other version of Phase II is a laundry list of military attacks
on various Muslim regimes that a hawkish faction has been yearning
to make war on for years before September 11. The war party's central
figure in the administration is Paul Wolfowitz, and a group of civilian
Pentagon officials. Outside of government, its power base is in
the conservative press. Readers of the Wall Street Journal
editorial page, the Weekly Standard, The New Republic
and National Review should know the targets by heart. First
is Iraq these magazines have been lobbying for war against
Saddam Hussein for years. Second is Iran; America's war party seems
to believe that the recent pro-Western demonstrations and movement
towards democracy there increase rather than diminish the desirability
of an American attack. A third target is Lebanon though there
has been less public discussion of this. One article described Undersecretary
of Defense Douglas Feith pounding on the table at a White House
meeting, to demand that the US attack Lebanon. Another target is
the war party wants the United States to make war on the entire
Muslim world though usually against one state at time. Its members
pass over the fact that such a campaign would have no cooperation
from France, Britain, Germany, or any other American ally; would
provoke massive anti-American demonstrations in the streets of Europe,
and would almost certainly a reduce European police and intelligence
cooperation in shutting down the Al Qaeda network. Indeed what the
war party wants is war not against the perpetrators of September
11, but against loosely defined "threats to American security";
the odd thing is that it would probably increase those threats rather
than diminish them.
of the war party dominate the opinion sectors of the print media;
politicians close to it encounter few members of the political TV
talk circuit who are willing to challenge them head-on. An exception
is Hardball's Chris Matthews, who has stepped up as serious prober
of the War Party's arguments.
somewhat amazing interview with John McCain last week, as McCain
was emerging as the point man for a letter from several prominent
members of Congress urging Bush to "eliminate the threat from
challenged the esteemed Senator with the obvious:
was with an ambassador from an Arab country and he said you can
forget the Arab world if we attack Iraq. I have yet to hear of one
European country, let alone an Arab country, who would join us in
the war. Can you think of a European country that would join us
in the field against Iraq."
didn't answer, explaining instead that the Arab street "goes
with winners." But he was clearly unprepared for an interview
with someone who was actually ready to contend with him.
two went back and forth over the difficulties of trying to occupy
Iraq with American troops. McCain retreated "I don't pretend
to prescribe the exact strategy" and claimed it wouldn't
take that many troops to occupy Iraq. Then he fell back to what
he believed to be his Maginot Line, the argument that trumps all
My nightmare I have several nightmares about Saddam Hussein,
but one of them is the that SCUD missile which he has. . . that's
in the view of most, aimed at Israel. Aimed at Israel.
this point, most TV commentators would back away, the mere mention
of a missile aimed at Israel sufficing end further argument. But
surprisingly, Matthews wanted to discuss the implications.
Why doesn't Israel take them out? I'm using the popular parlance.
Why doesn't Israel do the work that they have to do? Isn't that
their job if it's a strategic threat to them? They're the most powerful
nation in the Mideast.
a moment, McCain was speechless. "I don't think that Israel
fee-one [the transcript reads]. They've got their hands full just
as you said right now. But second, I don't this we would ever countenance.
We criticized them when they took out his nuclear facility back-back many years ago."
Well, why don't we give them the go-ahead. Get rid of Saddam.
You know, if you hate him, do it.
Because I'm not sure we should ask the Israelis to do to take
care of a threat to the United States of America.
But you just said it was a threat to Israel.
Well to world peace, I think.
No you said it was a threat to Israel. Why should the United
States deal with a threat to Israel? Why don't we let Israel we've been giving them $3 billion a year to defend themselves. Why
don't we say, "Defend yourselves. You've got a clear fight.
Go take Saddam out"?
Because I think it's our job. I think we're the world's leader
and I. . .
Our job is to defend Israel?
No, it's our job to remove threats to the security of the United
is a remarkable exchange, unusual not because of its depth it
lasted hardly a minute but because Matthews was genuinely probing,
not going through the motions. Implicit in his questioning was the
understanding axiomatic to students of international relations
and just as sedulously avoided by most politicians and political
commentators that there is no automatic congruence between America's
interests and those of Israel. To acknowledge this is not to criticize
Israel, but merely recognize its sovereignty. It is a powerful country,
the major military power in the Middle East. If it has a problem
with Saddam, perhaps it should solve it.
if Saddam was not involved in the 9-11 attacks (and America's war
party has been unable to come up with evidence that he was) there
is little reason to believe that he poses a threat to the security
of the United States. His regime is a dictatorship that may be acquiring
dangerous weapons, which puts it in the category of North Korea,
China, Pakistan or the Soviet Union during the bad years. To initiate
a war against it would unleash consequences no one could possibly
foresee. But no one should doubt the difficulty: for such a move
would involve the United States breaking international law, trying
to occupy a major Arab state, and doing so without any real allies.
The betting here is that when the dust settled, the United States
would be more vulnerable to terrorism, not less. Hats off to Chris
Matthews for his readiness to at least probe the issues, instead
of hiding behind the forest of jingoistic cliches.
printable version of this article
As a committed
cold warrior during the 1980's, Scott McConnell wrote extensively
for Commentary and other neoconservative publications. Throughout
much of the 1990's 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 Buchanan's 2000
campaign , and writes regularly for NY Press/Taki's Top Drawer.
columns on Antiwar.com
in the Land
Sneering at Powell, Flacking for Sharon
of the War Party
Hearts and Minds
Strategic Withdrawal Option
Open Letter to Arab Readers
Push for A Wider War
Bushes and the Palestinians: Act 2
Struggle Over War Aims
They Hate Us
Many Arabs Hate America
is Still Right
Real Plan for the Mideast
Just Mideast Peace
Liberalism on the March