraged the Kurds and the Shiia to rebel against Saddam, we stood back, left the bridges intact, left their units intact, let them fly helicopters around carrying troops and missiles, and we watched the Kurds and Shiia who were winning in 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces, to be massacred. And the world looked at us and said, well, we know what the Americans value. They save their oil in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and after that, they didn't care.
And then in 1993, Saddam tries to assassinate former President Bush in Kuwait with a bomb, and President Clinton fires a couple of dozen cruise missiles into an empty building in the middle of the night in Baghdad, thereby retaliating quite effectively against Iraqi cleaning women and night watchmen, but not especially effectively against Saddam Hussein.
In 1993, our helicopters were shot down in Mogadishu and as in Beirut in ten years earlier, we left. And throughout the rest of the '90s, we continued our practice of the '80s. Instead of sending military force, we usually sent prosecutors and litigators. We litigate well in the United States. And we would occasionally catch some small-fry terrorists in the United States or elsewhere, and prosecute them. And once in a while, lob a few bombs or cruise missiles from afar. And that was it until after September 11th.
So I would suggest that our response after September 11th in Afghanistan, like our response against the Japanese after Pearl Harbor, was something that was quite surprising to our enemies in the Middle East who attacked us. I think they were quite surprised at what we did in Afghanistan. But, you have to admit, like the Japanese at the beginning of the '40s, the Islamists, both Shia and Sunni and the fascist Baathists in the Middle East at the beginning of the 21st Century, had some rationale and some evidence for believing this rich, spoiled, feckless country would not fight.
If that's why we're at war, how must we fight it at home and abroad? At home the war is going to be difficult in two ways. One is that the infrastructure which serves this wonderful country is the most technologically sophisticated infrastructure the world has ever seen. We are a society of dozens -- hundreds of networks. Food processing and delivery, the internet, financial transfers, oil and gas pipelines, on and on and on.
None of these was put together with a single thought being given to being resilient against terrorism. All are open, relatively easy access. Their vulnerable and dangerous points are highlighted. Transformer here, hazardous chemicals here, cable crossing here because we need to do maintenance. We haven't had to worry about domestic violence against our civilian infrastructure, with the exception of Sherman burning some plantations on his march to the sea, since the British burned Washington in 1814.
So virtually all of our infrastructure has been put together with this sense of openness and ease of access and resilience -- some resilience -- against random failures. But random failures is not what we saw September 11th and a year ago, and I'm afraid not what we will see in the future.
About seven years ago, one of our communication satellites' computer chip failed. The satellite lost its altitude control and immediately 90 percent of the pagers in the country went down. The next day, they were back up again because somebody had figured out how to reroute them to a different satellite. That's the kind of thing we do all the time. That's not what happened a year ago September 11th.
In the preparations for September 11th that were taking place sometime in the late 1990's or 2000, a group of very sharp and very evil men sat down and said to themselves, something like this. Let's see. The foolish Americans when they do baggage searches at airports ignore short knives like box cutters. And short knives can slit throats just as easily as long knives.
Second, if you can believe it, they conduct themselves with respect to airplane hijackings as if all hijackings are going to go to Cuba and they're just going to have to sit on the ground for a few hours. So they tell their air crews and everyone to be very polite to hijackers. This is also good.
And third, even though twice a year going back many years, there have been crazy people who get into the cockpits of their civilian airliners and people write in to the FAA and say, you ought to do something about this, they continue to have flimsy cockpit doors on their airliners. Let's see. Short knives, polite to hijackers, friendly cockpit doors. We can take over airliners, fly them into buildings, and kill thousands of them. That is not a random failure. That is a planned use of part of our infrastructure to kill Americans. It's going for the jugular, going for the weak point.
Einstein used to say, "God may be sophisticated, but he's not plain mean." And what I think Einstein meant by that is, since for him nature and God were pretty much the same thing, if you're playing against nature and trying to say, discover a new principle of physics, it's a sophisticated problem. It's going to be very tough. But there's nobody over there trying to outwit you and make it harder. In war and terrorism, there is. There is someone who is trying to do that. And we have not given a single thought to how to manage our infrastructure for the possibility of an attack on our own soil, something we have not had to deal with for 200 years -- since 1814 -- when the British burned the White House.
We have just-in-time delivery to hold down operational costs until somebody puts a dirty bomb in one of the 50,000 containers that crosses U.S. borders every day and people decide they have to start inspecting virtually all of the containers at ports and all that just-in-time manufacturing is stopped after four or five days.
Full hospitals. Great idea. Keep hospital costs down. Health care costs down. Move people through hospitals rapidly. All hospitals 99 percent occupancy, et cetera. Wonderful idea, until there's a bioterrorist attack and then thousands or hundreds of thousands or millions of Americans need some sort of special healthcare.
All of these networks have their weak points and many of them have incentives in them to -- not for this purpose of course -- but essentially to be vulnerable to terrorism. We are not only going to have to go through our infrastructure -- and this is what I'm spending a lot of my time working on now -- we are not only going to have to go through our infrastructure and find the functional equivalent of the flimsy cockpit doors and get them fixed. Then, we are also going to have to pull together and take a look at things like our electricity grids, our oil and gas pipelines, our container ports and the rest and figure out ways to change the incentives so that they build in resilience and do it in such a way that it's compatible with economic freedom in a market economy. We don't want some bureaucrat up there ordering people to do this and this and this. But, we have to get some resilience, some promotion of resilience into the incentives -- tax or otherwise -- for the way our infrastructure's managed. That's only one of the two hard jobs we've got.
The other one, in some ways may be even harder. We have to do two things simultaneously here -- nobody told us it was going to be easy. We have to fight successfully in the United States against terrorist cells and organizations that support terrorism and we have to deal with the extremely difficult fact that some of these are, at least, superficially religiously rooted in one aspect anyway of Islam. We have to understand that the vast majority of American Muslims are certainly not terrorists and are not sympathetic to them. But that there are institutions and individuals and there are institutions and individuals with a lot of money that are effectively part of the infrastructure that encourages and supports the hatred of the West of capitalism and of us that is manifested in terrorism.
We also have to remember who we are. We are creatures of Madison's Constitution and his Bill of Rights and we have to step by step, intervention by intervention, remember both that we are Americans and under a Constitution, and that we are at war and some part of that war is here and now.
Those are very hard choices. One by one. My personal judgment is that none of the decisions so far made by the Administration goes beyond what is a reasonable line of taking strong action domestically against terrorism because the Supreme Court has historically been extremely tolerant of the Executive, but especially Executive and Congress moving together in times of crisis and war.
In the Civil War, Lincoln suspended habeas corpus even. In World War II, of course, we had the Japanese-Americans even put in the relocation camps in the western part of the country.
In World War I, there was some very draconian legislation also upheld by the Supreme Court. And nothing that has been done so far by the Administration, of course, even remotely approaches any of those. But we do have to be alert. We do not want in the mid-21st century people looking back on us having made some of the kinds of decisions that, for example, were made to incarcerate the Nisei, the Japanese-Americans in World War II and saying, how in the world could those people have done that?
But this country can do some ugly things when it gets scared. And one thing to remember about the incarceration of the Japanese-Americans in World War II is that the three individuals most responsible were Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the then Attorney General running for governor of the State of California, Earl Warren, and the man who wrote the Korematsu decision which upheld the constitutionality of the acts, Hugo Black. Roosevelt, Warren, and Black, of course, were not famous for setting up concentration camps. They were names from the liberal side of the American political spectrum. But even people who say they have those values can do some ugly things if they are scared and they believe the country is scared.
What we have to do is manage this domestic war in such a way as to move decisively and effectively against terrorist cells and those who support them and at the same time, make sure that we don't slip into extraordinarily ugly, anti-constitutional steps. This is not easy. But nobody promised us a rose garden. And it will in some ways, I think, be one of the hardest aspects of the war.
Let me conclude by saying a few words about how I think we have to fight this abroad.
These three movements, I think, require somewhat different tactics. In some ways, the most interesting situation right now exists with the Islamist Shia, the ruling circles of Iran. Because the small minority of Iranian Shiite mullahs who constitute the ruling circles of Iran, are effectively in the same position that the inhabitants of the Kremlin were in 1988 or the inhabitants of Versailles in 1788, mainly the storm isn't quite overhead yet, but if they look at the horizon, they can see it gathering.
They have lost the students. They have lost the women. They have lost the brave newspaper editors and professors who are in prison, some under sentence of death and being tortured. They are one by one losing the grand Ayatollahs. Ayatollah Montazeri, a very brave man, issuing fatwas against suicide killings has been under house arrest for five years. Early this past summer, Ayatollah Taheri, who was a very, very hard line supporter of the mullahs in the City of Esfahan, issued a blast against them saying that what they were doing, supporting tortures, supporting terrorism, was fundamentally at odds with the tenants of Islam, more student demonstrations and indeed, the Iranians are having enough trouble keeping the students down using Iranian muscle, using thugs, they are starting to have to begin to import Syrians, who don't speak Farsi, in order to be able to suppress their student demonstrations.
Keep your eye on Tehran. I can't claim that it's going to change soon. The mullahs have a great deal of power. They have oil money and the military force and the rest. But, there are, I think, some tectonic shifts below the surface there. With respect to our own conduct, I think the President did exactly the right thing in the early part of the summer, when after the student demonstration surrounding Taheri's blast, he issued a statement basically saying that the United States was on the side of the students not the mullahs. And it drove the mullahs absolutely crazy and I think that's evidence of the shrewdness of the President's move.
The fascists, the Baathists in Iraq are, of course, at the front of everybody's concern. I think that it is good that we were able to get a unanimous resolution through the Security Council. But the fact that it was unanimous, should tell us, that even the Syrians could vote for it should tell us that it was watered down in some important ways from the initial submission. One can argue now that the resolution requires the United States to go through Hans Blix in order to find a violation of the Security Council resolution, whether it's in the declaration, which Saddam owes on December 8, or a resistance by the Iraqis of inspections.
Hans Blix, to put it as gently as a I can, does not have a stellar background of inquisitiveness or decisiveness. When in early 2000, the current U.N. inspection regime was being set up, the first head of the inspection regime was actually proposed, who would have been fine. The French and Russians and Chinese carrying Iraq's water objected to him and Kofi Annan found the one U.N. bureaucrat who would be acceptable to Saddam Hussein, namely Hans Blix. People can change. We can hope that Hans Blix does not continue as the Inspector Clouseau of international investigations. I hope he does not. Let's see.
But, if he does, the President under this resolution will have some tough choices to make and perhaps, as soon as December 8, as to whether the United States will on its own, declare what will certainly be a lie: Saddam's declaration that he has no weapons of mass destruction programs. Whether the United States will decide that that is a violation of the U.N. resolution and we will then take action. I must admit, I hope that happens because I don't believe there is any way to solve this problem of Iraq without removing Saddam forcefully. I wish it were otherwise, but I see no way around it.
As time goes on, if this winter passes -- and winter is when you want to fight in this region because our troops will have to wear heavy protective gear against chemical weapons -- if this winter passes it will be another year before we can move again and he will then be even closer to having nuclear weapons and will have even more sophisticated delivery means for the chemical and bacteriological weapons than he already has. It is a shame. It is unfortunate. But, it is the dilemma that is presented to us and particularly, to the President, here beginning around December 8. And I believe that he deserves, whatever he decides, all the support any of us can give him.
The third group, the Islamist Sunni, are al-Qaeda, are in many ways, going to be the hardest to deal with because they are fueled by oil money from the Gulf, Saudi Arabia principally. They are wealthy in and of themselves. They're present in some 60 countries and they are fanatically like the Wahhabis, who are their first cousins. They are fanatically anti-Western, anti-modern, anti-Christian, anti-Jewish.
If you want to get a feel for the infrastructure, the intellectual infrastructure -- if you can call it that of their thinking -- there are websites where one can go to pull in what the sermons are on any given Friday throughout Saudi Arabia. I looked at one such set of sermons two or three weeks ago before some discussions we were having the defense policy board. And the three main themes that week were that all Jews are pigs and monkeys. The second major theme was that all Christians and Jews are the enemy and it is our obligation to hate them and destroy them. And the third was that women in the United States routinely commit incest with their fathers and brothers and it is a common and accepted thing in the United States.
This is not extraordinary. This is the routine Wahhabi view. One Wahhabi cleric was interviewed by a Washington Post reporter a few weeks ago in Saudi Arabia. The Post reporter asked him, "Tell me. I'm a Christian. Do you hate me?" And the Wahhabi Cleric said, "Well, of course, if you're a Christian, I hate you. But, I'm not going to kill you." This is the moderate view. And we need to realize that just as angry German nationalism of the 1920's and 1930's was the soil in which Nazism grew, not all German nationalists became Nazis, but that was the soil in which it grew. So the angry form of Islamism and Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia today is the soil in which anti-Western and anti-American terrorism grows.
This is going to be a long war, very long indeed. I hope not as long as the Cold War, 40 plus years, but certainly longer than either World War I or World War II. I rather imagine it's going to be measured, I'm afraid, in decades.
Is there any answer? Is there any potential end to this? Now, what I'm about to say is going to sound rather idealistic, but I think it's the only thing that we can do.
If you look at the world 85 years ago in the spring of 1917, when this country entered World War I, there were about 10 or 12 democracies in the world. The United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, France, Switzerland, a couple of countries in Northern Europe. It was a world of empires, of kingdoms, of colonies, and of various types of authoritarian regimes through the world. Today, Freedom House, which I think does the best work on this sort of thing, says that there are 120 out of 192 countries in the world that are democracies. The world is about evenly divided between what Freedom House calls free, such as the United States; and what it calls partly free, such as Russia.
But there are still 120 countries with some parliamentary contested elections and some beginnings, at least, of the rule of law. That is an amazing change in the lifetime of many individuals now living -- from a 10 or 12 to 120 democracies in the world. Nothing like that has ever happened in world history.
Needless to say, we have had something to do with this, both in winning World War I -- helping win World War I -- in prevailing, along with Britain, in World War II; and eventually, in prevailing in the Cold War. And along the way, a lot of people said very cynically at different times -- fill in the blanks -- The Germans will never be able to run a democracy; the Japanese will never be able to run a democracy; the Russians will never be able to run a democracy; nobody with a Chinese Confucian background is going to be able to run a democracy. It took some help, but the Germans and the Japanese and now, even the Russians, and Taiwanese seem to have figured it out. In spite of vast cultural differences, very different from the Anglo Saxon world of parliament that Westminister and the early United States a lot of people seemed to have figured it out.
In the Muslim world, outside the 22 Arab states, which have no democracies, some reasonably well-governed states that are moderating and changing, such as Bahrein extent and others. Of the 24 Muslim-predominant non-Arab states, about half are democracies. They include some of the poorest countries in the world. Bangladesh, Mali - Mali is almost an ideal democracy. Nearly 200 million Muslims live in a democracy in India. Outside one province, they are generally at peace with their Hindu neighbors. There is a special problem in the Middle East for historical and cultural reasons. Outside of Israel and Turkey, the Middle East essentially consists of no democracies. It has, rather, two types of governments -- pathological predators and vulnerable autocrats. This is not a good mix. Five of those states: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan and Libya sponsor and assist terrorism in one way or another; all five of those are working on weapons of mass destruction of one type or another. The Mideast presents a serious and massive problem of pathological predators next to vulnerable autocracies.
I don't believe this terror war is ever really going to go away until we change the face of the Middle East. Now, that is a tall order. But, it's not as tall an order as what we have already done. In 1917, Europe was largely monarchies, empires, and autocracies. Today, outside Belarus and Ukraine, it is largely democratic, even including Russia.
These changes that have taken place over the course of the last 85 years are a remarkable achievement. The ones that still have to be undertaken in a part of the world that has historically not had democracy, which has reacted angrily against intrusions from the outside, particularly the Arab Middle East, presents a huge challenge.
But, I would say this. Both to the terrorists and to the pathological predators such as Saddam Hussein and to the autocrats as well, the barbarics, the Saudi royal family. They have to realize that now for the fourth time in 100 years, we've been awakened and this country is on the march. We didn't choose this fight, but we're in it. And being on the march, there's only one way we're going to be able to win it. It's the way we won World War I fighting for Wilson's 14 points. The way we won World War II fighting for Churchill's and Roosevelt's Atlantic Charter and the way we won World War III fighting for the noble ideas I think best expressed by President Reagan, but also very importantly at the beginning by President Truman, that this was not a war of us against them. It was not a war of countries. It was a war of freedom against tyranny. We have to convince the people of the Middle East that we are on their side, as we convinced Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel and Andrei Sakharov that we were on their side.
This will take time. It will be difficult. But I think we need to say to both the terrorists and the dictators and also to the autocrats who from time to time are friendly with us, that we know, we understand we are going to make you nervous.
We want you to be nervous. We want you to realize now for the fourth time in 100 years, this country is on the march and we are on the side of those whom you most fear, your own people.
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