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Toward a radical middle

a time for fear
Sunday, January 18, 2004  
Neocon Id

The roots of Muslim rage are to be found in Islam itself. There is no middle way for Americans...It is victory or holocaust.

Richard Perle (aka 'The Prince of Darkness') made his name as a senior Pentagon official during the Reagan administration; in the Cold 80s he was known for his opposition to all arms control agreements with the USSR. Past Chairman of the Defence Policy Board, he is a close friend and colleague of Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

David Frum is a former White House speech writer; 'The Axis of Evil' is one of his.

Perle and Frum have just written a book together (Perle policy, Frum style). It's called An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror, and it sounds like the first essential read of 04.

In this "manual for victory" all insurgent movements with any alleged Islamic ties are grouped under the general designation of "militant Islam" (hence the rather suspect inclusion of peripheral movements and guerilla groups in Venezuela and Aceh, as well as Brazil, Paraguay, Nigeria). The War on Terror can then be fought, in a way, by proxy - although, of course, there is no real comparison with Cold War-by-other-means geostrategy: the enemy here is continually sought out and engaged wherever possible. One admirable strand of Perle and Frum's argument is their call for Bush to end the hypocritical US retainment of Saudi Arabia; they demand Saudi accountability for the international promotion of Wahabbism and covert support of terrorist groups like al-Qaeda. Then again, hypocrisy is not something that An End to Evil lacks - particularly funny (almost wry) is Perle and Frum's attack on China for "bullying democratic neighbors" and opposing US military assistance to Taiwan: "Defensive weapons pose problems only for aggressors," they scold (!). However, the book locates targets with a brutal clarity otherwise lost in a post-Clinton political landscape of spin, blurred motives, and denial.

For example: in a moment of astonishing rhetoric, Perle and Frum ascribe the whole problem of World Evil to religion. I agree! But what a diagnosis: if Wahabbism is the disease, then all Muslim communities are invariably infected by it (because of some mysterious "loyalty" bug Perle and Frum cite, every Muslim is a potential suicide bomber). This kind of mongrel Manichean pomp is, of course, a disguise for something more complex, ruthless, and rational: strategic global dominance. Yeah, obvious! But the point is that such vision is never clearly articulated outside the Left, who often overestimate the realpolitik focus of the Bush administration (i.e. energy supplies, neoliberal expansion, national security, a specific step-by-step response to a diffuse threat). It takes the ruthless candor of a Perle/Frum Faustian pact to frame the scale and scope of future neo-Imperial ambition. The root of all US machinations over the next twenty years - barring vast global shifts or disasters - will, I wager, be contained in the premises and details of this book.

So, what then?

Perle and Frum outline three major strategic policies: 1. the next phase(s) of the War on Terror; 2. neutralising China as a power bloc in the Far East; 3. bolstering a pro-Western alliance in South Asia. Alongside these prescriptions they recognise related symptoms to be cured in different ways. One of the most striking is Europe, in which they single out France (in similar terms to Saudi Arabia!) as a potential rival, if not enemy. Their remedy is to isolate France from the rest of Europe, in part by offering preferential treatment to UK arms manufacturers. Another area they focus on - with a revealing lack of emphasis - is Israel. They say that the Bush administration should stop criticising Israel for deploying military force against Hamas and Hezbollah (including bombing raids on Syrian territory) and state that "the distinction between Islamic terrorism against Israel, on the one hand, and Islamic terrorism against the United States and Europe, on the other, cannot be sustained." (A distinction not made by al-Qaeda, incidentally.)

As to the 3 major policies, this is what they say:

1. The Next Phase(s) of the War on Terror.

Firstly, it involves the Islamist regimes. Perle and Frum call for a succession of the House of Saud, unless they cooperate unconditionally with the US War on Terror (the Saudis have really fucked things up: attacked by al-Qaeda whom they fostered, and - potentially - the US, their greatest client and ally). Next, they want to see the flow of oil and arms from Iraq to Syria cut off, and the removal of Bashar al-Asad. Finally, they want the Bush administration to help dissidents otherthrow the theocratic regime of Ayatollah Khamenei in Iran.

Secondly, North Korea. Here the choice is stark; either China removes Kim Jong-Il, or the Americans do. Perle and Frum contend that North Korea's nuclear weapons programme is a Chinese responsibility for which they will be held to account. On the other hand, they lay out a strategy for action against North Korea (once Kim Jong-Il has undermined all inspection demands, like Saddam) on the premise that "the surest way to avoid war is to prepare to fight it". This involves three procedures: 1. an air and naval blockade; 2. the repositioning of American troops along the frontline; 3. the development of detailed plans for a pre-emptive strike against North Korea's nuclear facilities. The likely outcome of inevitable war on the Korean peninsula would be the destruction of the North Korean regime and the unification of Korea under the democratic rule of Seoul. They believe that, since this would be a bad result for China, China will, in the event, shoulder the burden and replace Kim Jong-Il with a moderate Communist ruler acceptable to both China and the West. This is Perle and Frum's ideal outcome, they say.

2. Neutralising China

Although Perle and Frum stress that China and America can be friendly, this relies on a number of conditions (human rights, regional power, Taiwan, US interests) that they outline with a certain scepticism, adding:

Whatever hope we may have that China will move toward greater openness through a process of economic-leading-to-political reform, we will have to deal with a deep-seated Chinese determination that their great and ancient civilization should recover its place as a great power.

(What a revealing combination of respect and contempt!) To counter this, Perle and Frum propose a defensive partnership with Japan, Australia, and any other Asian democracies willing to join them, thereby creating a regional power bloc to balance dominant Chinese influence in the region. On China, Perle and Frum unwittingly expose the ancient insolubility of power politics: one major power will always seek total domination as its ultimate goal at the expense of any competing power; if there are competing powers then this determination can only lead to war.

This is perhaps the most alarming aspect of An End to Evil; it, in effect, details the roots of future conflict.

3. Pro-Western alliance in South Asia.

This is linked to the Saudi export of Wahhabism; most prominently, to Pakistan. In South Asia, Musharraf is their ideal.

Men of Musharraf's generation were already mature by the time Saudi money began to infiltrate Pakistan. They seem to have been able to accept it without being unduly influenced by it. The next generation may have other ideas - and bombs that are today Islamic in name only may some day end up as weapons of jihad.

The Perle-Frum strategy here rests on the model of Musharraf's coup and subsequent move to civilian leadership. It calls for stronger military ties with India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, fostering pro-West army officers, imparting counterterrorism tactics and nuclear command and control systems (to India and Pakistan; there remains a deep-rooted scepticism about the reliability of Pakistan in this respect). In this case, an old Cold War perspective is revealed: democracy is not valued in itself; the main concern is to keep the enemy out of power. This is a recipe for the promotion of corrupt, dictatorial (but ostensibly pro-West) regimes. Again, I make the point: the real tragedy is that this should be the only viable alternative to theocratic fascism (even worse: Pakistan currently combines both in one country). To counter the blatancy of this, Perle and Frum stress the US role in increasing aid to these countries (primarily to fund the reform of education and reverse what they call the graduation of "deformed personalities" from the current Islamic schooling system) and the offer of free trade agreements with the West.


The repressed is only cut off sharply from the ego by the resistances of repression; it can communicate with the ego through the id.

I call this Neocon Id because An End to Evil reveals the unconscious desire of Neocon Hawks to themselves: policy and thinking freed from the repressive apparatus of international opinion, ethics, and public accountability. Unmediated and rampant in its heartless, dead-eyed, fucked glory: everything Wolfowitz, Cheney and Rumsfeld have ever wanted to say and do in one lethal volume. You no longer need to humour some bore who decides to "reveal" American motives and aggression to you: just say, yeah, I know, everybody knows, they said it in this book. No secrets: the absolute polar extreme of Clinton spin and obfuscation. An End to Evil is a textbook for Imperial takeover shorn of responsibility and morality (or: superego!). The hard nerve of it is seductive: it will surely have an evil influence on realpolitik movers and shakers (number crunchers, military maniacs) to emerge in the near future. In 1899, Oscar Wilde described Octave Mirbeau's Torture Garden as "disgusting...a sort of grey adder" - a description that came to mind when I first heard about Perle and Frum's "manual". That same insidious, repulsive, reptilian influence - now creeping over the body politic.

Perle and Frum: I call them the Decepticons.

10:52 AM

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