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This transcript is produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.

Does the Bush administration have a choice? 18/9/01

JEREMY PAXMAN:
I am joined now from New York by Tony Judt of New York University, who was an eye witness to one of the attacks on the World Trade Center, and here in the studio by Max Hastings, the editor of the Evening Standard and military historian and Terry Waite, former Archbishop of Canterbury's special envoy who spent the best part of five years in captivity. Tony Judt, we are a week on. President Bush appears to be deliberating. Many people have been calling for instant action. Do you get any sense at all that anything of an alternative to military action is being contemplated?

TONY JUDT:
No. I don't think so and I think you can see behind me, I am sitting in Times Square, a very large flag. It is one of thousands draped all over the city and this was by no means the most gung ho, patriotic city in the States. It would be hard for the President, after all he's said in the last week, now to go on television and say to people, "actually, we have found a different way of deal with this." I don't mean there wouldn't be people in the country who wouldn't like that, but I think he would find it politically very difficult domestically.

PAXMAN:
There is a contradiction at the heart of the American position, isn't there? They need to gather evidence to secure the support of other members of the coalition, while you say American public opinion is demanding action whatever?

JUDT:
Yes. There are two problems. One is that around the rest of the world, and you are better placed to know than I am sitting here in New York, there is still a degree of scepticism about this particular American Government's capacity to build a convincing and enduring coalition, given the stance it took over the past few months precisely on questions of international alliances, coalitions and so on. But domestically, it is exactly the reverse problem - Bush has to convince a large section of the American population that he need hang around, as it were, for the rest of the world before doing something. How he balances that may have something to do with the relative weight of the advice he's getting from different people within the government, which I think is very different.

PAXMAN:
Max Hastings?

MAX HASTINGS:
I spoke to a friend of mine this morning, whose judgement on all things military I admire and respect, and he said he was in a very gloomy frame of mind because at the time of the Gulf War he'd felt that what the United States and the allies should and could do, whereas now he finds it difficult to see the way ahead. I would suspect that the advice that President Bush is receiving today is that he'd better be clear in his mind that almost any credible form of direct military action is unlikely to have great immediate effect on terrorism. What it is going to amount to is a military demonstration by the United States, which I am one of those who still believe is essential and that the American public will accept nothing less. What I am sure that we are all vigorously, passionately hoping is that the United States stages a military demonstration which does not cost a lot of innocent civilian lives and does not create a whole new generation of Muslim martyrs.

PAXMAN:
Terry Waite, is there any alternative to what Max Hastings calls a demonstration?

TERRY WAITE:
Yes. I think a military demonstration is a disastrous policy. First of all you have to make a very careful analysis of the situation - recognise that terrorism is symptomatic of a much deeper disorder, that that deeper disorder lies in Islamic communities who have banded together around Islam for solidarity. Islam then becomes hijacked by these terrorists. The way to deal with the problem is in fact to form such an alliance with the Islamic communities that they themselves deal with the terrorists, and they will. If you begin to attack them in a military way, you will in fact provide more terrorist...

PAXMAN:
Where has this strategy worked?

WAITE:
I don't think it has been applied. I don't think there's been sufficient political will. I think we have seen the United States increasingly withdraw, as we have just heard from Mark there, withdrawing into that insular position, withdrawing from international agreements and treaties and saying "we are the controllers." That is deeply, deeply resented across the Islamic world, across the Third World.

PAXMAN:
Max Hastings, you are shaking your head.

HASTINGS:
I can't accept anything Terry Waite has said. Of course it's true, we all know about the degree of resentment, but intelligence people have been warning for years now, even for decades, that we are going to be faced with a new world in the 21st century in which rogue states, as well as terrorist groups, are going to be in possession of weapons of mass destruction and are going to be weighing very carefully the charms of using them against the West. I don't doubt anything you say about the degree of resentment. I think at the moment that while the military dilemma is very acute for the United States, the practical difficulties are very large. The worst possible signal will be sent out to rogue states and to terrorist groups if the United States is obliged to say, because it is difficult to do something we will therefore do nothing. Some message has got to be sent, not only for the sake of the American people but a message has got to be sent to Iraq, to North Korea, to Libya, to all the other states which we know have been sponsoring terrorism for many years.

WAITE:
One of the reasons you might argue that Libya has sponsored terrorism, that Gaddafi has sponsored terrorism, in the past is precisely because he was isolated and excluded. He was not included. There was deliberate policy to isolate him. I am not suggesting for one moment that Gaddafi is an easy man, a straightforward man to deal with, but¿

PAXMAN:
Tony Judt, I want to just bring you back in here because there is a contradiction, isn't there, in the way that the Americans look at the desire to form international alliances at times of crisis like this and the way they behave towards international treaties at other times?

JUDT:
Let me explain it if I can, in these terms. Americans - I speak as someone who is not an American but has lived now here for 16 years - Americans think in terms of international politics, if you put it in terms of a game, as poker. You get involved in a particular game, you play your hand as well as you can, you try to guess what the other guy's hand is, you then at the end show your cards - whoever wins, wins and you get up and walk away with your winnings. Whereas I think much of the rest of the world, in particular precisely the people we are talking about now, think in terms, if you like, of chess - it is a game which goes on a very long time. It is not immediately obvious at which point you're on the way to winning and it may not even be clear that the game is about winning as the only possible outcome. There is a huge gap in understanding between the American and the rest of the world's way of thinking about international relations, not merely about fighting a particular war. The default position, as it were, the standard position in the States is, "if we have to do it, whatever the 'it' is, we go in, we do it, we get out and we go back to where we were before". I don't think that is going to change overnight, even with what has just happened. I worry that of all the administrations which might have been able to lead the American people and the American political culture away from that way of thinking about dealing with the world, this is the least likely one.

PAXMAN:
You see, Max Hastings, it is a very selective interpretation of what constitutes terrorism, isn't it?

HASTINGS:
As we all know, we've not much heard from the United States when Britain was suffering at the hands of the IRA.

PAXMAN:
Precisely.

HASTINGS:
We posted the sort of wanted poster for Gerry Adams in his murdering days - that has now been posted in the United States for Bin Laden well the Americans would have been very distressed. Two points. One - I do think that everybody from President Bush downwards has been using the word "war" very ill-advisedly. This is not a war situation, this is a rather different problem. It is an enormously complex and different problem which is about policing, and to suggest war has not been helpful to this debate. The second point, that I do think is fundamental - it seemed a huge mistake to regard what has happened to the World Trade Center as a one-off, never to be repeated. I believe those of us who have argued first that weapons of mass destruction are going to be the great problem of the 21st century and second that terrorism is going to be much more of a problem than war between states. We have to consider how we respond, in light of the fact that the terrorist threat in the years ahead is going to be very great. The threat of this happening again is great and we have to think how best we can prevent this from happening again.

PAXMAN:
Don't you accept Terry Waite's argument that you can't begin to address this question without addressing the initial grievances.

HASTINGS:
I entirely agree.

PAXMAN:
and certainly involves addressing the whole question of the relationship with Israel, for example?

HASTINGS:
We all have to be utterly aware of the depth of cultural resentment. I've always been a great admirer of that book published a few years ago, The Wealth And Poverty Of Nations, which helps to explain an awful lot about the deep cultural resentments in the Middle East and so on. So all that, I don't disagree with Terry Waite. What I do disagree with him about is that I believe that inaction by the West at this stage will be interpreted as weakness by a great many undoubtedly evil and potentially dangerous people.

WAITE:
I am not talking about inaction. I am talking about not using that type of violent action, but forming an alliance, a relationship, with nations and bringing them on your side, so to speak, so that they themselves will marginalise the terrorists. The only way to deal with terrorists is to marginalise them. If you do not do that, they are protected by the countries from which they spring.

PAXMAN:
What kind of relationship could America have with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, for example?

WAITE:
I have to say, that is a particular acute, difficult problem, I agree with that.

PAXMAN:
Well, it's the one at the moment.

WAITE:
It is at the moment, indeed.

PAXMAN:
Let's look at this question. Let's accept the language at face value. If this is a war against terrorism, Tony Judt, how do we judge when the war has been won?

JUDT:
Like Max Hastings, I take the view this¿ It is a big mistake to think of it as a war. The language is moving around over here at the moment. The last reference a day or two ago was to a crusade, which is an astonishingly mistaken and dangerous way of talking about this. But it is clearly not a war because a war presumes not only a visible and reachable enemy target but some final goal - you beat him or if you lose, he beats you. But there is no one out there who's going to beat you. This is not a war with an end. Therefore it's not a war in the first place. This is part of the danger of the American way of approaching this kind of international crisis. It can only mobilise people here, or the Government feels it can only mobilise people here, if it calls it a war.

PAXMAN:
Max Hastings, very quickly, last word?

HASTINGS:
I entirely agree with what Tony Judt has said. I think we've got to see this as a long-term problem of international order in which there's going to be a military ingredient. But where I do agree with Terry Waite is that the military ingredient has to go hand in hand with diplomatic and cultural advances.

PAXMAN:
Thank you all very much.


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