- Actively 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;
- Prepare 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”;
- Explicitly reject the jurisdiction of the United Nations Charter, unless it is amended to accommodate Washington’s new strategic doctrine of “preemption”;
- Help “dissidents” overthrow the government of Iran “the regime must go.”
In 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.
Militant 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.
Nor do such ambitions represent only a tiny minority of Muslims, as U.S. President George W. Bush himself has contended.
The militants’ goals command wide support among Muslims worldwide, including in the United States where the “loyalty” of US 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.
“There is no middle way for Americans,” they warn. “It is victory or holocaust.”
If 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.”
This 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.
While 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.
Known 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.
A 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.
Perle 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.
And 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 US forces could occupy Iraq without significant international support.
More 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.
“Seldom 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.
But the authors fail to note that since he was virtually carried to Baghdad on the shoulders of the invading US 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.
Indeed, 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.”
Hence, 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.”
Such measures should ease adoption of the neo-conservatives’ agenda, which includes not only ultimatums but also simple directives, such as:
- 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.”
- “Cease 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.”
This 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.
That 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.
They 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.
Frum 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.
Indeed, 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.
And 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.
“That 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.”
While 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.
It 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.
No 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.
The 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.
If 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.
(Inter Press Service)