June 18, 2003

THE GAZA TRAP
American troops in Gaza? Never!

The "road map to peace" in the Middle East has turned into the highway to hell and given rise to what, up until a few months ago, would have been unthinkable: the prospect of direct U.S. military intervention in Gaza and the West Bank. How did we get to this point?

The "road map," you'll remember, was supposed to have been George W. Bush's big concession to the Arab world. After backing Ariel Sharon to the hilt, even at his most brutal, and taking out Saddam Hussein Israel's worst enemy in the Middle East the idea was to secure peace and garner some brownie points with the remnants of our Arab friends by throwing U.S. support to a nascent Palestinian state. But it hasn't worked out that way.

Instead, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has reached new heights of bloodthirsty intensity, with the two sides engaged in all-out war. Worse yet, the Republican administration is openly floating the idea of U.S. military intervention in Gaza and the West Bank: alone, as part of a NATO force, or in collaboration with the UN. Speaking to Fox News on Sunday, Senator Richard Lugar, the influential GOP foreign policy maven, raised this startling possibility:

"If force is required ultimately to root out terrorism, it is possible there would be American participation."

Such a plan, Lugar made plain, is being actively considered. The Israelis, having decimated the Palestinian Authority's military capacity and waged a relentless war against its political legitimacy, now complain that the PA cannot control Hamas. A power vacuum created by Israel has been filled with the fanatics, and the defanged PA is powerless to stop it. Lugar recognizes this, albeit in a rather roundabout way, and proposes a terrible solution:

"The dilemma for the Israelis is that it's possible that Abbas simply does not have security forces that are adequate to take on Hamas, quite apart from even the territories being suggested for his security now. And pragmatically, this may mean down the road – and this will come after a good number of talks – there has to be some fill in. At this point, Kofi Annan of the U.N. has suggested U.N. peacekeepers, maybe even armed peacekeepers. There have been suggestions that NATO may be involved, that the United States may be involved. At that point, the polls turn very sharply south, with regard to United States involvement."

Yeah, like as far as the South Pole, but that could change. The sudden discovery that Hamas possesses weapons of mass destruction might be a hard one to put over. But the spillover effect of the Iraq war may be enough to drag us in. Spreading the meme that growing resistance to the U.S. occupation of Iraq – variously described as consisting of "Saddam loyalists," and/or "foreign fighters" vaguely affiliated with Al Qaeda is really being engineered by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad might be just the ticket. I can see the headline in the Telegraph now: "Hamas Fighters Ambush American Soldiers."

It's a story-line rich with possibilities, including the quite plausible scenario that Hamas is harboring Saddam Hussein. He was supposed to have been in Syria, you'll remember, but Lebanon is more likely. The mere possibility may be enough to lure U.S. soldiers back to Beirut, at least as far as the American public is concerned. If, later, the connection to the Iraqi resistance turns out to be tenuous, at best and Saddam is nowhere to be found – it can always be claimed that getting rid of Hamas was worth it as an end in itself.

It was laugh-out-loud hilarious watching Israeli ambassador Alon Pinkas on MSNBC piously agree with Pat Buchanan that U.S. troops in Gaza is not a good idea: "I object to it on the grounds that we have always prided ourselves on our self-sufficiency," he said, with a perfectly straight face. With U.S. military and economic aid to Israel at $6 billion-plus per year, Israel is less self-sufficient than a welfare mother on crack. Yet, as Jim Lobe points out, it is Sharon, not President Bush, who is in the driver's seat:

"Fourteen months ago, US President George W Bush demanded that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon halt incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas, withdraw from cities Israeli forces had re-occupied, and refrain from further unilateral actions that would inflame the conflict. 'Enough is enough,' snapped the president, who had conquered Afghanistan four months before.

"Sharon, of course, treated Bush's demands in much the same way as he would the yapping of a chihuahua, politely explaining that protecting Israeli citizens from suicide bombs was his first responsibility, and otherwise ignoring him. Two weeks later, the president was praising Sharon as a 'man of peace,' while stepping up his rhetoric against Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, and then ostracizing him altogether just two months later."

Even in the wake of the U.S. victory in Iraq, with America ensconced as the new regional power, the Israeli Prime Minister is driving in accordance with a road map of his own design. As Lobe puts it:

"One might have thought – and many people, including Arabs and Israelis, did – that 14 months and a decisive US military victory in Iraq later, Bush's demands for Israeli cooperation in a new, US-backed initiative to calm tensions, bolster the authority of a new, more-moderate Palestinian leader – Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas – and impart some hope for an eventual peace agreement might be received by Sharon with somewhat more respect. But it now seems that Bush has once again gotten the chihuahua treatment, and the big question is whether he will do something about it this time."

Before we start hoping that Bush will "do something about it," however, one has to wonder exactly what that might be. In the name of enforcing the "right" of the Palestinians to self-determination, will America find itself shoring up a puppet regime that is largely a U.S.-Israeli creation? In the name of building "peace," will we be dragged into yet another war?

The idea that the U.S. is or ever can be an "honest broker" in the Middle East is nonsense. No one neither the Palestinians, nor the Israelis believes it. Confronted with the growing possibility that U.S. troops may soon be defending Israel's ill-gotten borders, Americans may begin to realize why we went to war in Iraq. The point was not to find nonexistent "weapons of mass destruction," but to substitute ourselves for those Israeli bulldozers that have humbled many a Palestinian dwelling: to re-order the Middle East along lines that are more conducive to Israel's long-term survival. The conquest of Iraq was the first step in knocking out Israel's enemies in the region: first the Ba'athists, then Hamas, and soon perhaps American troops will be "liberating" Damascus.

The "Clean Break" scenario a study authored by Richard Perle, James Colbert, Charles Fairbanks, Jr., Douglas Feith, Robert Loewenberg, David Wurmser, and Meyrav Wurmser in the early 1990s, in consultation with then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – visualized the taking of Baghdad as a necessary stop on the road to Damascus. And that is exactly where we are headed.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

Speculation as to whether ex-commie turned neoconservative David Horowitz reads the junk he posts on his website before it goes up is rife with the appearance, the other day, of Greg Yardley's "The Trotsky Two-Step," the latest installment in the "Trotsky-con" debate.

An article by Jeet Heer in the National Post, pointing to the Trotskyist past of leading neocons and suggesting that they have merely updated Trotsky's theory of "permanent revolution" on behalf of "democratic" globalism has the Right in an uproar. Heers quotes blabbermouth Stephen Schwartz, another ex-Trot-turned-neocon, who proudly proclaims the "relevance" and "continuity" of Trotsky's thought for today. Ex-Stalinist-turned-neocon Arnold Beichman went ballistic at Schwartz's indiscretion, and now one Greg Yardley has taken up the question of whether Trotsky's ghost is currently haunting us, in (where else?) David Horowitz's Frontpage. The ex-Trotskyist credentials of leading war birds influential Iraqi exile Kanan Makiya, Christopher Hitchens, Schwartz, Irving Kristol – are just a coincidence, says Yardley.

Oh, and, by the way, he too is an ex-Trot, a former member of the Communist League of Canada:

"Although both the Communist League and the Socialist Workers Party began quietly dropping the Trotskyist label around 1990, the other members reassured me repeatedly that this was merely a tactical issue. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, they felt that they could claim the sole mantle of Communism for themselves, and avoid confusing a working class that had never heard of Trotsky. And make no mistake – Trotskyism is a variant of Communism. This shouldn't be glossed over; ex-Trotskyists like myself are ex-Communists. But let me also make this clear - the transformation from Trotskyist to conservative involves a fundamental break with the main tenets of Trotskyism. By suggesting that a conservative can remain in some way a Trotskyist, the isolationist right traffics in oxymoron, and their conspiracy theories fail bitterly."

To begin with, I have never claimed, as Yardley avers, that neoconservatives are "secretly Trotskyists." The purpose of digging up the neocons' leftist roots is to point out that the content of their ideology may have changed, but the form the clear pattern remains all too constant.

Yardley cites anti-Stalinism and adherence to orthodox Marxist economic theory as the hallmarks of Trotsky's thought, but surely this could describe any number of non-Stalinist leftists, from anarcho-syndicalists to Bukharinites. What distinguishes Trotskyism from all the other variants of Communism is the theory of "permanent revolution."

Trotsky believed that socialism in one country could not long survive, and that the encirclement of the Soviet Union by the capitalist powers would soon bring the "workers fatherland" to its knees. According to the Trotskyists, communism had to be exported to other countries, by force if need be: anything less amounted to a betrayal of the revolution. The crux of their opposition to Stalinism was their militant internationalism.

The same militant internationalism is central to neocon ideology, with the goal of world communism abandoned for global "democracy." To pursue the phantom of "democracy in one country" is the mortal sin of "isolationism" to hear the neocons tell it, the U.S. government has a duty to "liberate" the oppressed peoples of the earth. Anything less is a "betrayal" of American ideals. Their project to democratize the Middle East rests on the premise that democracy in one country, or region – the West is unthinkable, on account of the existence of radical Islamism. Their answer to the terrorist threat is securing our "national security" via world conquest. It is Trotskyism turned inside out.

Surely Yardley, as a former Trotskyist, must know all this. Yet, perhaps not. The group to which he once belonged, the Canadian affiliate of the American Socialist Workers Party, was as he notes – once the biggest Trotskyist group in the U.S.: founded in 1928, as the Communist League of America, it is also the oldest. After attaining some degree of influence on the American left during the Vietnam war, however, the SWP abandoned its Trotskyist heritage, and expelled hundreds of longtime members in a series of mass purges. Today, it is an idiosyncratic leftist sect that devotes itself to selling books, magazines, newspapers, and pamphlets put out by its publishing operation, Pathfinder Press, a Marxist version of the Bible Tract Society.

Ideologically, the SWP/CLC is the North American branch of the Church of Fidel Castro: Pathfinder reprints the Cuban dictator's books and speeches, and SWPers regularly travel to Cuba in an attempt to ingratiate themselves with the regime. It is no wonder that poor Yardley hasn't the slightest conception of what Trotskyism is about: the bombastic effusions of Castro and SWP Maximum Leader Jack Barnes have long since taken Trotsky's place in the SWP's theology, and actually reading "the Old Man" is probably not encouraged. A more boring and sterile sect than the Socialist Workers Party/Canadian Communist League would be hard to imagine.

Yardley doesn't confide when he joined the SWP/CLC, but, writing under the pseudonym "Brian Sayre" I'm assuming Yardley and Sayre are the same person, unless Horowitz has roped in two former Fidelistas who both happen to live in Canada – he states elsewhere on Frontpage:

"I began my career as a communist radical in Toronto in 1996, when I joined an organization called the Communist League of Canada. The Communist League was oriented towards factory workers; when I decided to go back to university in 1998, I left it and joined a mostly student communist organization called the New Socialists. Both of these groups were split-offs of split-offs, tracing their lineage back trough the 1960s left to the heyday of American communism. Although small in numbers, thanks to their activity they and other groups like them had a great deal of influence over the broader left. While in these groups, I helped organize and participated in many protests – demonstrations against "globalization," demonstrations against war, and demonstrations against the government. As a communist, I used people as simply means to an end. I discarded people as they ceased to be useful, and came to my senses only long after I was discarded in turn."

As a neocon, Yardley won't have to make much of an adjustment.

Ruthless, manipulative, power-hungry, and blinded by dogmatism: that's the neocons, alright. Although Yardley does make vague reference to having been "discarded" perhaps in one of the periodic purges that routinely convulse the Barnes group – as a former member of an authoritarian cult, his transitioning from neo-Trotskyist to neo-conservative seems to have been relatively effortless.

Is Yardley such a humorless ideologue that he fails to see the irony of his own position? After all, here is someone converted to Communism in the year 1996, fer chrissakes, lecturing longtime conservatives on who is and is not a conservative. One might as well ask a former phrenologist to address a convention of brain-surgeons.

Speaking of ruthless, manipulative, power-hungry, party-lining neocons, I note the following squib in The Hill:

"Not all think tanks are getting along in the conservative movement's sandbox. The libertarian Cato Institute has been at 'right angles' with the Bush administration since Sept. 11, according to an influential conservative writer. 'In my view, too many on the right are supportive of the administration when it is right and when it is not right,' said David Boaz, Cato's executive vice president. 'I think some conservatives probably want us to be as reflexively supportive of the Bush administration as they think we should be.'"

"Some conservatives, notably the magazine The Weekly Standard, argued that Cato blundered in its 2001 annual report that pictured the second World Trade Center tower as the second jet burst into flames. Across the photo, the report reads, 'It is our true policy to steer clear of entangling alliances with any portion of the foreign world" – from George Washington's farewell address. Although no specific alliance is named, the Standard believes Cato is referring to the United States's relationship with Israel. Boaz said that was 'off-base.'"

Off the wall is more like it. What will the conspiracy theorists come up with next? But Boaz's tepid response was pretty limp-wristed: we'll be just as reflexively supportive of the President as we damn well please. Never mind defending George Washington: say, wasn't he an anti-Semite? Citing the "Farewell Address," the works of Leo Strauss, or those of Trotsky these are all "code words," you understand, the covert language of "anti-Semitism."

What crap! I have a hard time believing that conservatives, who have a temperamental aversion to such nonsense, will swallow this swill without a protest.

What gets me is that these neocons have the utter gall to carry on about the evils of Stalinism when they are its ablest practitioners. The sliming of longtime conservatives, such as Pat Buchanan, Bob Novak, David Keene, and others, resembles nothing so much as the Moscow Trials, in which hundreds of Old Bolsheviks were convicted of trumped-up charges and jailed. While the neocons can't send their political opponents to the Gulag – quite yet from the tone of their polemics one gets the definite impression that they would like nothing better.

My spies inside Cato tell me that a recent purge of a prominent anti-interventionist scholar was not enough for the neocons: they want more heads. The neocon takeover of what was once a venerable libertarian institution founded and named by the late Murray N. Rothbard started with the addition of Rupert Murdoch to Cato's board of directors in 1997, but was never complete. This latest smear campaign is the signal that the neocons are moving in for the kill.

– Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.

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