Scowcroft is a protégé of Henry Kissinger—he was his deputy when Kissinger was Richard Nixon’s national-security adviser. Like Kissinger, he is a purveyor of a “realist” approach to foreign policy: the idea that America should be guided by strategic self-interest, and that moral considerations are secondary at best. […]
The war began on January 16, 1991. An air campaign that lasted five weeks greatly weakened Iraq’s military capabilities. On February 24th, General Schwarzkopf, the commander of American and allied forces, unleashed a ground attack that quickly turned into a rout; the Iraqi Army collapsed, and its soldiers fled Kuwait on foot. The road to Baghdad was clear, but, on Bush’s instruction, the Americans did not take it. Although Bush had publicly compared Saddam to Hitler, the goal was never to liberate Iraq from his rule. “Our military didn’t want any part of occupying that big Arab country, and the only way to get Saddam was to go all the way to Baghdad,” James Baker told me recently.
Afterward, Bush was criticized for the decision to end the ground war at its hundredth hour. Even some officials of the Administration were unhappy at what they saw as a premature end to the fighting. In “Rise of the Vulcans,” James Mann recounts that Paul Wolfowitz and I. Lewis Libby, who were then aides to Cheney, believed that a coup d’état might have occurred had the Bush Administration waited to announce that the war was over.
At the time, though, no one close to Bush expressed doubts about the ending of the war, much less about its strategic goal. “For a bunch of years, a lot of people who should know better have said that we had an alternative,” Powell told me. “We didn’t. The simple reason is we were operating under a U.N. mandate that did not provide for any such thing. We put together a strong coalition of Gulf states, and Egypt and Syria, and they signed up for a very specific issue—expelling Iraq from Kuwait. Nor did President Bush ever consider it.”
A principal reason that the Bush Administration gave no thought to unseating Saddam was that Brent Scowcroft gave no thought to it. […]
Rice’s conversion to the world view of George W. Bush is still a mystery, however. Privately, many of her ex-colleagues from the first President Bush’s National Security Council say that it is rooted in her Christian faith, which leads her to see the world in moralistic terms, much as the President does. Although she was tutored by a national-security adviser, Scowcroft, who thought it intemperate of Ronald Reagan to call the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” she now works comfortably for a President who speaks in terms of “evildoers” and the “axis of evil.”
Rice’s split with her former National Security Council colleagues was made evident at a dinner in early September of 2002, at 1789, a Georgetown restaurant. Scowcroft, Rice, and several people from the first Bush Administration were there. The conversation, turning to the current Administration’s impending plans for Iraq, became heated. Finally, Rice said, irritably, “The world is a messy place, and someone has to clean it up.” The remark stunned the other guests. Scowcroft, as he later told friends, was flummoxed by Rice’s “evangelical tone.”
Scowcroft told me that he still has a high regard for Rice. He did note, however, that her “expertise is in the former Soviet Union and Europe. Less on the Middle East.” Rice, through a spokesman, said, “Sure, we’ve had some differences, and that’s understandable. But he’s a good friend and is going to stay a good friend.”
Yet the two do not see each other much anymore. According to friends of Scowcroft, Rice has asked him to call her to set up a dinner, but he has not, apparently, pursued the invitation. The last time the two had dinner, nearly two years ago, it ended unhappily, Scowcroft acknowledged. “We were having dinner just when Sharon said he was going to pull out of Gaza,” at the end of 2003. “She said, ‘At least there’s some good news,’ and I said, ‘That’s terrible news.’ She said, ‘What do you mean?’ And I said that for Sharon this is not the first move, this is the last move. He’s getting out of Gaza because he can’t sustain eight thousand settlers with half his Army protecting them. Then, when he’s out, he will have an Israel that he can control and a Palestinian state atomized enough that it can’t be a problem.” Scowcroft added, “We had a terrible fight on that.”
They also argued about Iraq. “She says we’re going to democratize Iraq, and I said, ‘Condi, you’re not going to democratize Iraq,’ and she said, ‘You know, you’re just stuck in the old days,’ and she comes back to this thing that we’ve tolerated an autocratic Middle East for fifty years and so on and so forth,” he said. Then a barely perceptible note of satisfaction entered his voice, and he said, “But we’ve had fifty years of peace.”
Tell it to an Israeli, a Marsh Arab, a Kurd, a Kuwaiti….