It’s a helluva New Year’s present: a new neocon manifesto which wants to put the United States on a course for war with three countries.
Published the day before 2004 by Random House, An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror bears the signature of two of Washington’s most influential ideologues. Richard Perle, known as the “Prince of Darkness”, helped put together the now-famous 1999 neocon manifesto (signed by Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, among others) calling for war on Iraq. David Frum is Dubya’s former speechwriter, the man who coined “axis of evil” and put it in the president’s mouth.
The book proposes harsh action against France(1) —- which Perle and Frum say should be treated as an “enemy”—and thunders that “We should force European governments to choose between Paris and Washington.” Gerhard Schroeder has just accepted a French invitation to become the first German Chancellor to participate in the annual commemoration of the 1944 U.S. landings at Normandy that began the liberation of Europe. This underscores how the Franco-German couple is in the ascendance once again as the dominant force in the European Union—Perle and Frum’s francophobia is a mad prescription for dividing the Western democracies right at the time their cooperation is essential to advance the war on terrorism, now as ever primarily a police/intelligence problem. (Not to mention that the French, with several centuries of experience in dealing with the Arab world, frequently have better intelligence info than does Washington—witness the pre-Christmas fiasco of the Paris/Los Angeles flights, where among the passengers the U.S. falsely identified as “terrorists” was a six-year-old child).
The book’s knee-jerk frog-baiting is mild compared to its call for a military blockade of North Korea, combined with overt preparations for war. The North Koreans, of course, have just accepted an extensive visit by a non-governmental U.S. nuclear inspection team headed by the former director of the Los Alamos labs and has offered to freeze its “nuclear activities” to jump-start negotiations with the United States.
The dangerous duo says that Syria, too, should be put into economic quarantine, its oil supplies cut off and its territory invaded in the search for terrorists. Syria, of course—for a variety of reasons—has lately been pushing a proposal to make the entire Middle East a UN-inspected nuclear-free zone. But this sensible notion is a non-starter in Washington, for to do so would require the bellicose Ariel Sharon to renounce Israel’s huge stockpile of deliverable nukes (and Bush is counting on his pro-Sharon tilt to bring him scads of Jewish votes in November).
In Iran, nothing less than a U.S.-sponsored regime change will satisfy Perle and Frum. In their nostalgic fantasy, the United States will finance dissidents to overthrow the current Tehran regime (shades of the CIA coup that overthrew the Mossadegh government a half century ago). The difficulties with this simple-minded and unrealistic approach are reinforced in an analysis of the political situation inside Iran by Bijan Khajehpour for <>Middle East Report,<> which concluded: “The Islamic Republic is a highly adaptable regime which has matured over the past decade. Iran’s failure to evolve into a Western-style democracy does not mean that the current regime is not sustainable. Indeed, the backbone of the post-revolutionary system’s sustainability might be the fact that it continuously looks more fragile than it really is.”
Moreover, even the son of the former Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlevi—who can hardly be considered to have tender feelings for the Islamic Republic—on January 4 called for a thaw in U.S.-Iran relations on in a “Fox News Sunday” interview, arguing that “engagement and dialogue is much better than containment and isolation.” And no less a formidable hawk than former Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering, in a New Year’s Day Washington Post op-ed piece(co-authored with the Center for Defense Information’s John Newhouse), proposed a range of nonviolent thaw-fostering measures aimed at Tehran, and sneered that unrealistic dreams of regime change in Iran are “an attitude, not a policy.”
The same day, The New York Times’ sharp-eyed military analyst, Michael Gordon—in a piece entitled “Giving Up Those Weapons: After Libya, Who’s Next?” noted that: “Threatening military force is not an option. War on the heavily armed Korean Peninsula would be a calamity. No Asian ally is prepared to back a policy of confrontation. With most of the United States Army preoccupied with Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States simply lacks the military muscle to marshal a credible threat.” And he went on to explain why—for many of the reasons also cited by Pickering and Khajehpour—“If there is hope of replicating the Libyan reversal it may be in Iran.”
It is, of course, primarily thanks to those pesky French and their German partners, whom Perle and Frum so detest, that Iran recently agreed to abandon its efforts to produce enriched uranium for nuclear weapons. That’s what no less than Colin Powell was talking about when, from his sickbed, he hailed “encouraging” signs of a “new attitude” in Tehran in a pre-New Year’s Washington Post interview.
But Powell, of course, will be leaving his post as soon as Dubya is re-elected. And that will remove the last, ever-so-slight brake within the administration on the neocons, who have already successfully conned the United States into unnecessary wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—wars that actually undermined the war on terrorism.
Perle, Frum and their ilk have freon where their blood ought to be: what’s more, their chilling willingness to use U.S. military force anytime and anywhere Washington feels like it has now been enshrined in the Bush doctrine of “pre-emptive first strikes” (read: aggressive war). And damn the consequences to the innocents, who are chalked up in a dehumanizing way as so much “collateral damage.”
If Bush is re-elected, the Freon Neocons—from their power bases in the Pentagon and Dick Cheney’s office—stand an excellent chance of seeing their reckless cowboy imperialisms, codified for all to see in Perle and Frums’s book, become reality.
And if I were an Iranian, a Syrian or a North Korean, I’d start building myself a very deep bomb shelter.
Doug Ireland is a New York-based media critic and commentator
(1) See: Controlling the News Part 33