LOU DOBBS, CNN: The United States has turned to the United Nations for help in Iraq, an organization the White House once declared to be all but irrelevant. Tonight, I'll be joined by Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum and Nile Gardiner of the Heritage Foundation.
DOBBS: Still ahead here, U.S. strategy at a crossroads. I'll be joined by two critics of the administration's Iraq policies, Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum, Nile Gardiner of the Heritage Foundation.
The United States preparing to sign yet another free trade agreement. Is it another mistake? Congressman Charlie Rangel joins us. He says free trade is unfair to American businesses and workers in Central America. He is my guest tonight. And the federal government is about to spend billions of dollars to strengthen border security. Incredibly, this contract could go to a foreign company and a leading outsourcer of American jobs to cheap overseas labor markets.
DOBBS: The president's speech tonight intended to show the American people that the United States now has a clear strategy for Iraq, but critics say the United States has failed to accomplish its mission and it is time for the president to set a date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Some critics also say the handover of security to a new Iraqi force in Fallujah is a clear sign the administration is prepared to compromise with insurgents.
Joining me now, Daniel Pipes, who's director of the Middle East Forum and an authority on the Middle East, who says the United States should appoint a strongman, if you will, to take over in Iraq, and with him, Nile Gardiner, a fellow in Anglo-American security policy at the Heritage Foundation who says the United States has given too much power already to former Baathists in Fallujah.
Gentlemen, good to have you here.
Let me say first, Daniel Pipes, the idea of a strongman for many resonates with the suggestion of a despot like Saddam Hussein making a return. What do you mean when you say a strong leader in that vein?
DANIEL PIPES, DIRECTOR, MIDDLE EAST FORUM: I mean someone who doesn't have blood on his hands, who is not an ideological fanatic, but someone, perhaps a former general or colonel who is decent, who we can nudge towards an open political system over the years, someone who will have authority and standing in Iraq.
One slight misstep, I didn't mean that we would appoint him, that we would work with him. They would accept the emergence of such a personality.
DOBBS: Not an appointment, but rather an emergence, in your thinking, a fortuitous one. Nile, your thoughts on that idea?
NILE GARDINER, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: I think the last thing we need in Iraq is a strong, centralized dictatorial-style government, actually. I think that we certainly do not want to see the reemergence in any way of any elements linked to the former Baathist regime. I think we made some serious mistakes so far in Fallujah. We failed to stamp out the insurgency there. I believe that what we need in Iraq is a strong sense of regional government, devolution of power, not the centralization of political power.
DOBBS: It appears to me, gentlemen, that there is a great sort of movement right now in this country to rationalize where we are in Iraq in terms of both military strategy, in terms of the geopolitical strategy, the goals, the mission. It seems to be in total chaos.
Daniel Pipes, is there, in your judgment right now, a way in which the United States can emerge from Iraq intact, at least with some semblance of the very ambitious goals that were articulated by the administration a year ago?
PIPES: Let me start by saying that I support those goals. And if I'm wrong and they can be achieved, I will be delighted.
I think they cannot be achieved. So what I'm offering is a more modest ambition, something which is second or third best. It's better to have the strongman than to have the different parts of Iraq at war with each other, which I fear will be the result of devolution. It's better to have this than to have a radical Islamic take over by someone like Muqtada al-Sadr. It's better than the alternatives that I can find that are reasonably likely.
DOBBS: Nile, do you agree with that view, that one Iraq, effectively, if I'm correct in interpreting you, Daniel Pipes, one Iraq is better than three separate entities, that is, the Kurds, Sunnis and Shia?
GARDINER: Well, I was talking earlier, really, about a federal system of power in Iraq, keeping Iraq as a unitary state, but a state divided into three power structures. I think that, in the past, Iraq has been too centralized in terms of political power. And this allowed the rise of the Sunni dictatorship led by Saddam Hussein. We want to avoid any recurrence of this sort of dictatorship again. And I believe it is imperative that we decentralize political power in Iraq, that we do strive at all costs for the establishment of a democratic society. There is really no such thing as a benign dictatorship.
DOBBS: Let me ask you both to address this issue. The United States is now in heated combat against insurgents, whether they be Sunni, whether they be Shia. We are taking very bad wounds, quite literally. American lives are being lost. Goals are not being achieved, at least those enunciated to this point by the administration. What is the impact on the global war on terror, in your view, the standing of the United States in that region, which is the origin, the source of radical Islamist terrorism. Nile, could you address that?
GARDINER: Well, we certainly can't afford to lose the war on terror in Iraq. Iraq has become certainly the central front in the war against terror. The terrorists are certainly testing to the very limits America's power as a global superpower. It's imperative that we send a message to the world that the United States is committing to winning the war against terror on the ground in Iraq.
PIPES: Two points. I would say we have got to win in Iraq. And the way we can more likely win is by having lesser goals, less ambitious goals.
And, two, as you and I have discussed in the past, Lou, the war on terror is really a war on radical Islam. And it is separate, or at least it was separate, from the war against Saddam Hussein. And I think they really should be seen as different. North Korea is separate from the war on militant Islam and the one is fundamentally different from the other. Of course they affect each other, but Iraq will not, in the end, determine up—determine the outcome of the war on militant Islam.
DOBBS: Daniel Pipes, Nile Gardiner, we thank you both gentlemen for being with us.