Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz may be a soft-spoken intellectual, but he's fast earning a reputation as the Bush Administration's leading hawk on Iraq. But the media focus on his push to oust Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein obscures his far broader role in the Administration.
Wolfowitz is the godfather of the Bush team's nuclear strategy, which calls for both nuclear-arms reductions and missile defense. He'll oversee efforts to transform the U.S. military for 21st century conflict. And his influence on policy in regions ranging from Europe and the Middle East to Asia is far-reaching.
The 58-year-old former dean of the prestigious Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies is serving his third stint at the Pentagon. His first was during the Carter Administration, during which, among other things, he worked on plans for a regional conflict in the Persian Gulf. Those plans had a big payoff a decade later during the Gulf War. His second tour of duty was during the first Bush Administration, when he headed the Defense Dept.'s policy office. His shop was responsible for the U.S. military's "left hook" strategy that defeated the Iraqi army.
Wolfowitz also spent time at the State Dept. during the Reagan Administration as chief of its policy-planning operation and as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs. He later served as ambassador to Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population. His knowledge of Islam is particularly critical as the U.S. continues to press the war on terrorism. BusinessWeek Chief Diplomatic Correspondent Stan Crock and Pentagon Correspondent Paul Magnusson sat down with Wolfowitz in his office on Dec. 18 to discuss his military and foreign-policy outlook. Here are edited excerpts of the conversation:
Q: Thanks to the diplomatic and military prowess the U.S. has shown in Afghanistan, the country is in a rather enviable position now. How does the Administration use that leverage -- with Europe, Japan, China, to push for reform in the Middle East, to work with India and Pakistan to make sure Kashmir doesn't blow up?
A: It is funny that you use the word enviable. We just suffered the worst terrorist attack in history on any country. We have a lot of capability and strength, and the terrorists are learning that. But there is a huge job out there to be done, arguably one we should have started a long time ago.
I believe that when we're finished, the world will be a better place, and a lot of people will be better off. But there's a lot of work to do. It's just that enviable isn't the word that comes to mind. If you just take Afghanistan, for starters, we've accomplished a lot but there's a lot still to be accomplished and a lot to figure out. And first and foremost is an Afghanistan that is no longer and does not become once again a sanctuary for terrorists.
I think that also means it has to be an Afghanistan where the people enjoy a reasonable level of stability and, at least by their standards, a reasonable level of prosperity. These are not going to be easy things to achieve, particularly since a number of their neighbors are eager to prevent them from getting there. That's just Afghanistan. And I'm very leery about phrases like New World Order.
Q: Looking beyond the terrorism campaign...
A: That's a big thing to look beyond. Don't think that we've taken Tora Bora, and therefore the war is over. But O.K.
Q: How do we use our leverage in forging a new relationship with India? We have a new relationship with Pakistan. What do we do about Muslim countries in the world where reform could reduce the danger of terrorism?
A: It's a much bigger issue than the Defense Dept. or any one department of government can address. We do have opportunities because we've opened a new relationship to Pakistan. We have opportunities to help that country dig out of the morass that it has gotten itself into over the last 20 years, and I hope that we have developed a new relationship with India, and that we can use our influence with the two countries to dampen the tension.
If one looks around the world, there are a lot of places -- whether it's Ukraine and Russia, China and Taiwan, or Israel and the Arabs -- where people don't get along with each other terribly well. I think the U.S. influence, while it doesn't solve all the problems, certainly helps to improve the chances of solutions.
Q: Considering such things as the vituperative comments about the U.S. in Chinese chat rooms, have we perhaps exaggerated the effect of the American culture in thinking that everyone will love us for our culture when it could be having the opposite effect?
A: I think that as a general proposition the better people know one another the more likely they are to have peaceful relations provided...that the governments be responsive to what people want. And the existence of some nasty chat rooms in China doesn't indicate the broad sentiment of the Chinese people, which is first and foremost that they want to live a peaceful and prosperous life, and secondarily that most of them had a relatively positive view of the U.S., especially if the government would stop propagandizing them.
But I still think there needs to be some kind of balancing of military power so that people don't go back to old notions that the real way to prosperity is not through peace but force. And there are always going to be criminal types who are claiming to act in the name of a great religion. I was once ambassador to Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population of any country. Most Indonesians would be very happy in a world where Indonesia was at peace with its neighbors and at peace with the U.S. and benefiting from fruitful exchanges with us. That's an aspiration of hundreds of millions of people around the world.
Q: You have talked about improved relations with countries like Indonesia and Turkey. Given the horrendous view of the U.S. in some Arab nations of the world, how do you change the perception and change relations with other Islamic states?
A: There are a lot of propagandists that need to do a better job...because Afghanistan is the now the sixth country in the past 10 years that the U.S. has engaged in military force to defend Muslims against either aggression or defend them against war-induced famine -- Somalia, Northern Iraq, Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo, and now Afghanistan. This is not war against Afghanistan. It is a war against the Taliban. And I think it is absolutely clear what most Afghans think of the Taliban. They are certainly happy to be rid of those people.
I do think you take progress where you find it.... The notion that wealthy people like Osama bin Laden are moved to become terrorists because of poverty is a joke. We're working hard to defeat and punish our enemies, and to do what we can to support our friends in the Muslim world -- and that includes moderate countries like Turkey and Indonesia. It also includes countries like Morocco that are struggling against some pretty big problems.
Q: You were offered a job at the Pentagon. Why did you take this one?
A: I was on the verge of taking it, actually. But while I had no idea we would be dealing with this, I think that the challenge of trying to bring the military into the 21st century is too much to resist.
Q: There was a story in The New York Times, [recently] that said there's movement within the Arab world on possible agreement that Iraq is the next target for American efforts to fight terrorism.
A: I don't believe half of what I read about the supposed arguments and discussions within the Administration on that subject. One thing that is frustrating is that people are acting as if the war in Afghanistan is about to end, and I would not be at all surprised if next spring or summer we're still seeking terrorists hiding in that country. It's a formidable problem. And obviously, the President and everyone in the Administration has emphasized this is a problem that goes way beyond Afghanistan.
We are not going to lay out a blueprint of where we're going next, and, of course, part of it depends on where the terrorists end up next. If some country makes the [error in judgment] of knowingly harboring bin Laden, then [that would be] where we are going next.
But the bottom line is what the President said to the joint session of Congress: This is a broad campaign. It's going to take a long time. It's not going to be over tomorrow. The goal is to eliminate all of these global terrorists networks and to end state support for terrorism. There are a variety of ways to get there...but I think we still haven't made any decisions on what comes next. EDITED BY Edited by Patricia O'Connell