March 12, 2003

Buchanan: Damn Sharon's Amen Corner

Buchanan: Damn Sharon's Amen Corner

Buchanan has a typically pugnacious essay in the American Conservative (unfortunately the piece is not yet available in its entirety). Not too much new ground covered, however. Yes, we know that Perle/Wolfowitz/Feith have all been closely associated with pro-Israeli (O.K. pro-Likudnik) policies over the years. Yes, part of their motivations, to varying degrees, might well be influenced by calculations that the passing of Saddam's regime would make Israel safer.

But do such advisors and officials really analyze U.S. foreign policy solely through the lens of Israel's best interest as Buchanan suggests? I don't buy that. There are several reasons why I don't. One reason is that, in the muscular neo-Reaganite wing of the Republican party they inhabit, there are a significant number of non-Jews like Jeanne Kirkpatrick, who really view Israel as singular in the Middle East because of its democratic trappings rather than feelings of ethnic kinship. Further, I'm simply not willing to accept the canard that, in duplicitous fashion, these individuals would purposefully pursue policies they fully believe are better for the national interest of Israel than the U.S. They often, I suspect, instead reason that the policies they advocate happen to be better for both countries. This is a crucial distinction, assuming as I do that, at the end of the day, they are keeping Washington's objectives uppermost in their minds.

That said, I do believe that their pro-Likudnik stance occasionally colors their judgment where more subtle analysis is required. For instance, Perle inviting Laurent Murawiec to brief the Defense Advisory Board in inflammatory fashion on Saudi Arabia was not a particularly great move. Or a Perle op-ed, part of which reads as follows, is not particularly nuanced: "Those who think Iraq should not be next may want to think about Syria or Iran or Sudan or Yemen or Somalia or North Korea or Lebanon or the Palestinian Authority. These are all institutions, governments for the most part, that permit acts of terror to take place, that sponsor terrorists, that give them refuge, give them sanctuary and, very often, much more help than that."

Gosh, with the exception of North Korea, it appears a plan to take over the entire Middle East (minus the Maghreb, several Gulf States and Jordan). And let's not forget that terrorists are spawned in countries like Algeria where the U.S. might get along with the government but where there are active Islamacist movements that provide many recruits to al-Qaeda. It's a complex picture thereby necesitating a significantly more variegated approach to each of these actors than the one Perle appears to advocate here. For instance, the amount of assistance Syria provides via intelligence cooperation on al-Qaeda is significant. And regardless, to fight all these countries, even if we wanted to and had the ability, would be to invite disaster given the scale of hatred it would engender throughout the Arab and Islamic world. Quite simply, it would be reckless policy.

Regardless, and whatever you might think of neocons like Perle and Feith, they are merely one clique among many that vye for the President's attention:

1) Nationalists with unilateralist instincts (Cheney and Rummy): Cheney more accustomed to dealing with the "Gulfies" and oil issues, so more cognizant of the subtleties of Saudi Arabia, for instance, Rummy more easily impressed by the anti-Saudi arguments of his deputy or Perle.
2) Neo-cons (Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Abrams, Libby) : Wolfowitz is the one who believes most in the feasibility of a massive Middle Eastern neo-Wilsonian democratization project, Feith and Perle more hard-right neo-Reaganite security hawks.
3) Foggy Bottom Realists (Powell, Armitage, William Burns): Increasingly hawkish on Iraq because of France's fecklessness and lack of seriousness re: 1441, but more cognizant of the complexities of the Middle East and little publicized cooperation on the war on terror from countries like Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Saudi.
4) Condi (The policy processor): She distills the murky cocktail that emerges from the above competing influences and helps, without usually adding (too much of) her own opinion, to present information to Dubya in a way he can easily digest.

Given all these complex dynamics and numerous cliques--to argue like Buchanan does-that we are heading to war solely because of a Jewish neo-con crowd is just flat wrong. More on why shortly with an emphasis on how Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are likely to be resuscitated post-Iraq conflict in a way which will show the relatively limited influence of faction #2 above.

Posted by Gregory Djerejian at March 12, 2003 02:59 PM
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