of the major accomplishments of this site, aside from keeping
our readers up-to-the-minute on what's really happening in
Iraq, has been to educate the public about who brought
us this war, and why.
have held, from the beginning, that war on Iraq did not and
does not serve American interests, and we have traced its
origins back to a group of determined ideologues who see it
as the first phase of a campaign to take America on the road
to Empire. Ideas, not guns, rule the world, and the ideology
espoused by the neoconservatives has been consistent, and
relentlessly advanced since the first days of the post-cold
war era. It boils down to this: war, war, and yet more war.
Their goal "benevolent global hegemony"
exercised by the U.S.
ex-leftists and former Scoop Jackson Democrats were agitating
for war against Iraq and most of the rest of the Middle
East well before 9/11. The debris from that horrific disaster
hadn't even stopped smoldering when top neocons in this administration
targeted Iraq not Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda as a target
of opportunity they could not afford to miss. Now they stand
on the verge of fulfilling their dream: a U.S.-imposed military
occupation of Iraq to be followed by interventions in Syria,
Iran, Saudi Arabia, and throughout the Middle East. It is
the very scenario envisioned in "A
Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," the
infamous memo written for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu by Richard Perle, James Colbert, Charles Fairbanks,
Jr., Douglas Feith, Robert Loewenberg, David Wurmser, and
Meyrav Wurmser. In this seminal document, the invasion of
Iraq is prefigured, along with a campaign to "roll back" Syria:
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 in Iraq."
is precisely what is happening today. The only difference
is that the agent of rollback is not the IDF, but the U.S.
military. With U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld openly
threatening Syria, the idea that the road to Damascus runs
through Baghdad clearly has spread far beyond its progenitors.
The war in Iraq, as Professor Paul W. Schroeder pointed out
in The American Conservative,
represent something to my knowledge unique in history. It
is common for great powers to try to fight wars by proxy,
getting smaller powers to fight for their interests. This
would be the first instance I know where a great power (in
fact, a superpower) would do the fighting as the proxy of
a small client state."
"small client state" is, of course, Israel, the Middle Eastern
Sparta that enjoys the same kind of knee-jerk support among
some sections of the American right that the former Soviet
Union once commanded on the radical left. If the core principle
of constant warfare is the essence of the neoconservative
doctrine, then the object of their special adulation is the
state of Israel, whose interests they have openly advanced
over and above the best interests of the U.S.
Ariel Sharon compared George W. Bush to Neville Chamberlain,
Bill Bennett, neoconservative scold and head of "Americans
for Victory Over Terrorism" (AVOT), agreed with him.
Since 9/11, the neocons have been pushing the line that the
interests of the U.S. and Israel are identical a logical
impossibility, since the national interests of separate states
are different by definition. Unleashed by 9/11, neoconservative
publicists have been calling for "World
War IV," a "clash of civilizations" pitting the U.S. and
Israel against the Muslim world and a good deal of the rest
of the world.
of this history of ceaseless warmongering on the part of the
neocons is a matter of record: just follow the links in this
column. Or, better yet, read up on the subject, starting with
my (sadly out of print) book, Reclaiming the American Right:
The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, which
tells the story of the neocons' ideological odyssey from left
to faux-"right". The meme of neocon responsibility for this
war and future wars is by now spread far and wide: just go
to Google.com (news) and type in the word "neoconservatives"
or "neocons," and you'll
see what I mean.
now along comes the learned Robert
J. Lieber, Professor of Government and Foreign Service
at Georgetown University, and a leading academic apologist
for the Bush Doctrine of preemption and American primacy,
to tell us that this is a "myth" promulgated by bigots. In
the April 29 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education
(and reprinted by Frontpagemag.com), Lieber writes:
ruins of Saddam Hussein's shattered tyranny may provide additional
evidence of chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction,
but one poisonous by-product has already begun to seep from
under the rubble. It is a conspiracy theory purporting to
explain how the foreign policy of the world's greatest power,
the United States, has been captured by a sinister and hitherto
small band of neoconservative (read, Jewish) defense intellectuals,
led by the 'mastermind,' Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul
Wolfowitz (according to Michael Lind, writing in the New
Statesman), has taken advantage of 9/11 to put their ideas
over on an ignorant, inexperienced, and 'easily manipulated'
president (Eric Alterman in The Nation), his 'elderly
figurehead' Defense Secretary (as Lind put it), and the 'dutiful
servant of power' who is our secretary of state (Edward Said,
London Review of Books)."
why must we "read Jewish" when the word is neoconservative?
While it is true that many prominent neocons are Jewish, the
same might be said of libertarians (Murray Rothbard, Ludwig
von Mises, Ayn Rand), or left-wing radicals (Noam Chomsky,
Rabbi Michael Lerner,), or, for that matter, liberals. What
of it? Undeterred by logic, however, Professor Lieber blithely
continues along this same victimological path throughout his
essay. This "conspiracy theory," he avers, is itself a conspiracy
the Jews! Somebody please call the PC Thought Police!
So where's the evidence of a neo-Nazi plot involving leading
liberal and conservative writers and intellectuals? The Professor
detects a pattern of anti-Semitic rhetoric between the lines
of anti-interventionist polemics:
"Thus empowered, this neoconservative conspiracy, 'a product
of the influential Jewish-American faction of the Trotskyist
movement of the '30s and '40s' (Lind), with its own 'fanatic'
and 'totalitarian morality' (William Pfaff, International
Herald Tribune) has fomented war with Iraq not in the
interest of the United States, but in the service of Israel's
Likud government (Patrick J. Buchanan and Alterman)."
Alterman is Jewish is apparently no obstacle to his membership
in this anti-Semitic cabal. Aside from this odd anomaly, Lind's
reference to the "Jewish-American faction of the Trotskyist
movement of the '30s and '40s" is a redundancy: of the three
founders of American Trotskyism, two were Jewish and the membership
of their party reflected the leadership: their base was in
the heavily Jewish sections of New York City, where more than
half the members lived. This is not an admonishment on Lind's
part, but only a descriptive passage.
brief, out-of-context quotes are typical of the modern "academic"
method of footnoted character assassination, but if you examine what Lind actually wrote,
it is clear that his purpose is not to target "the Jews" but
to accurately describe the intellectual and political genesis
of a war. This war, averred Lind, was the dream of neoconservative
theoreticians, paid experts who advised the Israeli government
while out of power during the Clinton years and evolved a
plan to further their ambitions. But, he wrote,
experts are not typical of Jewish-Americans, who mostly voted
for Gore in 2000. The most fervent supporters of Likud in
the Republican electorate are Southern Protestant fundamentalists."
imputation of base motives to Lind is based on a very selective
reading of his piece. Professor Lieber is clearly counting
on his students not doing their homework. His are willful
of a dozen words cited in Lind's piece, Lieber focuses on
the wrong one. It wasn't their Jewishness that impelled the
neocons to develop an ideology and implement a national
security strategy based on military domination of the globe.
Their Trotskyist mindset, shorn of its Soviet roots, morphed
easily into a "permanent revolution" on behalf of an American
rather than a socialist world order. Trotsky believed that
socialism in one country could not long survive, and the duty
of every revolutionary was to spread Communism beyond the
borders of the workers' fatherland, by military means if necessary,
a task regularly shirked by the Stalinist sell-outs in the
American ex-followers, such as Max
Shachtman, decided that the Stalinists were even worse
than the capitalists, and that the Soviet Union, far from
being the workers fatherland, represented the main danger
to the working class a position that eventually had him
and his influential followers supporting the U.S. war against
this is the organizational and intellectual pre-history of
the neoconservatives is beyond dispute. Neocon godfather Irving
Kristol was a Trotskyist, eventually winding up as a member
of the Shachtman group, as were several other prominent New
York intellectuals who followed Shachtman on his rightward
course sometimes lagging behind, sometimes skipping ahead
and finally crossing over to the right, in the cold war
era, to make up the intellectual core of the War Party. Neoconservatism
in the realm of foreign policy is merely Trotskyism-turned-inside-out
a militant internationalism fueled by U.S. taxpayer dollars
and backed up by the mightiest military the world has ever
neoconservative fealty to Israel surely has something to do
with the ethnic and religious loyalties of some prominent
neocons, whose faith in Marxism was replaced by their rediscovery
of their religious and ethnic roots. But it has just as much
to do with Israel's role as a modern Sparta, a militaristic
state which the neocons view as inherently admirable. However,
surely the most numerous and fervent fans of the state of
Israel in the American body politic are the "mainstream" conservatives,
who generally agree with what they read in, say, National
Review. For them, Israel, our staunch ally during the
cold war, is an outpost of Western civilization, and deserves
support on that basis alone. A great many conservative Republican
activists are Christian fundamentalists whose unconditional
support for Ariel Sharon's draconian policies is based on
their peculiar interpretation of Christianity, not Judaism.
goes on to make the most of his examination of anti-Semitic
"tropes," reducing the analysis of well-known liberal analysts
to "conspicuous manifestations of classic anti-Semitism."
What are these ominous portents of a new pogrom? According
to the Professor, they consist of:
that a small, all-powerful but little-known group or 'cabal'
of Jewish masterminds is secretly manipulating policy."
of the individuals cited by Lieber, nor anyone else that I
am aware of, is saying that the nation was "secretly" roped
into war: it was all done quite openly, which, on account
of its sheer brazenness, makes it all the more outrageous.
The neocons wrote manifestos in their subsidized little journals,
they signed open letters urging an invasion of this country
or that, they wrote op ed pieces and their front groups lobbied
Congress and the American public which is why it has been
possible for Lind, Alterman, Buchanan, myself, and others
to write about it. Nor is anyone claiming that the "cabal,"
which I call the War Party, is "all-powerful." If that were
true, then surely they would have achieved their objectives
sooner, with less exposure and certainly with very little
they have dual loyalty to a foreign power."
is not a question of dual loyalty, but of the subordination
of American interests to Israeli policy objectives and
to an inherently anti-American policy of naked imperialism
that goes against the grain of our history and our political
culture. Critics of U.S. policy in the Middle East, except
for the Marxists and the inveterate anti-Americans, argue
that allowing our military to be used as a cat's-paw for Israel
is not in American interests. It is a policy that can only
please the region's extremists: Ariel Sharon and Osama bin
Laden. The neocons, on the other hand, fail to distinguish
between Israeli and American interests, and one has to assume
that this is a sincerely held belief.
Professor continues his litany of "anti-Semitic" horrors:
this cabal combines ideological opposites (right-wingers with
a Trotskyist legacy, echoing classic anti-Semitic tropes linking
Jews to both international capitalism and international communism)."
most neocons and their supporters are not Jewish
as Lieber spends an inordinate number of words pointing out
his contention that the whole thing amounts to an orgy of
Jew-bashing, an intellectual Kristallnacht, is self-refuting.
Aside from that, however, does he really mean to imply that
Jewish ex-Trotskyists are above criticism, all on account
of some arcane "trope"?
our official leaders are too ignorant, weak, or naive to grasp
what is happening."
as we all know, our leaders are never ignorant, or
weak, or naοve. They always grasp what is happening.
the foreign policy upon which our country is now embarked
runs counter to, or is even subversive of, American national
on the mark.
and that if readers only paid close attention to what the
author is saying, they would share the same sense of alarm."
author wants to be paid close attention to, except, perhaps,
the sort who hide behind phony words like "trope" and impressive
academic credentials to legitimate their smears. Lieber's
ponderous screed isn't even up to the level of David Horowitz,
and after spending so much time wallowing in it one feels
nothing so much as an overwhelming desire to shower. Bereft
of arguments, laced with malice, here is a long essay that
is nothing so much as one long sustained whine.
is something distinctly odd about an academic denying the
power of ideas to the extent of calling an attempt to trace
the intellectual roots of the War Party a "conspiracy theory."
Ideas, and not armies, rule the world, because the former
have the power to inspire and command. The neocon takeover
of American foreign policy did not begin yesterday, and is
not the victory of an "all-powerful" clique that has its hands
on the secret levers of power. There is nothing secret about
the new American hubris, the war plans of this administration,
or the intellectual origins of the ideas that have shaped
the level of practical politics, the American Likudniks a phrase
that has now become part of the American political lexicon
are quite open about wanting World War IV, and Ariel
Sharon has not exactly been silent. For Professor Lieber
to pretend otherwise is just not tenable. Next time, perhaps,
the Professor will do his homework or, at least, come up
with a better evasive maneuver: this time, however, he rates
only a "D".
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