A Prescription for Fascism
If you want to hear the voice of the War Party, listen to Efraim Halevi – and be very afraid.
Director of the Center for Strategic and Policy Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a former head of the Mossad, Halevi presents a clear, unabashed view of what is supposedly required to fight the “world war” we are now engaged in, and he doesn’t pull any punches. Writing in the Jersusalem Post in the wake of the London terror bombings, Halevi draws a stark portrait of an implacable enemy that has “come a long way” since the Nairobi and Dar-Es-Salaam bombings and what he calls the “aircraft actions” of 9/11. The London bombings show “careful planning, intelligence gathering, and a sophisticated choice of timing as well as near-perfect execution,” all in all a great compliment coming from the former head of an agency that has engaged in more than its share of terrorist actions. Halevi notes the “historical irony” in that one target of the London terror bombings “was within a stone’s throw of a building that served as the first headquarters of the World Zionist Organization that preceded the State of Israel.”
Ironic, perhaps, but also entirely appropriate: Middle Eastern terrorism has come full circle, winding up at nearly the exact spot where the cycle of violence was started all those years ago. That these demons, unleashed at the beginning of the last century, are wreaking their vengeance at the start of the new millennium is hardly surprising. What is startling, however, is that it has sparked a “world war,” as Halevi puts it,
“Raging over the entire globe and characterized by the absence of lines of conflict and an easily identifiable enemy. There are sometimes long pauses between one attack and another, consequently creating the wrong impression that the battle is all over, or at least in the process of being won.”
A global war against ghosts fought in slow motion, like an underwater ballet of death, in which the battlefield exists largely in the shadows, only breaking through the surface of reality in spectacular bursts: 9/11, the Madrid train bombings, London’s Terror Thursday.
“Generally speaking, the populations at large are not involved in the conflict, and by and large play the role of bystanders. But once in a while, these innocents are caught up in the maelstrom and suffer the most cruel and wicked of punishments meted out by those who are not bound by any rules of conduct or any norms of structured society. For a while, too short a while, we are engrossed with the sheer horror of what we see and hear, but, with the passage of time, our memories fade and we return to our daily lives, forgetting that the war is still raging out there and more strikes are sure to follow. “
We are mere bystanders, naïve innocents, sheep who are jolted awake by a sudden thunderstorm and then sink back into semi-consciousness as the shock fades, mewling and feeding on clover – while our masters harvest our wool and fatten us up for the slaughter. Keep that sheep analogy in mind as we examine Halevi’s prescription for victory, his vision of where we must go and what we must become if we are to win the Shadow War. For this is a war unlike any in history, one that surely had a beginning but will apparently have no end:
“It cannot be said that seven years after this war broke out in east Africa, we can see its conclusion. We are in for the long haul and we must brace ourselves for more that will follow. The ‘Great Wars’ of the 20th century lasted less than this war has already lasted, and the end is nowhere in sight.”
The defining characteristic of this new kind of war, then, is not only that it is being fought by wraiths, but that it exists outside of time, in another dimension that only occasionally intersects with our own. Halevi’s concept of a timeless struggle might have been taken straight out of George Orwell’s playbook: war is peace in this monstrous new world, and vice-versa, since the clear lines that used to separate them are erased. And this is not an anomaly, but the dawn of a new era, which might be called the Bizarro Age, in which up is down, the old rules are repealed, and the laws of God and man annulled, as the new warrior-rulers of the West rise to the challenge:
“There will be supreme tests of leadership in this unique situation and people will have to trust the wisdom and good judgment of those chosen to govern them. The executives must be empowered to act resolutely and to take every measure necessary to protect the citizens of their country and to carry the combat into whatever territory the perpetrators and their temporal and spiritual leaders are inhabiting.”
Do sheep distrust the wisdom and good judgment of their shepherds? Of course not. We cannot, however, afford to take chances: the shepherds of our destiny must be “empowered to act resolutely” and given the power to take every measure necessary to protect the herd. In the never-ending battle against the wolf packs, who hover on the edge of the meadow waiting for their chance, the idea that the flock would protest as the shepherds seek out the predators in their lairs is patently ridiculous. Such dissident sheep would soon find themselves on the wrong end of a shish-kebob stick.
A new authoritarianism is being born in the West, even as an American president announces our moral obligation to carry liberty to every country on earth. Kabul and Baghdad are “liberated,” while in London and Washington a new tyranny establishes and consolidates its power, extending its tentacles into every corner of our lives. The PATRIOT Act, national ID cards, internal passports, “limits” on the right of free speech, the tracking and compilation of dossiers on millions of potential “subversives” – black sheep, if you will – all this and worse is being urged on us quite insistently, and not only by Halevi.
Halevi speaks the language of our neoconservatives, who have advocated precisely these measures – see An End to Evil, by David Frum and Richard Perle – and also of the Bush White House, which often approaches his level of apocalyptic rhetoric. As might be expected, however, the former head of the Mossad writes with a certain ruthlessness, which give his words an edge the others are lacking:
“The rules of combat must be rapidly adjusted to cater to the necessities of this new and unprecedented situation, and international law must be rewritten in such a way as to permit civilization to defend itself. Anything short of this invites disaster and must not be allowed to happen.”
Let the world be put on notice: the Axis of Goodness resident in Washington, London, and Tel Aviv, will rewrite the laws, both national and international, and no one will be “allowed” to stop them. They are, after all, defending “civilization,” or those remnants of it that will continue to exist once the right people have gotten their hands on the levers of power. Like the Allies in the last world conflagration, the U.S., Great Britain, and Israel must be permitted their Dresdens, their Hiroshimas, their Nagasakis, and probably far worse – with no backtalk from the sheep and not a prick of conscience.
Standing against Halevi is the 200-plus year old tradition of authentic liberalism and constitutional government, and moral doctrines far older. How will he and his neoconservative cohorts prevail? They must convince the people that they have no choice but to concede their hard-won liberties in the face of a new kind of threat wielded by a new kind of enemy:
“The aim of the enemy is not to defeat Western civilization but to destroy its sources of power and existence, and to render it a relic of the past. It does not seek a territorial victory or a regime change; it wants to turn Western civilization into history and will stop at nothing less than that.”
To say that the aim of the terrorists is to “turn Western civilization into history” is to say… nothing. The concept is meaningless, since every moment is passing into history even as it occurs. These ghostlike enemies have aims that, as Halevi defines them, cannot be said to even exist. That they are over here because we are over there – such common sense is alien to the weirdly abstract universe posited by Halevi. His hifalutin’ rhetorical style is just so much smoke-blowing, and it is emitted for the same reason that a squid secretes a cloudy liquid: to obscure the real causes of Muslim grievance, which are rooted in our foreign policy.
In any case, how would anyone go about destroying our “sources of power”? Why, they would do precisely what Halevi and his allies would have us do: gut the Constitution, re-write the laws along authoritarian lines, and, as Halevi puts it:
“Recruit the public to involve itself actively in the battle, under the direction of the legal powers that be.”
A more explicit reference to the universal mobilization of society that takes place under a fascist regime would be hard to imagine, at least in the present political atmosphere. Halevi’s totalist vision mirrors the worst fears of many of today’s conservatives, as well as many liberals, alarmed at what they view as a rising fascist potentiality. In obscuring the real reasons for the worldwide terrorist insurgency – the perception that the West is embarked on a crusade to subjugate Muslims everywhere – Halevi is projecting his own methods and motives onto the terrorists. It is the neo-authoritarians who would deprive the West of its source of power, which is liberty.
In this sense, they can be said to be on the same side as the terrorists, and this congruence is not just ideological: every time the neo-authoritarians face a setback, it seems, their brothers-in-spirit come to the rescue with a fresh attack. The world is coming to resemble John LeCarre’s darkly pessimistic novel Absolute Friends. In the fictive world so skillfully constructed by the author, the reader discovers in the end that the terrorists and the government are essentially the same, that one is engaged in propagating the other in a sinister symbiosis. In Halevi’s world, too, the social contract is similarly abolished:
“In the past, governments have been expected to provide security to their citizens. The responsibility is still there, in principle. But in practice, no government today can provide an effective ‘suit of protection’ for the ordinary citizen. There can be no protection for every bus, every train, every street, every square. In these times the ordinary citizen must be vigilant and must make his personal contribution to the war effort.”
The old agreement between the governments of the world and their subjects has amounted to a trade-off: the latter agree to give up certain prerogatives in order to obtain a certain amount of protection. Halevi wants governments to unilaterally abrogate this unwritten contract, yet still retain their legitimacy and even increase their power and authority. The new warrior-kings must be able to protect their own royal persons, but the “ordinary citizen” must be prepared to be slaughtered at any moment: a sheeplike fate, to be sure. Blair was ensconced at Gleneagle with his fellow world leaders, while the “ordinary citizen” in the Tube and on that bus was caught up in the blowback from the policies of his leaders – it’s a picture that perfectly captures the dynamics of the new class system. In its pyramidal structure, this new royalism has an Egyptian air about it: it is a kind of pharoah-ism, in which the rulers stand very high above the rest of us, god-like and larger than life, while we are mere ants at their feet – a form of government well suited to the Age of Celebrity.
I was especially interested to see how Halevi is pushing the “privatization” of security functions that formerly were monopolized by the State. Not that he’s converted to anarcho-capitalism: when he avers that “private enterprise will have to supplement the national effort in many walks of life” what he means is not that the State will allow competition in a geographical area in which it once enjoyed a monopoly, but that it will contract out certain jobs to people such as… himself. Halevi, who is now a special adviser to Quest, a London-based security and intelligence consultancy, promotes his own economic interests even in the midst of a polemic. This is par for the course for many neocons, who, in the manner of Richard Perle, see their business and ideological interests as a seamless whole.
Aside from that, however, Halevi is here doing his patriotic duty in that he ‘s drumming up business for Israel – whose chief export, along with armaments (largely stolen from us) and hi-tech spying devices, is the expertise they’ve acquired in the art [.pdf] of suppressing a recalcitrant Arab-Muslim population, including techniques of terrorist eradication. Now that the extension of the Middle East conflict to the rest of the world has created a demand, Israel has an endless supply of terrorist “experts” and security firms to meet it. It is a unique form of colonization, the means by which a tiny nation, Israel, can embed itself into the very security structures of the West.
None of this is surprising coming from the former head of the Mossad, but what is astonishing is the level of honesty, the bluntness of saying out loud what many of us had feared. Halevi’s polemic is the brazen manifesto of a new authoritarianism, written in the sort of language usually reserved for internal memos by high officials in the world’s more repressive countries. It is a handbook for dictators, such as Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, who want to re-write the international standards of what is acceptable and moral, who openly disdain the American legacy of individual rights and the subordination of government to the rule of a higher law. That Halevi knows this, and sees a hard battle ahead for his new dispensation, is apparent from his conclusion:
“The measures that I have outlined above will not be easily adopted overnight. When the U.S. entered World War Two, Congress approved the momentous decision by a majority of one vote. Profound cultural changes will have to come about and the democratic way of life will be hard-pressed to produce solutions that will enable the executive branch to perform its duties and, at the same time, to preserve the basic tenets of our democratic way of life. It will not be easy, but it will be essential not to lose sight of every one of these necessities.”
It seems odd, to say the least, that the former head of Israel’s intelligence agency doesn’t have access to the information that the U.S. Congress voted to go to war with Japan with only a single dissenting vote in the House and a few abstentions in the Senate – and that the declaration of war against Germany was nearly unanimous. Doesn’t he know about Wikipedia?
This weird ignorance is also encouraging: after all, if the chief advocate of Halevi-ism is overestimating the common sense of the people he must intimidate and bamboozle into voluntarily submitting to unprecedented authoritarian measures, then perhaps there is hope for liberty, after all. Perhaps he and his ilk will make other mistakes – such as speaking this openly about their objectives and their Machiavellian ruthlessness.
That we in the West are headed toward a new form of Oriental despotism, or at least a form of government that owes more to Nebuchadnezzar than to Jefferson, is a fitting result of a “world war” that originated, after all, in the Middle East. The globalization of the struggle to control not only the oil-rich [.pdf] lands of ancient Sumeria and the Kingdom of Saud, but also the Holy Land, once called Palestine, has spread the spirit of that place – its harshness, its violence, its dark imaginative cruelty – into the sunlit lands of the West. The birthplace of the Athenian philosophers, the old Roman republic, and the Enlightenment is being invaded, not only by terrorism, but by Halevi-ism, which is in many ways a far more terrible and formidable opponent of liberty than any secret cell of bombers could ever hope to be. The former is aspiring to the full possession of the resources and military capacity of the world’s most powerful state and its allies: it is not lurking about in caves and on the margins, but brazenly strutting about the world stage, singing a soliloquy of military preemption and “benevolent global hegemony.”
Amid all the blather about somehow preserving “the basic tenets of our democratic way of life,” Halevi’s doctrine is unmistakable: it is a reversion to absolutism, albeit tempered with a bit of “democratic” window-dressing. I tend to agree with him on one point, however: it won’t be easy to impose tyranny on a people accustomed to liberty, especially here in America. He’s going to have quite a fight on his hands, and we at Antiwar.com are proud to be in the front lines of that battle – on the other side of the barricades.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
I appeared on MSNBC’s Connected Coast to Coast the other day, and I see this attracted at least some attention on the left side of the blogosphere. This guy wants to know why I’m not wearing a suit: because, bud, I’m trying to sell those cool Antiwar.com sweatshirts, and how else to do it except by modeling the product on national television. Hey, I always get looks – in a good way, for the most part – when I wear mine, and so go here to buy one. It’s for a good cause, and they’re cool as all heck.
Anyway, you can view the video by going here. Can you tell I had a really good time?
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