Commentary Magazine


Topic: Richard Perle

About Those ‘Likudniks’

The theory that a powerful cabal of Jewish intellectuals pressured President Bush into launching wars on behalf of Israel is one that’s become associated with the anti-Semitic political fringe. But it wasn’t long ago that this idea was being promoted in mainstream publications — for example, the 2003 Washington Post cover story entitled “Bush and Sharon Nearly Identical on Mideast Policy.”

The article was about a so-called group of “Likudniks” — loyalists to the right-wing Israeli government — who allegedly pulled the foreign-policy strings in the Bush administration. According to the report, the faction included Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and Elliott Abrams.

“Some Middle East hands who disagree with these supporters of Israel refer to them as ‘a cabal,’ in the words of one former official,” reported the Post. “Members of the group do not hide their friendships and connections, or their loyalty to strong positions in support of Israel and Likud.”

“The Likudniks are really in charge now,” the story quoted an anonymous senior U.S. official as saying.

In certain circles, the term Likudnik has been used interchangeably with neoconservative, and both have carried allegations of dual loyalty to Israel.

“What these neoconservatives seek is to conscript American blood to make the world safe for Israel,” wrote Pat Buchanan in the American Conservative. “They want the peace of the sword imposed on Islam and American soldiers to die if necessary to impose it.”

Obviously, these charges were nonsense. And this is illustrated, once again, by the very different positions the Israeli government and neoconservatives have taken on the crisis in Egypt.

As Max has pointed out, Israel has come out in support of the Mubarak regime:

The newspaper said Israel’s foreign ministry told its diplomats to stress that it is in “the interest of the West” and of “the entire Middle East to maintain the stability of the regime in Egypt.”

“We must therefore curb public criticism against President Hosni Mubarak,” the message sent at the end of last week said, according to Haaretz.

The newspaper said the message was sent to Israeli diplomats in at least a dozen embassies in the United States, Canada, China, Russia and several European countries.

And yet the alleged “Likudniks” from the Bush administration haven’t been out disseminating pro-Mubarak propaganda of some sort on Fox News.

Instead, Abrams has come out strongly in support of the Egyptian people. As have Wolfowitz and Feith. In fact, neoconservatives are overwhelmingly in favor of democratic reform in Egypt, just as they were under Bush. And that makes the old allegations of dual loyalty look even more shameless.

The theory that a powerful cabal of Jewish intellectuals pressured President Bush into launching wars on behalf of Israel is one that’s become associated with the anti-Semitic political fringe. But it wasn’t long ago that this idea was being promoted in mainstream publications — for example, the 2003 Washington Post cover story entitled “Bush and Sharon Nearly Identical on Mideast Policy.”

The article was about a so-called group of “Likudniks” — loyalists to the right-wing Israeli government — who allegedly pulled the foreign-policy strings in the Bush administration. According to the report, the faction included Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and Elliott Abrams.

“Some Middle East hands who disagree with these supporters of Israel refer to them as ‘a cabal,’ in the words of one former official,” reported the Post. “Members of the group do not hide their friendships and connections, or their loyalty to strong positions in support of Israel and Likud.”

“The Likudniks are really in charge now,” the story quoted an anonymous senior U.S. official as saying.

In certain circles, the term Likudnik has been used interchangeably with neoconservative, and both have carried allegations of dual loyalty to Israel.

“What these neoconservatives seek is to conscript American blood to make the world safe for Israel,” wrote Pat Buchanan in the American Conservative. “They want the peace of the sword imposed on Islam and American soldiers to die if necessary to impose it.”

Obviously, these charges were nonsense. And this is illustrated, once again, by the very different positions the Israeli government and neoconservatives have taken on the crisis in Egypt.

As Max has pointed out, Israel has come out in support of the Mubarak regime:

The newspaper said Israel’s foreign ministry told its diplomats to stress that it is in “the interest of the West” and of “the entire Middle East to maintain the stability of the regime in Egypt.”

“We must therefore curb public criticism against President Hosni Mubarak,” the message sent at the end of last week said, according to Haaretz.

The newspaper said the message was sent to Israeli diplomats in at least a dozen embassies in the United States, Canada, China, Russia and several European countries.

And yet the alleged “Likudniks” from the Bush administration haven’t been out disseminating pro-Mubarak propaganda of some sort on Fox News.

Instead, Abrams has come out strongly in support of the Egyptian people. As have Wolfowitz and Feith. In fact, neoconservatives are overwhelmingly in favor of democratic reform in Egypt, just as they were under Bush. And that makes the old allegations of dual loyalty look even more shameless.

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Cut and Run Was No Strategy for Iraq and Isn’t One for Afghanistan

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, has written in the Wall Street Journal that we should “un-surge” in Afghanistan. While arguing against total withdrawal, he says “the U.S. effort there should be sharply reduced.”

Mr. Haass’s recommendation on Afghanistan sounds similar to his (flawed) recommendation on Iraq during the debate about the surge.

In a November 13, 2006, interview with Der Spiegel, Haass said: “We’ve reached a point in Iraq where we’ve got to get real. … The Iraq situation is not winnable in any meaningful sense of the word ‘winnable.’ So what we need to do now is look for a way to limit the losses and costs, try to advance on other fronts in the region and try to limit the fallout of Iraq. That’s what you have to do sometimes when you’re a global power.”

A few weeks later, on November 30, Haass said, “It’s not clear to me that even if you double the level of American troops you would somehow stabilize the situation [in Iraq].”

And on December 10, 2006, on NBC’s Meet the Press, he said this:

I would perhaps do it for a short amount of time, a surge, as part, again, of this narrative, as part of saying, “We’ve gone the extra mile.” I want to take away the arguments, quite honestly, from the critics of the [Iraq Study Group] report. I want to take away the argument that if Iraq turns out as badly as I fear it might, I want to take away the argument that it was because of what we didn’t do. If Iraq doesn’t work, I think it’s incredibly important for the future of the Middle East and for the future of American foreign policy around the world that the principle lesson not be that the United States is unreliable or we lacked staying power. “If only we’d done a little bit more for a little bit longer it would’ve succeeded.” To me, it is essentially important for the future of this country that Iraq be seen, if you will, as Iraq’s failure, not as America’s failure.

So Haass supported a temporary surge in Iraq not because he thought it would work but in order to place the blame on the Iraqis when it failed. There was a notably amoral quality to Haass’s recommendation (the realpolitik Haass might accept this as a compliment). Read More

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, has written in the Wall Street Journal that we should “un-surge” in Afghanistan. While arguing against total withdrawal, he says “the U.S. effort there should be sharply reduced.”

Mr. Haass’s recommendation on Afghanistan sounds similar to his (flawed) recommendation on Iraq during the debate about the surge.

In a November 13, 2006, interview with Der Spiegel, Haass said: “We’ve reached a point in Iraq where we’ve got to get real. … The Iraq situation is not winnable in any meaningful sense of the word ‘winnable.’ So what we need to do now is look for a way to limit the losses and costs, try to advance on other fronts in the region and try to limit the fallout of Iraq. That’s what you have to do sometimes when you’re a global power.”

A few weeks later, on November 30, Haass said, “It’s not clear to me that even if you double the level of American troops you would somehow stabilize the situation [in Iraq].”

And on December 10, 2006, on NBC’s Meet the Press, he said this:

I would perhaps do it for a short amount of time, a surge, as part, again, of this narrative, as part of saying, “We’ve gone the extra mile.” I want to take away the arguments, quite honestly, from the critics of the [Iraq Study Group] report. I want to take away the argument that if Iraq turns out as badly as I fear it might, I want to take away the argument that it was because of what we didn’t do. If Iraq doesn’t work, I think it’s incredibly important for the future of the Middle East and for the future of American foreign policy around the world that the principle lesson not be that the United States is unreliable or we lacked staying power. “If only we’d done a little bit more for a little bit longer it would’ve succeeded.” To me, it is essentially important for the future of this country that Iraq be seen, if you will, as Iraq’s failure, not as America’s failure.

So Haass supported a temporary surge in Iraq not because he thought it would work but in order to place the blame on the Iraqis when it failed. There was a notably amoral quality to Haass’s recommendation (the realpolitik Haass might accept this as a compliment).

In his Journal op-ed arguing for undoing the surge in Afghanistan, Haass lays out the “broader reasons to recast policy.” They include:

The greatest threat to U.S. national security stems from our own fiscal crisis. Afghanistan is a significant contributor to this situation and could play an important role in reducing it. A savings of $75 billion a year could help finance much-needed military modernization and reduce the deficit.

Another factor is the increased possibility of a conflict with a reckless North Korea and the continued possibility of a confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program. U.S. military forces must be freed up to contend with these issues. The perception that we are tied down in Afghanistan makes it more difficult to threaten North Korea or Iran credibly—and makes it more difficult to muster the forces to deal with either if necessary.

Haass’s somewhat novel argument, then, is that in order to preserve our capacity to wage future wars, we should lose (in the guise of de-escalation) our current ones. He doesn’t take into account that retreating in Afghanistan would be (rightly) interpreted by nations like Iran and North Korea as weakness on the part of America, thereby emboldening our adversaries. And nowhere does Haass explain how his recommended offshore counterterrorism strategy would work, since credible counterterrorism strikes depend on good intelligence, which is best gathered by ground forces that enjoy the trust of the local population. If we pull out our troops, we lose even that capacity.

One cannot help but suspect that Haass has arrived at a position based on a theory he holds to with dogmatic certitude and has gone in search of arguments to support it. This may explain why Haass is forced to mimic David Stockman on the deficit and Richard Perle on Iran. It’s not a terribly persuasive pose.

Mr. Haass concludes his op-ed this way:

Ultimately Afghanistan is a strategic distraction. U.S. interests there are limited. So, too, are the resources available for national security. It is not surprising that the commander in the field, Gen. David Petraeus, is calling for committing greater resources to the theater. But it is the commander-in-chief’s responsibility to take into account the nation’s capacity to meet all of its challenges, national and international. It is for this reason that the perspectives of Gen. Petraeus and President Obama must necessarily diverge.

The notion that Afghanistan is nothing more than a “strategic distraction” is not terribly serious. Events of the past decade have turned it into something very much more than that.

Defeat there would have profound, negative effects on, among other nations, nuclear-armed Pakistan. While it’s obviously true that events in Afghanistan don’t have unlimited effects on Pakistan, Haass’s insistence that they are almost completely unrelated will come as news to the Pakistani government and virtually everyone else in the region. The capitulation of the United States and the fall of the existing government in a neighboring state, Afghanistan, would have significant ramifications in Pakistan. It would be an enormously important psychological victory for jihadists and the Taliban. Islamists all over the world would assume that if they wait long enough, the U.S. will cut out and move on. And defeat in Afghanistan would have baleful consequences for the people, and especially the women, of Afghanistan (though that dimension of this issue doesn’t appear to enter into Haass’s calculus at all).

When it comes to both military planning and strategic thinking, General Petraeus is simply in a different league than Mr. Haass. The four-star general and Princeton Ph.D. has proved himself to be far wiser, more prescient, and more knowledgeable than the former State Department official. Which is why I’m thankful that America’s 44th president, like America’s 43rd president, is listening to David Petraeus rather than to Richard Haass.

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Awaiting Obama’s Reply

It is easy to forget that Barack Obama’s gaffe-turned-policy of unconditional dialogue with Tehran presents more than a tactical opportunity for John McCain’s supporters. This misguided approach to national security would advertise the naiveté of its American practitioners and elevate Iranian sophistry to the status of legitimate statecraft. Yet, beyond this there is another outcome to consider. What effect would this unconditional dialogue have on the brave pro-democracy movement inside Iran?

Iranian human rights activists Manda Zand-Ervin & Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi have an open letter to Barack Obama up on Pajamas Media. Before November, Barack Obama should be called upon to respond to the concerns laid out in this document. Here is an important excerpt:

Senator, since 1979 the Mullahs of Iran have killed upwards of one million Iranians, not to mention the nearly one million sacrificed to the 8-year-long Iran/Iraq war. And what the Iranian people have withstood in terms of outrageous human rights violations is shocking; public hangings, stoning, flogging, cutting off limbs, tongues and plucking out eyeballs are an everyday occurrence across Iran. All are meant to strike fear of the ruling Mullahs into people’s hearts.

Since you began talking about unconditionally dialoguing with the Islamic regime of Iran, you too have struck absolute fear in the hearts of the Iranian people, both inside and outside Iran. The few Iranian-Americans who support you are well-intentioned individuals who have been swept up in the excitement and fervor of your campaign. But we can wholeheartedly assure you that your comments have landslide opposition within the much greater Iranian heart both inside and outside Iran.

Iranians believe that the only country who has the moral authority and is able to support them is the United States of America, a country whose foundation as a melting pot mirrors the true character of the once great Persian Empire. But the fact is, as John Bolton so aptly puts it: “Negotiation is a tactic, not policy.” Your policy of direct and unconditional negotiation will give the Mullahs of Iran the legitimacy that they need for more oppression. The real losers will be the already weary people of Iran, whose dreams of freedom and democracy will be dashed for a long time to come. If you empower that regime, the mullahs will continue to harm a country that is already totally economically devastated, as well as socially and politically oppressed.

Barack Obama claims he will restore America’s image abroad. Moreover, on his website, he makes a direct appeal to foreign citizens who’ve suffered while America has stood idly by: “And I will send once more a message to those yearning faces beyond our shores that says, “You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now.”

Welcome to the fierce squandering of now. Obama and his supporters are unable to see that the refusal to meet with terrorists and tyrants hasn’t a thing to do with American arrogance or exceptionalism. It has everything to do with minimizing those parties’ destructive capacities, and empowering the forces ranged against them.

Consider these words spoken by the despised unilateral cowboy George W. Bush during his second inaugural address: “All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for liberty, we will stand with you.”

The statement was pointed at pro-democracy elements inside Iran and, as Richard Perle notes, it hit its mark. Let’s hope the President fulfills America’s full obligation in this regard before leaving office.

As gifted as Barack Obama is, he will have a hard time standing up for liberty while sitting down with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

It is easy to forget that Barack Obama’s gaffe-turned-policy of unconditional dialogue with Tehran presents more than a tactical opportunity for John McCain’s supporters. This misguided approach to national security would advertise the naiveté of its American practitioners and elevate Iranian sophistry to the status of legitimate statecraft. Yet, beyond this there is another outcome to consider. What effect would this unconditional dialogue have on the brave pro-democracy movement inside Iran?

Iranian human rights activists Manda Zand-Ervin & Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi have an open letter to Barack Obama up on Pajamas Media. Before November, Barack Obama should be called upon to respond to the concerns laid out in this document. Here is an important excerpt:

Senator, since 1979 the Mullahs of Iran have killed upwards of one million Iranians, not to mention the nearly one million sacrificed to the 8-year-long Iran/Iraq war. And what the Iranian people have withstood in terms of outrageous human rights violations is shocking; public hangings, stoning, flogging, cutting off limbs, tongues and plucking out eyeballs are an everyday occurrence across Iran. All are meant to strike fear of the ruling Mullahs into people’s hearts.

Since you began talking about unconditionally dialoguing with the Islamic regime of Iran, you too have struck absolute fear in the hearts of the Iranian people, both inside and outside Iran. The few Iranian-Americans who support you are well-intentioned individuals who have been swept up in the excitement and fervor of your campaign. But we can wholeheartedly assure you that your comments have landslide opposition within the much greater Iranian heart both inside and outside Iran.

Iranians believe that the only country who has the moral authority and is able to support them is the United States of America, a country whose foundation as a melting pot mirrors the true character of the once great Persian Empire. But the fact is, as John Bolton so aptly puts it: “Negotiation is a tactic, not policy.” Your policy of direct and unconditional negotiation will give the Mullahs of Iran the legitimacy that they need for more oppression. The real losers will be the already weary people of Iran, whose dreams of freedom and democracy will be dashed for a long time to come. If you empower that regime, the mullahs will continue to harm a country that is already totally economically devastated, as well as socially and politically oppressed.

Barack Obama claims he will restore America’s image abroad. Moreover, on his website, he makes a direct appeal to foreign citizens who’ve suffered while America has stood idly by: “And I will send once more a message to those yearning faces beyond our shores that says, “You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now.”

Welcome to the fierce squandering of now. Obama and his supporters are unable to see that the refusal to meet with terrorists and tyrants hasn’t a thing to do with American arrogance or exceptionalism. It has everything to do with minimizing those parties’ destructive capacities, and empowering the forces ranged against them.

Consider these words spoken by the despised unilateral cowboy George W. Bush during his second inaugural address: “All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for liberty, we will stand with you.”

The statement was pointed at pro-democracy elements inside Iran and, as Richard Perle notes, it hit its mark. Let’s hope the President fulfills America’s full obligation in this regard before leaving office.

As gifted as Barack Obama is, he will have a hard time standing up for liberty while sitting down with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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Gee Whiz, Superman!

“A Superman Approach to Foreign Policy.” That’s the title of this Ezra Klein essay over at The American Prospect, currently the feature piece on the homepage. (Comic books seem to be a popular analytical framework for the up-and-coming blogger set: Matthew Yglesias writes at length about “The Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics” in his new book).

To be fair, TAP is a magazine that that has a former editor of Lyndon LaRouche’s newspaper on its masthead and publishes the work of a denier of the genocide in Cambodia. But Superman? Really? Here’s the core of the piece:

Yet the internationalist vision was more deeply interwoven into our cultural fabric than we often realize. Superman and Captain America were superheroes of an odd sort: tremendously powerful beings whose primary struggle was often to follow the self-imposed rules and strictures that lent their power a moral legitimacy. Neither allowed themselves to kill, and both sought to work within the law. Given their strength, either could have sought world domination, and even if they didn’t, they could have been viewed with deep suspicion and even hatred by those who were convinced that they one day would seek world domination. It was only by following ostentatiously strict moral codes that they could legitimize their power and thus exist cooperatively with a world that had every right to fear them. Indeed, soon enough, both were forming communities of like-minded super beings (The Justice League for Superman, the Avengers for Captain America) and generally operating much like, well, the nation that birthed them. As Spiderman — a later hero who, like so many heroes, bought into the idea that rules and restraint separated the good guys from the bad guys — liked to say, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

That strain of foreign-policy thinking was largely abandoned in the rubble of the Twin Towers. As Yglesias puts it, “9/11 marked the beginning of an enormous psychological change on the part of the American people.” With a newfound sense of vulnerability, there was a newfound sense of fear. Restraint was a luxury, a nice ideal when we were primarily dealing with the problems of other people, but less desirable when our own lives were on the line. After 9-11, the country’s foreign-policy debate contracted, and liberal internationalists, who had always been better at pursuing their agenda than selling it politically, were largely left out. Instead, the conversation was dominated by those on the right who believed in unilateral U.S military hegemony over the world, and those on the left who believed in a superficially multilateral U.S military hegemony over the world, with the option to revert back to unilateralism if other countries proved disagreeable. It was Michael O’Hanlon versus Richard Perle, and few even seemed to find that strange.

This, too, saw its expression in a new type of hero: Jack Bauer. If Superman and Captain America were the emblems of the national mood directly after World War II, Bauer expressed the national anxieties uncovered by 9-11. Rather than an invincible superhero, Bauer was but a man, one who could perish like any other, and was aware of not only his own vulnerability, but that of his family, his government, and his country. Though there were laws he was supposed to follow, the enormity of the dangers he faced and the ruthlessness of the enemies he encountered led him to break them almost constantly, and so he tortured, killed, and generally let the ends lay claim to whatever means they could think of. Indeed, he did it so often, and with such abandon, that he’ll start Season 7 on trial for torture.

All very neat, indeed. But it has little to do with reality: America had been engaging in the kind of war-making putatively forbidden by the Superman model since well before the birth of DC and Marvel, and continued doing so in the years between Superman’s heyday and 9/11. Klein’s framework is cute–but very, very reductive.

When you attempt to force the paradigm of comic books onto something as inherently chaotic as global politics, your hopes of making sense are limited. And Klein’s essay doesn’t, in the end, cohere. But it does serve as a useful reminder of the intellectual vagaries of “the kind of whole bloggy progressive thing.” Serious people who want to engage in serious debate about foreign policy have no shortage of publications they can check out, offering any number of wildly conflicting views. Without, I might add, having recourse to infusions of inept popcult references.

“A Superman Approach to Foreign Policy.” That’s the title of this Ezra Klein essay over at The American Prospect, currently the feature piece on the homepage. (Comic books seem to be a popular analytical framework for the up-and-coming blogger set: Matthew Yglesias writes at length about “The Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics” in his new book).

To be fair, TAP is a magazine that that has a former editor of Lyndon LaRouche’s newspaper on its masthead and publishes the work of a denier of the genocide in Cambodia. But Superman? Really? Here’s the core of the piece:

Yet the internationalist vision was more deeply interwoven into our cultural fabric than we often realize. Superman and Captain America were superheroes of an odd sort: tremendously powerful beings whose primary struggle was often to follow the self-imposed rules and strictures that lent their power a moral legitimacy. Neither allowed themselves to kill, and both sought to work within the law. Given their strength, either could have sought world domination, and even if they didn’t, they could have been viewed with deep suspicion and even hatred by those who were convinced that they one day would seek world domination. It was only by following ostentatiously strict moral codes that they could legitimize their power and thus exist cooperatively with a world that had every right to fear them. Indeed, soon enough, both were forming communities of like-minded super beings (The Justice League for Superman, the Avengers for Captain America) and generally operating much like, well, the nation that birthed them. As Spiderman — a later hero who, like so many heroes, bought into the idea that rules and restraint separated the good guys from the bad guys — liked to say, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

That strain of foreign-policy thinking was largely abandoned in the rubble of the Twin Towers. As Yglesias puts it, “9/11 marked the beginning of an enormous psychological change on the part of the American people.” With a newfound sense of vulnerability, there was a newfound sense of fear. Restraint was a luxury, a nice ideal when we were primarily dealing with the problems of other people, but less desirable when our own lives were on the line. After 9-11, the country’s foreign-policy debate contracted, and liberal internationalists, who had always been better at pursuing their agenda than selling it politically, were largely left out. Instead, the conversation was dominated by those on the right who believed in unilateral U.S military hegemony over the world, and those on the left who believed in a superficially multilateral U.S military hegemony over the world, with the option to revert back to unilateralism if other countries proved disagreeable. It was Michael O’Hanlon versus Richard Perle, and few even seemed to find that strange.

This, too, saw its expression in a new type of hero: Jack Bauer. If Superman and Captain America were the emblems of the national mood directly after World War II, Bauer expressed the national anxieties uncovered by 9-11. Rather than an invincible superhero, Bauer was but a man, one who could perish like any other, and was aware of not only his own vulnerability, but that of his family, his government, and his country. Though there were laws he was supposed to follow, the enormity of the dangers he faced and the ruthlessness of the enemies he encountered led him to break them almost constantly, and so he tortured, killed, and generally let the ends lay claim to whatever means they could think of. Indeed, he did it so often, and with such abandon, that he’ll start Season 7 on trial for torture.

All very neat, indeed. But it has little to do with reality: America had been engaging in the kind of war-making putatively forbidden by the Superman model since well before the birth of DC and Marvel, and continued doing so in the years between Superman’s heyday and 9/11. Klein’s framework is cute–but very, very reductive.

When you attempt to force the paradigm of comic books onto something as inherently chaotic as global politics, your hopes of making sense are limited. And Klein’s essay doesn’t, in the end, cohere. But it does serve as a useful reminder of the intellectual vagaries of “the kind of whole bloggy progressive thing.” Serious people who want to engage in serious debate about foreign policy have no shortage of publications they can check out, offering any number of wildly conflicting views. Without, I might add, having recourse to infusions of inept popcult references.

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Gulf News: “Obama Is Good for Israel”

Everyone who was on the fence about the Obama-Israel question can now breathe easy. “Obama is good for Israel.” Or so reads the headline of an editorial in yesterday’s Gulf News, a major newspaper in the United Arab Emirates. The writer is Patrick Seale, who was a friend of the late Syrian dictator Hafiz Assad and who tried to pin the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on Israel. Here are some highlights from Seale’s endorsement:

At an anti-war rally in Chicago on October 26, 2002, [Obama] declared: “What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration, to shove their own ideological agenda down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne”.

Perle was then chairman of the Pentagon’s advisory Defence Policy Board and Wolfowitz was deputy Secretary of Defence. As everyone knows, their “ideological agenda” was to enhance Israel’s strategic environment by overthrowing and “reforming” Arab regimes.

They were, indeed, among the leading advocates of the view that the Arab world needed to be reshaped and remodelled by the power of the United States in order to suit Israeli strategic needs.

Name by Jewish name, Seale castigates the evil neocons before getting to why Obama is the best man for the Jewish state:

Is not overseeing Israel’s peaceful integration into the Arab world far better for its long-term security and prosperity than Bush’s bankrupt policies of making war on Iraq, threatening Iran and Syria, encouraging Israel’s wars on Hezbollah and Hamas – policies which have done nothing but create a thirst for revenge and hate for the US and Israel throughout the Arab and Islamic world, and beyond?

So: Obama will oversee “Israel’s peaceful integration into the Arab world” and there will be no more of “Israel’s wars on Hezbollah and Hamas.” I see no evidence that Obama is of like mind with Seale (though I’m not sure he’d be as outraged by these sentiments as one would like, considering they’re identical to the kind of things one hears from this country’s Left). The important thing is that this is Obama’s image in the anti-Semitic world: a toothless, jihad-friendly corrective to George Bush. Every liberal who’s ever complained that President Bush has done untold damage to American soft power should consider the views of papers such as the Gulf News. And every friend of Israel should be worried.

Everyone who was on the fence about the Obama-Israel question can now breathe easy. “Obama is good for Israel.” Or so reads the headline of an editorial in yesterday’s Gulf News, a major newspaper in the United Arab Emirates. The writer is Patrick Seale, who was a friend of the late Syrian dictator Hafiz Assad and who tried to pin the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on Israel. Here are some highlights from Seale’s endorsement:

At an anti-war rally in Chicago on October 26, 2002, [Obama] declared: “What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration, to shove their own ideological agenda down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne”.

Perle was then chairman of the Pentagon’s advisory Defence Policy Board and Wolfowitz was deputy Secretary of Defence. As everyone knows, their “ideological agenda” was to enhance Israel’s strategic environment by overthrowing and “reforming” Arab regimes.

They were, indeed, among the leading advocates of the view that the Arab world needed to be reshaped and remodelled by the power of the United States in order to suit Israeli strategic needs.

Name by Jewish name, Seale castigates the evil neocons before getting to why Obama is the best man for the Jewish state:

Is not overseeing Israel’s peaceful integration into the Arab world far better for its long-term security and prosperity than Bush’s bankrupt policies of making war on Iraq, threatening Iran and Syria, encouraging Israel’s wars on Hezbollah and Hamas – policies which have done nothing but create a thirst for revenge and hate for the US and Israel throughout the Arab and Islamic world, and beyond?

So: Obama will oversee “Israel’s peaceful integration into the Arab world” and there will be no more of “Israel’s wars on Hezbollah and Hamas.” I see no evidence that Obama is of like mind with Seale (though I’m not sure he’d be as outraged by these sentiments as one would like, considering they’re identical to the kind of things one hears from this country’s Left). The important thing is that this is Obama’s image in the anti-Semitic world: a toothless, jihad-friendly corrective to George Bush. Every liberal who’s ever complained that President Bush has done untold damage to American soft power should consider the views of papers such as the Gulf News. And every friend of Israel should be worried.

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A Jewish “Prince of Darkness”

Prince of Darkness is the title of a new book about Richard Perle by a journalist named Alan Weisman. It has a chapter entitled “Perle and the Jews,” which begins with a discussion of how two scholars, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, have raised a topic, the influence of American Jews on American politics, that has “long been out of bounds in American political discussion.” For their pains, writes Weisman, the two academics have been branded as “anti-Semites” and their work labeled as “a modern equivalent of Mein Kampf.”

Despite being tarred in this way by their critics, the debate Walt and Mearsheimer have opened up helps to explain the fact that while “Jews make up only 2 percent of the American electorate, . . . Israel takes in by far more U.S. aid than any other country in the world.” Given that the Israel lobby focuses so heavily on the Middle East, its conduct inevitably raises “questions about true allegiances and loyalties, . . . [and] suspicions of darker activity such as espionage.”

All this is relevant for a discussion of Perle, writes Weisman, “because he is a Jew, albeit nominally, and because he is clearly a man of influence.” Indeed, Perle’s background has made him a symbol to many “of unchecked and unwarranted Jewish meddling in U.S. foreign policy.”

Among other things, Perle signed his name to a report about Israeli strategy, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for the Realm, which “was a blueprint for Israeli dominance in the [Middle East], a paean to Zionist aspirations, and biblical claims of divinely ordained destiny.” The appearance of this document in 1996 was “a Jew-hater’s delight, a gift that kept on giving, and lit up like a menorah on the radar screen of the millions who believe Israelis and American Jews run the world, economically, politically, and militarily.”

Connecting the Dots has some questions about Weisman’s take on these issues:

1. Who has compared Walt and Mearsheimer’s work to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, as Weisman asserts?

A search of Nexis and Google draws a blank.

2. Is Richard Perle really “a symbol of unchecked and unwarranted Jewish meddling in U.S. foreign policy”?

Undoubtedly there are some people who believe this about Perle. Weisman does not say whether he is among them. But he puts forward “evidence” that it is true. Perle’s signature on the 1996 report is his smoking gun.

3. Does anything in this report support Weisman’s characterization of it as “a blueprint for Israeli dominance in the region, a paean to Zionist aspirations, and biblical claims of divinely ordained destiny”?

4. Is there anything in this report that makes it “a Jew-hater’s delight, a gift that kept on giving . . . [one that] lit up like a menorah on the radar screen of the millions who believe Israelis and American Jews run the world, economically, politically, and militarily”?

Connecting the Dots has provided links to the report; readers can draw their own conclusions.

5. Is Richard Perle truly a Jewish “prince of darkness” and a “hidden hand guiding D.C. power players”? Or is Alan Weisman, the author of all these characterizations, trading in time-honored anti-Semitic tropes?

6. Weisman’s book was reviewed by James Traub in the New York Times. Traub’s judgment of the book and its author is: “Weisman, no ideologue himself, gives Perle his due.” What does it say about Traub and the Sunday Times Book Review that Weisman’s take on Perle as a Jewish “Prince of Darkness” goes completely undiscussed?

Prince of Darkness is the title of a new book about Richard Perle by a journalist named Alan Weisman. It has a chapter entitled “Perle and the Jews,” which begins with a discussion of how two scholars, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, have raised a topic, the influence of American Jews on American politics, that has “long been out of bounds in American political discussion.” For their pains, writes Weisman, the two academics have been branded as “anti-Semites” and their work labeled as “a modern equivalent of Mein Kampf.”

Despite being tarred in this way by their critics, the debate Walt and Mearsheimer have opened up helps to explain the fact that while “Jews make up only 2 percent of the American electorate, . . . Israel takes in by far more U.S. aid than any other country in the world.” Given that the Israel lobby focuses so heavily on the Middle East, its conduct inevitably raises “questions about true allegiances and loyalties, . . . [and] suspicions of darker activity such as espionage.”

All this is relevant for a discussion of Perle, writes Weisman, “because he is a Jew, albeit nominally, and because he is clearly a man of influence.” Indeed, Perle’s background has made him a symbol to many “of unchecked and unwarranted Jewish meddling in U.S. foreign policy.”

Among other things, Perle signed his name to a report about Israeli strategy, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for the Realm, which “was a blueprint for Israeli dominance in the [Middle East], a paean to Zionist aspirations, and biblical claims of divinely ordained destiny.” The appearance of this document in 1996 was “a Jew-hater’s delight, a gift that kept on giving, and lit up like a menorah on the radar screen of the millions who believe Israelis and American Jews run the world, economically, politically, and militarily.”

Connecting the Dots has some questions about Weisman’s take on these issues:

1. Who has compared Walt and Mearsheimer’s work to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, as Weisman asserts?

A search of Nexis and Google draws a blank.

2. Is Richard Perle really “a symbol of unchecked and unwarranted Jewish meddling in U.S. foreign policy”?

Undoubtedly there are some people who believe this about Perle. Weisman does not say whether he is among them. But he puts forward “evidence” that it is true. Perle’s signature on the 1996 report is his smoking gun.

3. Does anything in this report support Weisman’s characterization of it as “a blueprint for Israeli dominance in the region, a paean to Zionist aspirations, and biblical claims of divinely ordained destiny”?

4. Is there anything in this report that makes it “a Jew-hater’s delight, a gift that kept on giving . . . [one that] lit up like a menorah on the radar screen of the millions who believe Israelis and American Jews run the world, economically, politically, and militarily”?

Connecting the Dots has provided links to the report; readers can draw their own conclusions.

5. Is Richard Perle truly a Jewish “prince of darkness” and a “hidden hand guiding D.C. power players”? Or is Alan Weisman, the author of all these characterizations, trading in time-honored anti-Semitic tropes?

6. Weisman’s book was reviewed by James Traub in the New York Times. Traub’s judgment of the book and its author is: “Weisman, no ideologue himself, gives Perle his due.” What does it say about Traub and the Sunday Times Book Review that Weisman’s take on Perle as a Jewish “Prince of Darkness” goes completely undiscussed?

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An American Defense Policy

Everyone in Washington claims to favor bipartisanship. The difficulty occurs when someone actually tries to practice it. This instantly and inevitably triggers sniping from partisans.

For a small but telling example, see this Washington Times article (previously linked to on contentions) about the selection of John Hamre to chair the Defense Policy Board, a prestigious but powerless group of senior statesmen who advise the Secretary of Defense on various issues. The board used to be headed by Richard Perle, who became a lightning rod for the administration’s detractors. Now Robert M. Gates has selected Hamre, a quintessential technocrat who is currently president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and who, during the Clinton administration, served as comptroller of the Pentagon and Deputy Secretary of Defense.

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Everyone in Washington claims to favor bipartisanship. The difficulty occurs when someone actually tries to practice it. This instantly and inevitably triggers sniping from partisans.

For a small but telling example, see this Washington Times article (previously linked to on contentions) about the selection of John Hamre to chair the Defense Policy Board, a prestigious but powerless group of senior statesmen who advise the Secretary of Defense on various issues. The board used to be headed by Richard Perle, who became a lightning rod for the administration’s detractors. Now Robert M. Gates has selected Hamre, a quintessential technocrat who is currently president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and who, during the Clinton administration, served as comptroller of the Pentagon and Deputy Secretary of Defense.

Hamre is a well-respected figure known for his solidly centrist views and not someone, you would think, who would excite much partisan passion—especially when appointed to nothing more than an advisory position. Yet Bill Gertz of the Washington Times manages to dredge up toxic quotations from anonymous detractors:

“With or without his approval, President Bush’s team has apparently begun the transition to the third Clinton administration,” said one official, in reference to the possible election of Hillary Rodham Clinton next year. “We can see now that with the possible exception of the President himself, their hearts and minds just never were into governing as Republicans.”

“This begs the question of whether the Secretary agrees with the Hamre-Clinton policies, like gays in the military, Draconian defense cuts, women in combat, and environmental friendliness,” said a defense official.

The Hamre-Clinton policies? Give me break. What are these dreaded policies anyway? Are conservatives supposed to be opposed to “environmental friendliness”? Women are already in combat, and it hasn’t been an issue. Gays are also becoming more accepted within the military. As for “Draconian defense cuts,” they were instigated by the administration of Bush Senior following the end of the Cold War.

Whatever you make think of these policies, they are not determined by second- or third-level Pentagon officials; they come right from the top. To blame or credit Hamre for these initiatives is akin to blaming or crediting former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and former Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith for launching the Iraq War—a canard spread only by crackpots.

Give it a rest, guys.

Hamre is exactly the kind of centrist Democrat to whom the Bush administration should have been reaching out from the start. I realize it’s a myth that “politics stops at the water’s edge”—but it’s a nice myth and one that policymakers on both sides would do well to cultivate. And that means cultivating figures from the other side of the aisle.

We shouldn’t have a Republican or Democratic defense policy. We need an American policy.

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We’re All Neocons Now

Last Friday, RealClearPolitics ran in its lead feature spot an essay by Gregory Scoblete, a free-lance writer in New Jersey. The essay had the headline “The GOP, Ron Paul & Non-Interventionism,” and was subsequently commented upon by, among others, guest-blogger Stephen Bainbridge on Andrew Sullivan’s blog.

Scoblete’s premise is that, just as Barry Goldwater’s failed campaign for president led the Republican party to embrace a limited-government philosophy, so too Ron Paul’s presidential campaign today, doomed though it is, will cause the GOP to embrace his philosophy of “non-interventionism.” Scoblete goes on at great lengths to “distinguish non-interventionism from isolationism.” He writes, for example, “The former seeks a more rigorous and delimited definition of America’s interests, while the latter a walled garden that completely cuts America off from the world. Non-interventionists are not pacifists, but they do reserve war fighting for moments of actual national peril.”

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Last Friday, RealClearPolitics ran in its lead feature spot an essay by Gregory Scoblete, a free-lance writer in New Jersey. The essay had the headline “The GOP, Ron Paul & Non-Interventionism,” and was subsequently commented upon by, among others, guest-blogger Stephen Bainbridge on Andrew Sullivan’s blog.

Scoblete’s premise is that, just as Barry Goldwater’s failed campaign for president led the Republican party to embrace a limited-government philosophy, so too Ron Paul’s presidential campaign today, doomed though it is, will cause the GOP to embrace his philosophy of “non-interventionism.” Scoblete goes on at great lengths to “distinguish non-interventionism from isolationism.” He writes, for example, “The former seeks a more rigorous and delimited definition of America’s interests, while the latter a walled garden that completely cuts America off from the world. Non-interventionists are not pacifists, but they do reserve war fighting for moments of actual national peril.”

That’s a distinction without a difference. How many self-proclaimed isolationists exist who proudly proclaim that their goal is a policy that “completely cuts America off from the world”? In fact, throughout our history, those who have advocated a de facto policy of isolationism have always claimed that they were in favor of a “rigorous and limited definition of America’s interests.” After the U.S. was attacked at Pearl Harbor, even the America Firsters were ready to embrace war; unfortunately, they weren’t willing, in the 1920’s and 1930’s, to take the kinds of actions that might have staved off a world war.

Ron Paul, a self-proclaimed “libertarian,” fits squarely into this isolationist tradition. As noted by Christopher Caldwell in the New York Times Magazine:

Alone among Republican candidates for the presidency, Paul has always opposed the Iraq war. He blames “a dozen or two neocons who got control of our foreign policy,” chief among them Vice President Dick Cheney and the former Bush advisers Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, for the debacle. On the assumption that a bad situation could get worse if the war spreads into Iran, he has a simple plan. It is: “Just leave.” During a May debate in South Carolina, he suggested the 9/11 attacks could be attributed to United States policy. “Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us?” he asked, referring to one of Osama bin Laden’s communiqués. “They attack us because we’ve been over there. We’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years.” Rudolph Giuliani reacted by demanding a retraction, drawing gales of applause from the audience. But the incident helped Paul too. Overnight, he became the country’s most conspicuous antiwar Republican.

Paul’s opposition to the war in Iraq did not come out of nowhere. He was against the first gulf war, the war in Kosovo and the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which he called a “declaration of virtual war.” Although he voted after Sept. 11 to approve the use of force in Afghanistan and spend $40 billion in emergency appropriations, he has sounded less thrilled with those votes as time has passed. “I voted for the authority and the money,” he now says. “I thought it was misused.”

Is this a foreign policy philosophy likely to gain much adherence in the Republican Party? Not on the evidence so far. True, Paul has been doing a bit better than expected in the presidential race, but that’s not saying much. He still barely registers in the polls. And all of the mainstream Republican (as well as Democratic) candidates firmly reject his brand of isolationism. Even many libertarians dissent from Paul’s crabbed view of America’s role abroad: see, for instance, this Wall Street Journal article.

One of the most interesting things about this year’s Republican field is that there is not a single major candidate who is running on a foreign policy platform markedly at odds with President Bush’s. Chuck Hagel could have run as an antiwar candidate, but so far he’s stayed out of the race, presumably because he knows he has no chance of winning. The debate among Giuliani, Thompson, Romney, and McCain hasn’t been over whether Bush’s foreign policy objectives are sound; it has been over who would do a better job of carrying out those policies. Even the Democratic candidates offer a foreign policy vision that differs more in rhetoric and details than in substance from Bush’s stated goals of spreading democracy, defeating terrorists, and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. In fact, even as the Democrats profess a desire to pull out of Iraq, they are talking up other military interventions from Darfur to Pakistan. It’s enough to make you think we’re all neocons now.

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