Neo-Conservatism, Hard Core
hard-core neo-conservatives Richard Perle and David Frum had their
way, the Bush administration would be issuing ultimatums on virtually
a daily basis.
their new book, An
End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror, Perle, the well-connected
former chairman of the Defense Policy Board (DPB), and Frum, a former
White House speechwriter, call for the administration to, among
many other things:
promote, presumably through direct action, the secession of the
oil-rich eastern province of Saudi Arabia, unless the Saudi government
provides its "utmost cooperation in the war on terror";
- Cut off
the flow of oil (from Iraq) and arms supplies to Syria, and pursue
suspected "terrorists" into its territory, unless Damascus
implements a thoroughgoing "western reorientation" of
its policies, economy and political system;
to launch preemptive strikes against North Korea's nuclear facilities
(although "we do not know where all these facilities are"),
unless Pyongyang immediately surrenders all of its nuclear material,
closes its missile bases and agrees to the permanent presence
of international inspectors;
reject the jurisdiction of the United Nations Charter, unless
it is amended to accommodate Washington's new strategic doctrine
- Help "dissidents"
overthrow the government of Iran "the regime must
what they call a "manual for victory," the two authors,
both resident fellows at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI),
describe an extremely dangerous world in which the greatest current
evil, "militant Islam," can be found everywhere
from "Indonesia to Indiana" (not to mention "in some
remoter areas of Venezuela," Paraguay, Brazil and northern
Nigeria). The stakes could not be higher.
Islam "seeks to overthrow our civilization and remake the nations
of the West into Islamic societies imposing on the whole world its
religion and law," write the authors.
do such ambitions represent only a tiny minority of Muslims, as
U.S. President George W. Bush himself has contended.
militants' goals command wide support among Muslims worldwide, including
in the United States where the "loyalty" of U.S. Muslims
requires special scrutiny by law enforcement and their fellow-citizens,
according to Perle and Frum. "The roots of Muslim rage are
to be found in Islam itself," they write.
is no middle way for Americans," they warn. "It is victory
all this sounds a little terrifying, it is because Perle and Frum
are deeply concerned that the administration's determination
and that of the country as a whole to wage the war on terror
to its bitter end is flagging. "We can feel the will to win
ebbing in Washington; we sense the reversion to the bad old habits
of complacency and denial."
book, then, is designed to re-energize the effort, and must be taken
seriously because it no doubt echoes arguments that are currently
being made at the highest levels of the Bush administration.
Frum, who allegedly coined the phrase "axis of evil,"
linking Iraq to Iran and North Korea in Bush's 2002 State of the
Union address, is known more for his rhetoric than his foreign-policy
expertise, Perle has been a fixture of the national-security policy
scene for more than 30 years.
as the "Prince of Darkness" for his opposition to arms
control agreements with the Soviet Union as a senior Pentagon official
under former president Ronald Reagan, he has been one of Deputy
Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's best friends since 1969, as well
as the mentor of Douglas Feith, the ultra-Zionist undersecretary
of defense whose office oversaw preparations for the Iraq invasion
and the postwar occupation.
longtime ally of both Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice
President Dick Cheney, Perle was described by the Washington
Post last year as the "intellectual guru of the hard-line
neo-conservative movement in foreign policy," who enjoys "profound
influence over Bush policies." It is thus safe to say that
Perle's views count, and the fact that he believed already in October
when the book (published by Random House) went to print
that the administration was losing its zeal is significant.
and Frum naturally blame the State Department, the Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA), retired military officers and senior officials from
the administration of the current president's father in other
words, all the foreign policy specialists and "realists"
who initially raised questions about going to war in Iraq
for resisting their calls for expanding the war to Syria, Iran,
North Korea and even Saudi Arabia.
they categorically reject, albeit often defensively, any notion
that the loss in momentum might be due more to overoptimistic predictions
by themselves and their friends in the offices of Cheney and Rumsfeld
about the ease with which U.S. forces could occupy Iraq without significant
than once, they insist that if only the White House had installed
their hero, Iraqi National Congress (INC) chief Ahmad Chalabi, as
president of a provisional government before the invasion, all would
be well today.
has the foreign policy bureaucracy inflicted such shameful damage
on American interests than in its opposition to working with Saddam's
Iraqi opponents," they write.
the authors fail to note that since he was virtually carried to
Baghdad on the shoulders of the invading U.S. forces, Chalabi's main
power base does not appear to have expanded much beyond his U.S.-trained
militia and his friends back in the Pentagon.
a persistent theme in the book is that if Washington really prevails
in the war on terror, it will be no thanks to the bureaucrats who
run the State Department and the CIA, whose apparatchiks
are "blinded by the squeamishness that many liberal-minded
people feel about noticing the dark side of third-world cultures."
CIA Director George Tenet "has failed. He should go,"
while "we should increase sharply the number of political appointees
in the State Department and expand their role."
measures should ease adoption of the neo-conservatives' agenda,
which includes not only ultimatums but also simple directives, such
- Work fastidiously
to isolate France from the rest of Europe while doing "our
utmost to preserve our British ally's strategic independence FROM
(emphasis added) Europe," in part by offering U.K. arms manufacturers
preferential treatment, and promoting a Anglo-American defense
condominium that would also include Australia and Canada.
- Forge a
defense partnership "with Japan, Australia, and other willing
Asian democracies as intimate and enduring as the NATO (North
Atlantic Treaty Organization) alliance. China should know that
any attempt to bully any of its democratic neighbors will be resisted
by all of them no ifs, buts or exceptions."
criticizing Israel for taking actions against Hamas and Hezbollah
(or similar groups) analogous to those the United States is taking
against al-Qaeda. The distinction between Islamic terrorism against
Israel, on the one hand, and Islamic terrorism against the United
States and Europe, on the other, cannot be sustained."
- Avoid turning
Iraq into a "ward of the United Nations or the 'international
community'," because "once the international bureaucrats
get their hands on society, they never let go."
last point is illustrated by a curious list of countries, including
Cambodia and Somalia, where the authors apparently believe
mistakenly that the United Nations remains in charge.
is one of a striking number of factual errors, illustrating either
the haste with which the book, which even lacks an index, was put
together or simple ignorance on the part of the authors.
contend, for example, that "Saudi-inspired extremists"
launched wars against Christian communities on Indonesia's Sulawesi
and Maluku islands, when they are apparently referring to Laskar
Jihad, a militia that most experts believe was not only inspired,
but armed, by elements in the country's military.
and Perle make similar assumptions about the indigenous insurgency
in Indonesia's Aceh province and what are predominantly ethnic,
rather than religious, clashes in northern Nigeria.
much as they invariably attributed Soviet aggression to various
nationalist, ethnic and reformist movements during the Cold War,
Perle and Frum now seem determined to find a "militant Muslim"
and/or Saudi-Wahabi hand in conflicts or terrorism from Mindanao
to Lake Maracaibo.
just as in the Cold War, they appear to prefer authoritarian to
democratic regimes if the latter risks empowering Islamic radicals,
as they make clear in yet another directive: "in the Middle
East, democratization does not mean calling immediate elections
and then living with whatever happens next," they write.
was tried in Algeria in 1995 (sic), and it would have brought the
Islamic extremists to power as the only available alternative to
the corrupt status quo. Democratization means opening political
spaces in which Middle Eastern people can express concrete grievances
in ways that bring action to improve their lives."
the authors stress that democratization also requires protecting
minorities and women, the message that comes through is that democracy
is not their highest priority, the neo-conservatives' frequent protestations
to the contrary notwithstanding.
is clear from recent events particularly Bush's criticism
of Taiwan, his tentative feelers towards Iran, and his warm words
for Libya ("an implacably hostile regime," according to
the authors), as well as the acceleration of the transition timetable
in Iraq that the neo-cons' influence has waned further in
the months since the book was sent to print.
surprise, really: after watching Bush's poll numbers plummet as
U.S. casualties rose beginning last summer, the president's political
adviser Karl Rove reportedly issued a directive of his own several
months ago: "No war in '04," an election year.
neo-cons might be down but they are most certainly not out. They
and their administration allies, notably Cheney, have shown they
retain sufficient influence for now to prevent any major softening
in the hard lines on North Korea and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Bush wins a second term with Cheney at his side, neo-conservatives
like Perle might well find themselves back on top. If so, you may
be able to buy this book on remainder and use it as a scorecard.
Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2004 Inter Press Service