Metta Spencer

Anti-War Hawks and Pro-War Doves

Peace and Change, Vol.17,No.2 (April 1992); 172-197

What's a Hawk? What's a Dove?

In February, 1991, during the air war against Iraq, journalist Stephen Handelman, filed a story from Moscow that included this report on the Soviet political scene:

"For doves, who have diminishing influence these days, support for the anti-Iraq coalition is the price of being re-accepted in the world community. Hawks, on the other hand, believe the Kremlin is betraying its principles by lining up with 'imperialists.'"[1]

A reader must find this statement puzzling, since by customary definition, a "dove" would be one who opposes, and a "hawk" one who supports, a war. However, this reversal of meanings is not an isolated aberration but an illuminating reference to a condition that was common during the Gulf War, when many people felt they had become living, breathing, walking oxymorons. Everyone lives at times with contradictions, but most try to escape from dissonance as soon as possible. Many of the people with whom this paper will deal, however, are still suffering with, and struggling to reconcile, their contradictory principles.

Throughout the Cold War, and especially during the nuclear disarmament movement of the 1980s, the two polarized political groups -- Hawks and Doves -- were easily identifiable: The former favored their side's possession of a nuclear arsenal, while the latter did not. No significant issues divided Hawks from Hawks or Doves from Doves. The Gulf War was otherwise. Some lifelong peace activists ("Doves," par excellence) supported the war, while some lifelong military officers ("Hawks" par excellence) opposed it. One may call such people, at least in regard to this anomalous situation, Pro-War Doves and Anti-War Hawks respectively.

These two dissonant states of mind are not equally unsettling. Indeed, most Anti-War Hawks are confidently self-consistent; their opposition to one war is based on exactly the same loyalties that lead them to support the next war. Pro-War Doves, on the other hand, actively work against war in general -- except for certain specific wars, which they reluctantly wage for the sake of preventing war. If this description is comical, the existential predicament to which it refers is not. Many Pro-War Doves are probably Doves in the process of becoming Hawks -- not because they know it or intend it, but because that is the easiest way to resolve their contradiction. Some peace activists entered this moral gray zone when the Gulf War began, ostensibly under the command of the most honored peacemaking organization on earth, the United Nations, which had been founded to implement a policy of unquestioned legitimacy: the practice of collective security. Nevertheless, when Doves began to act upon the principle that they had always implicitly accepted, they found themselves collaborating with their old adversaries, the Hawks, who were (as usual) less troubled by the ethical ambiguity of their jointly managed war. This paper will explore some of the quandaries and political consequences of Desert Storm.

The war divided and weakened both the peace movement in the West and the reformists in the Soviet Union by posing a dilemma they were not prepared to address: whether to adhere to the principle of common security or of collective security. The war also divided both the U.S. government and the Soviet government internally by posing another dilemma as well: whether to follow "idealist" principles of international relations at all (of which common security and collective security are the two main, and quite different, variants) or the more usual "realist" approach.

The debate between realism and idealism has a long history and comprises a discourse with which all experts in international relations are familiar. It provides the theoretical basis for the differing policies of Hawks and Doves. In fact, in the popular idiom, the term "idealist" can be translated as "Dove" and the term "realist" as "Hawk."

The two dilemmas -- "realism" versus "idealism" on the one hand and "common security" versus "collective security" on the other -- are not momentary perplexities, but may have to be faced time after time in post-Cold War situations. It is important, in this post-war period, to prepare for the next time by exploring the tensions between these principles, especially the problems of those who opted for collective security.

Collective Security versus Common Security

It is ironical to describe collective security as the strategy of idealists -- Doves -- since it is a military commitment to act jointly and even forcibly against all aggressors. Nevertheless, this was the strategy chosen by the founders of the League of Nations and again the United Nations, who intended for the organization to defend each member state against external aggression. The authority and arms of the Security Council would make it possible for each nation to disarm, wholly or partly, and rely on the U.N. for its security. The principle of collective security was not expected to obviate all military actions but, by authorizing necessary "police" actions, to build a peaceful world order based on the rule of law. Its drawback is obvious: Sometimes -- and the allies' war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq is widely taken as a case in point -- it requires that a war be fought for the sake of preventing war.

The Gulf War was authorized by the very organization dedicated to abolishing "the scourge of war." Those who accepted this instance of collective security became, with respect to the Gulf War, "Pro-War Doves."

Common security, the alternative option available to "idealists," is not one single strategy, but an array of policies oriented toward one objective: war avoidance. In protecting the security of one side, this principle avoids threatening the security of the other side -- which is why it is called "common security," or sometimes "mutual security." For example, those who opted for "common security" during the Gulf crisis favored negotiation, economic sanctions (exempting medicine and food for civilians[2]), and giving Saddam Hussein a face-saving way out, including linking his withdrawal to a regional peace conference.

More generally, another example of common security is the strategy of "nonoffensive defence" -- the policy of never invading foreign territory, but defending one's own territory if it is invaded, and making one's intentions clear by deploying only military forces suitable for such defensive objectives.[3] In this way, security for one side remains compatible with security for the other. Finally, still another common security strategy is civilian-based nonviolent defence, such as the human chains of unarmed persons who defeated the Soviet coup in August 1991.[4]

Proponents of common security can be called "True Doves," but they have much in common with the Pro-War Doves and their collective security doctrine. For example, both of these "idealist" types are committed to international law and universal standards of justice. However, that commitment alone does not suffice to prevent war. Proponents of common security, such as Douglas Roche, therefore add that in the nuclear age, marked by interdependent economic and environmental systems, "no nation today can assure its own security by threatening the security of others. Common security is the only security."[5] Just before the Gulf War, Hanna Newcombe distinguished common security from collective security in the following way:

"While collective security uses a model of criminal law (push back and punish the aggressor), common security is more like civil law, looking for equitable resolution of disputes between parties who are both partly guilty and partly victims; essentially, they have a problem that needs to be solved, rather than dealing with a one-sided injustice that must be righted. ... Collective security is very definite in its prescription; common security is more vague but also more flexible. U.N. peacekeeping should continue to play a role in future U.N. common security practices, as should conflict resolution by mediation, arbitration, adjudication, votes, and referenda.... Negotiations should never be refused just because some pre-conditions have not been satisfied. In particular, one should not demand or expect total capitulation before negotiations begin, as Bush seems to demand. "

In choosing between the two approaches, common security is the preference of those peace strategists who are most committed to nonviolence as a principle. Throughout the 1980s, peace activists did not have to make such a choice, since both approaches assigned top priority to ending the nuclear arms race. Only with the Gulf War was the marriage between the two types of idealism dissolved. Of the two idealist options, the collective security approach is the more unstable because it is susceptible to being compromised by "realism."

Realism versus Idealism

Theorists and professionals in the field of international relations and security typically describe their main disputes as variations on a single theme: "realism" (as in realpolitik) versus "idealism." Between the founding of the League of Nations and the United Nations, the study of international organizations and of international law dominated the growing field of international relations. With the Cold War, however, those topics fell out of fashion and were dismissively termed "idealistic," while "realistic" military strategic studies grew, their appeal enhanced by ample research budgets and the strange prestige the comes with managerial responsibility for arsenals of mass destruction.

In their principled opposition to warfare in general, "idealists" are sometimes said to remain too innocent regarding the realities of military power.[6] And there are further differences between the two. "Idealists" have a more inclusive loyalty than toward any one nation or one coalition. They are committed to the wider world community and to international standards of justice; they favor universal rules of order for all states, including their own. They regard war as the result of a misperception that nations have discrete and opposing interests, whereas actually "we are all on the same side, like a Moebius strip."[7]

"Realists," on the other hand, do not object to warfare on principle, but regard it, with Clausewitz, as "a continuation of politics by other means." Whether by political, military, or still other means, a realist seeks to advance the geopolitical interests of one nation and its allies over those of its enemies. The most prominent theorist of "realism" was Hans J. Morgenthau, who advocated that diplomats always focus on power relations and on the particular interests of the nations they represent.[8]

Another important factor setting "realists" apart from "idealists" is their respective attitudes toward international law. Francis A. Beer has described "realist" writers as "quite skeptical of international law. They have been particularly dubious about its effectiveness in dealing with issues of 'high politics,' where controversy and stakes are highest, and war often seems inevitable."[9]

Moreover, as Quincy Wright noted, this school "sees the equilibrium of power as the only basis of stability in a system of independent states, and consequently assumes that resort to hostilities to preserve that equilibrium, even though not justified by any wrong done by the overpowerful state, is politically justifiable."[10]

And finally, as Anatol Rapoport has noted, "the supreme virtue in politics, in the realists' view, is prudence -- a pragmatic principle which dictates weighing the consequences of alternative political actions and deliberately choosing the one that, as far as the political actor can see, is likely to lead to the most advantageous consequence."[11] Many realists are proud to be called "Hawks," "hard-liners," or "militarists," since they equate these qualities with mastery in the harsh world that actually exists. Realists are Hawks in that they willingly fight wars when it is prudent to do so, though when it comes to any given war, a realist may obviously support or oppose it, depending on its likely consequences for his or her side. Thus Saddam Hussein is a Hawk who was anti-war with respect to Desert Storm. Equally, George Bush is a Hawk who was pro-war.

Not all Anti-War Hawks are conservatives or hard-liner military strategists. The category also includes a group that had little impact in the West and whom we can safely omit from further consideration: the rare fringe leftists who supported Saddam Hussein. As theoretical revolutionaries, they had no principled objection to war, and shared many of the "realist" values of conservative military strategists, so they cannot be counted as Doves. Indeed, many True Doves refused to march in demonstrations with these conspicuous marchers, who seem to have been mainly Trotskyists and who carried banners lauding Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.[12]

Figure 1 illustrates the four distinctively different points of view toward Iraq's invasion of Kuwait:

  • among the hard-line "realists" (Hawks), some supported going to war and others opposed it, with both sides arguing on prudential , not principled, idealistic grounds.
  • among the "idealists" (Doves), all were committed to international interests and the rule of law, but some considered this commitment to entail a policy of "common security" (e.g. negotiation and economic sanctions), while others thought it entailed a policy of "collective security" -- war.
FIGURE 1: Positions on the Gulf War
Position on Whether to Fight Iraq
Approach to
International Relations
"REALISM" Anti-War Hawks True Hawks
"IDEALISM" True Doves Pro-War Doves
  (Common Security) (Collective Security)

The most important effects of the war were of course on the Middle Eastern societies. In this paper, however, we shall consider the domestic political consequences of the Persian Gulf crisis in the superpower nations -- first in the United States and then in the Soviet Union.

In the United States: Bush's "Realist" Strategy

In Washington, a debate had raged for about six months in 1990 over two very different visions of post-Cold War America.[13] One group urged that the peace dividend be invested in the U.S. infrastructure. They pointed out that America was no longer competitive in the world economy because, unlike Japan and Germany, it had not invested sufficiently in the civilian sector. For its military spending American society had been scarred with urban decay, illiteracy, crime, infant mortality, unemployment, and debt. With the impending economic integration of Europe, the United States would lose its status as a great power unless it revived its industrial productivity. Accordingly, American "idealists" urged that the government use the opportunity created by the events of 1989 to convert the economy from war to peace.

The "realists" in Washington continued to argue in terms of geopolitical competition and military balance-of-power. Forget economic productivity, they said: American supremacy has been based, and will continue to be based, on its capacity for coercion. Japan, Germany, and now the Soviet Union, cannot project military power around the world. Dwindling global resources and the widening gap between the rich nations and the poor mean that military intervention will continue -- if only to protect vital resources for the entire industrial world. Because of its unique military power, the United States has the capacity to become the global police force and to exact special concessions in return from other industrial nations. In such arenas as GATT, it can enhance its bargaining power less by improving its industrial competitiveness than by fighting wars in the Third World on behalf of the other Great Powers.

The Bush administration opted for this geopolitical strategy of realpolitik when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. One purpose of the Americans' reply with force was to secure the supply of oil -- not for the United States (which does not require Middle Eastern oil) but for its competitors in the world market, Europe and Japan. This goal was based on the reasoning that any nation -- whether or not its economy is ahead of others -- will occupy a unique place in international affairs if it can control access to almost a third of the world's petroleum.[14]

To be sure, a preferable way to control a commodity would have been to own it directly. Along these lines, one attempt had already been made in June, 1989 by a delegation of 23 top American business executives on a visit to Saddam Hussein [15] in response to his request for credit to rebuild after the war with Iran. One member of this delegation was Alan Stoga, an economist with Kissinger Associates, Inc. specializing in international finance. His role was to explain how President Hussein could restructure his debt and arrange for additional loans. Such advice might have spared Hussein much difficulty, had it been adopted.[16] With an eye to their companies' interests, the delegates also urged the president to privatize Iraq's oil industry; when this proposal was rejected, they warned him not to expect the credit that he wanted.[17] Had the outcome been otherwise, he might never have contemplated an invasion of Kuwait as a solution to his debt predicament.

After the failure of this mission, other Americans saw the Gulf War as another way of gaining some control over the Middle Eastern oil money.[18] Victory would enable the U.S. to insist that petrodollars flow through the U.S. instead of the European economy, and thereby alleviate the Americans' financial embarrassment.[19]

The Bush Administration's Dilemma.

President Bush was persuaded by this "realistic" analysis, but not all of his advisers were of the same mind. Three points of view could be found in the discussions preceding the war: True Hawks, including most notably the President himself; Pro-War Doves, such as Secretary of State James Baker; and numerous Anti-War Hawks in the State Department and Pentagon. Until the ground war began the Pro-War Doves -- especially James Baker -- still had considerable influence in Washington. It would seem that gradually, and perhaps reluctantly, he let himself be used by his president.

In a profile of Baker on the eve of his final pre-war conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, Margaret Garrard Warner[20] named some of the "idealistic" beliefs of Baker's :

* "It has always been Rule One with Baker to allow his opponent to save face," wrote Warner. (George Bush did not let him do so with Saddam. "White House aides are mildly concerned that in his zeal to emerge as the great peacemaker, Baker will give too much," explained Warner.)

* Baker "privately winced at some of Bush's macho threats to 'kick ass.'"

* Baker "accepts the vision of a New World Order, a system of collective security..."

* Baker "was slower than others in the administration to conclude that sanctions and a massive troop deployment would not drive Saddam out of Kuwait, and that force might be required to do the job instead. Within the inner councils of the administration, according to White House and Pentagon officials, he has been the most outspoken about the costs of war. Baker's aides have never heard him criticize the president's policy, but they have heard him say, 'We have to make sure the president understand the consequences.' Most annoying to the secretive White House, Baker's reservations became publicly known."

* Baker was "first to recognize the value of working through the United Nations Security Council, despite the reservations of the White House and the Pentagon. By using the Security Council, Baker was able to reassure both the Soviets and the American people that Bush wasn't going it alone."

On the basis of this account, Baker can be identified as a Pro-War Dove -- a proponent of fighting the war on the rationale of collective security.

The Anti-War Hawks, on the other hand, who testified in Senate hearings during the fall, based their opposition to the war on neither any principled adherence to common security nor any commitment to the United Nations, but on practical concern for American interests. Such priorities often give rise to aggressive policies, but in this case, they yielded an opposition to the war and a recommendation that economic sanctions be continued. The most vocal of these critics, notably two former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairmen, Admiral William J. Crowe, Jr.[21] and General David C. Jones, opposed fighting for military reasons; they expected the war to be excessively costly in terms of coalition casualties. The current Joint Chief of Staff Chairman, General Colin L. Powell, has also been considered an Anti-War Hawk for the same reasons, but he was more cautious about expressing his objections to a war strategy and evidently overcame them as soon as the President made up his mind to fight.[22] A "realist" all the way, his ambivalence seems to represent the gradual adjustment of an Anti-War Hawk to the role that was expected of him, a True Hawk. [23]

While the military Anti-War Hawks based their opposition on military considerations, those in the State Department based theirs on geopolitical power considerations: the prospect that Iraq's defeat would allow Iran to become the dominant power in the region. Popular politics in the Middle East is a dynamic tension between secular pan-Arabism (represented by Saddam Hussein and rival Ba'athists in Syria) versus a pan-Islamic movement (represented by the Shiite fundamentalists in Iran). In the upsurge of apprehension about Saddam Hussein, these Anti-War Hawks did not forget the equally disturbing prospect of an unchecked Iran. (Before the cease-fire between Iraq and the coalition armed forces had even become official, the Shiite religious leaders issued their own pertinent reminder of this by doubling the bounty offered for murdering writer Salman Rushdie.)

Bush, finally, must be considered the prototype of a True Hawk -- a proponent of the war for "realistic" motives -- the geopolitical advantage of one nation, the United States. His claim to be defending the international rule of law seems to have been a justification contributed by Baker. His decision to launch the ground war is telling evidence that this consideration was secondary: He gave the order without even waiting for the Security Council to finish its deliberations for the day.

Not all the U.N. support for the war resulted from the U.S.'s pressure. Advocates of collective security working at the United Nations endorsed the use of force on principled grounds. For the first time in a generation, a nation was using U.N. machinery to enforce the rule of law. The "scourge of war" was to be ended by means of collective security. A slide had begun, from "idealism" to "realism."

Approach to
International Relations
"REALISM" Anti-War Hawks True Hawks
Adm Crowe
Robt McNamara
George Bush
Center for Defense Information
Fringe Leftists who support Saddam
Much of cabinet (eg Richard Cheney)
"IDEALISM" True Doves Pro-War Doves
Most peace activists James Baker
  Some peace activists (especially at UN)
  (Common Security) (Collective Security)

In the Soviet Union: Gorbachev's Idealist Strategy

One may too readily assume that the Soviet Union, as a non-belligerent nation, was little affected by the Gulf War. Not so. The domestic political balance was shifted and some key "idealistic" principles of New Political Thinking were tested empirically; unfortunately, they seem to have failed that test. The typology that was introduced above can also be applied usefully to the analysis of the Soviet situation.

During the 1980s many Soviet policy-makers met frequently with Western peace strategists and came to share their views. The "New Political Thinking" that became the basis for Soviet foreign policy was unmistakably of a similar "idealist" nature.[24] For example when he spoke to the U.N. General Assembly in December of 1988, Gorbachev said,

"World politics should be guided by the primacy of universal human values. The history of past centuries and millennia was a history of wars. Today, further world progress is only possible through a search for a universal human consensus as we move forward to a new world order. No genuine progress is possible at the expense of the rights and freedoms of individuals or of nations, or at the expense of nature."

Recognizing that the superpowers' arms race had resulted from balance-of-power strategy, the new Soviet regime adopted an "idealistic" military doctrine based on "reasonable sufficiency," which resembled the aforementioned strategy of nonoffensive defence then being promoted by Western peace activists.[25] The Soviets would largely disarm, retaining military power sufficient only to defend their homeland from attack. By removing any basis for fearing a Soviet attack, this would eventually eliminate the rationale used by the military-industrial complex in the West. When announcing one unilateral disarmament initiative, a Soviet spokesman teased Western hard-liners, "We are going to do something terrible to you: We are going to deprive you of your enemy!" No balance-of-power theorist would have thought of such a joke.

Coupled with his vigorous support for the United Nations and international law, this policy of reasonable sufficiency had become an essential part of Gorbachev's perestroika by October of 1985,[26] but he had to expect strong internal opposition. Khrushchev had been destroyed for less. The Soviet military-industrial complex was immense: Besides the career soldiers, there were 18 million bureaucrats on the payroll, few of whom showed much promise as prospective entrepreneurs. They would hardly welcome disarmament, yet there were few means of placating them. Gorbachev counted on the bonanza of a peace dividend from disarmament, plus the support of reformers, to block the reactionary political pressures of those displaced from careers in the Party, the Army, and military industries. He intended to occupy the middle ground throughout the political and economic struggles that would polarize Soviet society.

Unluckily for him, public opinion turned in an unexpected direction, showing less interest in economic, military, and political reform than in nationalism. Most Soviet "idealists," who should have been Gorbachev's most enthusiastic supporters, supported separatist claims in the Baltics and the Transcaucasus, while he kept trying to prevent the break-up of the union.

Nothing in Gorbachev's Marxist training had prepared him for the primacy that was being assigned to nationalistic claims. Even if he had personally favored the separatist movements, Gorbachev could not have afforded to endorse their aspirations. He was constrained by the power of old-fashioned communist Hawks, who openly threatened to oust any president countenancing the break-up of the Soviet Union. Indeed, a few months later, they would try to carry out this threat.

These are the same "realists" whom Handelman had described in the quotation that opens this paper and whom we have termed "Anti-War Hawks"; locally they are known as "Arabists." In view of their long-standing military relationship with Saddam Hussein (the Soviet Union sold arms worth $23.5 billion to Iraq between 1982-89) they sought to block any attack on him from the West.

For their part, "idealists" reacted against their own nation's previous policies, and against their own opponents, the hard-line Soviet military leaders by supporting the war in principle. (Considering the debacle in Afghanistan, there was no possibility of direct Soviet participation in the Gulf War.) As Pro-War Doves, they consented to pay "the price of being re-accepted in the world community" by endorsing what purported to be a United Nations action.[27]

Gorbachev, having lost the support of most idealists, became more vulnerable to the disgruntled military-industrial complex. Almost his only strong support came from abroad, where people rejoiced on being "deprived of an enemy." At home, among the politically active, he was caught between the Anti-War Hawks and the Pro-War Doves and supported by only a small group of like-minded idealists ("True Doves") who were committed to common security but unconvincing in promoting its advantages over collective security. Not being politically experienced, neither branch of "idealists" was attuned to (or tried to mobilize) public opinion, where opposition to war was substantial and heartfelt. Finally, a handful of Gorbachev's opponents (e.g. Elena Bonner)[28] seemingly were even True Hawks, supporting George Bush's war for the sake of American supremacy and spite against their president's government. (See Figure 3.)

Approach to
International Relations
"REALISM" Anti-War Hawks True Hawks
Hard Liners (CPSU, KGB, most
military officers, Primakov's supporters)
Very few
Elena Bonner?
"IDEALISM" True Doves Pro-War Doves
Gorbachev Eduard Shevardnadze
Primakov? Most "democrats"
  (Common Security) (Collective Security)

Soviet Power Politics During the Crisis

During the first two months after Iraq's August invasion of Kuwait, as the "idealists" generally fell in line with the planning for collective security, the Anti-War Hawks had little influence with Gorbachev. However, their strength grew between October, 1990 and the following February -- especially within the Soviet Military, the Communist Party, the Soyuz bloc in the Supreme Soviet, and the conservative press.

Day by day, the impending war in the Gulf worsened Gorbachev's already grave domestic plight. The forces of democracy were in disarray. Societal consensus on economic reforms had become unattainable. The opponents of reform were able to block every move, even including food distribution.[29] Separatist leaders of the republics had stolen the president's leadership role as a reformist and the middle ground had eroded under his feet. By comparison, Brezhnev's period of stagnation now was recalled as a time of prosperity.

Only in foreign relations had the Soviet Union sustained any success. The foreign ministers, Shevardnadze and Baker, had become friends. After Baker overcame his own reluctance to go to war, he loyally pressed his president's decision on the even more reluctant Soviet foreign minister. Shevardnadze finally accepted the argument that in this case, the use of force would advance the rule of international law. For such a high cause he was prepared to sacrifice relations with Baghdad. He and Baker were alike Pro-War Doves -- proponents of collective security. However wretched the war turned out to be, they had idealistic reasons for supporting it.

Shevardnadze's position as Pro-War Dove proved unpopular at home, and his failure to veto the Security Council's Resolution 678 on November 29 helped bring about his downfall. He had recognized this danger and had attempted to forestall it by rejecting language in the U.N. resolution that would have plainly authorized the use of "force." The Soviet Union could not be seen voting for war in the United Nations.[30] Baker had reluctantly settled for the euphemism, "all necessary means" but then, as temporary president of the Security Council during the vote, he described it for the record as authorizing the use of "force."[31] Shevardnadze's concern about Soviet public opinion was well founded. According to Sovetskaya Rossiya,[32] in the many telegrams, letters, and phone calls to editors on the subject of the Gulf crisis, "the absolute majority of readers insist on a political resolution of the question and categorically object to any military participation by us in the American version of a way out of the impasse."

Instead of seeing the war as a defence of international law, the "realists" saw Soviet acquiescence as supporting Western interests and as diminishing their own global status.[33] Many years of diplomatic and military work in the Middle East had secured only limited influence for the Soviet Union in that important neighboring region; now Shevardnadze had jeopardized that influence by failing to veto war in the Security Council.

Those military hard-liners who were loudest in criticizing the war against Iraq were the same people whose influence on Gorbachev increased during that same winter and who were responsible for the crackdown in Lithuania and for putting troops on patrol duty in city streets with the police. They turned for leadership to Academician Yevgeny Primakov, who shared their disapproval of the war. Support for the policies of Shevardnadze and Primakov became polarized as war became more likely, with whole ministries taking one side or the other.[34]

Primakov had known Saddam for many years[35] and was regarded as a cautious man who had not been associated with perestroika. "He is an outspoken defender of the central administration," according to independent peace activist Tair Tairov, who alluded to connections between Primakov and the Soviet Army's repression in Baku.[36] Primakov's growing status as the hard-liners' peacemaker in the Middle East was interpreted in Moscow as one more sign of Gorbachev's shift to the right. However, despite his association with this group, it may be a mistake to attribute to Primakov all the views of the Anti-War Hawks who look to him for leadership;[37] personally, he may be a True Dove -- an advocate of common security.

After the August invasion of Kuwait, Primakov had advocated a more independent role in the conflict for Moscow, which, he thought, could mediate between Saddam Hussein and Bush. Under Shevardnadze, the foreign ministry made no such attempt to mediate. When eventually Shevardnadze failed to veto the Security Council's authorization of war, his Pro-War Dove stance was challenged at home.

By about that time (November) according to unconfirmed reports,[38] Gorbachev was confronted with ultimatums from several groups of hard-liners. During a Politburo meeting, an army-KGB-conservative group is said to have told him to bring problems under control within six weeks in the republics, Moscow, and Leningrad "or there would be physical ways of removing him." Another group of hard-liners reportedly had already presented Gorbachev with a list of thirty "democrats" who must be removed from office. Shevardnadze's name was supposedly on the list. "Realists" among the People's Deputies threatened to raise Gorbachev's resignation in the Congress if fundamental changes were not made by mid-December. [39]

This showed Shevardnadze where the new power lay. At the Congress in late December, he warned of a coming dictatorship and resigned; two colonels from the conservative Soyuz bloc, who had challenged his policies, were credited with having brought him down.[40] Shevardnadze denied that he stepped down because of a breach with Gorbachev. His aim had been, he said, "to alert M.P.s against a very real danger. Regrettably the majority of delegates at the Congress were of a different opinion." [41]

Democratic forces lost ground in the Congress[42] and some new instance of repression was reported almost every day during the following months -- with the apparent approval of Gorbachev, who declared himself to be yielding to public opinion as it shifted away from the reformers. His appointment of hard-liners to office gave them a base for attempting a coup the following August.[43] If Soviet citizens were actually shifting toward the "realists" it certainly was not because they wanted a dictatorship. In a poll conducted during the Congress, persons in 21 USSR locations were asked, "What would be your attitude towards the military taking power into their own hands and bringing about order in the country in the present-day situation?" Responses were 22 percent positive, 60 percent negative.[44]

Why, then, did the reformist "democrats" lose popular support? One factor (though perhaps not the main one) has to do with their anomalous support for the coming Gulf War. The Soviet people seemingly wanted a political solution to that war -- evidently not because they supported their army, the Party, or the KGB (who were trying to prevent the war for their own reasons) but because they wanted peace: peace as in common security.

The hard-liners gained support by hitching a ride onto this popular opposition against Bush's Gulf War. It was they, the Soviet Anti-War Hawks, along with the smaller group of Soviet True Doves, who demanded a peace initiative that would set their nation apart from the war bandwagon. Primakov was sent back to Baghdad, where he negotiated successfully, and within days Iraq had pledged to withdraw from Kuwait, [45] though this failed to prevent the 100-hour ground war. Most Doves, having taken a Pro-War, collective security, position with respect to this particular international crisis, forfeited the political leadership for this kind of initiative to "Hawks" -- many of them the very people who were at that moment undertaking repressive, anti-democratic actions in the Baltics.

Ironically, during the opening days of the war, an especially brutal military crackdown took place in Lithuania, diverting most of the press coverage and public attention away from the events in the Gulf. Gorbachev was accused of tolerating or even ordering the Vilnius murders, which actually were directed by the future putschist, Interior Minister Boris Pugo, with -- or so the public widely believed -- Gorbachev's tacit consent. This negative impression offset the president's campaign to prevent the Gulf War -- an effort that might otherwise have restored his domestic prestige as an "idealist." While Doves abroad conferred the Nobel Peace Prize on him, Doves at home had lost faith in him.

The Aftermath

Washington's True Hawks prevailed -- with the support of Pro-War Doves both in the West and the Soviet Union. The negative consequences for Soviet domestic reforms and for East/West relations began appearing even before the war ended. By supporting the unpopular war, the democratic reformers had abandoned their dovish principles in this case, and consequently had lost some of their popular support. Much of that support had been captured by Anti-War Hawks, because, to the Soviet people, the over-riding objective was: No War! Having gained support on the basis of their anti-war stand, the Hawks reverted to type and were able to block several of Shevardnadze's and Gorbachev's remarkable foreign policy accomplishments. Agreements to reduce conventional arms and strategic arms were delayed. Trade deals were put on hold. Military crackdowns took place in the Baltic states.

The "realists" used power for their own purposes and in their old Cold War ways. It was only their subsequent bungled coup that would bring them down and allow "idealists" to regain the upper hand.

However, in one respect Gorbachev's new support from the conservative side probably helped him in the short-term; his peace initiative marginally redeemed his reputation at home -- at the price of briefly antagonizing George Bush. Evidently Gorbachev succeeds by winning peace, Bush by winning wars.

The Gulf War was not to blame for the military crackdowns in the Baltics or other Soviet republics. It was separatism and the delay of economic reforms that allowed party bureaucrats, military autocrats, and the secret police to reassert themselves. However, even without winning a cease-fire, the last-minute Soviet peace initiative may have rescued the True Doves' common security approach from oblivion in Moscow.

And justifiably so. The Soviets' bold common security peace strategy had worked brilliantly until it was unthinkingly abandoned. Shevardnadze and Gorbachev lost their nerve and made one error: They failed to veto Resolution 678, which authorized the use of force against Iraq. Had they done so, the Gulf War might have been prevented and "idealists," instead of the Soviet military-industrial complex, might have retained unbroken control over their nation's foreign policy.[46] Soviet diplomats partially recovered from this error by trying, albeit unsuccessfully, to prevent a ground war. Primakov and the Anti-War Hawks actually played a more constructive role in that situation than the Pro-War Doves, though in the longer term and wider perspective, their temporary ascendancy jeopardized the prospects for the whole country.

In the immediate aftermath of war, few people, either in the Soviet Union, the Middle East, or the United States, continued asserting that "common security is the only security." But nor, for that matter, had "collective security" proved its own merits in the war. After viewing on television the misery of the Kurds and Shiite victims, a lavish birthday party in Baghdad for the still-reigning Saddam Hussein, and the black rain from hundreds of burning oil wells, the majority of Americans became convinced, according to polls, that the United States had not won the war after all. They did not regret having resorted to war, but only having failed to complete it by destroying or ousting their enemy. When later an inspection team found that Iraq had been close to developing a hydrogen bomb, those who had supported the war could plausibly claim, if not victory in battle, at least extra points for their argument.


For once, rare in the world's history, the leader of a superpower departed from "realism" in favor of a new military doctrine based on common security. In so doing, Mikhail Gorbachev broke an impasse with the United States and began to put an end to the Cold War, creating an opportunity for a world-wide process of conversion from militarism to the meeting of human needs.

This opportunity was not immediately accepted. Instead, the American habit of realpolitik continued. George Bush seized the opportunity presented by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait to reassert American hegemony -- no longer as one of two matched superpowers but as the nation uniquely capable of projecting power anywhere in the world and of guaranteeing the uninterrupted flow of necessary resources to the industrial nations. Such hegemony promised future financial rewards in the form of tribute from nations that would otherwise be competitors.

The Persian Gulf crisis differed from other recent occasions when the United States had intervened abroad (e.g. Grenada, Panama) by seeming to present an occasion for the legitimate use of collective sanctions under terms of the United Nations charter. A member nation had been attacked and incorporated into another nation, with continuing misery being imposed on its citizens. The aggressor state had violated its own commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and was on the way to acquiring nuclear weapons. It already had chemical and biological arsenals, and was notable for the brutal repression of its own citizens. The whole world could recognize the value of checking Saddam Hussein's threat to world order.

Around the world, the opponents of war, though experienced in arguing against the spread of nuclear weapons, had given little thought to developing practicable measures of common security. They could propose few humane ways of jointly limiting the aggression of dictators against internal dissenters or of expansionary nations against other nations. Indeed, the very concept of common security was not well understood, even by peace activists.

On the other hand, the doctrine of "collective security" had been approved by all nations that had joined the United Nations, and it was a blank cheque. The collective security principle had been formulated almost a century ago, before warfare had come to imply the bombardment of cities, and had never since been reviewed. Other than the standard minimal (and largely disregarded) rules of war, no specific limitations had been placed on the means whereby a member of the United Nations might be protected from aggression. Actions authorized by the United Nations would not be constrained by the ancient principles that theologians had proposed for distinguishing just wars from unjust ones. A war fought under the U.N.'s banner of collective security would not even be strongly criticized for bombing a populace consisting primarily of children under the age of fifteen -- a populace that had been unable to free itself from a dictator because he had been abundantly armed by most of the states belonging to the Security Council itself.

So respected is the United Nations as a guardian of peace that, by acquiring its imprimatur, the Bush public relations strategy even won the approval of a substantial portion of the world's peace movement and of the "new political thinkers" in the Soviet Union. "Collective security" was an undefined concept to which most of the world had uncritically subscribed -- Doves and Hawks alike. Its potential abuse had not been anticipated, nor had its potential for subverting the practices of "idealists" toward the objectives of "realists." Yet all these things happened during the Gulf War. Immediately afterwards, perhaps embarrassed by its inept response, the peace movement dropped the subject from its internal discourse. The United Nations has lost, instead of gaining, prestige, and the effects on the Soviet Union were especially serious.

Bush's war buttressed the claims of Soviet "realists" to be vital defenders of their nation's interests in the Middle East, where a hard-won position of power was abandoned for the sake of charming the West. The Americans, instead of disarming as a reciprocal gesture to the unilateral initiatives of Gorbachev, saw a power vacuum and made the most of it, for the moment demonstrating that the Soviet "realists'" balance of power principle predicted outcomes better than the new policy of foreign nonintervention.

Moreover, most Soviet "idealists" and proponents of "New Political Thinking," including Shevardnadze, the foreign minister, supported the war. In so doing they forfeited their political leadership; the general population was strongly opposed to the war, as were the hard-line Anti-War Hawks. The unpopularity of the war created a measure of legitimacy for the hard-liners (the "realists"), despite their other unpopular, repressive, and undemocratic actions. Their successful manoeuvres stalled disarmament efforts. Their bungled coup later caused them to be displaced by "idealists," whose unarmed resistance demonstrated the power of nonviolence.

"Realists" will exist in the future. So, too, will the "idealists" who oppose them. Allying with "realists" is not the way for peace activists to become effective. Instead, they need to clarify their own views and address the wider public, using their own principles and their own inclusive vision. At the top of this agenda is the problem of redefining approaches to security for the United Nations. Some forms of protection will continue to be necessary from time to time for nations that are attacked. Internal populations should also be able to count on the help from the world community in protecting of their own human rights, which will require redefining the rules of sovereignty. All these means must be specified, within the framework of common security. Preparation today is necessary to avert the next war to be proposed on the specious grounds so widely accepted for waging the Gulf War.


[1]Stephen Handelman, "Kremlin Growing Frustrated with Role as Outsider," Toronto Star, Feb. 10, 1991, p. H4.
[2]The failure to make these humanitarian exemptions was protested by a number of international signatories of the "Open Letter to Secretary General Perez de Cuellar," on February 14, 1991, in support of a convoy by the Gulf Peace Team to bring medical supplies from Amman, Jordan, to Baghdad, on a road regularly bombed by coalition planes. Actually, economic sanctions may also be rejected, on principled grounds, from the category of common security, since it is a coercive tactic that imposes hardship on innocent people, but it is included here because in practice it was widely accepted during the Gulf War by "True Doves."
[3]Hanna Newcombe, "But Do We Like It?"p. 14.
[4]In North America, civilian-based defence is best known from the writings of Gene Sharp. See his classic study,The Politics of Nonviolent Action (Boston: Porter Sargeant, 1973).
[5]Douglas Roche, Building Global Security: Agenda for the 1990s. Toronto: NC Press, 1989, p. 57.
[6]John Sigler, lecture,"The Search for Peace," Toronto, April 1991.
[7]Hanna Newcombe, "But Do We Like It?" Peace Magazine, Mar. 1991, p. 6.
[8]Hans J. Morgenthau, Dilemmas of Politics, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958, pp. 98-100.) For a contemporary critique of this approach, see Stanley Hoffman, Contemporary Theory in International Relations (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1960) p. 30.
[9]Francis A. Beer, Peace Against War (San Francisco: W.H. Freeman, 1981), p. 87
[10]Quincy Wright, The Study of International Relations, New York: Appleton Century Crofts, 1955
[11]Anatol Rapoport, The Origins of Violence (New York: Paragon, 1989.)
[12]In the U.S. there was a coalition led by Ramsey Clark that opposed the war but did not oppose Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Clark's previous background does not lend itself to any characterization of him as a Hawk but, since the invasion of Kuwait was indisputably an act of aggression, anyone who tacitly supports it but opposes the U.S.-led military response may arguably be classified, according to the present typology, as an "Anti-War Hawk." On the other hand, Ramsey Clark's objections to the U.S. response are also based on a concern for international law. (See his article, "The War Crime, "in The Nation, March 1991.)
[13]Michael Klare, "Policing the Gulf -- and the World." The Nation, Oct. 15, 1990.
[14]An optimistic interpretation of this strategy was suggested by the Mayor of Moscow, Gavriil Popov, after a visit to Washington. He regards the strategy as a temporary accommodation by the U.S. to buy time. "[The U.S.] needs two or three years to restructure. Meanwhile, it has to control competitors by non-economic methods. The Americans have realized they can beat their competitors by controlling the flow of oil. ... The question is whether the USA will be able to continue to use oil to retain its control over Japan and Western Europe." Moscow News, Feb. 24-March 1, 1991, p. 10.
[15]These were chiefly members of the U.S. -- Iraq Business Forum, an organization that functioned, essentially, as a lobby for Iraq. Later it would oppose the U.S.'s war against Iraq. (See Joe Conason, "The Iraq Lobby: Kissinger, the Business Forum & Co." in Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf (eds..) The Gulf War Reader, N.Y.: Times Books, 1991. pp. 79 -84.) It must be noted that Kissinger Associates did not oppose the war against Iraq. Indeed, in an article in The Christian Science Monitor (March 22, 1991) Alan Stoga argued that "the worst scenario for the West would be a drawn-out economic and military siege of Iraq."
[16]Phebe Marr attributes Saddam's refusal to consolidate Iraq's debt and reschedule its payments in part to his objections to the foreigners' demands for financial disclosure. See Marr's article, "Iraq's Uncertain Future," Current History, Jan. 1991, p. 2.
[17]David Orchard, The New Catalyst, Spring 1991, No. 20, p. 2. See also the bulletin of U.S-Iraq Business Forum, August, 1989.
[18]Some suspicious observers believe, of course, that Saddam Hussein was enticed, by a calculated plan, to invade Kuwait, for all these reasons. If this was so, one must hope for stronger evidence than exists at present.
[19]The effectiveness of this strategy--at least in the short term--is reflected in the statement of Jacques Delors, President of the European Commission, "The gulf war has altered the psychological relationship between the two sides [i.e. the U.S. and Europe]. The U.S. played the most important role in limiting the ambitions of the dictator Saddam Hussein." Time Magazine, April 22, 1991, p. 31.
[20]Margaret Garrard Warner, "Jim Baker's Biggest Test," Newsweek, Jan. 14, 1991, pp. 14-18.
[21]See Admiral William J. Crowe, Jr., "Give Sanctions a Chance," (Testimony Before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Nov. 28, 1990), in Sifry and Cerf, pp. 234-37. His argument is a multi-faceted one that actually goes beyond any simple estimation of probable losses.
[22]Bob Woodward, The Commanders, (New York: Simon and Shuster, 1991), pp. 38, 299-301, 309 and passim. Woodward identifies a number of other military people, such as Lt. General George Lee Butler, (see p. 308) who objected to war on the grounds that it was "messy."
[23]This inference is based largely on Woodward's book but unfortunately, he seems to have had no contacts in Baker's office comparable to those in Powell's entourage. His reports of Powell's attitudes are extremely detailed, but he says little about Baker, who would be the appropriate person to whom Powell might be compared.
[24]For a list of the features of this approach, see Vladimir V. Mshvenieradze, "Meditations on the New Political Thinking," International Journal on World Peace V(2) April-June, 1988, pp. 19-32.
[25]In an interview in October, 1991, a retired British Brigadier General, Michael Harbottle, notes that he promoted this idea in meetings with his Soviet counterparts in meetings of a group called "Generals for Peace." Harbottle's own interest in nonoffensive defence had been stimulated by his participation in a British organization, "Just Defence." The same idea was being discussed with Soviet policy-makers in Pugwash meetings, particularly by the Danish peace strategist, Anders Boserup. Publications promoting this strategy included books by Dietrich Fischer, Preventing War in a Nuclear Age and Johan Galtung, There Are Alternatives.
[26]In a visit to France at that time, he addressed Parliament and outlined his new paradigm for security. At the same time, however, the Reagan administration was developing a public relations campaign for its Star Wars project -- a threat that strengthened Soviet opposition to disarmament. See Honoré M. Catudal, Soviet Nuclear Strategy From Stalin to Gorbachev (Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1989) pp. 218-19. The full extent to which Gorbachev would put international interests ahead of Soviet ones would not be seen, however, until December 7, 1988, the date of his remarkably forthcoming speech to the United Nations.
[27]This pretense was hardly supported by Secretary General Perez de Cuellar, who was heard to say that it was the U.S.'s war, not the U.N.'s war.
[28]Bonner, the widow of Andrei Sakharov, addressed a Toronto conference, "Glasnost and the Global Village," along these lines, Feb. 24, 1991.
[29]Bruce W. Nelan, "Broadside from the Right," (Time Magazine, Dec. 31, 1990, p. 16) cites German Sovietologist Uwe Nerlich, who concluded that Soviet bureaucrats were systematically holding supplies back from stores to discredit the proposed market economy.
[30]Bob Woodward, The Commanders, p. 334.
[32]Generalizations based on these figures must be guarded, since Sovetskaya Rossiya is the hard-liners' favorite newspaper.
[33]Stephen Handelman, "Soviets caught in Mideast dilemma," Toronto Star, Jan 25, 1991.
[34]Andrei Kortunov, "The Gulf Crisis: A Soviet Approach," Moscow News, Jan. 13-20, 1991. p. 3.
[35]Primakov was a Middle East specialist and, for a time, Director of the Soviet Institute of Oriental Studies. He had represented the Soviet government in diplomatic contacts in the Middle East since the 1960s. See Freedman, pp. 38 and 213.
[36]Interview, February 10, 1991. Tairov , a specialist in international law, worked at Institute for World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) the prestigious institute that Primakov headed, then served for seven years as Secretary of the World Peace Council in Helsinki. Later Tairov quit this official organization and now works on reformist policies with an independent organization.
[37]Personal communication, Sergei Plekhanov, Feb. 22, 1991. Plekhanov, who has worked with Primakov for many years, strongly denies that he is a hawk, but agrees that he is cautious. Primakov is known in the international peace research community, having served, for example, on the Board of Directors of the United Nations University in Tokyo, along with such "True Doves" as Elise Boulding. (Personal communication, Elise Boulding, 1990.)
[38]George J .Church, "Crackdown -- or Breakdown?" Time Magazine, Dec. 31, 1990, p. 14. Church cites Uwe Nerlich and Janis Jurkans.
[39]"Getting up from a Knockdown," an interview with USSR People's Deputy V. Alksnis. Sovetskaya Rossiya, Nov. 21, pp. 1-2. Current Digest of the Soviet Press, Vol. XLII, No. 48, 1990. p. 12.
[40]Elsewhere the better-known of the two colonels denied that he could have done such a thing. In an interview published by Moscow News (Feb. 10-17, 1991, p. 7) Col. Viktors Alksnis said, "It would be ridiculous to claim that I sacked Shevardnadze."
[41]"MN Meets Eduard Shevardnadze," Moscow News, No. 1, Jan. 6-13, 1991, p. 4.
[42]"At A Crossroads -- For the Umpteenth Time," Moscow News, No. 1, Jan. 6-13, 1991, p. 5.
[43]It is still hard to explain Gorbachev's swing toward the right during that period. During his initial press conference upon returning to Moscow after the August coup, he never claimed that these decisions had been made under duress, but owned them as his personal errors.
[44]Prof. Yuri Levada, "Opinion Poll Findings," Moscow News, No. 1, Jan. 6-13, 1991, p. 6.
[45]Primakov described these diplomatic encounters in "My Final Visit with Saddam Hussein," Time, March 11, 1991, pp. 44-45.
[46]Even retrospectively, Eduard Shevardnadze does not regard the Soviet vote for Resolution 678 as an error. In a interview published March 10, 1991, he said, "We, and I have in mind the entire world community, have proved that we can work together despite certain difficulties, differences of views and interests. This cooperation has prevented a catastrophe. It is terrible that there are casualties, that blood was spilled, and there is material damage. But the events could have taken a still ghastlier turn. But that did not happen and we can well speak of a new political order in the world. There is an ever growing confidence that aggression will not be left unpunished. I see this as the most important outcome." Moscow News, Mar. 10-17, 1991, p. 13.