The title is not part of my usual vocabulary, but sometimes an expression fits so perfectly that it becomes irresistible. And so it is for the authors of a neo-con "manifesto" on foreign policy. The Gomer Pyle of American Presidents recently was presented with a plan to reorder much of the world, a plan intended to build on his remarkable achievements in Iraq and Afghanistan, spreading resentment and future mayhem against Americans across the world.
Have you ever noticed how many of those odd people, the American neo-cons, use the rhetoric of nineteenth century European radicals? You’d be hard put to count all the references to "revolutionary," "radical," and "manifesto" in the American Right’s industrial-scale output of pamphlets and tracts. This practice may have started as a marketing gimmick, the catchy application of a term from an unexpected context, but this kind of language is far more revealing than its authors realize.
Hitler was partial to just this kind of language. That lover of fire engine-sized roadsters, cane and cape at the opera, and tea with elegant pastries always used such terms to describe his political movement when he strutted in public with whip and jackboots.
One of the authors of this "manifesto" is David Frum. After years of dutifully churning out his quota of words for one of America’s well-endowed, right-wing propaganda mills styled as academic institutes, Frum’s big moment came with his elevation to presidential speechwriter.
Knowing the quality of Bush speeches, you might think that being dismissed as a speechwriter would be impossible, but Frum managed the feat. He or his wife, the case is not clear, committed the sin of speechwriter lÃ¨se-majestÃ©, letting people know he wrote the original version of what became the "axis of evil" expression. You are never permitted to know such things. You are supposed to think such stirring words sprang directly from the head of President Pyle. When Frum or his wife bragged of his contribution to history on the Washington cocktail circuit, they found themselves packing their bags before the hangovers had lifted.
Crushed by now missing out on the greatest period of winks, nods, and influence-peddling since President Grant’s administration, Frum hasn’t risen from his knees since being ushered from the imperial presence. Teaming up with Richard Perle may or may not rekindle a nearly-dead career, but it is Frum’s first opportunity to walk upright in months.
Richard Perle needs little introduction. He might be summed up as Washington’s resident Creature from the Black Lagoon, displaying the accumulated toxic effects of a lifetime spent wallowing and bottom-feeding in the Potomac. He is exalted "fellow" at another of those propaganda-mill institutes, Defense Department wheeler-dealer and profiteer, tireless advocate for every American colonial war and bombing run, and energetic lobbyist for the Israeli military’s way of doing things.
The "manifesto" is contained in a new book, An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror. Now, there’s an intriguing title suggesting fresh thought. An end to evil? Do the neo-con crackpots ever stop talking as though the date were 700 BCE? Perhaps Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell or others of the trailer-park heavenly host are credited in the Acknowledgments with contributions or inspiration?
The title should frighten us. After all, anyone even near to influencing the use of atomic-powered aircraft carriers and thermonuclear weapons who speaks about ending evil in foreign policy is a very dangerous person. One can’t help but recall General Ripper’s concerns over a declining "purity of essence" in Dr. Strangelove as he launched his strategic-bomber wing on a pre-emptive nuclear attack. But as we live in a time when an American president himself speaks this mumbo jumbo, I suppose we have added nothing to our stock of fear. As for pre-emptive attack, hasn’t President Pyle made that an official doctrine of the United States?
The authors express concern over what they see as a faltering will to win in Washington. Will to win? The expression chillingly recalls radio announcements crackling over the airwaves from Berlin, circa 1944. Again, language can be so revealing.
I suppose an American military now up to its armpits in long-term commitments combined with a public tired of hearing about dead soldiers would have a little something to do with this perception of flagging will. Undoubtedly, too, a frenzy of spending while cutting taxes and running monumental trade deficits, a reckless policy combination that ultimately threatens the economic stability of the United States, might contribute. But, as we all know, when you are fighting evil, there can be no half-hearted measures. That’s how the President’s oily, well-fed spiritual advisors in silk suits admonish their flocks as they pass the collection plate for the third time.
The "manifesto" brims with stuff to please the kind of Americans who never read genuine news or books on international affairs yet maintain chest-thumping opinions on how to treat foreigners. Surprise, surprise, we find in these pages demands for "regime change" in Syria and Iran, although the explanation of just where the U.S. would get sufficient holy warriors for these crusades while still holding down Iraq and Afghanistan may be consigned to some very fine type at the back of the book. As it is, America’s reprehensible system of buying poor young military recruits by promising money for college is coming under strain with the sudden realization that you may actually have to face a stinking, pointless war for your tuition.
Our steak-fed Potomac revolutionaries give little thought to how the international community would regard such wholesale aggression. Their anointed leader already has done more damage to America’s traditional alliances and friendships than perhaps any president in history, but Frum and Perle think America needs to throw off entirely the yoke of international concerns. If Marx and Engels could call for humanity to cast off its chains, Frum and Perle can call for humanity to take a hike.
The boys appear to have sworn off using their expense accounts at cafes serving frites with their bifteck, because they are really pissed of at France. They want France treated as a rival, perhaps even an enemy, of the United States. Never mind that France secured America’s independence in the late eighteenth century and that she has been a dependable ally through a number of wars and conflicts since. Never mind that France remains one of the world’s true beacons for freedom and the human spirit, the kind of precious values supposedly motivating Frum and Perle.
Does it matter that France sustained a successful struggle against terrorism long before the subject became trendy with neo-cons and did so without overthrowing other societies? Does it matter that France might have some genuine insight and wisdom in these matters? France simply must be punished, especially, one suspects, because virtually every point the French made in public against attacking Iraq has proved embarrassingly accurate.
The scope of Frum and Perle’s historical vision is not limited to creating more havoc in the Middle East and spitting on old friends like France, they want to do great things in Asia, too, starting with a military blockade of North Korea. America should seriously plan a strike on that country’s nuclear facilities. These are the words of pyromaniacs ready to throw lighted matches into dry tinder around Los Angeles just for fun. Again, concerns about how the world would see such acts of war are brushed aside.
More importantly, concerns about what South Koreans might think are brushed aside, people whose thriving, populous capital of Seoul is completely vulnerable to attack from the North. Of course, in this Frum and Perle reflect the spirit of much of the President’s dealings with the North to date. He doesn’t waste time on anything beside the point, the point pretty much always coming down to "you’re with us or against us." Anyway, people in Washington are better equipped to understand Korea than Koreans, aren’t they? A lifetime of scribbling for imperial patrons on how the planet should be run qualifies you as an expert and a man of action, so Frum and Perle call for action.
The manifesto is about many things, but despite its boast, it is not about ending terror. As a brave Anglican Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright, said so perfectly recently, "For Bush and Blair to go into Iraq together was like a bunch of white vigilantes going into Brixton [a bad neighborhood in London] to stop drug dealing. This is not to deny there’s a problem to be sorted, just that they are not credible people to deal with it." The manifesto is about permanently deputizing the white vigilantes.
Its recommendations lead in only one direction and that is towards a system of extreme suppression of views and beliefs in the world that mainstream America either does not understand or holds to be unacceptable. It invites a fear-forged world in which there can never be enough security, paralleling closely what one sees in territories touching on Israel. Israel never has enough security. Occupation, reprisals, and wars haven’t supplied enough. Arrest and torture haven’t supplied enough. Spies and assassinations haven’t supplied enough. Atomic weapons haven’t supply enough. Walls will not supply enough.
The simple act of refusing to make a genuine peace is what makes Israel’s paranoid apparatus seem necessary. And so the United States with its invasive, destructive policies that created Bin Laden in Afghanistan, that inflamed Hussein’s ambitions, or that brought a quarter century of hatred from Iran. Frum and Perle don’t want a revolutionary change in policies, they want Israel’s paranoid apparatus extended to world-scale.
This is a mad vision of a world which perhaps resembles nothing so much as Orwell’s 1984 politely introduced through the back door in the name of stopping terror instead of being imposed by a police state, although in this vision America would become effectively a police state vis-a-vis the rest of the world.
The manifesto might be viewed as a call to fulfill what was once known as America’s Manifest Destiny when only Indians and Spaniards in Western North America were affected. Now that call is openly to assume the imperial purple of Rome on a planetary scale. You have the military power, America, use it. To hell with what the other ninety-five percent of humanity thinks or fears.
Considering the book’s timing, entering an election year, its major purpose may be to make Bush look moderate by comparison. Of course, he is not a moderate: every major proposal in this book has already been noised about during his administration. But then again neither is he a war hero, yet he has been able to stupidly play act at that with considerable success for a large audience of Americans. Who, a year or so ago, would have believed Bush pig-headed enough actually to invade Iraq, an action whose full, terrible costs will be coming in for years? Not a single reason given for his doing so was true, yet Americans still support him in the polls.
Elect Bush again and the sick puppies’ manifesto may just become a forecast.