The Axis of Ares

A recent edition of Jane’s Intelligence Digest maps out the next stop on this administration’s road to war: Syria. Yes, everything’s going according to plan. Forget George W. Bush’s “road map.” The real road map, plotted by a cabal of U.S. war-hawks in 1996 for then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm” – is proceeding apace. In that paper, co-written by Richard Perle, James Colbert, Charles Fairbanks, Jr., Douglas Feith, Robert Loewenberg, David Wurmser, and Meyrav Wurmser, the authors – three of whom now hold top posts in the Bush administration – targeted Syria as the main danger to Israel, and posited a strike at Iraq as the gateway to Damascus.

This new turn in Washington’s war policy couldn’t have come at a more revealing time. Just as ex-arms inspector David Kay admits that there never were any “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD) in Iraq after Gulf War I, and Colin Powell follows suit, we’re getting the real story on what was the reason for that war.

In a word: Israel.

Why else are we planning on going to war with Hezbollah [pdf file], the Jewish state’s principal enemy in the region? It’s interesting to note that, on the diplomatic front, the negotiations are taking place not between Washington and Damascus, but between Israel and Syria, with Turkey as the interlocutor. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon wants an end to Syrian support for the Palestinian cause, and Syrian troops out of Lebanon. Syria has advanced a disarmament initiative through the UN, in the form of a resolution calling on Israel to abandon its WMD. While Washington avers that the Assad regime is developing WMD, everybody knows that Israel is the only country in the region that actually possesses nuclear weapons. It’s a sham that totally undercuts American credibility in the region.

But what do the Americans need credibility for, when they have the mightiest army on earth? That’s their credibility, the only kind they’re concerned with.

It’s amusing, in a morbid way, to see what kinds of pretexts for war with Syria they’re coming up with. My favorite is the migrating WMD meme: the claim is that those ever-elusive WMD were secreted away to Syria. We’re going to be playing hopscotch, all around the Middle East, invading country after country in our quest for forbidden WMD, without stopping until we reach the steppes of Central Asia.

But the War Party had better get their story straight. On the one hand, the BBC reports:

“David Kay said former Iraqi officials had given evidence that materials had been moved across the border.”

How this squares with his recent remark that, on the other hand, the weapons never existed in the first place is hard to imagine. Kay told Reuters:

“I don’t think they existed. What everyone was talking about is stockpiles produced after the end of the last (1991) Gulf War, and I don’t think there was a large-scale production program in the ’90s.”

Well, yes, there was a large-scale production program in the ’90s – of war propaganda and lies. And now the same liars are recycling the same tired old lies, only this time targeting Syria. And they won’t even have to change one important detail of their boilerplate prose: they can still denounce the “Ba’athists,” as that is also the name of Syria’s ruling party. Why don’t they just write a computer program, and save themselves the trouble?

From a war against Osama bin Laden and the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, President Bush’s “war on terrorism” has become a war to make the world – or, at least, the Middle East – safe for Israel. A U.S. invasion of Lebanon, and the return of American troops to Beirut – from whence they were driven out in 1983 – would not protect Americans. Instead, it would make us new enemies, and increase the danger of terrorism in America.

Oh, but don’t worry: Americans living in Israel will be much safer, thank you. Instead of being forced to go back to Brooklyn, they’ll be allowed to squat on Palestinian land, blocking any peace agreement by erecting new “settlements” at the expense of American taxpayers.

But why, you ask, would the Bush administration even think of taking on another war, and this one at the beginning of an election season? Surely they have enough on their plate. You would think so, but, then again, this misses the whole point of our Middle East policy, which has nothing whatsoever to do with what’s good for America, or the U.S. national interest, and is solely concerned with protecting and extending Israeli power in the region.

It is precisely for this reason – that the policy makes no sense from an American point of view – that the so-called realists (Brent Scowcroft, General Anthony Zinni, and other mostly Republican and conservative policymakers from the first Bush administration) opposed the Iraq war. Arrayed against them is the Axis of Ares: the neoconservatives, the Robertson-Falwell crowd, and the military-industrial complex, whose living incarnation is Frank Gaffney.

In looking for an explanation for why the Bushies went with the Axis, rather than courtiers of Bush the Elder, the “it’s all about oil!” theory and similar exercises in simplistic leftism fall by the wayside, leaving one and only one explanation for the war. This was ably articulated by Professor Paul W. Schroeder in an early issue of The American Conservative, who wrote that the war in Iraq

Would represent something to my knowledge unique in history. It is common for great powers to try to fight wars by proxy, getting smaller powers to fight for their interests. This would be the first instance I know where a great power (in fact, a superpower) would do the fighting as the proxy of a small client state.”

The explanation behind the madness, as libertarians have no trouble understanding, is politics. The distortion of American foreign policy in such a grotesque direction is a function of the political coalition that put George W. Bush in the White House, and hopes to keep him there.

All of the separate components of the Bushian alliance have their own reasons for putting Israel first. The Robertson-Falwell fundies are motivated by theology: as Christian dispensationalists, they believe that the events in the Middle East, and particularly in Israel, portend the Second Coming of Christ. According to dispensationalist doctrine, after the Rapture Israel is slated to take the place of the Church as the living instrument of God on earth – and, therefore, must be unconditionally supported.

As for the mostly secular neoconservative intellectuals, unconditional support for Israel is a matter of ideology rather than religion. Aside from whatever sentimental attachment to Israel they may feel, the neocons see the present conflict as a war of ideas, like the cold war, in which the U.S. and Israel, as the representatives of Modernity, are besieging not only Islam but all religio-ethnic obscurantism and national particularities.

The military-industrial complex is motivated by economic concerns: Israel is one of the biggest arms suppliers, as well as a prime customer, and a pillar of the arms industry. But more important, in the long run, is the growth of an entire class of people whose livelihood depends on the extension of the American Empire. The bureaucrats, social service agencies, publicists, lobbyists, exporters of non-military items, companies like Halliburton that set up and maintain the Imperial infrastructure derive their incomes and their social status from the swelling of this overseas Leviathan. While numerically small, this sector is strategically placed and disproportionately influential.

The great myth of American democracy, that policy represents the will of the people, is precisely the opposite of the truth. The principle behind America’s operating system is the squeaky wheel gets the grease. A determined and very self-interested minority can and often does preempt the general good in lobbying for – and getting – what’s good for them.

As an example: when foreign aid to, say, the nation of Uzbekistan comes up in Congress for a vote, you can bet all those who benefit from or in some twisted way support the tyrannical and brutal government of that godforsaken country rush to its defense against the few human rights advocates who know or care anything about the issue. The Uzbek lobby is organized: it has a plan, and the money to carry it out. Against this kind of special interest, the national interest is continually discarded. The same process occurred – and is still occurring – in the case of the Iraq war, except on a larger scale.

What Israel’s amen corner in the U.S. fears above all is the exposure not only of their invidious role, but the crucial part played by Israel in providing an endless stream of lies disguised as “intelligence” in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. A not-very-covert operation in the U.S. government designed to discredit skeptics of this phony “intelligence” went into overdrive, ruthlessly outing CIA agent Valerie Plame, and this has led to an investigation that threatens to implicate top administration officials.

So don’t take Karl Rove’s advice to the President – “no wars in ’04” – as axiomatic. A new war would provide a welcome diversion from the problems posed by the present one. Imagine the political shot in the arm the President would get as a result of the “rally ’round the flag” syndrome – and ask yourself if he doesn’t need it.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you….

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].