- If you were wondering on the first day of 2004 how the
United States could take the fermenting mess in Iraq and parlay it into
a global disaster, relax. The answers to that and other questions about
how to destroy our country and its reputation are contained in the latest
writings of Richard Perle and co-author David Frum in their year-end book,
The End of Evil: How to Win the War on Terror. If you were also wondering
why United States leadership made so many mistakes in assessing the Iraqi
situation, in justifying a pre-emptive war on Iraq and failing to plan
for the occupation, read this book to find the ideological warp that President
George W. Bush would go on experiencing if he continues to follow the advice
of the neo-conservatives who led him down this path.
- Both writers are well-known, experienced policy professionals
who can get to where they arrive in this book only by ignoring reams of
data and suppressing much of what they must know about the human condition.
Example: The neo-conservatives advised George W. Bush that Iraq was a slam-dunk.
Enough said? Example: Perle and Frum argue in their book that the US should
ignore the Islamic leaders in Iran and work with dissidents to overthrow
the present regime. Iran is a country of 70 million people, however, and
many millions of them are on the side of the Muslim clerics. That, therefore,
has the makings of an insurgency that could bog down a million troops the
US does not have.
- A similarly blithe appraisal of regime change in Syria
is put forward, the assumption apparently being that the Bashar Assad regime
in that country which, by the way, is the most current state of the political
art that country has managed to achieve in more than half a century since
World War II, can easily be put down and replaced by something more to
our liking. Note: the emphasis is on something more to our liking, not
necessarily something the Syrian people would arrive at given their druthers.
Both the Syrian and the Iranian scenarios also appear to involve unilateral
US attacks, maybe special operations, and little or no consultation with
anyone else. Meanwhile, if the President follows the manifesto, he can
order a Cuban missile crisis style blockade of Korea. Those actions, of
course, are how to take a gaping hole in American credibility and rip it
- But one can ask, why publish this book now when what
the book does is reiterate the messages of the neo-conservative hard core
that the leadership of the Project for a New American Century has been
promoting for years? Could it be because cooler heads, led by Secretary
of State Colin Powell, are beginning successfully to argue against the
neo-con agenda? Could it be because Bush campaign managers now see that
by taking the advice of the neo-cons the President comes across as an uninformed
ideologue with no regard for truth, no understanding of his country,s laws,
history, alliances, or foreign policy and no concern about its reputation?
And could it therefore be that the President now sees the neo-con image
as a potential killer for the 2004 election as well as for his place in
history? Yes, answers to such questions could arouse fear that the President
indeed has changed his mind and could well drive the neo-cons to publish
their manifesto, to slam it down on the President, desk, in case his dedication
to hard line unilateralism and preemptive war appears to wander.
- While no direct answers to such questions are available,
or are likely to be, the President and his campaign advisers are said to
be repackaging him to make him more attractive for the 2004 elections.
If such a conversion is indeed occurring, this surely must qualify as a
political deathbed conversion, because both the President,s reputation
(ignore the captive media version) and the country,s good name (listen
to the critics) have been thoroughly dragged through the mud by the Bush
- Or is it premature to suggest that such a conversion
has occurred? Some Washington pundits are suggesting that recent events
such as US reactions to Qadhafi,s decision to renounce Libyan plans for
weapons of mass destruction (which he did not have either), Korea,s recent
decision to admit US inspectors to nuclear sites ( a private initiative
by the way), and the US response to the devastating earthquake ( a natural
disaster) in Iran are all signs the transition is underway. This kind
of post hoc argument is also a Washington commonplace but there is no necessary
substance in it. The most telling argument so far made is the President
and his immediate campaign advisers see the neo-con label as damaging,
even potentially fatal to re-election prospects. That would not be the
noblest of rationales, and the alleged change of heart could be a fraud,
but it is an eminently practical reason for at least parting public company
with the neo-cons.
- If the change of heart is real, the President can do
himself and our country a great service by carrying out the programs that
the change requires. Herein lie the acid tests of presidential conversion,
true abandonment of the neo-con agenda, and reaffirmation of the policies
and practices that have made our country great and greatly admired.
- Seek an immediate leading role for the United Nations
in restoring civil order in Iraq. The most convincing departure from
unilateralism will be willing acceptance of a need for multi-national leadership
and program direction in Iraq. In the wake of former Secretary of State
Baker,s debt management efforts, there are signs that most governments
understand the realities of the situation in Iraq and see no gain for anyone
in allowing the situation further to fester. Events to date show clearly
that unilateral US management of Iraq,s achievement of self-government
will progress only at great cost in blood and treasure toward an uncertain
end. The cards here are stacked against us, and this change will cost us,
or the Iraqis, less than any other option for Iraq,s future.
- Follow a similar path in Afghanistan. Get the United
States out of any unilateral role in state building as soon as possible.
Whether we like it or not, countries with complex tribal and religious
histories are going to seek solutions to their problems of governance within
their own frames of reference. Western rules may or may not qualify. We
can enforce our choices on those people at our peril.
- Bring the conduct of the War on Terrorism under the aegis
of normal US law and practice. The FBI has made the point repeatedly that
Title 18 of the United States Code contains laws adequate for dealing with
any conceivable terrorist crime. Many Americans now feel more threatened
by the response to terrorism than by possible acts of terrorism. The intrusive,
invasive practices introduced by the Patriot Act and by the classification
of suspected terrorists as non-people is an enormous price to pay for little
to no protection.
- Rejoin the worldwide effort to protect the environment.
Pick up the task of applying the best science we can harness to assess
the practical steps necessary to contain and reduce damage to the environment.
Recognize that there are immediate costs and consequences for individuals
and organizations in taking corrective action, but be prepared to pay those
costs and to justify them as matters of public policy and common interest.
Start by signing the Kyoto Protocols and vigorously pursue their ratification
by the Senate.
- Sponsor repeal of the Patriot Act and cancel pending
additions to it. All the tools we need, except specific information on
terrorist group intentions, are already in the American law enforcement
and intelligence kit. Making the United States behave and look more and
more like a police state only serves our enemies by making their case that
America is a bully.
- Reverse the trend toward media and communications monopoly.
Years of effort to assure that every American voice has both a right and
a medium to be heard have been prejudiced by recent trends toward bigness,
including exclusiveness in regional markets. Up to now we have lost nothing
by the diversity of thought and opinion that is protected by our Constitution,
but we are on the verge of stifling this diversity by turning our media
into elitist propaganda organs.
- Recognize that the watchwords of our system are government
of the people, by the people and for the people. This idea is not a mere
piece of rhetoric, but it is in danger of being smothered in a system of
growing distance between rich and poor. It is now threatened, even frontally
challenged, by a process of diminishing the progressive nature of our tax
system, favoring the richest few at the expense of the weakest many. With
ten percent of the American people at or below the poverty line, the United
States is behaving financially like a third world country. Adequate income
and opportunity for everyone are the American dream, but the present dream
is realistic only for some.
- Become the President of all the people. Excessive affiliation
with a hard line cabal of superpower extremists and big business cronies
has cost the United States dearly not only in its international reputation
but in the very representiveness of our system. Moreover, a President
who spends at least a quarter of his time in raising funds for electioneering,
his own and his party associates, is not doing the nation,s business.
Ways must be found for the President to be far more a leader than a politician
or a party partisan.
- Rid the Cabinet, especially the Pentagon, the State Department
and the White House staff, of the Neo-Con Cabal. The group around and
affiliated with Cheney and Rumsfeld have shown conclusively that they cannot
be relied upon to tell the President the truth about groups and events,
nor to advise him soundly on the consequences of severe changes in American
policy. Falsehood, misinformation and deceit are not the tools of a superpower,
and first resort to military options is not the governing style of a truly
democratic society. The neo-con "manifesto contains only Perles of
great arrogance and stupidity, not sound guidelines for the President of
the United States. If the President does not rid himself of this group,
he will constantly be blind sided by advocates of the neo-con agenda.
- Distance the United States from Israel and Cut Assistance
To It. Even with all of the chaos and confusion generated by US led wars
in Iraq and Afghanistan, the cause of the Palestinian people and the abuses
they have suffered for the past fifty years are still the prime generators
of terrorism in the Middle East and the prime motivators for exports of
terrorism to the west. A success story in Iraq will not take Palestine
off the table, and continued adherence to a Middle East peace plan that
tolerates the Sharon model of incremental land theft in the West Bank,
Gaza and the Golan Heights, while funding Israeli excesses will continue
to go nowhere because it does not recognize the main elements of the problem:
the incredible losses of their homes, property and spirit by the Palestinian
- Get a new Vice President. No Vice President in memory
has exercised as much influence, at times apparent control, over Presidential
decisions, and no Vice President has remained so openly affiliated with
a dangerous right wing partisan group as Cheney has with the neo-cons.
Therefore, the Vice President must take much of the blame for the horrifying
range of screw-ups on planning for Iraq and on formulating the American
foreign policy agenda. His role has hardly been that of constitutional
president in waiting, and many would pray for a return to that model.
- Get a new Attorney General. Unless the aim is to turn
the United States into a police state, the role of the Attorney General
is to assure that the constitution and the laws of the land are applied
and enforced in a manner consistent with the interests of all Americans
and properly conscious of the interests of all people who come here or
deal with this country. Decisions made or sanctioned by this Attorney General
have resulted in denial of the civil liberties of hundreds of people and
have turned federal law enforcement functions into intrusive spy missions
that far exceed the requirements of protecting the United States from terrorists.
In fact in no instance has the marginal utility of the post 9-11 changes
in US law and practice to the war on terrorism been demonstrated.
- Forcefully put the United States in favor of arms control
and stop new nuclear and electronic weapons programs. Stop trying to have
it both ways: to prevent the acquisition of powerful weapons by all others
while continuing to develop them ourselves. Immediately stop the use of
UN banned weapons that depend on depleted uranium for their effectiveness
but spread lingering trauma and illness as well as soil contamination.
Recognize that the bargaining power of nuclear weapons is their driving
appeal to countries that do not have them and therefore the fatal attraction
will be there so long as any nation has these weapons. The current standoff
between nuclear and non-nuclear powers is therefore not a sustainable condition.
- Move the war on terrorism from its narrow focus on attacks
against terrorists to a concerted effort to mitigate the causes of terrorism.
Helping or "rewarding the people one likes, as proposed in the President,s
Millennium Challenge Account, when most of the world,s nations fall outside
that category, will no doubt do the preferred ones some good, but it will
increase the anger and frustration of the rest. Thus, such a program is
more a self-satisfying gesture like feeding the poor than a concerted attempt
to advance the human condition. Moreover, it is likely to leave untreated
the principal terrorism generators and conditions that form the pools of
potential new terrorists, so that its contribution to global safety will
probably be negative. There is a perverse logic in any case in the notion
that we will improve our safety by dealing only with the least threatening
elements of the human condition.
- Introduce more detachment into national governance.
Partisan politics are a common Washington failing, although the present
administration has gone well beyond the norm with its strong attachments
for business, especially energy and military industries, large media and
communications. However, our relations with the rest of the world must
be based more on the needs of situations than on catering narrowly to a
few support groups at home. Moreover, a growing number of our problems
and requirements at home are ill served by attempted partisan solutions.
Somehow we must achieve a proper distinction between the needs of electioneering
to select leadership and the processes of running the world,s largest business,
which is the United States Government. A president who spends at least
a quarter of his time, as this one, on electioneering for himself and his
party candidates is doing what comes naturally to party politics, but he
is not doing his job. The incredible accumulation of mistakes on Iraq,
both information and management, are partly due to the fact that we have
not had either a fully informed or a full-time President. It is about time
he really went to work 24/7 exclusively for us, all of us.
- The writer is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer
of the US Department of State. He will welcome comment at firstname.lastname@example.org