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Interview with Jonah Goldberg, Cynthia Tucker

Aired November 8, 2002 - 12:35   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: So is the resolution just passed by the United Nations Security Council Saddam Hussein's last chance to come clean?
Sounding off this Friday, the editorial page editor of the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," Cynthia Tucker, and here in Washington, Jonah Goldberg. He is the editor of "National Review" online --, or "National Review" online, I believe it is. He's also a regular panelist on CNN's "LATE EDITION's" final round.

Thanks to both of you for joining us. Cynthia, what do you think, the last chance for Saddam Hussein right now?

CYNTHIA TUCKER, "ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION": Absolutely, I think this resolution passed unanimously is the best news we've heard since the Bush administration started this campaign against Saddam Hussein.

The inspections will be very aggressive, as they need to be. Saddam Hussein has very little wiggle room here. Any sites will be inspected anytime, and I think that's absolutely what needed to happen, and let's hope that Saddam Hussein has the great good sense to go ahead and disarm, so that the United States can avoid war, so that his nation, Saddam Hussein, can avoid war.

BLITZER: Jonah, do you think Saddam Hussein is going to have that great sense?

JONAH GOLDBERG, "NATIONAL REVIEW" ONLINE: No, nothing in his Saddam's biography or personal history that says he is going to look at this situation and all of a sudden have a -- to use a better phrase, come to Jesus moment, and say he's going to agree with everything the U.N. and the United States wants it to.

Saddam Hussein, among other things, has foregone $160 billion in oil revenues in order to pursue weapons of mass destruction. The idea that somehow, all of a sudden, he is going to give that up quest, when everything we know about him says otherwise, seems pie in the sky to me.

So, the question really is whether or not he's going to give the U.N. -- or, more importantly, the United States enough of an excuse to force him to disarm, and that remains to be seen.

BLITZER: Do you think it's almost -- Cynthia, inevitable that even though there's not going to be a war, let's say the next few weeks, maybe even the next few months, in the end, that Saddam Hussein is going to do something that's going to force, in effect, President Bush to give that order to strike?

TUCKER: Well, again, let's hope not, but I think that the Bush administration is looking for any little excuse, so Saddam Hussein doesn't have much wiggle room here. He's not going to get to do the jerking inspectors around, and back and forth with the U.N. Security Council that he's done in the past.

This latest resolution does not tie the hands of the Bush administration. They can still go ahead and invade, even as the Security Council is debating if, in fact, Saddam Hussein tries to delay or put off the inspections in any way.

So if he has any sense, if in fact he wants to avoid regime change, and stay in power, he will let the inspectors do their jobs, even if it means disarming. At least he gets to stay in power.

BLITZER: As you know, Jonah, some -- a lot of conservatives, hard liners, so-called hawks, have wondered aloud, complained, Why even let the United Nations get involved in this process? Saddam Hussein is a bad guy. The U.S. should just get the job done, once and for all, whether it's with Britain, a few other countries, or even if the United States has to do it alone.

GOLDBERG: I guess I'm part of that school to a certain extent. I can understand the arguments for getting U.N. support as a political move, as a political tactic to make it easier on the diplomatic front, but as a moral argument, it makes no sense to get the U.N.'s approval for any of this. I mean, people who say no blood for oil, what we basically bought, we paid Russia with blood oil, that we gave them permission to go after Chechens, we gave them guarantees that they would get their oil contracts and oil revenues preserved in a new Iraqi regime. We promised France that they would get their oil contracts recognized. We promised the Chinese that we would look the other way when they went after their own Muslims. Buying the approval of the Security Council meant more blood was going to be shed for more oil around the world, not less.

BLITZER: Cynthia, it looks like the U.S., if you believe what Jonah just said, gave away a lot in order to get this unanimous resolution.

TUCKER: Well, I agree with Jonah up to a certain point. I mean, nobody is naive about other nation's interests here. France has some very parochial interests involving its contracts with Iraq, Russia has some very parochial self-interests here involving oil.

Nobody's naive about that, but let me remind you that it was President Bush himself who said, in a debate during the presidential election, what should Americans be like in their foreign policy, and he said, We should be humble.

Well, if we're going to appear at all humble to the rest of the world, we needed to have allies, we needed to do whatever -- well, not whatever it took, but we needed to make a lot of diplomatic gestures in order to get the U.N. Security Council approval, and we did that, and that puts us in a much better position to go forward.

BLITZER: Jonah, I have an e-mail for you from Mario in Kansas who asks this question. "Do you think the U.S. may be taking on more than it can handle if we went to war with Iraq while we are still battling with the al Qaeda in the Middle East?"

GOLDBERG: Well, there's actually so far, there is no evidence that you know, the United States can't walk and chew gum at the same time in terms of this.

First of all, the United States military has been designed for the last 40 years to be able to fight two simultaneous, full bore wars at once. The war on al Qaeda is a very serious thing, and can't pull back on it at all, but it is not a huge drain on military resources in that regard.

Secondly, the countries that -- the countries that disapprove, like Germany of our war on Iraq, or the possibility of a war on Iraq, what they have actually done is, in order to compensate for the bad feelings that a lot of the American government has towards their noncompliance or noncooperation on the war in Iraq is that they've redoubled their efforts in a war on al-Qaeda.

Germany is cooperating more than ever on the war on al Qaeda simply because it wants to prove that they are still good friends, even though they're not helping us with the war on Iraq.

BLITZER: Cynthia, we have an e-mail for you from Bruce in San Diego. He wants to know this: "President Bush has a clear long-term plan for dealing with Iraq, but I am having trouble understanding the long-term plan for those opposing his plan for regime change." In effect, what he is asking is, Cynthia, what is your plan for dealing with the potential of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

TUCKER: The same plan that has worked for the last ten years, and that is containment. Our own CIA has said that it is more likely that Saddam Hussein will use his weapons of mass destruction against us if we invade. Our CIA said there's little evidence to suggest that Saddam Hussein will use his weapons of mass destruction against us if we don't invade. So it seems to me that it is our best interest to consider -- to pursue a policy of containment.

BLITZER: All right. We've got to leave it right there. Cynthia Tucker and Jonah Goldberg. Jonah, I'll see you Sunday on "LATE EDITION." Thanks so much to both of you for joining us.

GOLDBERG: Thank you, Wolf.


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