Perle's Manifesto And The
State Of The Union

By Terrell E. Arnold

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 wide open.
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 administration experience.
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 people.
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




This Site Served by TheHostPros