David Frum wrote recently about a challenging and controversial subject--the Neoconservatives role during the run-up and execution of the Iraq War. I'm glad he's making an effort, but I'm afraid he's falling into a certain tendency to "simplify and then exaggerate" rather than face real issues:
First of all, just saying they are Jewish is not very descriptive. Wolfowitz, Libby, Feith, and Perle were a very specific group of Jewish policymakers--the Neoconservatives. Jacob Heilburn has very helpfully described the Neoconservatives as having certain common intellectual roots, ideological commitments, concerns, backgrounds, and history which clearly identify them apart from their ethnic identity.
During the Bush years, we heard a lot about the sinister influence of powerful Jews. Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby, Doug Feith, Richard Perle: These were the men who supposedly led America to war.
There was always one flaw in the theory: none of these men held a top job. Wolfowitz was deputy secretary of defense, not secretary of defense. Libby was chief of staff to the vice president, not to the president. Feith ranked third at the Department of Defense; Perle headed an advisory board.
Secondly, Wolfowitz, Feith, and Perle, have been widely referred to as architects of the Iraq War. This is how Paul Bremmer characterized them. Recently, Wolfowitz and Perle have been trying to run away from this characterization, but not very convincingly. Doug Feith, on the other hand, has not tried to run away from that role--he owned too many of the key decisions to do that. Instead he's been busy trying to convince people that none of the failures were his (something that a large number of his former colleagues differ with him on).
For years, Libby and Hannah in particular had believed the Agency harbored a politically motivated animus against the INC and irresponsibly discounted intelligence reports from defectors the INC had brought forward. "This had been a fight for such a long period of time, where people were so dug in," reflects a friend of one of Cheney's senior staffers. The OVP had been studying issues like Iraq for so many years that it often simply did not accept that contrary information provided by intelligence analysts-- especially CIA analysts--could be correct. As one former colleague of many OVP officials puts it, "They so believed that the CIA were wrong, they were like, 'We want to show these f***ers that they are wrong.'"Intelligence analysts saw little difference between Cheney and his staffers. The vice president's aides may have made more trips to Langley and signed more memoranda asking for further information, but, as the CIA saw it, the OVP was a coordinated machine working for its engineer. "When I heard complaints from people, it was, 'Man, you wouldn't believe this shit that Libby and [Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J.] Feith and Wolfowitz do to us.' They were all lumped together," says an ex-analyst close to his former colleagues. "I would hear them say, 'Goddamn, that f***ing John Hannah, you wouldn't believe.' And the next day it would be, 'That f***ing Bill Luti.' For all these guys, they're interchangeable." Adds another, "They had power. Authority. They had the vice president behind them. ... What Scooter did, Cheney made possible. Feith, Wolfowitz--Cheney made it all possible. He's the fulcrum. He's the one."From the OVP's perspective, the CIA--with its caveat-riddled position on Iraqi WMD and its refusal to connect Saddam and Al Qaeda--was an outright obstacle to the invasion of Iraq.
...What, if any, special moral responsibilities do Jewish power-holders have as Jews?The Catholic hierarchy has long demanded that Catholic officeholders oppose abortion. Indeed, individual bishops have sometimes threatened to refuse communion to those officeholders who do not comply.American Jews, by contrast, have never expected any particular degree of observance from Jews in office......many reject any special duty to fellow Jews as improper, indeed a betrayal of a duty to the larger society. Any sense of special duty shows “dual loyalty”—a charge that has been flung about often in these past eight years...Does any other group in American society feel such strong inhibitions about speaking for itself? Surely not—and for good reason. There are always those, and not small numbers of them, for whom Jews are inherently problematic—and Jews in positions of trust inherently illegitimate. In a city full of lobbies for everything from Albania to zirconium, it is the Jews who are damned as “the” lobby.
Bush's public case for going to war against Iraq is full of logical inconsistencies, exaggerations, and outright lies. It reeks of ex-post-facto: First came the desire, and then came the reasons. But this raises a troubling question, especially for opponents of Bush's policy: If his ostensible reasons are unpersuasive even to him, what are his real reasons? There must be some: Nobody starts a war as a lark. It would be easier to dismiss the whole exercise if there were an obvious ulterior motive. Without one, you are left wondering, "Am I missing something?"...The lack of public discussion about the role of Israel in the thinking of "President Bush" is easier to understand, but weird nevertheless. It is the proverbial elephant in the room: Everybody sees it, no one mentions it. The reason is obvious and admirable: Neither supporters nor opponents of a war against Iraq wish to evoke the classic anti-Semitic image of the king's Jewish advisers whispering poison into his ear and betraying the country to foreign interests. But the consequence of this massive "Shhhhhhhhh!" is to make a perfectly valid American concern for a democratic ally in a region of nutty theocracies, rotting monarchies, and worse seem furtive and suspicious.Having brought this up, I hasten to add a few self-protective points. The president's advisors, Jewish and non-Jewish, are patriotic Americans who sincerely believe that the interests of America and Israel coincide. What's more, they are right about that, though they may be wrong about where that shared interest lies...
Krauthammer has thought long and hard about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and his views on how the Israelis need to deal with the Palestinians colors his views on how the United States should deal with the Arabs more broadly. Krauthammer has not supported strongly engaging the Arab world through political strategies. In the past, he has put forward a particular view of Arab psychology, namely, that they respect power above all as a source of legitimacy. As he once said in a radio interview, if you want to win their hearts and minds, you have grab a lower part of their anatomy and squeeze hard.Towards the end of his AEI speech, Krauthammer speaks of the United States as being in the midst of a bitter and remorseless war with an implacable enemy that is out to destroy Western civilization. This kind of language is appropriate as a description of Israel's strategic situation since the outbreak of the second intifada. The question is whether this accurately describes the position of the United States as well. Are we like Israel, locked in a remorseless struggle with a large part of the Arab and Muslim world, with few avenues open to us for dealing with them other than an iron fist? And in general, does a strategic doctrine developed by a small, vulnerable country surrounded by implacable enemies make sense when applied to the situation of the world's sole superpower, a country that spends as much on defense as the next 16 most powerful countries put together?I believe that there are real problems in transposing one situation to the other. While Israel's most immediate Arab interlocutors are indeed implacable enemies, the United States faces a much more complex situation. In Al-Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups, we do in fact confront an enemy that hates us for what we are rather than for what we do. For the reasons given above, I do not believe they are an existential threat to us, but they certainly would like to be, and it is hard to see how we can deal with them other than by killing, capturing or otherwise militarily neutralizing them.But the radicals swim in a much larger sea of Muslims--1.2 billion of them, more or less--who are not yet implacable enemies of the United States. If one has any doubts about this, one has only to look at the first of the United Nations Development Program's two Arab Human Development reports, which contained a poll asking whether respondents would like to emigrate to the United States if they had the opportunity. In virtually every Arab country, a majority of respondents said yes.
By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.
A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good.
No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time...