a common placard, in this city now awash with the posting of heartwrenching
photographs of the missing and presumed dead, reads "Kill the
bastards but " (in smaller text) "don't kill innocent
people." Desire for a focused and measured military response
seems to be the prevailing New York sentiment.
there is no unity among the political intellectuals and opinion
journalists and in their disagreements one can already see the
outlines of the coming grand struggle over American policy. The
terms "left" and "right" don't adequately describe
the various sides influential neoconservatives are opposed to
the policies of mainstream Republicans, who still set the tone within
the Bush administration, and most Democrats
and "America First" Buchananites are lining up with Bush.
early tremor in this storm was Norman
Podhoretz's shockingly strident attack on Robert Novak. Its
tone was astonishing because the two were among the most prominent
intellectual/journalist supporters of Ronald Reagan's presidency
Novak as arguably the nation's premier syndicated columnist and
Beltway pundit; Podhoretz as the esteemed editor of Commentary
Magazine, which shepherded thousands of disillusioned liberals
into the conservative, or neoconservative, camp during the 1970s
and '80s. Both men are now about seventy but they still represent
a leading edge of broader factions gearing up for battle within
the Bush White House and beyond.
day after the World Trade Center attack, Novak
penned a column analyzing the US intelligence failure, and quoted
at the end a Stratfor.com conclusion that Israel would emerge as
"the big winner" from the debacle, drawing American sympathy
as a fellow victim of terror. Added Novak "whatever distance
Bush wanted between US and Israeli policy, it was eliminated by
terror," noting that the tightening of ties between the United
States and Israel "cannot improve" U.S. long-term objectives.
two sentences seemed unremarkable, perhaps even banal for months
American newspapers have carried the lamentations of moderate Arabs
about the decline of American standing in the Middle East as prospects
for a fair peace between Israel and the Palestinians diminished.
But for Podhoretz, Novak's words were a red flag demanding all out
assault. In a letter to the editor of the New York Post he
proclaimed his "disgust" with the column, which he called
"shamefully perverse" and accused the columnist of wishing
for Israel's disappearance.
intensity Podhoretz brought to bear on an offhand remark in a single
column makes sense only as a symptom of the neo-cons' deep insecurity
on this topic. They have, in the past years, scorned the Oslo peace
process (taking a cue from the Israeli right) and pressed continuously
for the cut off of American government assistance to the Palestinians.
While American diplomats now scour the Arab world to secure air
bases, overflight rights and intelligence help, (and hearing, from
the Arabs, comments which back up Novak's assertions) the neoconservatives
feel compelled to try to suppress any airing of the notion that
Israel's strategic interests and America's are not perfectly matched.
days, the broader divergences took shape. The Bush administration's
primary tactical concern is how to effectively attack Osama bin
Laden's hideouts in Afghanistan as the first blow in a general war
against his multinational terror organization. For the neoconservatives,
however, bin Laden is but a sideshow, even if they accept the evidence
that his organization killed 6000 American civilians. They hope
to use September 11 as pretext for opening a wider war in the Middle
East. Their prime, but not only, target is Saddam Hussein's Iraq,
even if Iraq has nothing to do with the World Trade Center assault.
(In one sense, Iraq already has a lot to do with it, because growing
Arab disgust with the results of the American enforced embargo on
the country has elevated the profile and popularity of the anti-American
zealots in the region.)
New York Times, William Safire called for Bush to launch
an attack on Saddam's regime; last week, the Wall Street Journal,
in an editorial which must have made readers wonder if they were
hallucinating, argued that Washington should strike at "Syria,
Sudan, Libya, and Algeria" and perhaps "parts of Egypt."
Leading neoconservatives last week circulated a letter calling for
US military to attack bin Laden, Iraq, and Hezbollah (based in Lebanon,
Syria, and Iran), and to freeze Hezbollah's relations with the Palestinian
Authority. Iraq is but their first target.
neo-con wish list is a recipe for igniting a huge conflagration
between the United States and countries throughout the Arab world,
with consequences no one could reasonably pretend to calculate.
Support for such a war which could turn quite easily into a global
war is a minority position within the Bush administration (assistant
secretary of state Paul Wolfowitz is its main advocate) and the
country. But it presently dominates the main organs of conservative
journalistic opinion, the Wall Street Journal, National
Review, the Weekly Standard, and the Washington Times,
as well as Marty Peretz's neoliberal New Republic. In a volatile
situation, such organs of opinion could matter.
the neo-con quest for a wider target list seems to match perfectly
the aims of bin Laden and the most vociferously anti-American Arabs:
both are working to bring about as big a battle as can be imagined
between the United States and the Muslim world. The two sides do
not, of course, imagine the same outcome from such a war.
far, President Bush has resisted neo-con pressures to set out expanded
war aims. In his speech to the nation last week, Bush kept his attention
steadily focused against those who attacked America, not on Arabs
fighting the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. His promise
to punish regimes which "continue" to sponsor terror gives
virtually every state in the Arab world a chance to turn over a
new leaf and join a new, American led, anti-terror coalition.
neo-conservatives have acknowledged directly their disappointment
with the speech; Michael Ledeens's remark that he was "looking
forward" to Bush's delivery of nonnegotiable demands to Syria,
Iraq, and Iran in addition to those he gave the Taliban was the
nearest to a rebuke I've seen. But an American response to 9/11
that takes out bin Laden, shatters the Afghan regime that sheltered
him, and initiates a long and tightly focused assault on anti-American
terror groups while forging working alliances with Arab and Muslim
regimes that are themselves threatened by violent fundamentalists
is precisely what American neoconservatives don't want.
if Bush manages to chart such a course, Israel could thwart him
by igniting the wider war the neoconservatives pine for. Sharon
has again rejected the insistent American requests that he open
peace talks with the Palestinians, and right wing Israeli spokesman
Benjamin Netanyahu is circulating in Congress and on the airwaves,
denouncing the Palestinians and calling for American military action
against the widest possible array of targets. After 9/11, Sharon
began describing Arafat as "our bin Laden" in an effort
to drum up American sympathy for Israeli military action that would
quell the Palestinian national movement once and for all. Were Israel
to move against the Palestinian Authority while the United States
is mounting attacks in Afghanistan, bin Laden's dream of full scale
war between Islam and America would be just around the corner.
printable version of this article
As a committed
cold warrior during the 1980ís, Scott McConnell wrote extensively
for Commentary and other neoconservative publications. Throughout
much of the 1990ís he worked as a columnist, chief editorial writer,
and finally editorial page editor at the New York Post. Most
recently, he served as senior policy advisor to Pat Buchananís 2000
campaign , and writes regularly for NY Press/Taki's Top Drawer.
columns on Antiwar.com
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Many Arabs Hate America
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