A Shabby and Sinister Case for War

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Anyone following the Larry Franklin Pentagon spy story is keenly aware of the solidarity binding neoconservatives, AIPAC, Israel’s rightwing Likud Party, the US invasion of Iraq, and the war drums neocons are beating against Iran.

By this time, only the willfully ignorant could be unaware that top neocon policymakers in the George W. Bush administration wrote a policy paper for rightwing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996 that called for "removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right." The September 11 terror attacks gave the neocons the opportunity to put their removal strategy in motion.

Among the willfully ignorant is neoconservative godfather Norman Podhoretz. He has just published a 30,000-word delusional screed in the September issue of Commentary, "WW IV: How It Started, What It Means, and Why We Have to Win." (In the neocon lexicon, WW III was the Cold War.)

Podhoretz begins by alleging that "the malignant force of radical Islamism" has as its objective "to conquer our land" and to destroy "everything good for which America stands."

If Muslims intend to conquer America, then they are every bit as delusional as Podhoretz, who intends for America to conquer the Middle East.

But, of course, Muslims have no such objective. The objective of Muslim terrorists is to drive America out of Muslim homelands, not to conquer ours. Podhoretz’s intention to conquer the Middle East, however, is real. He has declared it before, as has Douglas Feith, currently Undersecretary of Defense in the Bush administration, who wrote in his "Strategy for Israel" in 1997 that the US and Israel should conquer Iraq, Syria, and Iran and that Israel should reoccupy "the areas under Palestinian Authority control."

Podhoretz wants you to believe that "the road we have taken since 9/11 is the only safe course for us to follow." Safe? This bloody and inhuman road leads on to American invasions of Iran, Syria, Lebanon and, if Podhoretz has his way, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Demurely, Podhoretz has kept Pakistan off his list, perhaps because Pakistan, like Israel, has nuclear weapons.

Podhoretz is worried that mounting US casualties in Iraq and growing public doubt about the wisdom of the failed Iraq invasion will derail the scheme to conquer the Muslim Middle East and to deracinate Islam. Podhoretz gives his assurances that "the obstacles to a benevolent transformation of the Middle East — whether military, political, or religious — are not insuperable." He writes that "there can be no question that we possess the power and the means." The only question is whether we have "the stomach to do what will be required."

To make sure that we have the stomach, Podhoretz blames the 9/11 terrorist attack on American cowardice. He argues that four US presidents (Carter, Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton) spent 24 years convincing Muslims that America is a wimp.

Podhoretz lays out his history of White House wimpery. First, Carter wimped out on Iran. Then Reagan let Islamic terrorists blow us out of Lebanon. Bush I followed in Reagan’s wimp footsteps and refused to finish the job in Iraq. Clinton continued the wimp tradition for two more terms.

Podhoretz states Clinton would not even meet with his own CIA director, neocon James Woolsey, because Clinton was too much of a wimp to want to hear from Woolsey that Muslims had declared WW IV on the US.

Podhoretz concludes that the "sheer audacity" of 9/11 "was unquestionably a product of his [bin Laden's] contempt for American power." American wimpery caused 9/11, because "bin Laden wrote off the Americans as cowards."

We will suffer more devastating attacks, Podhoretz says, unless we find the stomach to fight WW IV.

Podhoretz overlooks the fact that al-Qaeda is a nongovernmental organization, not a state with a standing army. Podhoretz doesn’t examine the morality of devastating five or six Muslim countries in retribution for the actions of a few terrorists. He evades the issue of whether attacking hundreds of millions of Muslims in an effort to chase down a small number of terrorists is likely to increase the ranks of terrorists.

Podhoretz writes that any American restraint is foolish because it signals weakness. America was saved from weakness by President George W. Bush (Bush II), who like Harry Truman unexpectedly turned up with a vision. Bush II’s vision is — you guessed it — the same as that of the Likud Party and the neocons who mold Bush’s mind and write Bush’s speeches.

The "vision" is to knock off Iraq, Iran and Syria, the countries that could get in the way of Israel expelling the Palestinians to Jordan and grabbing Lebanon as well. This is what World War IV is all about.

Unlike Undersecretary Feith, David Wurmser (VP Cheney’s staff) and Richard Perle (Defense Review Board), Podhoretz doesn’t describe the overthrow of countries which might be obstacles to Israeli ambition as "an important Israeli strategic objective." Podhoretz dresses up his policy of naked aggression as America’s duty to bring truth, light, democracy and American virtue to the Middle East.

Trouble is, there are distinguished thinkers who cannot be smeared as anti-semites for disagreeing with Podhoretz, such as Professor Samuel Huntington and Brent Scowcroft who was National Security Adviser to Bush I.

Podhoretz deals with Scowcroft by accusing him of giving aid and comfort to anti-semites by mentioning "the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," asserting that only anti-semites think that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians has anything to do with 9/11. Podhoretz assures us that bin Laden himself couldn’t care less about the Palestinians and attacked America simply because wimpy US presidents convinced him that we are cowards.

Really, I am not making this up.

Next Podhoretz goes after "realists." Realists are almost as bad as anti-semites. But, then, so is anyone who doesn’t buy the neocon’s ideology of imposing America’s virtue on the world — especially the Muslim part — by force of arms.

Did you know that the American leftwing is also anti-semitic? Podhoretz is outraged that Susan Sontag actually said that 9/11 was an attack "undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions." Podhoretz tries to tar Micky Kaus for agreeing with Pat Buchanan that mistreatment of the Palestinians is part of the problem. He is aghast that Michael Kinsley agrees with Buchanan that it is an affront to the Constitution to fight undeclared wars.

The weakness of Podhoretz’s case for turning the Middle East into an American-Israeli colony, causes him to resort to the anti-semite smear. However, the publication last year of The Politics of Anti-Semitism, a powerful collection of essays, many written by Jews, has taken the sting from the charge by showing that it is a tactic used to prevent debate. Many "anti-semites" are Israel’s friends who are concerned that Israel’s colonization of Palestine will unify Muslims in war against Israel.

Perhaps sensing that "anti-semite" is a worn out ploy, Podhoretz invents another name — "blame-America-firsters" — for anyone who questions Bush’s policy of "bringing democracy to the Middle East."

We should be scared more by Podhoretz than by terrorists. In Podhoretz’s "vision," America is totally good. Muslims are totally evil, because they use terrorism to resist the high-minded intentions of America’s virtuous aggression.

Podhoretz’s vision has no room for diplomacy, compromise, and agreements. These are the tools of wimps and will cause "a relapse into appeasement and diplomatic evasion." There is only room for war.

To pursue the insane agenda of conquering and occupying the Middle East not only requires the stomach for inhumane acts, but also demands millions of Americans taking up arms. Here come the draft and a generation of casualties.

Podhoretz does not understand the difference between defeating standing armies and successfully occupying hostile populations that conduct fourth generation warfare against us.

Instead, he sees an America armed with a "new patriotic mood," which is "a sign of greater intellectual sanity and moral health." Only skeptics can prevent our triumph in the Middle East by undermining our confidence like they did in Vietnam. Thus, winning WW IV requires silencing those who disagree with Podhoretz’s case for war.

Podhoretz required 30,000 words, but he has made it crystal clear that the case for American aggression in the Middle East is shabby and sinister.

Dr. Roberts [send him mail] is John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. He is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.

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