knew there was something awfully suspicious about the announcement,
a few weeks ago, that most U.S. troops were going to be withdrawn
from Saudi Arabia. After all, since when does the Empire
major retreat? And now my suspicions have been confirmed....
close, almost symbiotic U.S.-Saudi relationship
back to the World War II era: FDR
was the first American Arabist. American troops have been
stationed in the Kingdom since Gulf War I, and the numbers
were doubled during Gulf War II. Although the visibility of
the U.S. garrison has always been kept low, its presence hardly
ever acknowledged, the announcement of the
Americans' imminent departure was carried by Saudi television,
an obvious gesture meant
to appease Saudi public opinion.
Americans, for their part, depicted it as a triumph: "It
is now a safer region because of the change of regime in Iraq,"
averred Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The Saudis denied
asking the Americans to hit the road. The troops' mission,
Sultan, had been accomplished: "There is no need
for them to remain. This does not mean that we requested them
does it mean they won't be asked to return a distinct possibility
in light of what is portended by the recent attack
on an American compound in Riyadh. In retrospect, the
alleged American withdrawal seems to have been a tactical
retreat and also an ominous indicator of just how unstable
Saudi rule has become.
presence of the American "infidels" in the sacred
land of Mecca
and Medina has been the main complaint of the radicals,
bin Laden's rallying cry: this, above all, justified an
anti-American jihad in Islamist eyes. The trumpeting
of the American faux-withdrawal on state-controlled television
was anti-Ladenite propaganda aimed at the hearts and minds
of Saudis, but it's not as if the GIs were going all that
headed to Qatar, a
small sheikdom on the Persian Gulf. As the International
Herald Tribune reported:
and American officials said security cooperation would continue,
and they noted that American forces and warplanes could return
someday if future Saudi rulers faced a new threat. In the
huge, air-conditioned hangar at Prince
Sultan Air Base, where Rumsfeld thanked several
hundred American and allied forces for the efforts in the
Nichols said the Pentagon has not decided whether
to keep a skeletal crew at the installation to restart it
quickly in an emergency. The air command center will be mothballed.
'Nothing's going to be torn down,' Admiral Nichols said. 'It'll
remain wired, but most of the computers and what not will
be taken out.'"
the consequences of the Iraq war ripple outward from Baghdad,
and the swelling ranks of Al Qaeda's terrorist armies seek
vengeance on pro-U.S. rulers throughout the region, the projected
"emergency" may already be upon us.
than 500 bought-and-paid for Iraqi exiles flown in by
the Pentagon for the occasion toppled a statue of Saddam,
cheers of our laptop bombardiers: the "Three Week War,"
as the more deluded of them dubbed it, had been a "cakewalk,"
just as the neocons
had said it would be. The antiwar crowd had been wrong, wrong,
wrong, they jeered. Consequences? What consequences?
answer was not long in coming.
didn't have to be Nostradamus
to predict a direct threat to Saudi rule as one result of
the Iraq invasion: the Riyadh blast was the first manifestation
of what neocon ideologue Michael
Ledeen gloatingly referred to as "creative
this was anticipated by the neocons' "domino
theory" that saw the Iraqi conquest as the catalyst
which would send the other Arab regimes reeling, with the
Saudis first on the list. Last summer, you'll
remember, neocon "Prince of Darkness" Richard
Perle and his Defense Policy Board catapulted
themselves into the news by holding a briefing featuring
one Laurent Murawiec,
who characterized Saudi Arabia as "the kernel of evil,
the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent" of the
U.S. We ought to seize their assets in the U.S., averred Murawiec,
career as a cadre in the cult of Lyndon LaRouche explains
the unmistakable tone of hysteria in his anti-Saudi conspiracy
a leaf from National Review editor Rich Lowry's
book, Murawiec suggested threatening Mecca and Medina if the
Saudis didn't cooperate. Such actions, he recommended to Perle
and his fellow Pentagon advisors, would be a prelude to the
seizure of the oil fields.
reported by Jack Shafer in Slate, the last slide in
Murawiec's Power Point presentation, modestly entitled "Grand
Strategy for the Middle East," proclaimed:
is the tactical pivot
Arabia the strategic pivot
calculated instability provoked by U.S. military intervention
in Iraq plays right into the Murawiec-Perle scenario. As Al
Qaeda garners growing popular support in Saudi Arabia, and
the country descends into civil war, one or another wing of
of Saud asks for U.S. intervention to avert anarchy
and the "strategic pivot" is ours.
I pointed out ten days into the Iraqi phase of this conflict,
we are going for a ride on the
Middle East escalator:
Go hang your head in shame, Alexander.
And you yeah, you, the
Little Corporal! all three of you are about to
be dwarfed by Bush the Bold."
whole region has been targeted for conquest. Next stop
seems like only yesterday that certain "anti-terrorist"
experts for the U.S. government were telling us that "Al
Qaeda is in an irreversible decline." This sunny
optimism reflected the official administration line, enunciated
by the President as he stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier,
dressed in Top Gun drag: "The
war on terror is not over," he declared, "but we
have seen the turning of the tide." Perhaps, but,
after the Riyadh strike, one has to ask: in whose favor?
Bin Laden, youll remember, is supposed to have been
dead, or so far deep in a cave somewhere that he might as
well be. With the
capture of alleged senior cadre, Al Qaeda was supposed
to have been on the run, in disarray if not actually defeated.
Rumsfeld put it in February of last year:
we do know about him, we may not know where he is and we may
not know whether he's dead or alive, but we do know that he
is having trouble functioning and operating. That he's on
the run, that it's hard for him to raise money, that it's
harder for him to recruit, that his training bases in Afghanistan
are gone, that the host government, the Taliban, has been
thrown out of the country, and that he's hiding in caves or
tunnels, having difficulty communication with his associates."
it turns out, it
was Bin Laden who ordered this latest attack: according
to intelligence sources,
the leader of the Riyadh cell took his orders directly from
the Al Qaeda chief. Not bad for someone "on the run."
As for Al Qaeda's recruitment drive: if it was faltering after
the Afghan campaign, the pace no doubt picked up when the
bombs began to fall on Baghdad.
portrait of Osama, the dysfunctional terrorist, could not
have been more off base. This reflects our strategy in the
"war on terrorism." Instead of fighting Al Qaeda,
or anything remotely resembling it, the Bush administration
went after Iraq because it was "doable," as
Paul Wolfowitz is alleged to have remarked.
for the alleged Al Qaeda-Baghdad alliance: this will go down
in history as the tallest in a series of mile-high tales told
by the War Party, less credible than Yeti
sightings and more improbable than the
Hollow Earth theory.
Bushies tried to pass off some
obscure Islamist guerrilla group operating out of Kurd-controlled
northern Iraq as the "Al Qaeda connection," but
now the real Al Qaeda has reared up in Riyadh, lashing
out at U.S. facilities and killing 8 Americans. This barely
a week after George the Conqueror stood before his troops,
victory emanating from his person like a corona, as the nation
did everything but crown
him with laurel leaves.
cries of "Hail Caesar!" had hardly died down, when
Bin Laden popped up like some macabre jack-in-the-box, catching
the U.S. and its Saudi allies off guard and provoking
recriminations against Riyadh from the U.S.
Americans are complaining
that the Saudis provided insufficient security, a not-so-subtle
hint that Uncle Sam may move in to do the job if the local
authorities can't or won't. The charge of Saudi incompetence,
worse, in failing to prevent the attack is all
but out in the open. This is an odd charge, however, coming
from the very same clueless U.S. government agencies that
failed to foil the 9/11 plotters and prevent the most destructive
terrorist attack in American history.
ambassador to Saudi Arabia Robert
Jordan avers that Crown
Prince Abdullah is "sincere" in his desire to
crack down on the terrorists, but "execution" is
another matter, "and I think there's some ways to go
on that, quite frankly." Jordan claims the U.S. had asked
for additional security at the targeted facilities: "But
they did not, as of the time of this particular tragic event,
provide the security we had requested."
proper answer to Ambassador Jordan was written by an American,
not a Saudi, Garet
Garrett by name. He was an editor of the New York Times
before the Great War, and later chief editorial writer
for the Saturday Evening Post during the New Deal era.
In 1955, Garrett wrote a little-known book called The
American Story that ended like this:
now, thou American, frustrated crusader, do you know where
it security you want? There is no security at the top of the
think own self a liberator, to the world an alarming portent,
do you know where you are going from here?"
might have been written yesterday. Or five minutes ago. Garrett
was a prophet, a libertarian
version of Jeremiah
or, perhaps, Cassandra.
that I've managed to somehow get on to the subject of this
rather interesting writer, who seems to be enjoying
a bit of a revival
IN THE MARGIN
Pfaff's column on Leo Strauss and the neocons the other
day as our "spotlight" piece, but I did so with
reservations. Pfaff gives a perceptive analysis of the neoconservatives'
affinity for the arcane insights of Professor
Strauss, the influential University of Chicago philosopher
who preached a "Platonic truth" accessible only
to elites, and taught that one must tell "necessary lies"
to the masses for their own good, of course.
knows his neocon-ology, but one subject he appears grossly
ignorant of is the history of the American conservative movement.
Like most liberals, he takes the line that the neocons were
the first to give a bunch of misshapen Neanderthals a touch
of intellectual class: before that, or so the story goes,
right-wing ideology consisted largely of inarticulate grunting
and sheer prejudice, summed up by the all-purpose "xenophobia."
As Pfaff puts it:
trouble with American conservatism during most of the 20th
century was that it was not particularly intelligent. The
Republican Party was and is a business party, anti-intellectual
and to a considerable degree xenophobic. The radical neoconservatives,
who appeared in the 1960s, are the first seriously intelligent
movement on the American right since the 19th century."
is utter nonsense. An anti-imperialist conservative such as
Garrett, whose insight into the dynamics of the rising
American hegemon is far more sophisticated than the "blood
for oil" mantra of the Bush-Haters League, saw it all
coming at the dawn of the American century:
may be understood. But a curious and characteristic emotional
weakness of Empire is a complex of vaunting and fear. The
vaunting is from what may be called that Titanic feeling.
Many passengers on the doomed Titanic would not believe that
a ship so big and grand could sink. So long as it was above
water her listing deck seemed safer than a lifeboat on the
open sea. So with the people of Empire. They are mighty. They
have performed prodigious works, even many that seemed beyond
their powers. Reverse they have known but never defeat. That
which has hitherto been immeasurable, how shall it be measured?
must have felt who lived out the grandeur that was Rome. So
the British felt while they ruled the world. So now Americans
complex of fear and vaunting" could there be any better
summary of what we are now living through? Yet Garrett saw
it all too clearly more than half a century ago:
the fear. Fear of the barbarian. Fear of standing alone. Fear
of world opinion, since we must have it on our side. The fear
which is inseparable from the fact or from a conviction
of the fact that security is no longer in our own hands.
time comes when the guard itself, that is, your system of
satellites, is a source of fear. Satellites are often willful
and the more you rely upon them the more willful and demanding
they are. There is, therefore, the fear of offending them,
as it might be only to disappoint their expectations."
clearly understands the key role played by one
particularly willful ally in dragging us into the war
on Iraq. The trouble with liberals of his sort, who oppose
the rise of an American Empire, is that they are merely repeating
without knowing it, and with far less eloquence
the anti-imperialist sentiments of the Old Right.
sort of liberal the sort that appears in the pages of
The New Republic knows perfectly well the heritage
that Pfaff disdains, and how to fight it. In their continuing
campaign to deny their own existence, the neocons are now
invoking the shade of Richard
Hofstadter, who attributed all dissent on the Right to
paranoid style in American politics." Hofstadter's
of that title was the textbook for those ex-leftie
liberal mandarins who celebrated "the end of ideology"
and sought to marginalize conservative critics of the rising
State. Writing in The New Republic, Daniel
W. Drezner pulls a very old rabbit out of a rather threadbare
are all the rage in world politics these days. A majority
of Arabs believe that Israel was responsible for the September
11 attacks. Antiwar activists believe that the U.S. government
'created' Saddam Hussein. And, of course, there's endless
innuendo surrounding the relationship between prominent neoconservatives
and U.S. foreign policy. Critics across the ideological spectrum
accuse neocons of being a foreign policy cabal, stealthily
fomenting their own conspiracy theories as a way of manipulating
the Bush administration. Or are the critics themselves guilty
of conspiracy-mongering? Will the real paranoids please stand
all this back and forth, it's both instructive and eerie to
re-read Richard Hofstadter's classic essay, "The Paranoid
Style in American Politics."
of U.S. policy are not just "anti-American" traitors,
as the Fox News-David
Horowitz school of character assassination would have
it, but also crazy, to boot. Such a rhetorical ploy, which
raises the argument ad
hominem to a whole new level, is not an argument at
all, but a sign of desperation.
and that the neocons
a position to impose
their agenda on the
making of American foreign policy, then you must believe
that the Israelis were responsible for 9/11 and that George
W. Bush and Saddam Hussein are two aspects of the same malignant
persona. Clearly, you are exhibiting the same "symptoms"
that were "clinically observed" as Professor Drezner
puts it by Hofstadter and his fellow smear artists some 40
years ago. Oh, and, by the way, there's nobody here but us
new edition of The American
Conservative (May 19) sorry, not online yet
with my review of A
Story of America First: The Men and Women Who Opposed U.S.
Intervention in World War II, by Ruth Sarles (Praeger),
is now out. What? They don't carry TAC at your
local news stand? Gee, that's a shame, since this issue is
a real blockbuster, with Correlli
Barnett on what lessons British imperialism holds for
the American variety, James
Bovard on the Surveillance State as brought to you by
the "Patriot" Act, and Jack
Strocchi on what sort of trouble awaits us in building
"democracy" in Iraq. Add to this Pat Buchanan's
case for Colin Powell's conservatism, plus Taki's
prose, and you have any number of reasons to subscribe.
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