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Quayle: Iraq situation 'is more complex' than in 1991

Dan Quayle: France will likely "not oppose" President Bush on Iraq.

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(CNN) -- When the first President Bush put together a coalition a dozen years ago that defeated Iraq in the Persian Gulf War, his vice president, Dan Quayle, was at his right hand. CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked the former vice president for his opinion on the current situation with Iraq and whether war can be avoided.

QUAYLE: It's going to be very problematic. Two things could happen. One, [Iraqi President Saddam Hussein] could go into exile, which has been discussed, and I'm sure people are talking to him on a continuous basis. Secondly, he could change his mind and show that he is going to disarm.

My judgment is he will do neither of those. And unfortunately, it looks like we are going to have to use force to enforce these U.N. resolutions [on disarmament of weapons of mass destruction]. And we'll be talking about, in a few weeks or months, what the post-Saddam regime in Iraq's going to look like.

BLITZER: So far, the current President Bush doesn't seem to have created the kind of coalition that you and the first President Bush put together before the Persian Gulf War. Even close allies like Germany, France and Belgium are not onboard. What's the problem, in your opinion?

QUAYLE: This is a far more challenging and complex situation compared to what President Bush's father had to deal with. Ours was a case of expelling the Iraqi military from Kuwait. There had been an invasion of one country into another country. It was the first post-Cold War crisis. It had to be resolved, and resolved correctly.

The objective there was simply to get him out of Kuwait. It was not to capture Saddam Hussein. It was not to go to Baghdad. And therefore, the military objective was much easier [to] achieve than this military objective, which will be to see a regime change.

And I could say this: that no president wants to make that decision to go to war, to use force, to put our men and women into harm's way. President Bush, if he uses force, it will be done very reluctantly, but this is what leadership is all about.

But the situation today is more complex, and you also have a different world today. You've got the European situation, and I can speak of the German situation. I think Chancellor [Gerhard] Schroeder has been somewhat envious of the United States, has always had a little bit of the anti-Americanism, even when he was in the Bundestag coming up the ranks. And I don't think he really reflects the majority of German people.

On the other hand, I think [French President Jacques] Chirac does reflect the majority of the French people and their lack of support for the United States. But watch, Wolf. Watch this change, because I think that they will eventually come to a position where they will not oppose what President Bush is going to have to do. I use the words "not oppose." Not necessarily support, but not oppose.

BLITZER: They won't necessarily stand in the way. France won't necessarily use its [Security Council] veto [on a resolution authorizing force], is what you're suggesting.

But let me get back to one of the points you just made. Because even a dozen years later, people don't understand. And you've heard this, I'm sure, before. Why didn't your administration finish the job after Kuwait was liberated? That was the objective, but there was a conventional wisdom at that time that the people of Iraq would simply rise up and overthrow Saddam Hussein.

There were uprisings from the Shiites in the south and the Kurds in the north [of Iraq]. But the Bush administration, at that time, apparently, at least what the historians are now writing, didn't give them enough support to go ahead and eliminate Saddam Hussein.

QUAYLE: Well, let me answer that for you. There's a couple of steps I have to take you through.

First, and you know this, you've had it reported, the objective was to get the Iraqi armed forces and military out of Kuwait. There was never a stated objective to have a regime change, to get Saddam Hussein. As a matter of fact, Wolf, there was an agreement among the international coalition, and in particular the Arab countries, that Saddam Hussein would not be a specific target, that we would not have the objective of going in and getting him.

That was agreed upon, putting the coalition together. We didn't think that we'd have to go get him. We thought the Iraqi people, as you said, would take care of that. So anyway, that was the objective going in, and there was never any recommendation from the military, there was never any recommendation from the political leaders inside the Bush administration, that we should in fact go after Saddam Hussein.

There's been a lot of reporting that some of the generals recommended this. That's not the case. I was there. I know what the chain of command is. I know what the recommendations were, and I know what the decision was.

Now, going forward. ... Once the ground campaign started, there was an uprising in the southwest part of Iraq, and the Shiites were moving. And in hindsight, you could go back and say, well, perhaps we should have been a little bit more helpful. In hindsight, you could probably say a few other things.

I'm going to choose my words very carefully here. Because if we had known that Saddam Hussein would be in power 11, 12 years later, if we had known that he was pursuing and was as close to getting the nuclear weapon and had as much stockpile in the chemical and biological weapons as we found after we got the inspectors in there, there may have been a different decision from the get go. There may have been a different decision, as we put the coalition together, saying that Saddam Hussein cannot stay in power.

But those are things we didn't know at the time the decision was made. And I think that President Bush the first, 41 as we affectionately call him, made absolutely the right decision, and nobody's second-guessing that decision.

BLITZER: Mr. Vice President, we only have a few seconds left. How important is it, this time around, to either capture -- arrest, if you will -- Saddam Hussein, or kill him?

QUAYLE: It's imperative. And in fact, there will be a regime change. You can't be half-hearted about this. Once we go, and it looks like we are going to go unless the two things, exile or he just totally changes his mind on disarmament, Saddam Hussein will have to go. There'll have to be a regime change. Anything less than that will not be successful.

The most challenging aspect will not be getting Saddam Hussein out of power. I think the most challenging aspect [will be] putting Iraq back together. Getting some semblance of democracy and seeing what the post-Saddam regime looks like.

BLITZER: Yesterday, General Wesley Clark, the former NATO commander, predicted a two-week war. What do you think?

QUAYLE: I hope it's that short. It could be a little bit longer, but I think the military objective of getting Saddam Hussein will be achieved. I don't think it's going to be as easy as some have indicated on your show and other statements.

War is always unpredictable. And, yes, we have the rosy scenario that it's going to be quick and easy and [over in] a matter of days. I hope so, but I won't be terribly surprised if it takes us longer.

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