The Bad News

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All
the monkeys aren’t in the zoo, as an old song says, and not all
the regime-changing war hawks are in the Republican wildlife refuge.
The Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, recently led its readers
on a brief excursion into the mind of U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, D-California.
It is a perilous journey, but the Israelis are accustomed to dangerous
places.

"My
dear Colette, don’t worry," Lantos reportedly told Colette
Avital, a member of Israeli Knesset who was visiting Washington
with a delegation of the Peace Coalition. "You won’t have any
problem with Saddam. We’ll be rid of the bastard soon enough. And
in his place we’ll install a pro-Western dictator, who will be good
for us and good for you."

The
"pro-Western dictator" would be a transitional figure,
of course, to get us through an American occupation of five or six
years, or until the Iraqis learn how to run a government. Surely
the people of Iraq won’t object to the American installation of
a temporary dictator, so long as it’s good for the U.S. and good
for Israel.

But
that’s not all, Lantos said. Once we’re rid of "that bastard"
in Baghdad and a few other evildoers, regime change will be on a
roll. They we’ll go to Syria "and tell young Assad that’s what
will happen to him if he doesn’t stop supporting terrorism."

Now
it might be comforting to think this is nothing more than the eccentric
thought of one quirky California congressman who just happens to
be the leader of the Democratic Caucus in the House International
Affairs Committee. But it represents a line of thinking firmly entrenched
in our nation’s capital among those both in and out of government.
It is expressed most often by a powerful clique of neo-conservatives
that appears to have a dominant role in formulating the military
and foreign policy strategies of the current administration.

Norman
Podhoretz, editor-at-large of the influential Commentary
magazine, is a sort of intellectual godfather of the neo-conservative
movement. Throughout 2002, Podhoretz has been calling for an American-led
invasion of not just Iraq, but several other nations whose governments
he believes we should topple and replace with regimes more amenable
to Western-style democracy. In the January issue of Commentary,
he offered his advice in an essay titled "How to Win World
War IV." (World War III, in case you missed the new labeling,
was the Cold War). The Islamic world, argued Podhoretz, is in need
of overhaul and World War IV will accomplish that.

"Whatever
the exact contours may turn out to be, the Islamic countries in
particular, and the world in general, will look very different by
the time this war is over," he wrote. "Very different,
and very much better for the vast majority of people everywhere."
Ah, yes, nothing so improves the lot of man on earth as a good World
War. And if the Islamic peoples should prove ungrateful for their
improvement, at least there will be fewer of them to deal with by
war’s end.

"The
regimes that richly deserve to be overthrown and replaced,"
Podhoretz wrote in the September issue, "are not confined to
the three (Iraq, Iran and North Korea) singled out members of the
axis of evil. At a minimum, the axis should extend to Syria, Lebanon
and Libya, as well as u2018friends' of America like the Saudi royal
family and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, along with the Palestinian Authority,
whether headed by Arafat or one of his henchman." To wage war
against nine governments in eight nations and one disputed territory
– this, Podhoretz, insists, is what the United States must
do "at a minimum."

This
is expansionism and interventionism gone berserk. But it apparently
is something akin to conventional wisdom in Washington, D.C. U.S.
Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, vice chairman and ranking Republican
on the House Armed Services Committee, recently named Libya as a
nuclear threat, along with other possible U.S. targets. "I
think we’re going to have to make this decision over and over,"
he said on CNN’s "Crossfire." "Iraq is the first
take on that question."

None
of this can be justified by any reasonable doctrine of self-defense,
or to the legitimate quest for justice against those who so viciously
attacked our country 13 months ago. No one has yet presented any
real evidence that Iraq, for example, was behind the 9-11 attacks.
No, this is the "Bush doctrine" at work, the imperative
that we disarm potential adversaries before they strike. But if
we go to war against every country we think might attack us, the
list of enemies will be quite long. And it will grow longer as "World
War IV" progresses.

As
a recipe for war without end, the Bush doctrine is doomed to success.

October
8, 2002

Jack Kenny (send him mail)
is a frequent columnist for the Manchester Union-Leader.

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