Lee H. Hamilton is president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and director of The Center on Congress at Indiana University. Hamilton represented Indiana’s 9th congressional district for 34 years beginning January 1965. He served as chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, chaired the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran, the Joint Economic Committee, and the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress. As a member of the House Standards of Official Conduct Committee Hamilton was a primary draftsman of several House ethics reforms.
Since leaving the House, Hamilton has served on several commissions including serving as Vice-Chair of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission), co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, the National Commission on the War Powers of the President and the Congress, and the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States. He is currently a member of the FBI Director’s Advisory Board, the Defense Secretary’s National Security Study Group, and the US Department of Homeland Security Task Force on Preventing the Entry of Weapons of Mass Effect on American Soil.
Hamilton: We have to be hardheaded, and we have to not be driven by ideology in making the judgment as to whether or not to intervene. That’s the toughest decision that the American government makes. Do you intervene? Do you put young lives at risk? Do you go to war? By all odds, the toughest question that a government deals with. We went into that war on intelligence that was driven by ideology. It was not hardheaded, pragmatic, practical intelligence. We went into that war greatly overestimating the threat, and greatly underestimating how tough it would be to handle the problem. So we have to get a much more firmer grip, if you would, on reality and the difficulties. And then we have to answer this question: How much are we willing to spend in lives and resources to achieve certain goals? One of the things that has really impressed me about Iraq is that we have never, ever been willing to put the resources into it that our very extraordinary goals that we have articulated would require. We just haven’t been willing to match the resources with the rhetoric.
Recorded on: 7/5/07