Politics Mondays: Patrick J. Buchanan Dissects The Neoconservative War
[Editor's Note: Patrick J. Buchanan, Editor Of The American Conservative has written two of the most thorough, controversial, and thought-provoking articles on the subject of the real possibility that a small but influential group is attempting to guide United States' foreign policy and control the thinking of President George W. Bush. In two cover stories of The American Conservative - "Whose War?" and "No End To War" the conservative commentator articulates his thesis, names the central figures operating at the point, and suggests the real aim of the neoconservative initiative. Whether one agrees or not with the argument or conclusion; Mr. Buchanan's words deserve careful study and reasoned discussion.]
Below are both articles:
A neoconservative clique seeks to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America’s interest.
by Patrick J. Buchanan
The War Party may have gotten its war. But it has also gotten something it did not bargain for. Its membership lists and associations have been exposed and its motives challenged. In a rare moment in U.S. journalism, Tim Russert put this question directly to Richard Perle: “Can you assure American viewers ... that we’re in this situation against Saddam Hussein and his removal for American security interests? And what would be the link in terms of Israel?”
Suddenly, the Israeli connection is on the table, and the War Party is not amused. Finding themselves in an unanticipated firefight, our neoconservative friends are doing what comes naturally, seeking student deferments from political combat by claiming the status of a persecuted minority group. People who claim to be writing the foreign policy of the world superpower, one would think, would be a little more manly in the schoolyard of politics. Not so.
Former Wall Street Journal editor Max Boot kicked off the campaign. When these “Buchananites toss around ‘neoconservative’—and cite names like Wolfowitz and Cohen—it sometimes sounds as if what they really mean is ‘Jewish conservative.’” Yet Boot readily concedes that a passionate attachment to Israel is a “key tenet of neoconservatism.” He also claims that the National Security Strategy of President Bush “sounds as if it could have come straight out from the pages of Commentary magazine, the neocon bible.” (For the uninitiated, Commentary, the bible in which Boot seeks divine guidance, is the monthly of the American Jewish Committee.)
David Brooks of the Weekly Standard wails that attacks based on the Israel tie have put him through personal hell: “Now I get a steady stream of anti-Semitic screeds in my e-mail, my voicemail and in my mailbox. ... Anti-Semitism is alive and thriving. It’s just that its epicenter is no longer on the Buchananite Right, but on the peace-movement left.”
Washington Post columnist Robert Kagan endures his own purgatory abroad: “In London ... one finds Britain’s finest minds propounding, in sophisticated language and melodious Oxbridge accents, the conspiracy theories of Pat Buchanan concerning the ‘neoconservative’ (read: Jewish) hijacking of American foreign policy.”
Lawrence Kaplan of the New Republic charges that our little magazine “has been transformed into a forum for those who contend that President Bush has become a client of ... Ariel Sharon and the ‘neoconservative war party.’”
Referencing Charles Lindbergh, he accuses Paul Schroeder, Chris Matthews, Robert Novak, Georgie Anne Geyer, Jason Vest of the Nation, and Gary Hart of implying that “members of the Bush team have been doing Israel’s bidding and, by extension, exhibiting ‘dual loyalties.’” Kaplan thunders:
The real problem with such claims is not just that they are untrue. The problem is that they are toxic. Invoking the specter of dual loyalty to mute criticism and debate amounts to more than the everyday pollution of public discourse. It is the nullification of public discourse, for how can one refute accusations grounded in ethnicity? The charges are, ipso facto, impossible to disprove. And so they are meant to be.
What is going on here? Slate’s Mickey Kaus nails it in the headline of his retort: “Lawrence Kaplan Plays the Anti-Semitic Card.”
What Kaplan, Brooks, Boot, and Kagan are doing is what the Rev. Jesse Jackson does when caught with some mammoth contribution from a Fortune 500 company he has lately accused of discriminating. He plays the race card. So, too, the neoconservatives are trying to fend off critics by assassinating their character and impugning their motives.
Indeed, it is the charge of “anti-Semitism” itself that is toxic. For this venerable slander is designed to nullify public discourse by smearing and intimidating foes and censoring and blacklisting them and any who would publish them. Neocons say we attack them because they are Jewish. We do not. We attack them because their warmongering threatens our country, even as it finds a reliable echo in Ariel Sharon.
And this time the boys have cried “wolf” once too often. It is not working. As Kaus notes, Kaplan’s own New Republic carries Harvard professor Stanley Hoffman. In writing of the four power centers in this capital that are clamoring for war, Hoffman himself describes the fourth thus:
And, finally, there is a loose collection of friends of Israel, who believe in the identity of interests between the Jewish state and the United States. … These analysts look on foreign policy through the lens of one dominant concern: Is it good or bad for Israel? Since that nation’s founding in 1948, these thinkers have never been in very good odor at the State Department, but now they are well ensconced in the Pentagon, around such strategists as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith.
“If Stanley Hoffman can say this,” asks Kaus, “why can’t Chris Matthews?” Kaus also notes that Kaplan somehow failed to mention the most devastating piece tying the neoconservatives to Sharon and his Likud Party.
In a Feb. 9 front-page article in the Washington Post, Robert Kaiser quotes a senior U.S. official as saying, “The Likudniks are really in charge now.” Kaiser names Perle, Wolfowitz, and Feith as members of a pro-Israel network inside the administration and adds David Wurmser of the Defense Department and Elliott Abrams of the National Security Council. (Abrams is the son-in-law of Norman Podhoretz, editor emeritus of Commentary, whose magazine has for decades branded critics of Israel as anti-Semites.)
Noting that Sharon repeatedly claims a “special closeness” to the Bushites, Kaiser writes, “For the first time a U.S. administration and a Likud government are pursuing nearly identical policies.” And a valid question is: how did this come to be, and while it is surely in Sharon’s interest, is it in America’s interest?
This is a time for truth. For America is about to make a momentous decision: whether to launch a series of wars in the Middle East that could ignite the Clash of Civilizations against which Harvard professor Samuel Huntington has warned, a war we believe would be a tragedy and a disaster for this Republic. To avert this war, to answer the neocon smears, we ask that our readers review their agenda as stated in their words. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. As Al Smith used to say, “Nothing un-American can live in the sunlight.”
We charge that a cabal of polemicists and public officials seek to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America’s interests. We charge them with colluding with Israel to ignite those wars and destroy the Oslo Accords. We charge them with deliberately damaging U.S. relations with every state in the Arab world that defies Israel or supports the Palestinian people’s right to a homeland of their own. We charge that they have alienated friends and allies all over the Islamic and Western world through their arrogance, hubris, and bellicosity.
Not in our lifetimes has America been so isolated from old friends. Far worse, President Bush is being lured into a trap baited for him by these neocons that could cost him his office and cause America to forfeit years of peace won for us by the sacrifices of two generations in the Cold War.
They charge us with anti-Semitism—i.e., a hatred of Jews for their faith, heritage, or ancestry. False. The truth is, those hurling these charges harbor a “passionate attachment” to a nation not our own that causes them to subordinate the interests of their own country and to act on an assumption that, somehow, what’s good for Israel is good for America.
Who are the neoconservatives? The first generation were ex-liberals, socialists, and Trotskyites, boat-people from the McGovern revolution who rafted over to the GOP at the end of conservatism’s long march to power with Ronald Reagan in 1980.
A neoconservative, wrote Kevin Phillips back then, is more likely to be a magazine editor than a bricklayer. Today, he or she is more likely to be a resident scholar at a public policy institute such as the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) or one of its clones like the Center for Security Policy or the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). As one wag writes, a neocon is more familiar with the inside of a think tank than an Abrams tank.
Almost none came out of the business world or military, and few if any came out of the Goldwater campaign. The heroes they invoke are Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Harry Truman, Martin Luther King, and Democratic Senators Henry “Scoop” Jackson (Wash.) and Pat Moynihan (N.Y.).
All are interventionists who regard Stakhanovite support of Israel as a defining characteristic of their breed. Among their luminaries are Jeane Kirkpatrick, Bill Bennett, Michael Novak, and James Q. Wilson.
Their publications include the Weekly Standard, Commentary, the New Republic, National Review, and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. Though few in number, they wield disproportionate power through control of the conservative foundations and magazines, through their syndicated columns, and by attaching themselves to men of power.
Beating the War Drums
When the Cold War ended, these neoconservatives began casting about for a new crusade to give meaning to their lives. On Sept. 11, their time came. They seized on that horrific atrocity to steer America’s rage into all-out war to destroy their despised enemies, the Arab and Islamic “rogue states” that have resisted U.S. hegemony and loathe Israel.
The War Party’s plan, however, had been in preparation far in advance of 9/11. And when President Bush, after defeating the Taliban, was looking for a new front in the war on terror, they put their precooked meal in front of him. Bush dug into it.
Before introducing the script-writers of America’s future wars, consider the rapid and synchronized reaction of the neocons to what happened after that fateful day.
On Sept. 12, Americans were still in shock when Bill Bennett told CNN that we were in “a struggle between good and evil,” that the Congress must declare war on “militant Islam,” and that “overwhelming force” must be used. Bennett cited Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and China as targets for attack. Not, however, Afghanistan, the sanctuary of Osama’s terrorists. How did Bennett know which nations must be smashed before he had any idea who attacked us?
The Wall Street Journal immediately offered up a specific target list, calling for U.S. air strikes on “terrorist camps in Syria, Sudan, Libya, and Algeria, and perhaps even in parts of Egypt.” Yet, not one of Bennett’s six countries, nor one of these five, had anything to do with 9/11.
On Sept. 15, according to Bob Woodward’s Bush at War, “Paul Wolfowitz put forth military arguments to justify a U.S. attack on Iraq rather than Afghanistan.” Why Iraq? Because, Wolfowitz argued in the War Cabinet, while “attacking Afghanistan would be uncertain … Iraq was a brittle oppressive regime that might break easily. It was doable.”
On Sept. 20, forty neoconservatives sent an open letter to the White House instructing President Bush on how the war on terror must be conducted. Signed by Bennett, Podhoretz, Kirkpatrick, Perle, Kristol, and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, the letter was an ultimatum. To retain the signers’ support, the president was told, he must target Hezbollah for destruction, retaliate against Syria and Iran if they refuse to sever ties to Hezbollah, and overthrow Saddam. Any failure to attack Iraq, the signers warned Bush, “will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism.”
Here was a cabal of intellectuals telling the Commander-in-Chief, nine days after an attack on America, that if he did not follow their war plans, he would be charged with surrendering to terror. Yet, Hezbollah had nothing to do with 9/11. What had Hezbollah done? Hezbollah had humiliated Israel by driving its army out of Lebanon.
President Bush had been warned. He was to exploit the attack of 9/11 to launch a series of wars on Arab regimes, none of which had attacked us. All, however, were enemies of Israel. “Bibi” Netanyahu, the former Prime Minister of Israel, like some latter-day Citizen Genet, was ubiquitous on American television, calling for us to crush the “Empire of Terror.” The “Empire,” it turns out, consisted of Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Iraq, and “the Palestinian enclave.”
Nasty as some of these regimes and groups might be, what had they done to the United States?
The War Party seemed desperate to get a Middle East war going before America had second thoughts. Tom Donnelly of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) called for an immediate invasion of Iraq. “Nor need the attack await the deployment of half a million troops. … [T]he larger challenge will be occupying Iraq after the fighting is over,” he wrote.
Donnelly was echoed by Jonah Goldberg of National Review: “The United States needs to go to war with Iraq because it needs to go to war with someone in the region and Iraq makes the most sense.”
Goldberg endorsed “the Ledeen Doctrine” of ex-Pentagon official Michael Ledeen, which Goldberg described thus: “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show we mean business.” (When the French ambassador in London, at a dinner party, asked why we should risk World War III over some “shitty little country”—meaning Israel—Goldberg’s magazine was not amused.)
Ledeen, however, is less frivolous. In The War Against the Terror Masters, he identifies the exact regimes America must destroy:
First and foremost, we must bring down the terror regimes, beginning with the Big Three: Iran, Iraq, and Syria. And then we have to come to grips with Saudi Arabia. … Once the tyrants in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Saudi Arabia have been brought down, we will remain engaged. …We have to ensure the fulfillment of the democratic revolution. … Stability is an unworthy American mission, and a misleading concept to boot. We do not want stability in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and even Saudi Arabia; we want things to change. The real issue is not whether, but how to destabilize.
Rejecting stability as “an unworthy American mission,” Ledeen goes on to define America’s authentic “historic mission”:
Creative destruction is our middle name, both within our society and abroad. We tear down the old order every day, from business to science, literature, art, architecture, and cinema to politics and the law. Our enemies have always hated this whirlwind of energy and creativity which menaces their traditions (whatever they may be) and shames them for their inability to keep pace. … [W]e must destroy them to advance our historic mission.
Passages like this owe more to Leon Trotsky than to Robert Taft and betray a Jacobin streak in neoconservatism that cannot be reconciled with any concept of true conservatism.
To the Weekly Standard, Ledeen’s enemies list was too restrictive. We must not only declare war on terror networks and states that harbor terrorists, said the Standard, we should launch wars on “any group or government inclined to support or sustain others like them in the future.”
Robert Kagan and William Kristol were giddy with excitement at the prospect of Armageddon. The coming war “is going to spread and engulf a number of countries. … It is going to resemble the clash of civilizations that everyone has hoped to avoid. … [I]t is possible that the demise of some ‘moderate’ Arab regimes may be just round the corner.”
Norman Podhoretz in Commentary even outdid Kristol’s Standard, rhapsodizing that we should embrace a war of civilizations, as it is George W. Bush’s mission “to fight World War IV—the war against militant Islam.” By his count, the regimes that richly deserve to be overthrown are not confined to the three singled-out members of the axis of evil (Iraq, Iran, North Korea). At a minimum, the axis should extend to Syria and Lebanon and Libya, as well as ‘“friends” of America like the Saudi royal family and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, along with the Palestinian Authority. Bush must reject the “timorous counsels” of the “incorrigibly cautious Colin Powell,” wrote Podhoretz, and “find the stomach to impose a new political culture on the defeated” Islamic world. As the war against al-Qaeda required that we destroy the Taliban, Podhoretz wrote,
We may willy-nilly find ourselves forced … to topple five or six or seven more tyrannies in the Islamic world (including that other sponsor of terrorism, Yasir Arafat’s Palestinian Authority). I can even [imagine] the turmoil of this war leading to some new species of an imperial mission for America, whose purpose would be to oversee the emergence of successor governments in the region more amenable to reform and modernization than the despotisms now in place. … I can also envisage the establishment of some kind of American protectorate over the oil fields of Saudi Arabia, as we more and more come to wonder why 7,000 princes should go on being permitted to exert so much leverage over us and everyone else.
Podhoretz credits Eliot Cohen with the phrase “World War IV.” Bush was shortly thereafter seen carrying about a gift copy of Cohen’s book that celebrates civilian mastery of the military in times of war, as exhibited by such leaders as Winston Churchill and David Ben Gurion.
A list of the Middle East regimes that Podhoretz, Bennett, Ledeen, Netanyahu, and the Wall Street Journal regard as targets for destruction thus includes Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, and “militant Islam.”
Cui Bono? For whose benefit these endless wars in a region that holds nothing vital to America save oil, which the Arabs must sell us to survive? Who would benefit from a war of civilizations between the West and Islam?
Answer: one nation, one leader, one party. Israel, Sharon, Likud.
Indeed, Sharon has been everywhere the echo of his acolytes in America. In February 2003, Sharon told a delegation of Congressmen that, after Saddam’s regime is destroyed, it is of “vital importance” that the United States disarm Iran, Syria, and Libya.
“We have a great interest in shaping the Middle East the day after” the war on Iraq, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the Conference of Major American Jewish Organizations. After U.S. troops enter Baghdad, the United States must generate “political, economic, diplomatic pressure” on Tehran, Mofaz admonished the American Jews.
Are the neoconservatives concerned about a war on Iraq bringing down friendly Arab governments? Not at all. They would welcome it.
“Mubarak is no great shakes,” says Richard Perle of the President of Egypt. “Surely we can do better than Mubarak.” Asked about the possibility that a war on Iraq—which he predicted would be a “cakewalk”—might upend governments in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, former UN ambassador Ken Adelman told Joshua Micah Marshall of Washington Monthly, “All the better if you ask me.”
On July 10, 2002, Perle invited a former aide to Lyndon LaRouche named Laurent Murawiec to address the Defense Policy Board. In a briefing that startled Henry Kissinger, Murawiec named Saudi Arabia as “the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent” of the United States.
Washington should give Riyadh an ultimatum, he said. Either you Saudis “prosecute or isolate those involved in the terror chain, including the Saudi intelligence services,” and end all propaganda against Israel, or we invade your country, seize your oil fields, and occupy Mecca.
In closing his PowerPoint presentation, Murawiec offered a “Grand Strategy for the Middle East.” “Iraq is the tactical pivot, Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot, Egypt the prize.” Leaked reports of Murawiec’s briefing did not indicate if anyone raised the question of how the Islamic world might respond to U.S. troops tramping around the grounds of the Great Mosque.
What these neoconservatives seek is to conscript American blood to make the world safe for Israel. They want the peace of the sword imposed on Islam and American soldiers to die if necessary to impose it.
Washington Times editor at large Arnaud de Borchgrave calls this the “Bush-Sharon Doctrine.” “Washington’s ‘Likudniks,’” he writes, “have been in charge of U.S. policy in the Middle East since Bush was sworn into office.”
The neocons seek American empire, and Sharonites seek hegemony over the Middle East. The two agendas coincide precisely. And though neocons insist that it was Sept. 11 that made the case for war on Iraq and militant Islam, the origins of their war plans go back far before.
“Securing the Realm”
The principal draftsman is Richard Perle, an aide to Sen. Scoop Jackson, who, in 1970, was overheard on a federal wiretap discussing classified information from the National Security Council with the Israeli Embassy. In Jews and American Politics, published in 1974, Stephen D. Isaacs wrote, “Richard Perle and Morris Amitay command a tiny army of Semitophiles on Capitol Hill and direct Jewish power in behalf of Jewish interests.” In 1983, the New York Times reported that Perle had taken substantial payments from an Israeli weapons manufacturer.
In 1996, with Douglas Feith and David Wurmser, Perle wrote “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” for Prime Minister Netanyahu. In it, Perle, Feith, and Wurmser urged Bibi to ditch the Oslo Accords of the assassinated Yitzak Rabin and adopt a new aggressive strategy:
Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq—an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right—as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions. Jordan has challenged Syria’s regional ambitions recently by suggesting the restoration of the Hashemites in Iraq.
In the Perle-Feith-Wurmser strategy, Israel’s enemy remains Syria, but the road to Damascus runs through Baghdad. Their plan, which urged Israel to re-establish “the principle of preemption,” has now been imposed by Perle, Feith, Wurmser & Co. on the United States.
In his own 1997 paper, “A Strategy for Israel,” Feith pressed Israel to re-occupy “the areas under Palestinian Authority control,” though “the price in blood would be high.”
Wurmser, as a resident scholar at AEI, drafted joint war plans for Israel and the United States “to fatally strike the centers of radicalism in the Middle East. Israel and the United States should … broaden the conflict to strike fatally, not merely disarm, the centers of radicalism in the region—the regimes of Damascus, Baghdad, Tripoli, Tehran, and Gaza. That would establish the recognition that fighting either the United States or Israel is suicidal.”
He urged both nations to be on the lookout for a crisis, for as he wrote, “Crises can be opportunities.” Wurmser published his U.S.-Israeli war plan on Jan. 1, 2001, nine months before 9/11.
About the Perle-Feith-Wurmser cabal, author Michael Lind writes:
The radical Zionist right to which Perle and Feith belong is small in number but it has become a significant force in Republican policy-making circles. It is a recent phenomenon, dating back to the late 1970s and 1980s, when many formerly Democratic Jewish intellectuals joined the broad Reagan coalition. While many of these hawks speak in public about global crusades for democracy, the chief concern of many such “neo-conservatives” is the power and reputation of Israel.
Right down the smokestack.
Perle today chairs the Defense Policy Board, Feith is an Undersecretary of Defense, and Wurmser is special assistant to the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control, John Bolton, who dutifully echoes the Perle-Sharon line. According to the Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz, in late February,
U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton said in meetings with Israeli officials … that he has no doubt America will attack Iraq and that it will be necessary to deal with threats from Syria, Iran and North Korea afterwards.
On Jan. 26, 1998, President Clinton received a letter imploring him to use his State of the Union address to make removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime the “aim of American foreign policy” and to use military action because “diplomacy is failing.” Were Clinton to do that, the signers pledged, they would “offer our full support in this difficult but necessary endeavor.” Signing the pledge were Elliott Abrams, Bill Bennett, John Bolton, Robert Kagan, William Kristol, Richard Perle, and Paul Wolfowitz. Four years before 9/11, the neocons had Baghdad on their minds.
The Wolfowitz Doctrine
In 1992, a startling document was leaked from the office of Paul Wolfowitz at the Pentagon. Barton Gellman of the Washington Post called it a “classified blueprint intended to help ‘set the nation’s direction for the next century.’” The Wolfowitz Memo called for a permanent U.S. military presence on six continents to deter all “potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.” Containment, the victorious strategy of the Cold War, was to give way to an ambitious new strategy designed to “establish and protect a new order.”
Though the Wolfowitz Memo was denounced and dismissed in 1992, it became American policy in the 33-page National Security Strategy (NSS) issued by President Bush on Sept. 21, 2002. Washington Post reporter Tim Reich describes it as a “watershed in U.S. foreign policy” that “reverses the fundamental principles that have guided successive Presidents for more than 50 years: containment and deterrence.”
Andrew Bacevich, a professor at Boston University, writes of the NSS that he marvels at “its fusion of breathtaking utopianism with barely disguised machtpolitik. It reads as if it were the product not of sober, ostensibly conservative Republicans but of an unlikely collaboration between Woodrow Wilson and the elder Field Marshal von Moltke.”
In confronting America’s adversaries, the paper declares, “We will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively.” It warns any nation that seeks to acquire power to rival the United States that it will be courting war with the United States:
[T]he president has no intention of allowing any nation to catch up with the huge lead the United States has opened since the fall of the Soviet Union more than a decade ago. … Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military buildup in hopes of surpassing or equaling the power of the United States.
America must reconcile herself to an era of “nation-building on a grand scale, and with no exit strategy,” Robert Kagan instructs. But this Pax Americana the neocons envision bids fair to usher us into a time of what Harry Elmer Barnes called “permanent war for permanent peace.”
The Munich Card
As President Bush was warned on Sept. 20, 2001, that he will be indicted for “a decisive surrender” in the war on terror should he fail to attack Iraq, he is also on notice that pressure on Israel is forbidden. For as the neoconservatives have played the anti-Semitic card, they will not hesitate to play the Munich card as well. A year ago, when Bush called on Sharon to pull out of the West Bank, Sharon fired back that he would not let anyone do to Israel what Neville Chamberlain had done to the Czechs. Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy immediately backed up Ariel Sharon:
With each passing day, Washington appears to view its principal Middle Eastern ally’s conduct as inconvenient—in much the same way London and Paris came to see Czechoslovakia’s resistance to Hitler’s offers of peace in exchange for Czech lands.
When former U.S. NATO commander Gen. George Jouwlan said the United States may have to impose a peace on Israel and the Palestinians, he, too, faced the charge of appeasement. Wrote Gaffney,
They would, presumably, go beyond Britain and France’s sell-out of an ally at Munich in 1938. The “impose a peace” school is apparently prepared to have us play the role of Hitler’s Wehrmacht as well, seizing and turning over to Yasser Arafat the contemporary Sudetenland: the West Bank and Gaza Strip and perhaps part of Jerusalem as well.
Podhoretz agreed Sharon was right in the substance of what he said but called it politically unwise to use the Munich analogy.
President Bush is on notice: Should he pressure Israel to trade land for peace, the Oslo formula in which his father and Yitzak Rabin believed, he will, as was his father, be denounced as an anti-Semite and a Munich-style appeaser by both Israelis and their neoconservatives allies inside his own Big Tent.
Yet, if Bush cannot deliver Sharon there can be no peace. And if there is no peace in the Mideast there is no security for us, ever—for there will be no end to terror. As most every diplomat and journalist who travels to the region will relate, America’s failure to be even-handed, our failure to rein in Sharon, our failure to condemn Israel’s excesses, and our moral complicity in Israel’s looting of Palestinian lands and denial of their right to self-determination sustains the anti-Americanism in the Islamic world in which terrorists and terrorism breed.
Let us conclude. The Israeli people are America’s friends and have a right to peace and secure borders. We should help them secure these rights. As a nation, we have made a moral commitment, endorsed by half a dozen presidents, which Americans wish to honor, not to permit these people who have suffered much to see their country overrun and destroyed. And we must honor this commitment.
But U.S. and Israeli interests are not identical. They often collide, and when they do, U.S. interests must prevail. Moreover, we do not view the Sharon regime as “America’s best friend.”
Since the time of Ben Gurion, the behavior of the Israeli regime has been Jekyll and Hyde. In the 1950s, its intelligence service, the Mossad, had agents in Egypt blow up U.S. installations to make it appear the work of Cairo, to destroy U.S. relations with the new Nasser government. During the Six Day War, Israel ordered repeated attacks on the undefended USS Liberty that killed 34 American sailors and wounded 171 and included the machine-gunning of life rafts. This massacre was neither investigated nor punished by the U.S. government in an act of national cravenness.
Though we have given Israel $20,000 for every Jewish citizen, Israel refuses to stop building the settlements that are the cause of the Palestinian intifada. Likud has dragged our good name through the mud and blood of Ramallah, ignored Bush’s requests to restrain itself, and sold U.S. weapons technology to China, including the Patriot, the Phoenix air-to-air missile, and the Lavi fighter, which is based on F-16 technology. Only direct U.S. intervention blocked Israel’s sale of our AWACS system.
Israel suborned Jonathan Pollard to loot our secrets and refuses to return the documents, which would establish whether or not they were sold to Moscow. When Clinton tried to broker an agreement at Wye Plantation between Israel and Arafat, Bibi Netanyahu attempted to extort, as his price for signing, release of Pollard, so he could take this treasonous snake back to Israel as a national hero.
Do the Brits, our closest allies, behave like this?
Though we have said repeatedly that we admire much of what this president has done, he will not deserve re-election if he does not jettison the neoconservatives’ agenda of endless wars on the Islamic world that serve only the interests of a country other than the one he was elected to preserve and protect.
March 24, 2003 issue
Copyright © 2003 The American Conservative
No End to War
The Frum-Perle prescription would ensnare America in endless conflict.
By Patrick J. Buchanan
On the dust jacket of his book, Richard Perle appends a Washington Post depiction of himself as the “intellectual guru of the hard-line neoconservative movement in foreign policy.”
The guru’s reputation, however, does not survive a reading. Indeed, on putting down Perle’s new book the thought recurs: the neoconservative moment may be over. For they are not only losing their hold on power, they are losing their grip on reality.
An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror opens on a note of hysteria. In the War on Terror, writes Perle, “There is no middle way for Americans: It is victory or holocaust.” “What is new since 9/11 is the chilling realization that the terrorist threat we thought we had contained” now menaces “our survival as a nation.”
But how is our survival as a nation menaced when not one American has died in a terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11? Are we really in imminent peril of a holocaust like that visited upon the Jews of Poland?
“[A] radical strain within Islam,” says Perle, “ ... seeks to overthrow our civilization and remake the nations of the West into Islamic societies, imposing on the whole world its religion and laws.”
Well, yes. Militant Islam has preached that since the 7th century. But what are the odds the Boys of Tora Bora are going to “overthrow our civilization” and coerce us all to start praying to Mecca five times a day?
In his own review of An End to Evil, Joshua Micah Marshall picks up this same scent of near-hysteria over the Islamic threat:
The book conveys a general sense that America is at war with Islam itself anywhere and everywhere: the contemporary Muslim world .... is depicted as one great cauldron of hate, murder, obscurantism, and deceit. If our Muslim adversaries are not to destroy Western civilization, we must gird for more battles.
To suggest Frum and Perle are over the top is not to imply we not take seriously the threat of terror attacks on airliners, in malls, from dirty bombs, or, God forbid, a crude atomic device smuggled in by Ryder truck or container ship. Yet even this will never “overthrow our civilization.”
In the worst of terror attacks, we lost 3,000 people. Horrific. But at Antietam Creek, we lost 7,000 in a day’s battle in a nation that was one-ninth as populous. Three thousand men and boys perished every week for 200 weeks of that Civil War. We Americans did not curl up and die. We did not come all this way because we are made of sugar candy.
Germany and Japan suffered 3,000 dead every day in the last two years of World War II, with every city flattened and two blackened by atom bombs. Both came back in a decade. Is al-Qaeda capable of this sort of devastation when they are recruiting such scrub stock as Jose Padilla and the shoe bomber?
In the war we are in, our enemies are weak. That is why they resort to the weapon of the weak—terror. And, as in the Cold War, time is on America’s side. Perseverance and patience are called for, not this panic.
In 25 years, militant Islam has seized three countries: Iran, Sudan, and Afghanistan. We toppled the Taliban almost without losing a man. Sudan is a failed state. In Iran, a generation has grown up that knows nothing of Savak or the Great Satan but enough about the mullahs to have rejected them in back-to-back landslides. The Iranian Revolution has reached Thermidor. Wherever Islamism takes power, it fails. Like Marxism, it does not work.
Yet, assume it makes a comeback. So what? Taken together, all 22 Arab nations do not have the GDP of Spain. Without oil, their exports are the size of Finland’s. Not one Arab nation can stand up to Israel, let alone the United States. The Islamic threat is not strategic, but demographic. If death comes to the West it will be because we embraced a culture of death—birth control, abortion, sterilization, euthanasia. Western man is dying as Islamic man migrates north to await his passing and inherit his estate.
Said young Lincoln in his Lyceum address, “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”
In his first inaugural address, FDR admonished, “[T]he only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Fear is what Perle and his co-author David Frum are peddling to stampede America into serial wars. Just such fear-mongering got us into Iraq, though, we have since discovered, Iraq had no hand in 9/11, no ties to al-Qaeda, no weapons of mass destruction, no nuclear program, and no plans to attack us. Iraq was never “the clear and present danger” the authors insist she was.
Calling their book a “manual for victory,” they declaim:
For us, terrorism remains the great evil of our time, and the war against this evil, our generation’s great cause. We do not believe that Americans are fighting this evil to minimize it or to manage it. We believe they are fighting to win—to end this evil before it kills again and on a genocidal scale. There is no middle way for Americans: It is victory or holocaust.
But no nation can “end evil.” Evil has existed since Cain rose up against his brother Abel and slew him. A propensity to evil can be found in every human heart. And if God accepts the existence of evil, how do Frum and Perle propose to “end” it? Nor can any nation “win the war on terror.” Terrorism is simply a term for the murder of non-combatants for political ends.
Revolutionary terror has been around for as long as this Republic. It was used by Robespierre’s Committee on Public Safety and by People’s Will in Romanov Russia. Terror has been the chosen weapon of anarchists, the IRA, Irgun, the Stern Gang, Algeria’s FLN, the Mau Mau, MPLA, the PLO, Black September, the Basque ETA, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade, SWAPO, ZANU, ZAPU, the Tupamaros, Shining Path, FARC, the ANC, the V.C., the Huks, Chechen rebels, Tamil Tigers, and the FALN that attempted to assassinate Harry Truman and shot up the House floor in 1954, to name only a few.
Accused terrorists have won the Nobel Peace Prize: Begin, Arafat, Mandela. Three lie in mausoleums in the capitals of nations they created: Lenin, Mao, Ho. Others are the fathers of their countries like Ben Bella and Jomo Kenyatta. A terrorist of the Black Hand ignited World War I by assassinating the Archduke Ferdinand. Yet Gavrilo Princep has a bridge named for him in Sarajevo.
The murder of innocents for political ends is evil, but to think we can “end” it is absurd. Cruel and amoral men, avaricious for power and “immortality,” will always resort to it. For, all too often, it succeeds.
But what must America do to attain victory in her war on terror?
Say the authors: “We must hunt down the individual terrorists before they kill our people or others .... We must deter all regimes that use terror as a weapon of state against anyone, American or not” [emphasis added].
Astonishing. The authors say America is responsible for defending everyone, everywhere from terror and deterring any and all regimes that might use terror —against anyone, anywhere on earth.
But there are 192 nations. Scores of regimes from Liberia to Congo to Cuba, from Zimbabwe to Syria to Uzbekistan, and from Iran to Sudan to the Afghan warlords of the Northern Alliance who fought on our side—have used torture and terror to punish enemies. Are we to fight them all?
Well, actually, no. Excepting North Korea, the authors’ list of nations that need to be attacked reads as though it were drawn up in the Israeli Defense Ministry. By the second paragraph, Perle and Frum have given us a short list of priority targets: “The war on terror is not over, it has barely begun. Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas still plot murder.”
Now al-Qaeda was responsible for 9/11. But when did Hamas attack us? And if Israel can co-exist and negotiate with Hezbollah, why is it America’s duty to destroy Hezbollah? Iran and North Korea, the authors warn, “present intolerable threats to American security. We must move boldly against them both and against all other sponsors of terrorism as well: Syria, Libya and Saudi Arabia. And we don’t have much time.”
“Why have we put up with [Syria] as long as we have?” the authors demand. They call for a cut-off of Syria’s oil and an ultimatum to Assad: Get Syrian troops out of Lebanon, hand over all terrorist suspects, end support for Hezbollah, stop agitating against Israel, and adopt a “Western orientation”—or you, too, get the Saddam treatment.
But what has Syria done to us? And if Assad balks do we bomb Damascus? Invade? Where do we get the troops? What if the Syrians, too, resort to guerrilla war?
Bush’s father made Hafez al-Assad an ally in the Gulf War. Ehud Barak offered Assad 99.5 percent of the Golan Heights. Why, then, must Bashir Assad’s regime be destroyed—by us?
“We don’t have much time,” say Frum and Perle. But what is Assad doing that warrants immediate attack? Is he, too, buying yellowcake from Niger?
Colonel Khaddafi is now paying billions in reparations for Pan Am 103, giving up his weapons of mass destruction, and inviting U.S. inspectors in to verify his disarmament. Why is it imperative we overthrow him?
While the Saudis have been diffident allies in the War on Terror, they are not America’s enemies. They pumped oil to keep prices down in the first Gulf War. They looked the other way as U.S. fighter-bombers flew out of Prince Sultan Air Base in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Yet the Saudis are directed to provide us “with the utmost cooperation in the war on terror,” or we will invade, detach their oil-rich eastern province, and occupy it.
But why? If the monarchy falls and bin Laden’s acolytes replace it, how would that make us more secure in our own country?
What did Iran do to justify war against her? According to Perle and Frum,
Iran defied the Monroe Doctrine and sponsored murder in our own hemisphere, killing eighty-six people and wounding some three hundred at the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires—and our government did worse than nothing: It opened negotiations with the murderers.
But that atrocity occurred a dozen years ago, long before the reform government of President Mohammad Khatami was elected. And if Iran was behind an attack on a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, why did Argentina and Israel not avenge these deaths? Why is retribution our responsibility? It was not Americans who were the victims, and the attack occurred 5,000 miles from the United States.
The Frum-Perle invocation of the Monroe Doctrine is both cynical and comical. If they were genuinely concerned about violations of the Monroe Doctrine, why did they not include Cuba on their target list, a “state sponsor of terror” 90 miles from our shores that has hosted Soviet missiles and, according to Undersecretary of State John Bolton, is developing chemical and biological weapons? Why did Saudi Arabia make the cut but not Cuba? Might it have something to do with proximity and propinquity?
For Iran, there can be no reprieve. “The regime must go,” say our authors, because Ayatollah Khamenei has
… no more right to control ... Iran than any other criminal has to seize control of the persons and property of others. It’s not always in our power to do something about such criminals, nor is it always in our interest, but when it is in our power and interest, we should toss dictators aside with no more compunction than a police sharpshooter feels when he downs a hostage-taker.
But where in the Constitution is the president empowered to “toss dictators aside”? And if it took 150,000 U.S. soldiers to toss Saddam aside, how many troops do Frum and Perle think it will take to occupy the capital of a nation three times as large and populous and toss the ayatollah aside? How many dead and wounded would our war hawks consider an acceptable price for being rid of the mullahs?
As South Korea favors appeasement, they write, we must take the lead, demand that North Korea surrender all nuclear materials and shut down all missile sites. If Kim Jong Il balks, we should move U.S. troops back to safety beyond artillery and rocket range of the DMZ and launch preemptive strikes on known North Korean nuclear sites and impose a naval and air blockade. As for the South Koreans, they should probably brace themselves. “We have no doubt how such a war would end,” say the authors. They also had no doubt how the Iraqi war would end.
Is the Perle-Frum vision for the suffering people of North Korea a future of freedom and democracy? Not exactly:
It may be that the only way out of the decade-long crisis on the Korean peninsula is the toppling of Kim Jong Il and his replacement by a North Korean communist who is more subservient to China. If so, we should accept that outcome.
Swell. America is to fight a second Korean War that could entail a nuclear strike on our troops, but, when we have won, we should accept a communist North Korea that is a vassal of Beijing. How many dead and wounded are our AEI warlords willing to accept to make Pyongyang a puppet of Beijing?
But the Frum-Perle enemies’ list is not complete. France, if she does not shape up, is to be treated as an enemy.
From every page of this book there oozes a sense of urgency that borders on the desperate for action this day: “We can feel the will to win ebbing in Washington, we sense the reversion to the bad old habits of complacency and denial.”
The neocons are not wrong here. With the cost of war at $200 billion and rising, with deaths mounting, and with the possibility growing that Iraq could collapse in chaos and civil war, President Bush appears to be experiencing buyer’s remorse about the lemon he was sold by Perle and friends.
They promised him a “cakewalk,” that we would be hailed as “liberators,” that democracy would take root in Iraq and flourish in the Middle East, that Palestinians and Israelis would break bread and make peace. With Lord Melbourne, Bush must be muttering, “What all the wise men promised has not happened, and what all the damn fools said would happen has come to pass.”
What do Perle and Frum see as our decisive failing in Iraq?
But of all our mistakes, probably the most serious was our unwillingness to allow the Iraqi National Congress, Iraq’s leading anti-Saddam resistance movement, to form a provisional government after the fall of Baghdad. In 1944, we took care to let French troops enter Paris before U.S. or British forces. We should have shown equal tact in 2003.
Thus, we are in trouble because Ahmad Chalabi was not allowed to play de Gaulle leading his war-weary, battle-hardened Free Iraqis into Baghdad.
Why was Perle’s protégé passed over? Because the “INC terrified the Saudis and therefore terrified those in our government who wished to placate the Saudis.” The damned Arabists at State did it again.
Hastily written, replete with errors, with no index, An End to Evil is a brief in defense of neoconservatives against their impending indictment on charges they lied us into a war that may prove our greatest disaster since Vietnam. And the charge of deliberate deceit is not without merit.
In mid-December 2001, in a column distributed by Copley News, Perle asserted that Saddam “is busily at work on a nuclear weapon .... it’s simply a matter of time before he acquires nuclear weapons.”
Naming Khidir Hamza, “one of the people who ran the nuclear weapons program for Saddam,” as his source, Perle gave credence to Hamza’s tale of 400 uranium enrichment facilities spread all over Iraq. “Some of them look like farmhouses, some of them look like classrooms, some of them look like warehouses. You’ll never find them.” Only “preemptive action” can save us, said Perle.
By the end of 2001, according to Perle, the threat of a nuclear-armed Saddam was imminent:
With each passing day he comes closer to his dream of a nuclear arsenal. We know he has a clandestine program, spread over many hidden sites, to enrich natural uranium to weapons grade .... And intelligence sources know he is in the market, with plenty of money, for both weapons material and components as well as finished nuclear weapons. How close is he? We do not know. Two years, three years, tomorrow even?
When he wrote this, Perle, as chairman of the Defense Policy Board, had access to secret intelligence. So the question cannot be evaded: did Hamza deliberately deceive Perle, or did Perle deliberately deceive us?
For those unpersuaded that Saddam was a strategic threat, there were his links to the 9/11 massacre. Saddam’s “collaboration with terrorism is well documented,” wrote Perle, “Evidence of a meeting in Prague between a senior Iraqi intelligence agent and Mohamed Atta, the September 11 ringleader, is convincing.”
Thus did the neocons get the war they wanted. And after America fought the war for which they had beaten the drums, how do Perle & Co. explain why it did not turn out as they assured us it would?
Answer: any disaster in Iraq, the authors argue, will be due to the venality and cowardice of the State Department, CIA, FBI, retired generals, and ex-ambassadors bought off by the Saudis. “We have offered concrete recommendations equal to the seriousness of the threat, and the softliners have not, because we have wanted to fight and they have not.”
Which brings us back to the point made at the outset: the neocon moment may be passing, for they appear to be losing their grip on reality as well as their influence on policy. Rather than looking for new wars to involve us more deeply in the Middle East, Bush and Rumsfeld seem to be looking for the next exit ramp out of our Mesopotamian morass. “No war in ‘04” is said to be the watchword of Karl Rove.
Moreover, Americans are coming to appreciate that, all that bombast about “unipolar” moments and “American empire” aside, there are limits to American power, and we are approaching them. U.S. ground forces of 480,000 are stretched thin. There is grumbling in Army, Reserve, and National Guard units about too many tours too far from home. Backing off his “axis-of-evil” rhetoric, Bush said in this year’s State of the Union, “We have no desire to dominate, no ambitions of empire.”
The long retreat of American empire has begun.
In Washington, there are rumors of the return of James Baker and the imminent departure of Paul Wolfowitz. As Frederick the Great, weary of the antics and peculations of his house guest Voltaire, said, “One squeezes the orange and throws away the rind.”
Moreover, the radicalism of their schemes for two, three, many wars, seems, given our embroilment in Iraq, not only rash but also rooted in unreality. Before Bush could take us to war with any of these regimes, he would have to convince his country of the necessity of war and persuade Congress to grant him the power to go to war. Yet absent a new atrocity on the magnitude of 9/11, directly traceable to one of the regimes on the Perle-Frum list, the president could not win this authority. Nor does it appear he intends to try. And were the United States to attack Libya, Syria, or Saudi Arabia, we would alienate every ally in the Islamic world and Europe—including Tony Blair’s Britain. To fight these wars and occupy these nations would bleed our armed forces and mandate a return to the draft. But how would any of these wars make us more secure from terrorism here at home?
Indeed, it is because Americans cannot see the correlation between the wars the authors demand and security at home that Frum and Perle must resort to fear-mongering about holocausts, the end of civilization, and our demise as a nation.
If it is America we defend, An End to Evil makes no sense. The Perle-Frum prescription for permanent war makes sense only if it is the mission of the armed forces of the United States to make the Middle East safe for Sharon—and here we come to the heart of the quarrel between us.
On Sept. 11, al-Qaeda attacked us. Al-Qaeda is our enemy, not Syria, Libya, or Saudi Arabia. And the way to cut off al-Qaeda and kill it is to isolate it from all Arab and Islamic nations and centers of power including Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.
None of these nations had a hand in 9/11. All have a vital interest in not being linked to an al-Qaeda for whom an enraged superpower is on the mortal hunt. Thus, no matter the character of these regimes, we have interests in common. And if Bush can use carrots to get Bashir Assad to help us find and finish al-Qaeda—as his father got Assad’s father to help us expel Iraq from Kuwait—let us make Syria an ally rather than another enemy of the United States.
But here is the rub: The neocons do not want to narrow our list of enemies. They do not want to confine America’s war to those who attacked us. They want to expand our list of enemies to include Israel’s enemies. They want to escalate and widen what Chris Matthews calls “the Firemen’s War” into a war for hegemony in the Middle East. They had hoped to exploit 9/11 to erect an empire, and as they see the vision vanish, their desperation knows no bounds.
That great American military mind Col. John Boyd once described strategy as appending to yourself as many centers of power as possible and isolating your enemy from as many centers of power as possible.
This was the strategy used by Bush I in the Gulf War. He persuaded Russia and China to sign on in the Security Council, Germany and Japan to finance his war, Syria and Egypt to send soldiers, Britain and France to help us fight it. By giving everyone a stake in an American victory—call it imperial bribery, if you will—Bush I lined up the world against Iraq. As did George W. Bush, brilliantly, in Afghanistan.
But what Frum and Perle are pressing on him now is an altogether opposite strategy. They want Bush to expand the war, broaden the theater of operations, multiply our enemies, and ignore our allies. If Bush should adopt this strategy, it would be America and Israel against the Arab and Islamic world with Europe neutral and almost all of Asia rooting for our humiliation.
Let it be said: it is vital to victory over al-Qaeda, to the security of our country, the safety of our people, and our broader interests in an Arab and Islamic world of 57 nations that stretches from Morocco to Malaysia that we not let the neocons conflate our war on terror with their war for hegemony.
Neocons believe the Palestinian Authority must be crushed, Arafat eliminated, and the Golan Heights, West Bank, and East Jerusalem held by Israel forever. They want Hezbollah eradicated, Syria denatured, the Saudi monarchy brought down. Let them so believe. But their agenda is not America’s agenda, and their fight is not America’s fight.
There is no vital U.S. interest in whose flag flies over the Golan or East Jerusalem, when Barak was willing to give up both. But if we allow the neoconservatives to morph our war on al-Qaeda into Israel’s war for Palestine, our war will never end. And that is the hidden agenda of the neoconservatives: permanent war for their permanent empowerment. As Frum and Perle concede, this is “our generation’s great cause.”
“Who are those guys?” Butch and Sundance asked. Indeed, who are these men who would plunge our country into serial wars of preemption and retribution across the arc of crisis from Libya to Korea?
Frum is not even an American. He is a Canadian who did not become a citizen until offered a job in the Bush speechwriting shop. He was cashiered after one year when his wife bragged on the Internet that David invented the “axis-of-evil” phrase. Expelled from the White House, Frum ratted out his old colleagues in a “hot” book and got himself hired by National Review, where he produced a cover story about a dirty dozen “Unpatriotic Conservatives” who hate neocons, hate Bush, hate the GOP, hate America, and “wish to see the United States defeated in the War on Terror.”
Frum ordered all 12 purged from the conservative movement. (And we must, in fairness, report that all three editors of this magazine and four regular writers were among the 12 who went to the stake.)
Who is Perle? Unlike Frum, a cipher on foreign policy, Perle has been a serious player since the Nixon era. But throughout those years he has betrayed a passionate attachment to a foreign power. In 1996, Perle co-authored “A Clean Break,” a now-famous paper urging Benjamin Netanyahu to dump the Oslo Accords, seize the West Bank, and confront Syria. The road to Damascus lies through Baghdad, Perle told the receptive Israeli Prime Minister.
Then an adviser to Republican candidate Robert Dole, Perle was thus secretly urging a foreign government to abrogate a peace accord supported by his own government. In 1998, he and other neoconservatives signed a letter to then President Clinton urging the United States to initiate all-out war on Iraq and pledging neoconservative support if Clinton would launch it.
Query: why is Perle permitted to retain his post at the Department of Defense while agitating for wars on four or five countries, including Saudi Arabia, a friend of the United States? Why does President Bush put up with this? His father would never have tolerated it.
The neocons have also begun to injure their reputations and isolate themselves with the nastiness and irrationality of their attacks. French cannon once bore the inscription ultima ratio regum, the last argument of kings. The toxic charge of “Anti-Semite!” has become the last argument of the neocons. But they have wheeled out that cannon too many times. People are less intimidated now. They have seen men look into its muzzle and walk away.
Gen. Anthony Zinni, former head of Centcom, is a hero of Vietnam. He opposed war with Iraq, arguing that the U.S. military was overstretched and we would unleash forces we could not control. In an interview, Zinni related his astonishment at the vapidity of the Wolfowitz clique with which he had to deal at the Department of Defense:
The more I saw, the more I thought that this [war] was the product of the neocons who didn’t understand the region and were going to create havoc there. These were dilettantes from Washington think tanks who never had had an idea that worked on the ground .... I don’t know where the neocons came from—that was not the platform [Bush and Cheney] ran on .... Somehow, the neocons captured the president. They captured the vice president.
National Review’s response was to brand Zinni an anti-Semite. In a separate column, NR regular Joel Mowbray not only accused the general of having “blamed the Jews,” he insisted that the term neocon, in common usage for 25 years, is now an anti-Semitic code word for Jews:
Neither President Bush nor Vice-President Cheney ... was to blame. It was the Jews. They captured both Bush and Cheney …. Technically, the former head of the Central Command in the Middle East didn’t say ‘Jews.’ He instead used a term that has become a new favorite for anti-Semites: ‘neoconservatives.’
Mowbray and National Review thus slandered a brave and brilliant soldier who has bled for his country. Such slanders do the neocons no good but only add to their isolation and the burgeoning detestation of their tactics.
New York Times columnist David Brooks has also begun to smear critics of the neocons as anti-Semites. In the word “neocon,” he writes, the “con” stands for conservative and the “neo” stands for Jewish.
But the problem for neocons is not that so many are Jewish, but that so few are conservative. Lawrence Kaplan, a Perle colleague who co-authored a book with William Kristol, after reading An End to Evil, declared: “This is not conservatism. It is liberalism, with very sharp teeth.”
If the neocons purport to see ethnic hatred in everyone else’s motives, is it unfair to explore for an ethnic affinity in their own? Why does every grand strategy neocons advance, from “American empire” to “benevolent global hegemony” to “a Pax Americana” to “world democratic revolution” have as its centerpiece solidarity with Sharon and a vigorous wielding of American power against all the enemies of Israel?
Why is every peace plan proposed or endorsed by a president to give the Palestinians a home of their own—the Rogers Plan, the Oslo accords, Camp David, the Taba Plan, the Saudi Plan, the Mitchell Plan, the Road Map—a Munich sellout? Why is any American patriot, who demands that Ariel Sharon stop building settlements on Palestinian land and walling off Jerusalem, a State Department Arabist, a pawn of the Texas oil lobby, a Coughlinite, an anti-Semite, or a bought-and-paid-for lickspittle of the Saudis?
The United States remains committed morally and politically to the security and survival of Israel and to providing her with the weaponry to guarantee it. No president is going to back off that commitment. But because Israel is a friend does not mean that the Sharonites have preemptive absolution to settle or seize Arab lands or permanently to deny Arab peoples the rights we preach to the world. In our own national interests, we must say so—in the clear.
This is a time for truth. With a mighty and hostile Soviet Empire no longer militarily present in the Maghreb and Middle East, U.S. and Israeli strategic interests have ceased to coincide. And with nightly pictures of Palestinian suffering on Al Jazeera, they have begun to collide.
Thus between traditional conservatives and neoconservatives a breach has been opened and an irreconcilable conflict has arisen. We of the Old Right only have one country. We believe U.S. foreign policy must be determined by what is best for America. And what is best for America is what our forefathers taught: If you would preserve this Republic, stay out of foreign wars, avoid “permanent alliances,” beware of “passionate attachments” to nations not your own.
In 1778, Washington rejoiced in the alliance with France. But when victory was won, that alliance became an entanglement that could drag the Republic into Europe’s wars. American statesmen who had celebrated the French alliance now sought to sever it, and, under Adams, succeeded.
With the end of the Cold War, an alliance with Israel has ceased to be central to U.S. interests. Indeed, our reputation as armorers and allies of Israel only damages us as Sharon rampages through the West Bank and Gaza walling off Arab land and denying to Palestinians that very right of self-determination we Americans espouse. Sharon is making hypocrites of us, and we are cowards for permitting it.
To the neocons, however, Zionism is second nature. They cannot conceive of a foreign policy that is good for America that does not entail absolute solidarity with Israel. They are dangerously close to imbibing the poisonous brew that drove Jonathan Pollard to treason: If it is good for Israel, it cannot be bad for America.
To evade admission of the transparent truth, neocons have begun to rationalize their passionate attachment, to sublimate it. “The Arab-Israeli quarrel is not a cause of Islamic extremism,” Frum and Perle protest.
But when every returning journalist and diplomat and every opinion survey says it is America’s uncritical support for Israeli repression of the Palestinians that makes us hated in the region, how can honest men write this? Have they blinded themselves to the truth because it is too painful?
We stand by Israel, writes Irving Kristol, because America is an “ideological” nation, “like the Soviet Union of yesteryear.” We and Israel are democracies, the Arab countries are not, and that is all there is to it.
That is why it was in our national interest to come to the defense of France and Britain in World War II. That is why we feel it necessary to defend Israel today, when its survival is threatened. No complicated geopolitical calculations of national interest are necessary.
But this is nonsense, and Kristol knows it. When Britain and France declared war on Hitler on September 3, 1939, FDR did not “come to the defense of France and Britain.” He delivered a fireside chat that night promising the nation America would stay out. There will be “no blackout of peace” here, FDR promised us.When France fell in May-June of 1940, pleading for planes, FDR sent words of encouragement. Not until 18 months after the fall of France did we declare war on Hitler and not until after Hitler declared war on us. Thus, we did not go to war to defend democracy in Britain or France. We went to war to smash the Japanese Empire that attacked us at Pearl Harbor. Kristol is parroting liberal myths.
In the Cold War the United States welcomed as allies Chiang Kai-shek, Salazar, Franco, Somoza, the Shah, Suharto, Syngman Rhee, Park Chung Hee and the Korean generals, Greek colonels, military regimes in Brazil, Argentina, and Turkey, Marcos, and Pinochet because these autocrats proved far more reliable than democratists like Nehru, Olaf Palme, Willy Brandt, and Pierre Trudeau. When it comes to wars that threaten us, hot or cold, we Americans are at one with Nietzsche, “A state, it is the coldest of all cold monsters.”
India is democratic and 200 times the size of Israel. Yet in India’s wars with Pakistan, we tilted toward Pakistan. Why? Because the Pakistanis were allies, and India sided with Moscow. That India was democratic and Pakistan autocratic made no difference to us.
As for Israel, has America really given her $100 billion and taken her side in every Arab quarrel because she is a democracy?
Tell it to Tony Judt. When this British historian proposed—given the impossibility of separating Arabs from Jews on the West Bank—that Israel annex the West Bank, become a bi-national state, and give Palestinians equal rights, neocons went berserk.
Frum called Judt’s idea “genocidal liberalism” that would leave Jews exposed to slaughter. John Podhoretz declared it “unthinkable” and “the definition of intellectual corruption.” “[H]aughty and ugly,” said the New Republic, which hurled Judt from its masthead.
But if the just solution to the South African problem was to abolish bantustans and create a one-man, one-vote democracy, why is that not even a debatable solution to the Palestinian problem?
In temperament, too, neoconservatives have revealed themselves as the antithesis of conservative. In the depiction of scholar Claes Ryn, they are the “neo-Jacobins” of modernity whose dominant trait is conceit.
Only great conceit could inspire a dream of armed world hegemony. The ideology of benevolent American empire and global democracy dresses up a voracious appetite for power. It signifies the ascent to power of a new kind of American, one profoundly at odds with that older type who aspired to modesty and self-restraint.
The Perle-Frum book is marinated in conceit, which may prove the neocons’ fatal flaw. In the run-up to the invasion, when critics were exposing their plotting for war long before 9/11, the neocons did not bother to deny it. They reveled in it. They boasted about who they were, where they came from, what they believed, how they were different, and how they had become the new elite. With Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush marching to their war drums, one of them bellowed, “We are all neoconservatives now!”
But it is always unwise of courtiers to boast of their influence with the prince. And now the neocons have outed themselves. We all know who they are. We all have the coordinates. We all have them bracketed.
With the heady days of the fall of Baghdad behind us and our country ensnared in a Lebanon of our own, neocons seem fearful that it is they who will be made to take the fall if it all turns out badly in Iraq, as McNamara and his Whiz Kids had to take the fall for Vietnam.
And this one they’ve got right.
March 1, 2004 issue
Copyright © 2004 The American Conservative
Monday, March 1, 2004