Samuel Berger

Excerpts from a Monitor breakfast on US security.

Samuel Berger is chairman of Stonebridge International.

Mr. Berger served as assistant to the president for national security affairs during President Bill Clinton's second term, and deputy national security advisor during Mr. Clinton's first term.

Before his time at the White House, Mr. Berger practiced law at Hogan & Hartson, where he headed the firm's international group. Prior to that he was deputy director of the State Department's policy planning staff.

Mr. Berger is a graduate of Cornell University and Harvard Law School.

On the meaning of the UN vote to lift sanctions on Iraq:

"Primarily I think [Security Council members] wanted to avoid another confrontation with the United States. I am not sure they are thrilled with the resolution but I think they made a fundamental decision that, number one, it is hard to argue against lifting sanctions, it is counter intuitive. Number two, there really is not too much to gain at this point from a knock-down, drag-out fight with the United States..."

On the US role in postwar Iraq:

"There is a trade-off here as we move forward in Iraq between control on the one hand and sustainability on the other hand. We have chosen control. We now own Iraq, we and the British. We are the occupying powers. ...

"I hope we will move as quickly as we can to internationalize that effort more, to 'Iraqi - ize' it as quickly as we can. There is clearly, given the last six weeks, there is a need for restoring law and order, for a firm hand. But we now are the address for every Iraqi whose expectations for a better a life are not fulfilled quickly enough.

"We are the address for whatever goes wrong in Iraq and I think that we need to move now as we seek to restore law and order, we need to move to share responsibility, share the burden, and share the risks."

On the outlook for peace in the Middle East:

"I think this is an extraordinarily important time and one that we ought not to let slip away. A lot of things come together. We come off of victory in Iraq which certainly gives us enhanced authority in the region. The Palestinian Authority has selected a Prime Minister, Abu Mazen, who is a moderate. He is in a struggle with [Yasser] Arafat, with Hamas, but if he does not succeed we will not see moderate Palestinian leadership for a very long time.

"...I think both sides are exhausted by the last 2 1/2 years.... So out of that exhaustion there is a moment of opportunity. This is only going to move forward with leadership from the United States and it is only going to more forward with leadership from the president. And I think we need to seize this opportunity, this moment to push the process forward."

On the impact of the war in Iraq on Al Qaeda:

"The fact is we have disrupted Al Qaeda, and driven it out of its principal sanctuary in Afghanistan. We have hardly destroyed it. It has obviously reconstituted in some ways. It never was a highly centralized operation in the first place. I don't know that we can judge quite honestly the impact of Iraq. It doesn't seem to have diminished the threat. On the other hand, I don't know if you can argue it has increased the threat. Al Qaeda is and remains a clear and present danger to American interest around the world."

On homeland security:

"The defensive side has been a much more uneven picture. We put $8 billion in the airports and it seems to me you have got to be a retarded terrorist to try and go at the airports at this point. But less than 5 percent of cargo containers are checked. We don't have much more control over our borders. We have not mobilized on homeland security the way we mobilized after Pearl Harbor. We have had a major bureaucratic reorganization but I don't think the level of effort on the homeland security side has been adequate."

On America's global role:

"We have to have a balance here of being ready to use our military power when we are threatened but also being very ambitious about saying to the world that America is not only about self protection. We also care about a larger common agenda. Because if we don't do that I think that our power will ultimately be resented and we will be the repository of the disaffection of people around the world."

On the US role in the Middle East:

"We can't dictate transformation in this region. There are some people in and around the administration who I think believe that Iraq is going to be a kind of pro-American aircraft carrier in the Middle East from which we are going to now engage in regime change in Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt. I think that is unrealistic and even somewhat dangerous.

"But we do have a very strong interest in promoting change, promoting reform. And I think we can advance that, promote that. We have extracted a lot more from this region over the last 25 years than we have invested. I mean that economically, politically, intellectually.

"The objective of bringing this region more closely into the global community, the global economy, has got to be a very high priority for us. It seems to me it has got to be in the form of encouraging, of assisting and aiding, of working to reinforce the internal physics of change that exist in all of these countries rather than try to dictate that change. That won't work."

On postwar Iraq:

"I think we overestimated the outpouring of gratitude and underestimated the risk of anarchy. And I think that we were somewhat overenamored with the vision of the exile groups who believed that they would go back after decades and be able to fill a power vacuum. So we are now in a catch up mode."

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