the September 11 attacks on the United States, Dr. Harvey Sicherman
G67 Gr71 wrote a brief, trenchant analysis of the Bleak New World
facing the United States. Sketching the new geopolitical landscape
in the Middle East, he wrote: As for Iraq (or the Taliban in Afghanistan),
only hot lead and cold steel are likely to make any impression.
It was a characteristically blunt and tough-minded appraisal by
Sicherman, who has served as director of the Philadelphia-based
Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) since 1993. It was also
apposite: Unless something changes quickly (I write this in early
February), Saddam Husseins Iraq is about to get a harsh taste of
Sicherman is in a sense the intellectual heir of the late Dr. Robert
Strausz-HupÈ Gr46, the legendary Penn political-science professor,
diplomat, author, and theorist who founded the FPRI in 1955and
who, in private conversation, often referred to Sicherman as brilliant.
(Originally connected with the University, the FPRI went its own
way in 1970; a number of Penn faculty are still connected with it.)
Though he earned his masters and doctoral degrees at the Universityand
is guest-teaching a political-science course here this semesterSicherman
is hardly the stereotypical Ivory Tower scholar. He served as a
special assistant to one secretary of state (Alexander M. Haig,
from 1981-82); on the policy-planning staff of another (James A.
Baker, 1991-92); and as a consultant to a third (George Schultz
in 1988), as well as to former Secretary of the Navy John F. Lehman,
Jr. Gr74 (1984-97).
A prolific writer, Sicherman recently co-edited (with Lehman) America
the Vulnerable: Our Military Problems and How To Fix Them, and
is the author of Palestinian Autonomy, Self-Government and Peace
(1993), along with innumerable essays for the FPRI on such disparate
subjects as Judaism and International Relations, From Russia
Without Love, and Chinas Three Ifs.
On January 21, Sicherman sat down to talk about Iraq and other matters
Middle Eastern. Although it was still a week before President Bush
gave his State of the Union speech, Sicherman had no doubt that
a war was indeed on its way.
President is very shortly going to show what hes made of, he said
firmly. While readily conceding that war is a lousy optionhe
quoted the 19th-century Prussian General Helmuth von Moltkes maxim
that No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemySicherman
maintained that all the other options have been tried, and failed.
sanctions didnt work, he said. The attempted overthrow from the
inside or by rebellion from the outside didnt work. Saddam is not
being contained. Everybodys cheating on the sanctions. And hes
buying weapons. And we have no proof that hes not developing weapons
of mass destruction, he having kicked the inspectors out until
As for why it should be up to the United States to go after Saddam,
his answer was simple: There is not a single other major power
in the world that can send a decisive military force to the Persian
And so to war.
What follows is an edited version of our conversation.