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In the Crossfire

Did diplomacy fail?

Former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger
Former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger

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(CNN) -- In a letter to Congress, President Bush on Wednesday offered the administration's formal justification for war with Iraq, declaring that diplomacy had failed to resolve the crisis and tying military action to the battle against terrorism.

Was diplomacy a failure or a necessary step to build support for war? Former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger stepped into the crossfire with hosts James Carville and Tucker Carlson.

CARVILLE: Mr. Secretary, I want to read you a quote by General Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser, [a man] I'm sure that you worked with, and who strikes me as ... a pretty uptight, but competent guy.

"This doctrine of continually letting each mission define the coalition and relying almost solely on ad hoc coalitions of the willing is fundamentally fatally flawed. As we have seen in the debate of Iraq, it's already given us an image of arrogance and unilateralism, and we're paying a very high price for that image." Is he right?

EAGLEBURGER: Yes and no.

We sometimes -- and I think this is the case -- we confuse diplomacy -- we define diplomacy as we want it, and sometimes you have to understand diplomacy isn't going to work. And then diplomacy in this case, I think, never was going to work because there's no way on God's green Earth we were going to convince most of the rest of the world that we should invade Iraq, because nobody was basically convinced that this was an issue that was worth an invasion for, and there was no way we were going to convince the rest of the world of this.

I happen to believe it is the right thing to do. And we could have stood on our head in Lafayette Park and sung "The Star Spangled Banner" or whatever, and we weren't going to convince them. Why? Because we are now the only superpower in this world, and the rest of the world was doubtful that we were going to be too tough.

And no matter what we did now, I think they weren't going to believe us. And they won't believe us until we go in and demonstrate that what is there is what we said was there. So while Brent is right, in the sense that we did not conduct a particularly good campaign, diplomatic campaign, to try to convince people, I'm telling you now, no matter what we did, we were not going to be able to convince most of the rest of the world that we were right, and particularly not when we had the French out there playing the games they were playing.

CARVILLE: Let me show you a few polls. And let's leave France out of it and talk about some countries that are our allies. In 1999, we were the world's sole superpower. Eighty-three percent of Britons had a favorable impression of the United States. Today, it's 48 percent. Fifty percent of people in Spain. Today it's 14. Fifty-two percent of the people in Turkey. Today it's 12.

That's not just a failure of diplomacy. That's a failure of America -- I mean ...

EAGLEBURGER: I hate to argue with you because you're one of my favorite people, even though you're often wrong.

CARVILLE: I thought you said I was quite right.

EAGLEBURGER: In some cases you're often wrong. And in this case you are wrong. But, look, also, when you get tough issues like this one, you can't just do it on the basis of popularity.

What we are arguing basically about here is weapons of mass destruction. And until we get that into our heads, and the rest of the world does, that if we don't deal with these -- that issue of weapons of mass destruction -- now, when we deal with it, it will be in far worse conditions. And until people understand that -- and they don't understand it now -- and until they understand that we're going to have to use force to deal with it, these figures don't mean anything.


EAGLEBURGER: What does mean something is, if we go into Iraq and when we're through, we can demonstrate that what we said was there is there. Then they're going to shut up. Now if we go in there and we don't find anything, then we'll have egg all over our faces.

CARVILLE: Are they going to find nuclear weapons?

EAGLEBURGER: I think they're going to find that we're very close to it.

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