benefits from our rush to war? Forget the oil companies:
Iraqi oil is being kept off the market by the draconian
sanctions, and its postwar release will drive the price
down. That oil, in any case, will be utilized
for the reconstruction of Iraq, and the profits will
be used to outfit the new rulers with offices, cell
phones, and palaces of their own. So, back to the question:
who benefits in a geo-strategic sense?
answer is clearly Israel. One has only to look at a
map, and glance casually at the headlines, to come to
this conclusion. We are told that Iraq is a threat to
"its neighbors," but which of its neighbors
is baying for war? Not the Saudis. Not the Jordanians.
Not the Iranians, or the Syrians. It is Israel that
wants this war, and for a very simple reason: Saddam's
weapons of mass destruction – if they exist – are aimed
at Tel Aviv, not Riyadh, Amman, Damascus, or even Kuwait
City. The American conquest of Iraq will eliminate a
threat to Israeli security, and pave the way for the
extension of the war against Israel's other enemies
in the region, notably Syria.
strategic perspective was clearly outlined in a 1996
paper prepared for the Institute for Advanced Strategic
and Political Studies' "Study Group on a New Israeli
Strategy Toward 2000," entitled "A
Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm."
The ideas put forward in this remarkable document emerged
from a collaborative effort that included Richard
Douglas Feith, Robert
Wurmser, and Meyrav
Wurmser. The idea was to dissuade the Israelis from
going along with the Oslo accord, and outline a new
Israeli strategic vision that would not only rid them
of their Palestinian problem, but give them "breathing
space." And I quote:
"Israel can shape its strategic
environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan,
by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria.
This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from
power in Iraq – an important Israeli strategic objective
in its own right – as a means of foiling Syria's regional
ambitions. Jordan has challenged Syria's regional ambitions
recently by suggesting the restoration of the Hashemites
The main enemy is seen as Syria, but,
in the view of the authors, the road to Damascus runs
"Since Iraq's future could affect
the strategic balance in the Middle East profoundly,
it would be understandable that Israel has an interest
in supporting the Hashemites in their efforts to redefine
authors of this paper were addressing themselves to
then Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, but
their prescription for a new Israeli policy bears an
eerie resemblance to America's post-9/11 stance in the
Middle East, and the world at large. And no wonder.
Richard Perle, from his perch at the Pentagon Defense
Policy Board, is the Lenin of the War Party. Douglas
Feith is an Undersecretary
of Defense, and David Wurmser is a special assistant
of State for arms control and international security
affairs John Bolton. Bolton's recent visit to Israel
shows us how far advanced the ideas presented in that
1996 paper have come. Ha'aretz reports:
"U.S. Undersecretary of State
John Bolton said in meetings with Israeli officials
on Monday that he has no doubt America will attack Iraq,
and that it will be necessary to deal with threats from
Syria, Iran and North Korea afterwards."
Phase one of Operation "Clean Break"
seems to be well underway, with its authors ensconced
in the top echelons of the U.S. national security bureaucracy – and
American troops circling Iraq in a ring of steel. Now
the second phase is being cranked up, as Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon demands action against Syria and Iran.
At a meeting with a delegation of U.S. congressmen the
other day, Sharon
handed the Americans their marching orders:
"Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
said yesterday that Iran, Libya and Syria should be
stripped of weapons of mass destruction after Iraq.
'These are irresponsible states, which must be disarmed
of weapons mass destruction, and a successful American
move in Iraq as a model will make that easier to achieve,'
Sharon said to a visiting delegation of American congressmen.
Sharon told the congressmen that Israel was not involved
in the war with Iraq 'but the American action is of
bet it is. Without this war, the Israelis would have
no chance of conquering and subjugating great swatches
of the Middle East. But why the rush to war? The progenitors
of "Clean Break" see the Israeli state facing
a possibly terminal crisis, suffering from an "exhaustion"
that could lead to extinction. The idea is to break
with the idea of "containment" and go for
a policy of preemption:
"Notable Arab intellectuals
have written extensively on their perception of Israel's
floundering and loss of national identity. This perception
has invited attack, blocked Israel from achieving true
peace, and offered hope for those who would destroy
Israel. The previous strategy, therefore, was leading
the Middle East toward another Arab-Israeli war. Israel's
new agenda can signal a clean break by abandoning a
policy which assumed exhaustion and allowed strategic
retreat by reestablishing the principle of preemption,
rather than retaliation alone and by ceasing to absorb
blows to the nation without response."
sounds awfully familiar….
American policy has become a giganticized replica of
Israel's is not a development that could have passed
unnoticed, and several commentators on the right as
well as the left have called attention to it. But Lawrence
F. Kaplan has an answer for them. Writing in the
Washington Post, he calls this "toxic
talk" and bemoans the wide circulation of the
idea that, in attacking Iraq, America is essentially
waging a war on Israel's behalf. Kaplan gives us a long
list of all those who have given voice to this thesis,
first and foremost Pat Buchanan:
the musty precincts of the Old
Right, the contention that Israel and a powerful
'cabal' of its American supporters have manufactured
the present crisis with Iraq has become canonical. Buchanan,
who writes that President Bush has become a client of
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the 'neoconservative
war party,' has transformed his
The American Conservative, into a regular forum
for those who share this conviction."
But it isn't just us musty Old Rightists
who can look at a map of the Middle East, listen to
Ariel Sharon and his
supporters in this country, and come to the obvious
Buruma, columnist Georgie
Anne Geyer, and Jason
Vest are also spreading this "toxic" meme
– but just what is so toxic about it? Kaplan asks:
all this add up to an echo of Charles
Lindbergh's charge that the clamor to wage war against
Hitler was being stirred by 'the British, the Jewish
and the Roosevelt administration'? Not necessarily.
How the Bush
administration has arrived at the brink of war with
Saddam Hussein, and to what extent Israeli influence
has brought it there, is a legitimate question about
which there is ample room for disagreement."
So, then what's all the fuss about?
Well, apparently, it isn't such a legitimate
question, after all, because, you see:
problem here is the implication that some members of
the Bush team have been doing Israel's bidding and,
by extension, harbor dual loyalties. The charge that
the administration's 'rabid Israel supporters' are behind
the drive to war is risible. Perle and Wolfowitz and
their fellow Jewish neoconservatives are surely hawks
– but not merely on Iraq. Their expansive view
of America's overseas obligations has in the past led
them to support interventions wherever America's interests
and ideals have been threatened: Grenada, Afghanistan,
Nicaragua, Bosnia, Kosovo – in the last two cases
for the explicit purpose of protecting Muslims."
To begin with, it would be a mistake
to charge the War Party with harboring "dual loyalties,"
since their loyalty is not to the American Republic
but to another entity altogether – not Israel but the
emerging idea of an American Empire. However, the way
in which that empire emerges full-blown on the world
stage – in the first act, in the Middle East – benefits
Israel enormously. Kaplan goes all the way back to Grenada
and the cold war era to document the bloodthirstiness
of the neocons – they've always been for war,
he avers, so what else is new?
but many conservatives – including us musty denizens
of the Old Right – saw the end of the cold war as an
opportunity to bring America home and put an end to
our policy of global intervention. Not the neocons.
In the post-cold war world, they trundled about, uncertainly,
looking for an enemy to fight, a holy cause to embrace
and invoke as a war-cry. In trolling for a constituency
that would back their dreams of imperium, the neocons
made alliances: with the "born again" Christian
dispensationalists of the Pat Robertson and Jerry
Falwell flocks, who support Israel unconditionally for
theological reasons, and also with the old-line cold
war conservatives who were looking for new enemies –
and found them, post-9/11, in the world's billion-plus
and Kosovo were not wars fought in defense of Muslims,
extend Turkey's influence and integrate it with
key Israeli ally, second only to the U.S., Ankara
fulfills a vital function by keeping the pressure on
Syria from the north. In the event of war with Israel,
the Syrians will be forced to fight on two fronts.
Furthermore, it was on the issue of
the Balkan wars that the neocons split from the old-line
right-wingers, who opposed both interventions. When
majority of House Republicans voted against the Kosovo
war, including the leadership, Bill Kristol stamped
his foot and threatened to walk out of the GOP. Under
a Democratic President, the Republicans were moving
steadily toward a more non-interventionist position,
and even Bush had to appease this growing tendency on
the campaign trail by promising to pursue a "humbler"
came 9/11, when the mere thought of humility went right
out the window – and in flew our war-birds, of the species
bird is shrike-like
in its habits: it's a meat-eater, and it likes to draw
blood. And certainly Kaplan does that in his description
of Jason Vest's piece in The Nation, which details
the central role played by the Center
for Security Policy and the Jewish
Institute for National Security Affairs in setting
this administration on the road to war. Vest's
piece, he announces, is "the
socialism of fools," which is code for neo-Nazism.
It's a vicious attack, but since no evidence is offered
of Vest's alleged Nazism, the reader is forced to search
the original – and comes up with nothing. Zero. Zilch.
All Vest does is trace the origins and development of
a militaristic clique that germinated all during the
Reagan years and came to full-blown fruition in the
current era. As long as the "J" in JINSA stands
for Jewish, to criticize the group or descry its influence
is evidence of "the socialism of fools." But
only a fool would accept those kinds of strictures.
sin, apparently, is to point out that what we are
talking about here is not a Jewish "cabal,"
but an unholy alliance of Christian fundamentalists
and neoconservatives – "former Trotskyists,"
and by no means exclusively Jewish – with their own foreign
policy agenda, one that complements the program of the
Likud party in Israel and the Falwell/Robertson wing
of the Republican party. Buruma puts it well:
"Country-club Republicans are
rarely zealous. They want to be left alone to make money
and perhaps do some good. The new Bushies, on the other
hand, are serious about wanting to change the world
with American firepower.
"And this is where Christian
millenarians and secular, neoconservative Jewish intellectuals,
such as Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, find themselves
in the same bed. Christian zealotry is driven by visions
of messiahs and Armageddon. The neoconservative mission
still gives off echoes of the old leftwing zeal to change
the world. Such missions tend to end in disaster. Zealotry
has already produced a brutal impasse in Israel and
the occupied territories. And a botched, ill-conceived
war in Iraq might set in motion the very catastrophes
we were supposed to avoid."
Kaplan is determined to turn this brutally accurate
description of the political alliances and passions
that empower the War Party into a recitation of the
of the Elders of Zion." He writes:
"The real problem with claims
such as these is not just that they are untrue. The
problem is that they are toxic. Invoking the specter
of dual loyalty to quiet criticism and debate amounts
to more than the everyday pollution of public discourse.
It is the nullification of public discourse, for how
can one refute accusations grounded in ethnicity? The
charges are, ipso facto, impossible to disprove. And
so they are meant to be."
The accusation that the U.S. is pursuing an Israel-centric
foreign policy is grounded, not on ethnicity, but on
ideology and theology, two realms that often coincide.
As for nullifying the public discourse – that is precisely
what Kaplan's thinly-veiled charge of bigotry is designed
to do. All discussion of Israel and its central role
as a motivating factor in American foreign policy is
forbidden on pain of the critic being declared the living
reincarnation of George
Lincoln Rockwell. Is it really "the
socialism of fools" for The Guardian to
publish Buruma's perceptive piece, which is about millenarianism
as a religious and political theme, and not about
ethnicity? Is The Nation to be relegated to the
"fringe" because they investigated the neoconservative
foreign policy apparatus? It's ridiculous. Talk about
trying to "quiet criticism"!
What Arnaud de Borchgrave calls "the
Bush-Sharon Doctrine" is now being played out
before our eyes:
strategic objectives of the U.S. and Israel in the Middle
East have gradually merged into a now cohesive Bush-Sharon
Doctrine. But this gets lost in the deafening cacophony
of talking heads playing armchair generals in the coming
war to change regimes in Baghdad.
Feb. 9, the Washington Post's Bob
Kaiser finally broke through the sound barrier to
document what has long been reported in encrypted diplomatic
e-mails from foreign embassies to dozens of foreign
governments: Washington's 'Likudniks' – Ariel
Sharon's powerful backers in the Bush administration
– have been in charge of U.S. policy in the Middle
East since President Bush was sworn into office. In
alliance with Evangelical Christians, these policy-makers
include some of the most powerful players in the Bush
administration. The course they plotted for Mr. Bush
began with benign neglect of the Mideast peace process
as Intifada II escalated. September 11 provided the
impulse for a military campaign to consign Saddam Hussein
to the dustbin of history."
My only disagreement with de Borchgrave
is that it ought to be called the Sharon-Bush Doctrine,
on account of who's really calling the shots.
Mr. Kaplan wants to complain about the "toxic"
effects of a "born-again"/Likudnik concoction,
then one can only hasten to agree with him. But it wasn't
Pat Buchanan, Ian Buruma, Bob Novak, Chris Matthews,
Georgie Anne Geyer, or Jason Vest who mixed that lethal
cocktail, and if this administration is drunk on it,
then these sober and politically disparate writers are
hardly to blame. They are merely describing a phenomenon,
the War Party, that Kaplan is trying to reduce to an
ethnic slur. But playing the ethnic victim card won't
work in this case.
isn't a question of "dual loyalty" on the
part of the neocons: their only loyalty is to power,
and their only pleasure is war. As long as they
are a powerful factor in the political equation, and
enjoy such a prominent place in this administration,
their machinations are a legitimate subject to pursue
– no matter what their ethnicity.
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