UP WITH THAT?
is going on here?" Kristol demands to know. I'll tell
you what's going on, Bill. Our secretary of state sees the
trap the wily bin Laden set for the US and it is one that
he has no intention of springing. For a massive US military
intervention, an invasion force, could not be unleashed without
seriously destabilizing the entire region undermining the
very governments whose cooperation is essential to any purely
military response to the September 11 atrocity.
WE INVADE SYRIA?
the Defense Department rushed bombers to the area, it wasn't
clear, exactly, where they would strike. Kabul? This city
is hardly the center of support for the Taliban, which is
explicitly anti-urban, and in any case Osama bin Laden &
Co. won't be among the casualties. But none of this matters
to Kristol and his fellow neoconservatives,
who recently published their
own set of war aims in a statement circulated by the Project
for a New American Century. Among their goals is the military
invasion of not only Afghanistan, but also Iraq, and even
Syria. This view, upheld by deputy defense secretary Paul
Wolfowitz and implicitly backed by his boss, Donald Rumsfeld,
appears to have lost out, at least for the moment, and Kristol
is furious. In a piece for the Washington Post ["Bush
Vs. Powell," September 25], he avers:
might say that Powell's remarks simply reflect the natural
perspective of a secretary of state. But of course Powell
had the same distaste for large-scale wars in 1990. Then,
in the run-up to Desert Storm, Powell worried, in accord with
his Powell Doctrine, that the American people were not united
for war behind the first President Bush (as they were not).
Powell did his best to persuade President Bush not to wage
that war against Saddam.
the American people are united, but the Powell doctrine has
gone global. Talk of war might fracture the global coalition
that we have assembled. That coalition is key to this war
against terror as long as it never becomes an actual
war. Powell seems now to be as sensitive to global public
opinion as he once was to what he took to be American public
kind of a person does not have a distaste for large-scale
wars, or, indeed, wars of any scale whatsoever? One might
believe that such a war was necessary, and justified, and
yet feel a strong distaste at the prospect. This is the natural
reaction of ordinary decent human beings, but the neocons
are far from ordinary (I won't speculate on their decency).
While the rest of us are content to live out our mundane little
private lives, these large-domed Deep Thinkers are consumed
with visions of "national
greatness" a state never fully attainable,
it seems, until and unless the nation is at war. Surely the
announced objective of the Kristolian foreign policy
world hegemony" is not achievable by any other
WAR AIMS, AND THEIRS
assumes that the American people are united behind his
war aims, almost as if the GOP 2000 presidential primary had
had a different outcome, and he, Kristol, had been installed
in the White House by John McCain, his favored candidate.
But isn't it up to the President of the United States, and
not the editor of a dinky little subsidized neocon magazine,
to announce the nation's war aims? You might think so, but,
then again, one whose goal is "world hegemony" is
better off without either a sense of proportion or modesty.
great divide between Kristol and Powell is the difference
between armchair generals and the real thing. The latter looks
at the problem of how to respond to the mass murder of September
11 in purely military terms. In order to reach the perpetrators
and their support network, the US must secure the full cooperation
of neighboring countries the very countries whose governments
are bound to be undermined by precipitous US military action.
Tightly focused on his mission cornering and destroying
the terrorists Powell's perspective is oriented toward
practical results. Go in there, get them, and then get out.
Kristol, however, and his chorus of warmongering pundits and
politicians, have a whole other agenda, that has little if
anything to do with the original provocation. John McCain
has already declared that Bush's war "will be a failure
if it leaves in place the regime that aids and abetted these
acts of war against the United States." But how will
installing a new King on the Afghan throne avenge the worst
terrorist attack in American history?
military response to the devastating attack on the WTC and
the Pentagon is not only appropriate, it is required: as many
pro-war correspondents have pointed out, especially the ostensible
libertarians, military defense is, arguably, the one
legitimate function of government. But this does not settle
the question of how to respond, and against whom. In
the days following September 11, the Defense Department rushed
squadrons of bombers to the region, even before a vital question
had been asked: Where do we drop the bombs?
EQUIVALENCE, AND ITS DISCONTENTS
answer is: everywhere from Kabul to Damascus. What is needed,
he says, is a "broad" campaign to eliminate the
terrorist threat. A more rational answer is implicit in Powell's
focused approach, which has a specific and achievable goal:
not the conquest of the Middle East, but the smashing the
terrorist network associated with Al Qaeda. The libertarian
approach to this whole question is roughly approximated by
Powell's apparent stance: military force is justified in self-defense,
but only in proportion to the initial act of aggression
and only against the actual aggressors. Carpet-bombing Kabul,
as Kristol and some elements within the Defense Department
are clamoring for, would put us on the same moral level as
the devilish mad bombers of bin Laden's suicide squad, who
wantonly slaughtered 6000-plus. Talk about moral equivalence
it is the "hawks" who are guilty of this, not
those of us who put the events of September 11 in some historical
powerful editorial for the prestigious and popular Nightly
Business Report on PBS, the conservative economist Walter
Williams warned us that politicians are taking advantage of
this terrible tragedy to do what they are driven to do: increase
their own power: "The true threat to liberty comes not
from terrorists but from our political leaders whose natural
inclination is to seize upon any excuse to diminish them."
On the international level, the same strategy is being utilized
by many of the same people to advance another kind of agenda:
the radical acceleration of our interventionist foreign policy.
interventionist response to the massacre of September 11 is
to launch a massacre of our own, albeit on a much larger scale.
Theirs is an agenda of military conquest, to go in and stay
in to spread "democracy" throughout the Middle
East, to impose it by force of arms and, coincidentally,
make the world safe for Israel. On the other hand, the anti-interventionist
response is quite different: it is roughly congruent with
Powell's arguments, as expressed to date, that we need to
go in, kill 'em, and leave without playing into Osama bin
Laden's hands. For the radical Islamists would like nothing
better than a full-scale invasion of the Middle East, as recommended
by Kristol all the better to spread his jihad far and wide.
INFORMATION IS CLASSIFIED
suits bin Laden to a tee that the US government is refusing
to make public the alleged evidence pointing to the Bearded
One's culpability, and once again the American secretary of
state is on the right side of this question. It was Powell,
reportedly, who argued to release the evidence, while the
Defense Department and the intelligence community held out
for keeping it "classified." On this front, at least,
it looks like Powell is losing out. This means, perhaps, that
some day, a young boy will ask his mother: "Why did Daddy
have to die in the Afghan War?" And she will answer:
"I'm sorry, son, but that information is classified."
point out that it is a mistake to garrison thousands of American
soldiers on the Saudi peninsula does not justify the destruction
of the World Trade Center: it only helps us to understand
why it happened. To hold that it does not serve American interests
to unconditionally support Israel hardly justifies terrorism.
To say that the continual bombing of Iraq is a war crime is
not to engage in "moral equivalence" it is
to state a fact glaringly obvious to the Arab "street"
and Muslims all over the world. To point to the sources and
inspiration of bin Laden's movement is not to prettify it
but to analyze it: for only by such sober analysis will it
be possible to rip up the terrorist network by its roots.
Those roots are ideological, in the conviction that the American
and British "crusaders" are out to destroy Islamic
civilization: to go in there, as neocon columnist Ann
Coulter suggests, and forcibly "convert them to Christianity."
Thanks, Ann, for sharing that: that's one point on which you
and Osama bin Laden seem to agree.
non-interventionist solution is not a pacifist response, but
it doesn't engage in overkill, either. After releasing the
evidence against Osama bin Laden and his followers or whoever
we need to go in and take them out. The conquest of the
Middle East, or even Afghanistan, needn't enter into it. An
attack on our own soil must be meant with retaliation swift
and sure: but what kind of retribution is it that demands
we go in and engage in "nation-building" as
neocon columnist James Pinkerton suggests? It seems like
an open invitation to terrorists everywhere: just blow up
a few major American landmarks, and we'll rebuild your nation
for you! Was a loopier idea ever conceived?
US BE DONE WITH THEM
much better to strike and leave. For that is the lesson
of this horrific event, the overriding conclusion imposed
on us by the sheer horror of it all: let us be done with
this nest of Middle Eastern vipers. Let them keep their
lousy oil: we can drill elsewhere, in Alaska, in South America,
off the California coast if need be. Let them fight among
themselves as to whether the Holy Land is to be called Palestine
or Israel. Why is this any of our concern? Here's
a concrete solution to our problem, one that can be enacted
immediately with overwhelming public support: Let us close
our borders to all immigrants, and impose an absolute moratorium
until further notice. The perpetrators of this sickening crime
were legal residents of the US, in some cases, or else sneaked
into the country under the current lax regime.
massive intelligence failure that made September 11 possible
can be fixed some seem to think by throwing money at
the problem and a quick change of personnel. But the real
failure, here, is of our interventionist foreign policy. In
Osama bin Laden, yesterday's anti-Communist "freedom
fighter," the virtual embodiment of that policy has come
back to haunt us. A military strike, limited to liquidating
the guilty parties, can take care of our immediate problem:
but, in long-range terms, a change in our foreign policy is
the only possible solution.
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