"An End to Evil" is like Bush on crack. It's a kind of neocon orgy, a Bohemian Grove weekend for militaristic moralists, a chance to get naked and do tribal, Lord of the Flies dances -- "Invade Iran! Kill Yasser! Drink Kim's blood!" But if its recommendations are a little too extreme even for the George W. Bush-Dick Cheney-Paul Wolfowitz triumvirate, its underlying worldview is identical to theirs. It's a kind of CAT scan of the Bush administration's collective brain, an entity so weird it should be cryogenically frozen so future scientists can study it. Frum, a former Bush speechwriter and author of a recent encomium to his ex-boss, presumably represents the right brain, glibly spinning and selling, while neocon guru Richard Perle provides the left-hemisphere gray matter. With its trademarked combination of chipper propaganda, bullying bluster, intellectual dishonesty and radical policy prescriptions, "An End to Evil" offers a guided tour of the mind of George W. Bush, as filtered through the higher-grade neurons of its authors.
Here are some of the authors' policy recommendations:
* Preparing to launch a preemptive attack on North Korea, after moving our troops out of range of their artillery and missiles.
* Taking direct action to topple the regime in Iran, by providing aid to Iranian dissidents.
* Being prepared to invade Syria, of whom the authors write, "Really, there is only one question to ask about Syria: Why have we put up with it as long as we have?"
* Being prepared to invade Libya. "The illusion that Muammar al-Qaddafi is 'moderating' should be treated as what it is: a symptom of the seemingly incurable wishful delusions that afflict the accommodationists in the foreign policy establishment." (Now that those accommodationists in State have been proven right, don't expect an apology from the authors: They'll claim Qaddafi got rid of his WMD programs only because Bush invaded Iraq. All other answers, no matter if they're true, don't fit with their Manichaean, evildoers-respond-only-to-force worldview. Besides, those who are always right must never apologize. It is a sign of weakness, which our evil Muslim terrorist enemies (TM) will exploit with evil terror.)
* Taking a superconfrontational line with Saudi Arabia, including letting them know that if they don't reform we would look with favor upon a Shiite uprising in their oil-rich Eastern Province.
* Abandoning the Israeli-Palestinian peace process altogether. In a radical departure from U.S. policy, they say the Palestinians should not be given a state. Creating a Palestinian state out of the West Bank and Gaza, they write, will not bring peace to the region, because the Palestinians and other Arabs are only interested in vengeance, not justice. Instead, the Palestinians should "let go of the past" and content themselves with becoming citizens of the Arab countries in which they now live. The authors do not say what should happen to the 3.9 million Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories: Presumably they should either agree to become second-class citizens like the other Israeli Arabs, or leave.
Their domestic policies are equally arresting:
* Requiring all residents to carry a national identity card that includes "biometric data, like fingerprints or retinal scans or DNA," and empowering all law enforcement officers to enforce immigration laws. The authors admit that such a card "could be used in abusive ways," but reassure us by saying that victims of "executive branch abuse will be able to sue." Those who have done nothing wrong have nothing to fear!
* Encouraging Americans to "report suspicious activity." Apparently alone among Americans, the authors lament the demise of the TIPS program.
* Changing immigration policy so that the U.S. can bar all would-be visitors who have "terrorist sympathies." The authors define "terrorist sympathies" so broadly that this would rule out a high percentage of visitors from Muslim or Arab countries.
* Reforming the CIA to make it more hard-line on the Middle East. There can be no argument that American intelligence desperately needs reform. But after the yellowcake scandal, after the Valerie Plame leak, after the lies and distortions and creation of special offices to cook evidence, for Bush hard-liners to trash the intelligence community and the State Department takes some chutzpah.
The remarkable thing about these ideas is that, just a few years ago, they existed only in the feverish fantasies of wack jobs at extreme right, virulently pro-Israel think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute. But then came Sept. 11, 2001, and an ill-starred roll of the dice that brought together superhawks Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, hard-line Likud supporters Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith (and Richard Perle, offstage), and a devoutly religious, intellectually overmatched, politically shrewd president who embraced a permanent war on terror as if God had spoken to him (and as the only way to salvage his disastrous presidency). The result: Not only were these radical ideas given respectability, they actually became U.S. policy.
Not all of them, of course. One of the few interesting things about this insufferably smug, intellectually shallow book is trying to predict which of the authors' wilder policy recommendations will actually be implemented, and which will remain mere gleams in the right wing's Cyclopean eye. In fact, none of their dreams are likely to become reality. The U.S. is not going to invade North Korea, thereby condemning tens or hundreds of thousands of Koreans (from both North and South) to death. Nor will it invade Iran: After the Iraq debacle, even the most ignorant, deluded neocon is probably beginning to realize that toppling the mullahs will not guarantee that a U.S.-friendly regime would follow.
And invading Iran would exacerbate the worsening political crisis in Iraq, where the Bush administration is desperately running again to the despised United Nations to bail out the U.S. plan for rigged elections, which were put in place to prevent an Iranian-style theocratic Shiite state emerging. Typically, Perle and Frum, who wax eloquent about bringing democracy to the Arab world, have not a word to say about this -- although every knowledgeable commentator warned of this danger before the invasion. (Similarly, they make much of their concern for the woeful plight of women in the Arab world, but ignore the fact that women in Iraq now face the likelihood of being forced to live under Islamic law -- a fate they escaped under Saddam's secular regime, dreadful as it was.) It is not even likely to whack little Syria, which poses no conceivable threat to the U.S.
And one other piece of bad news for Richard Perle, in particular: No one is going to install your pal Ahmad Chalabi as president of Iraq. In one of the book's most egregious passages, the authors write, "But of all our mistakes, probably the most serious was our unwillingness to let the Iraqi National Congress, Iraq's leading anti-Saddam resistance movement, form a provisional government after the fall of Baghdad." If only those camel jockeys at State and in the CIA had let the neocons' favorite puppet and his little toy army enter Baghdad before the Americans, everything would have gone so much better! These kind of absurd claims may settle some old scores, but they do nothing to enhance the authors' credibility.
Their domestic agenda is unlikely to fare much better. Despite their hyperbolic, fear-mongering claim that "the terrorist threat" menaces "our survival as a nation," Americans are not going to put up with draconian security measures like national identity cards any more than they did Adm. John Poindexter's TIA program. Even Bush knows you can only play the fear card so far before it backfires.
But this isn't to say that the authors' militarist, triumphalist, unilateral, self-righteous, black-and-white ideology will not continue to drive the Bush administration's beliefs and actions. Rejecting international treaties and institutions, embracing an unprecedented and deeply un-American doctrine of preventive war, insulting the U.N. (except when we need it to bail us out), eschewing diplomacy for force, bigfooting everybody who dares to oppose us, and above all, treating the "War on Terror" as a kind of divinely inspired crusade against "evil," which only a heretic could oppose: These are the bedrock beliefs of the Bush team. They also just so happen to be the heart of its reelection strategy, aimed at Americans who didn't know the difference between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, and trusted their government when it told them they represented the same threat.
The shelf life of this screed is likely to be brief. Many Americans, to a certain degree understandably, are still locked in a vengeful, unreflecting, reactive stance toward terrorism. As such, they are open to fear-mongering books like this one. But sooner or later they will learn the lesson painfully learned by the British, the French, the Israelis, the Russians and other strong nations that have found themselves locked in no-win battles against weak opponents who are willing to die for their cause: There is no military solution to terrorism, particularly not in an open society in an age of easily concealable weapons.
They will eventually realize that not all terrorists are the same, and our approach to all of them need not, indeed must not, be the same. They will come to understand that political solutions are more powerful and lasting than military ones, that a United States that is hated and feared by most of the world (which is what Bush's policies have achieved) is less safe than one that is respected and admired. And they will learn that a policy of continuously demonizing the Arab/Muslim world and smashing it in the face will not -- in the words of the book's ludicrously overreaching title -- bring about "an end to evil," but rather the reverse.
Like President Bush, who crudely smeared Democrats in his State of the Union address for giving up on the war on terror, the authors try to paint those who don't agree with their radical doctrines as appeasers and cynics. At "this dangerous moment," they write, "many in the American political and media elite are losing their nerve for the fight. Perhaps it is the political cycle: For some Democrats, winning the war has become a less urgent priority than winning the next election." Leaving aside the obvious fact that the political cycle washes both reds and blues (Bush's trump card in the election is his touted leadership in an eternal war on terror), it's necessary to answer such vulgar attacks directly.
No, "some Democrats" (actually at least half the population of the country, with that number likely to rise every day) are not "losing their nerve for the fight." They realize that fighting terrorism is necessary. They realize it sometimes may even require military action to take out a rogue state that shelters international terrorists, as was the case with Afghanistan. But they simply don't accept the Bush administration's infinitely expansive definition of the war on terror.
They believe that Bush unforgivably squandered the outpouring of support for the U.S. after 9/11. They believe that international alliances and diplomacy are good for this country, not bad. They believe that Saddam Hussein was a terrible tyrant, but that he did not represent a threat to the U.S., and that the Bush administration cooked the intelligence to justify a war that neocons like Perle and Wolfowitz had been advocating for years. They believe that invading Iraq was a risky distraction that actually weakened the real war on terror, which is against al-Qaida. And they believe that by treating every problematic nation as an enemy in a hysterical war against an abstract entity, and treating every movement that uses terror as if it were al-Qaida, the Bush administration is actually making the world, and America, much less safe.
The most dangerous aspect of Bush's war on terror is its failure to distinguish between national and international terrorism -- a distinction, with a slightly different emphasis, that is also at the heart of the debate over Iraq. In his important "Incoherent Empire" (published last year by Verso), Michael Mann argues the U.S. should avoid attacking merely national terrorists that don't threaten us, because by so doing we needlessly turn them into our enemies -- and because we are then forced to fight the war on their terms and in their country, where they are almost impossible to defeat. National terrorists, he points out, are found all over the globe: "Terrorists all begin as national 'freedom fighters,' seeking to liberate their own land from what they see as alien oppressive rule." On their own turf they can thrive "like fish in the sea," in Mao's famous formulation about guerrilla war. Our fight is not with them, but with international terrorists like al-Qaida. "The fundamental strategy of America's war against terrorism should therefore be to separate international terrorists from any national support base, forcing them to fight in more exposed international conditions and not as genuine guerrillas," Mann writes.
The Bush administration's score card here is not encouraging. Destroying the Taliban regime helped separate al-Qaida from a national support base, but thanks to our lack of follow-through (for which the gratuitous Iraq adventure is mostly to blame), Afghanistan is slowly edging toward becoming a failed state, the favorite hidey-hole of international terrorists. By invading Iraq, the Bush administration may have helped create another failed state, and the invasion, along with the U.S. refusal to take on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, has increased Muslim and Arab rage against us -- although there has as yet been no upsurge in anti-U.S. terrorism except in Iraq.
Still, there is one encouraging fact. The U.S. has not yet made the fateful decision to attack national terrorists: We aren't hunting down Chechens, Pakistanis in Kashmir, Basques in Spain or Palestinians in the West Bank. When and if we do, we will have succeeded in expanding the list of people who want to blow us up.
Perle and Frum want us to. For them, as for the Bush administration, the enemy is Muslim terrorism -- the one-size-fits-all bogeyman of "militant Islam." For them, militant Islam is so anomic, irrational and evil that it trumps all other factors. Just as, in the eyes of U.S. Cold Warriors, a Nicaraguan or Vietnamese peasant who happened to be a communist could not be seen as fighting for national liberation or economic justice, but only as a cog in the Red Menace, so Perle and Frum see all Islamist terrorists as identical: The Hamas terrorist who attacks Israelis is identical to the al-Qaida terrorist who attacks Americans. In fact, their real bogeyman isn't even Islamist terrorism, but the even broader specter of Arab/Muslim terrorism -- whatever that is. This helps explain their insistence, in the face of massive evidence to the contrary, that Saddam Hussein was linked to al-Qaida.
Determined to demonize, Perle and Frum simply refuse to examine the varied historical contexts and causes of terrorism. From the lofty heights of their bully pulpit, they ignore the messy moral realities of human violence. As has frequently been pointed out, terrorism is the weapon of the powerless; and it is a truism that one man's freedom fighter -- or defender of a homeland -- is another man's terrorist. Israelis regard Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, who carried out terrorist attacks during Israel's struggle for independence, as freedom fighters, just as Palestinians regard Yasser Arafat, whose Fatah movement has carried out many terror attacks, as the leader of a national liberation movement.
Any serious book about political violence must deal with such moral ambiguities. Terrorism is appalling, but it is simply not as morally clear-cut as we would like to believe -- for the simple reason that the world can be appalling. Take state-sanctioned slaughter. States use the mass killing of civilians to achieve their purposes: Germans referred to the strategic Allied bombing of cities like Dresden, Hamburg and Cologne, which killed 600,000 civilians, as "terror bombing." U.S. planes firebombed Tokyo, killing 85,000 civilians in one night -- an appalling slaughter forgotten now except by military buffs. Yes, it took place during wartime. But does the existence of a piece of paper really alter the ethical issues involved in intentionally dropping magnesium-filled incendiary bombs on a huge city built almost entirely of wood? Perle and Frum, like most of us, would presumably defend such wartime actions by using an ends-justify-the-means argument: It was worth killing 85,000 Japanese civilians because it shortened the war, a war started by Japan. But once the Kantian categorical imperative is suspended and such justifying goals are invoked, one must also examine the justifying goals used by terrorists -- which Perle and Frum, suddenly becoming pure Kantians again, refuse to do.
It is both an American virtue and vice to insist on allocating praise and blame, to decide who is the hero and who the villain. But as both the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and postwar Iraq have shown, the world does not always divide itself up like that. The American West was settled as the result of what was essentially an undirected campaign of genocide against its native inhabitants. Racist pronouncements and bloviations about "manifest destiny" did not justify this massive crime, but neither did it mark Americans with eternal guilt. A mature historical perspective sees both sides: Mere moralizing is not enough.
To say this is not to justify the atrocities carried out by Osama bin Laden, or any terrorist attacks. But it is to try to understand what motivates them, so that we can take intelligent steps to avoid future attacks -- and work to "drain the swamp" to eliminate the underlying conditions and grievances that helped create terror. In the case of bin Laden, most of what drives him is indeed so anomic and apocalyptic that there is no way we could or should do anything to avoid his attacks: The modern age would have to end, Israel cease to exist and time run backward to the end of the Ottoman Empire, if not all the way back to the first caliphate, to make him call off his jihad. But there are certain obvious moves we can make -- and have indeed already made. One of the few smart things the Bush administration has done since it began its war on terror is withdraw its troops from Saudi Arabia. Their presence, of course, was one of the triggers of bin Laden's rage.
In the end, defusing bin Laden's rage is not possible or desirable: Such implacable enemies must simply be defeated. But defusing the rage of the rest of the Arab and Muslim world is possible, contrary to the pessimistic views of ideologues like Perle and Frum. More than anything else, it is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and America's one-sided support for the heavy-handed policies of Israeli leader Ariel Sharon, that has turned Arabs and Muslims against the U.S. Along with ending its support for autocratic and corrupt Arab regimes -- which Perle and Frum, to their credit, argue for -- helping broker a just end to that conflict would be the single most important thing the U.S. could do to win the war on terror. It would be good for Israel, good for the Palestinians and good for our relations with the Muslim and Arab world. But on this subject, Perle and Frum, like the Bush administration, are frozen in dogmatic extremity.
Their attitude becomes clear in the book's second paragraph. "The war on terror is not over. In many ways, it has hardly begun. Al-Qaida, Hezbollah and Hamas still plot murder, and money still flows from donors worldwide to finance them." One might wonder why they didn't write "Al-Qaida, the Basque ETA and the Tamil Tigers still plot murder." After all, none of these groups except al-Qaida attack Americans. (In 1983 Hezbollah blew up 241 Marines in their barracks in Lebanon, as well as the U.S. embassy, but only after American troops blundered in there and foolishly took the Phalange/Israeli side in the Lebanese civil war. Hamas has never targeted Americans: Its quarrel is with Israel.)
But in defiance of all the facts, Perle and Frum maintain that there is no difference between Hamas, Hezbollah and al-Qaida. They write "Hezbollah has attacked Americans in the past and will almost certainly do so in the future" -- a prediction that has a somewhat ominous ring, since the only plausible scenario that would result in Hezbollah attacking Americans would be a U.S. invasion of Syria or Lebanon. (It worked so well in 1983, let's try it again!) Ignoring the completely different causes that animate these groups, and the fact that attacking Americans would be suicidal for Hamas and Hezbollah, they argue that they are all the same because they are all subscribers to militant Islam.
Islamist terrorism is unique, they argue, because it flows from Islam itself. "The roots of Muslim rage are to be found in Islam itself. Unlike Christianity, Islam offers its believers rewards on earth as well as in heaven ...
The Islamic world has lagged further and further behind the Christian West ...
These defeats and disasters have been more than a wound to Muslims:
They directly challenge the truth of Islam itself." Enraged, humiliated, sexually frustrated, young Muslim men turn to militant Islam.
This is, of course, the pathological collision with modernity explanation advanced by historian Bernard Lewis, a favorite of neocon polemicists because he conveniently downplays or ignores specific Muslim/Arab grievances, in particular the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The problem with Lewis' thesis isn't that it isn't true, but that it isn't the whole truth. Yes, if the Israelis withdrew from the Occupied Territories tomorrow, the Arab world would still be appallingly backward. The region would still be subject to all the woes that Lewis, Thomas L. Friedman, Kanan Makiya and others have accurately chronicled. Nor would Islamist terrorism come to an immediate end.
But if the U.S. helped heal that festering sore, as only it can do, only good things would follow. Such an intervention would immediately prove to the Arab/Muslim world that the U.S. can indeed be an honest broker. The invasion and occupation of Iraq, which Arabs and Muslims in and out of Iraq currently regard with great suspicion because they doubt that the U.S. has honorable intentions, would be seen in a radically different light. This would not assure that that high-risk adventure would succeed, but it certainly would not hurt.
Arab reformers would be strengthened; sclerotic regimes would no longer be able to maintain power simply by blaming America or Israel. The Arab world would be forced to do something it has long avoided doing: look inward, and acknowledge that it must set its own house in order.
Perle and Frum reject this argument because, astoundingly, they deny that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the source, or even a source, of Arab and Palestinian anger at Israel and its ally and protector America. "The greatest -- indeed the sole -- obstacle to peace is the feeling among many people in the Arab and Muslim world that anything that was once theirs can never legitimately be anybody else's. It would be as if the Greeks felt themselves entitled to blow up school buses in Turkey until the Turks returned Constantinople.
The Arab-Israeli quarrel is not a cause of Islamic extremism; the unwillingness of the Arabs to end the quarrel is a manifestation of the underlying cultural malaise from which Islamic extremism emerges."
One scarcely knows what to call such an argument: To label it arrogant, ahistorical, dismissive and callous seems insufficient.
The brazen historical simile is particularly striking, although it would perhaps be more convincing if Constantinople had been seized in 1967, not 1453. But when you're dealing with crazed ragheads, 500 years here or there doesn't mean anything -- they live in the world of eternity! It is also worth noting the authors' slippery conflation of "Islamic extremism" with Palestinian resistance, which until fairly recently was secular in nature. (Just as the U.S. foolishly helped create Osama bin Laden -- a fact the authors naturally gloss over -- so the Israelis helped create Hamas, which they saw as a way to weaken Arafat's secular Fatah.) But a non-Islamic resistance at the heart of the Middle East's most crucial conflict does not sit well with their thesis that religious fanaticism, not a political grievance, is behind it. (That the authors believe the Palestinians have no legitimate grievances whatsoever is made clear when they casually refer to the current bloody conflict as "the Oslo war" -- like Sharon, they believe everything began to go wrong when the peace process started.)
Above all, their proposal to abandon any idea of a Palestinian state is fantastic: The idea that the Palestinians, and the larger Arab and Muslim world, would ever consent to such an arrangement is pure fantasy. And any attempts to implement such a policy by force (i.e., the involuntary "transfer" of Palestinians out of the Occupied Territories into neighboring states, an idea long popular with the Israeli right) would take the world to the edge of a nuclear abyss. So why do they even bring it up?
The authors' extreme line on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict goes well beyond official U.S. policy. (Actual U.S. policy is another matter: As Salon columnist and Haaretz diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn recently noted, the U.S. has now completely abandoned the road map and the peace process and given Sharon almost unlimited authority to do what he wants.) Indeed, it goes beyond much opinion in Israel.
That fact, and the contorted lengths they go to to argue that Hamas and al-Qaida are one and the same thing, raise a by now familiar question: To what degree are the authors' ideology -- and, by extension, the Bush administration's -- driven by attachment to Israel?
In fact, Perle and Frum bring the question up themselves. "We write these words [arguing against the creation of a Palestinian state] fully aware of how some readers and critics may react to them. According to the BBC's flagship documentary program, 'Panorama,' 'a small and unelected group of right-wingers ... have hijacked the White House.' The members of this 'close-knit' group, according to Business Week, 'have been called extremists, warmongers, American imperialists -- and even a Zionist cabal.'"
In response, the authors raise the bloody flag of anti-Semitism. Anyone who dares suggest that the (indisputable) attachment to the Israeli right wing of so many prominent White House policymakers and advisors (including Perle) may have played a role in their policy decisions about the war on terror is tarred as a bigot, one step up from a crank waving the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." The authors also bizarrely assert that the "myth of the neoconservative cabal" results from Bush-haters who "simply could not accept that it was the president's determination that was pushing the war forward. Somebody else had to be responsible." Finally, they lamely argue that "the neoconservative myth offers Europeans and liberals a useful euphemism for expressing their hostility to Israel."
Perle and Frum's attempt to dismiss the "neoconservative myth" backfires. Their arguments are crude and unconvincing; they protest too much. One need not assert that "world events are directed by a Jewish conspiracy" -- to use their smearing formulation -- to argue that ideological attachments inevitably play a role in the shaping of policy. It would simply be naive to dismiss the fact that the Bush administration is dominated, on its intellectual wing, by pro-Likud hard-liners whose view of the Arab and Muslim world is shaped by their views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indeed, this entire book is the clearest possible example of that. For these figures, the welfare of Israel and the welfare of the United States are axiomatically linked. There is no "Jewish conspiracy" at work, because there is a convergence of shared opinion between the Likudnik neocons like Perle, Wolfowitz and Feith and the hard-line paleocon hawks like Cheney and Rumsfeld. Bush's fervent evangelical Christianity -- and his desire to get evangelical votes -- disposes him toward a similar worldview.
Unfortunately, fear of being accused of being anti-Semitic, and the daunting complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, have all but prevented a reasoned discussion of this issue. The question is not whether "they did it for Israel," but to what degree the policy prescriptions advanced by figures like Perle, and implemented by Bush, are correct. In that vitally needed civic discussion, the central Israeli-Palestinian issue must come up.
Whatever its origins, the world imagined by Perle and Frum is a strange combination of Hobbes and Popeye. It is a world in which a mighty, hulking America walks about with a huge stick, smiting enemies like boardwalk frogs who conveniently never pop back up, with allies who never interfere, backed up by an economy able to write endless blank checks. "Will we need to go after a terrorist camp in some remote village in Indonesia? Or raid Syria to retrieve or destroy weapons of mass destruction that may have been sent there by Saddam Hussein for safekeeping?" the authors breezily ask. "Or strike a decisive blow against a North Korean facility about to produce nuclear weapons for a terrorist customer?" Who the heck knows? Maybe those frogs could do with a taste of the lash, too.
And despite its handy veneer of Wilsonian idealism, it is essentially a selfish world, a world without altruism or any higher purpose beyond city-on-a-hill banalities about American greatness. Now that the weapons of mass destruction have turned out to be a fraud, apologists for the war have become fond of touting their humanist credentials: We saved the Iraqi people from Saddam. But it rings false, just as does Bush's sudden pose as a grand humanitarian. Strip away the authors' moral pretensions and you find a philosophy of pure realpolitik, naked self-interest.
The authors are fond of hinting that "most Americans" are unflinching, heroic opponents of evil like themselves. But I doubt that most Americans really want to inhabit the America -- and the world -- depicted here. Fighting an intelligent war on terror is one thing. But when you think about it, the endless, obsessive, solitary war they recommend looks strangely self-destructive -- almost, one might say, like the mission of a suicide bomber.
Salon.com | January 30, 2004
An End to Evil (Interview)
frontpagemag. ^ | By Jamie Glazov
Posted on 02/28/2004 11:57:59 AM PST by bogdanPolska12
FrontPageMagazine.com | February 18, 2004
Frontpage Interview has the pleasure to have Richard Perle and David Frum, the authors of the new book An End to Evil: Strategies for Victory in the War on Terror, as its guests today.
David Frum, a former special assistant to President George W. Bush, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing editor of National Review. Richard Perle, the former assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration, and the former chairman of the Defense Policy Board in President George W. Bush’s administration, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He is represented by www.benadorassociates.com.
Frontpage Magazine: Richard Perle and David Frum, welcome to Frontpage Interview. It’s a pleasure to have you with us. In your new book, An End to Evil, you provide a manifesto on how we must deal with militant Islam in our War on Terror. For the sake of our readers, could you crystallize some of the main strategies you emphasize that will help the West win this war? Mr. Frum, why don’t we begin with you?
Frum: Thank you Jamie: honored to be here. An End to Evil is a handbook for victory in the war on terror: a series of highly specific recommendations about what to do to make America more safe and to defeat our terrorist enemies. First, we have to make the American homeland more secure by making it more difficult for terrorists to enter the country; and by cutting them off from money and support if they do enter. Second, we have to wage war against terrorist organizations abroad and the states that support them. Third, we have to challenge the terrorists’ ideas - because make no mistake, the terrorists have ideas. Finally, we need to modernize our institutions so that we can fight this new war - including threatening to leave the UN unless it amends its charter to recognize the sponsoring of terror as a form of aggression.
FP: Mr. Perle, could you expand a bit on what ideas the terrorists have? And why is the UN reluctant to see sponsoring terror as a form of aggression?
Perle: The terrorists who concern us most are fanatically devoted to the dream of an Islamic universe in which we will all be governed from the mosque according to an extreme interpretation of Islamic law. They also believe that the United States, by virtue of its global power and influence, is the principal obstacle to the realization of this dream—and hence the principal target in their war waged by terror.
The United Nations was born in the immediate aftermath of World War II in hopes of establishing a collective response to aggression across the international borders of sovereign member states. The U.N.’s emphasis on collective response, after action is approved in the Security Council, tends to rule out preemptive action, even in self-defense. If the U.N. were now to recognize that the harboring or supporting of terrorists is as grave an offense as aggression across national boundaries, it would surely open the way to preemptive action, which would be seen as a response. Moreover, the U.N. would have to do something it has not done until now: define terrorists and their organizations in broad generic terms. This would put an end to the ridiculous claim that “one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. And where would that leave the many states who now regard all manner of terrorists as freedom fighters?
FP: Mr. Frum, you come out in favor of the doctrine of pre-emption in cases where there is a perceived threat. Do you think our preemptive strike in Iraq legitimates that strategy? How does this fit with the fact that, so far, there is the question of the "missing WMDs"? Give your best defence of preemptive strikes. What do you say to leftists who argue that they are "internationally illegal"?
Frum: The operation in Iraq was a tremendous success - and an indispensable prerequisite for what comes next. One crucial thing we must do is pressure Saudi Arabia to cut off the flow of funds from its citizens to terrorists. So long as the world’s second-biggest oil producer was, in effect, an international outlaw, Saudi Arabia’s ability to get away with a two-faced policy on terrorism was magnified. Iraq is now rejoining the international community. Soon its oil will be flowing. And Saudi Arabia will find itself much less immune to American pressure to cut off the terrorists’ funds. As for international law: If international law protected the right of Saddam, Uday, and Qusay to tyrannize the people of Iraq and threaten the peace of the region and the world - well, that’s a pretty serious comment about the state of international law, isn’t it?
FP: So Mr. Perle, what can we do to make it impossible for “international law” to protect the likes of a Saddam to tyrannize his own people? Secondly, what is the best thing we can do to stop the Saudis from funding terror?
Perle: We must challenge the primacy of national sovereignty. Governments that rule their own people by force and tyranny ought not to be considered the legal, sovereign equal of those that rule with the consent of their people. Whether one uses the term “rogue” or “outlaw” or some other term, states that fail to meet a minimum standard of governance and behavior ought not to receive the protection of international law. As for stopping the Saudis from funding extremists and their institutions—the breeding ground and recruitment centers for the most dangerous terrorists—we must recognize that they have done this largely to keep them content with the regime. The regime fears their extremists and has been paying them to go make trouble elsewhere. Our task is to make sure they fear us at least as much—something we have not been willing to do.
FP: Mr. Frum, in the book, you push for America pursuing its foreign policy without the European governments if necessary. Is the EU actually becoming somewhat of an American enemy?
Frum: Europe is not an enemy - but the United States has enemies within Europe, and they are trying to transform the EU into an adversarial power bloc against the United States.
It's precisely because Richard and I value the North Atlantic alliance that we are trying to alert Americans to the potential threat that the wrong kind of EU could pose. We have to rally our friends within Europe.
We have to raise their awareness of the sinister intentions of this French government - and to make it clear to them that they can't have it both ways: that following the French lead will have the most serious consequences for the Western alliance.
FP: Mr. Perle, what exactly is France’s problem? Why do the French prefer to get into bed with monsters rather than side with us against the forces of tyranny? There is some kind of dark pathology here. Could you give us a little insight into the mindset of the French in this context?
Perle: When the issue is put properly and the facts are clear I believe most Frenchmen will come down on the same side as us. But often the facts are not clear. On Iraq, the French press was an abomination, rife with distortion on almost every element of the issue. Anyone reading the French press or watching French television would have concluded that we were acting out of base motives (mostly oil) and without regard for the hundreds of thousands of innocents who would perish in a long bloody war at the end of which the Middle East would be aflame. The current French government, under Chirac and Villepain, believes that it can build Europe as a “counterweight” to the United States. It loathes and fears the emergence of the United States as the sole superpower and seeks to diminish our standing and influence in the world. So it inclines toward opposition to any enterprise that we lead.
FP: Ok, Mr. Perle, let me continue with you for a moment. An End to Evil argues for the urgency of cleaning up the bureaucracy in our government that left us vulnerable to 9/11. Tell us a bit about this problem, where it hurt us, and what we can do about it.
Perle: The institutions and instruments we count on to defend us in the new way were largely built for a different war, the Cold War. It is hardly surprising that they are not optimized for fighting terrorists who neither march in columns or operate conventional military forces.
The CIA has lots of Russian speakers—they were needed during the Cold War—but few analysts or agents who speak Arabic or Farsi or know or understand the culture, history and forces at work in the countries of greatest concern.
Our military forces (the best in the world) were optimized for a different fight—heavy, mechanized, in the center of Europe. They need to be transformed into a much more agile force capable of going to distant theaters quickly and with overwhelming firepower. The State Department has honed the skills of compromise and accommodation. But these may not apply to terrorist fanatics or the states that harbor them. The FBI is far better at catching criminals than foiling terrorist plots, and so on.
FP: So Mr. Frum, we need to reformat the CIA, State Department and our military strategies to fight the War on Terror. There is obviously going to be a lot of resistance within the U.S. government itself to these changes. What can we do best to make this overhaul possible?
Frum: Institutional reform is very difficult. Look at the terrible dilemma President Bush faced with the FBI after 9/11.
The FBI had horribly failed the nation, and in the most glaring and obvious way. Reform was obviously needed. Yet on the other hand, the process of reform - firings, the closing of sections, the transfer of files and responsibilities to new organizations - would be a nasty, messy business, during which the never-very-considerable effectiveness of the main counter-terrorism unit we have would be degraded even further.
President Bush understandably figured that this was not the moment. Instead, he tried to exhort the FBI to do better by constantly praising the "new culture" that he claimed had miraculously materialized since the attacks. Serious reform was postponed till later - but by then, of course, the case for reform had lost its urgency and impetus and inertia had reasserted itself. The status quo, let us never forget, is always somebody's livelihood. So - what to do?
Well there is one constituency that does have an interest in reform: the general public. To change Washington, we have to mobilize the public to DEMAND change. That was the motive that led Richard and me to write AN END TO EVIL.
FP: Mr. Perle, you demonstrate that the objectives of terrorists can only be made possible by the rogue states that harbor and sponsor them (i.e. Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran). If we do the math, the answer is that these regimes have got to go. What is the best way to get this result?
Perle: Each case is different. And the list is getting shorter: it would once have included Afghanistan and Iraq has been deleted. As for the rest, in turn: Saudia Arabia must be told to stop funding extremist groups that preach holy war against us or expect us to lose all interest in the current regime’s tenure. They should get the message. Syria should be invited, to choose between two models: Iraq and Libya. Qadaffi got the message and responded, appropriately, with a white flag. Saddam didn’t and he now sits in jail, awaiting trial. Iran is governed by a small bunch of corrupt mullahs who dictate every aspect of their people’s lives, support terrorist groups and seek nuclear weapons. The people of Iran want the mullahs back in the mosques and out of power. We should help the people.
Frum: Let me add something. Richard and I are often accused of believing that military power is the answer to everything. On the contrary, we believe that it is the answer to some things - as opposed to those who believe it is the answer to nothing. Force is to international relations what cash is to transactions between banks: the medium of final resort. So long as a bank is known to have abundant cash, it can do its business on credit; and so long as a nation is known to be ready to fight if necessary, it will discover that the necessity arises very seldom.
FP: Without doubt, we have to support the Iranian people who want freedom and to overthrow their despotic theocracy. Mr. Frum, how can we best give our hand to the forces of freedom in Iran? And what to you think about the prospects of a democratic revolution there? If the mullahs are overthrown, this might really be a blow to Islamic fundamentalism throughout the region, no? Is it possible that a sort of “domino-theory” could start, in terms of Middle East tyrannies and Islamic states dropping one by one, in the way that the Soviet empire crumbled?
Frum: There is lots we can do: provide money, communications equipment, support in international forums, and so on. But if I were to pick out one thing, it would be for Americans as a people to learn the names of the Iranian dissidents - and be prepared to demand that the Iranian government account for their whereabouts. Last summer, the Iranian government detained a woman who had photographed a rally at which regime thugs attacked demonstraters. Some days later, the regime announced that the photographer had died of (as I remember) a heart attack. Although she was born in Iran, she had become a Canadian citizen. Canadian diplomats pressed for details of the case and learned that she had in fact been beaten to death. Publicity can deter regimes from violating human rights - and we need to deploy maximum publicity against the atrocious government in Teheran.
FP: Mr. Perle, why do you think there is such a skyrocketing of anti-Americanism in our present world?
Perle: Disapproval of the U.S. has many sources: jealousy at our success, fear that we will encourage democratic change at the expense of despots and dictators, ignorance about who we are and what we stand for, the belief that we have too much power and have been too unwilling to share it—and our sovereignty—with multilateral institutions, etc. We should quit agonizing over why we have detractors and make sure our policy is a success—like which nothing succeeds.
FP: Mr. Frum, would you like to add to Mr. Perle’s comment? What are your views regarding the rise of anti-Americanism worldwide?
Frum: The United States stands - and has always stood - for the idea that ordinary people deserve the widest possible opportunity for their aspirations and talents. That may sound like a cliche - the Muzak of American politics - but over most of the earth's surface that idea is and remains an outrage and a scandal. From the social democracies of Euroep to the theocracy of Saudi Arabia, cultural and national leaders profess to be worried about "Americanization." (Indeed, I think it is "Americanization" much more than the actually existing United States of America that alarms them.) But what is "Americanization"? In Europe it can mean something as seemingly harmless and trivial as letting people watch the television programs they want to watch, rather than those the state deems good for them. In Saudi Arabia, it means something much more dramatic: the menace of female equality and religious choice. Wherever you go, though, America means liberty, and always has. And liberty remains just as explosive an idea in 2004 as it was in 1776 - possibly even more so.
FP: Mr. Perle and Mr. Frum, thank you, we really appreciate the time you took out to speak with us today.
Frum: Thank you Jamie. Frontpage stands on the front lines of this fight, and we are honored to stand with you.
Perle: Thank you Jamie, it was a pleasure.
I welcome all of our readers to get in touch with me if they have a good idea/contact for a guest for Frontpage Interview. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TOPICS: Miscellaneous; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: ANENDTOEVIL; BOOKREVIEW; BUSHDOCTRINE; DAVIDFRUM; JAMIEGLAZOV; RICHARDPERLE
1 posted on 02/28/2004 11:58:00 AM PST by bogdanPolska12
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies ]
"Wherever you go, though, America means liberty, and always has. And liberty remains just as explosive an idea in 2004 as it was in 1776 - possibly even more so."
This is what you DU trolls hate too. So when you go to another country and they hate you, this is why. So don't act shocked when you hear this kind of thing, lurking troll.
2 posted on 02/28/2004 12:28:15 PM PST by writer33 (The U.S. Constitution defines a Conservative)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies ]
3 posted on 02/28/2004 12:44:57 PM PST by bogdanPolska12
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies ]
I was directing that comment to liberal trolls that peruse the site and try to post threads.
4 posted on 02/28/2004 12:55:27 PM PST by writer33 (The U.S. Constitution defines a Conservative)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies ]
Sorry for misunderstanding you. I thought you were directing to me I was little bit in shock. As you have point out you are right when it comes to liberals trolls. They are totally anti everything that has to do with this country. We at war they are thinking this is still a game play.
5 posted on 02/28/2004 1:24:09 PM PST by bogdanPolska12
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies ]
Mr. Frum, you come out in favor of the doctrine of pre-emption in cases where there is a perceived threat.
As to Operation Iraqi Freedom setting aside for the moment the moral question(and I believe is was moral), pre-emption is what great powers have always done.
I can't recomend this book highly enough! I very rarely call something a must read but this book is one of those.
6 posted on 02/28/2004 8:38:59 PM PST by Valin (America is the land mine between barbarism and civilization.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies ]
7 posted on 02/28/2004 10:41:52 PM PST by lainde (Heads up...We're coming and we've got tongue blades!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies ]
Just curious, but why do our government officials, ex and otherwise refer to our Nation as a "homeland"?
8 posted on 02/28/2004 10:44:57 PM PST by hedgetrimmer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies ]
Homeland is what we have. Freedom is not cheap it takes fight to have it. Homeland is our land of freedom and prosperity. Our homeland has a gift of grace from God. We are blessing to live in freedom and being happy.
9 posted on 02/28/2004 10:55:25 PM PST by bogdanPolska12
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies ]
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.