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January 17, 2004

REALITY vs. FANTASY....I just finished reading Charlie Wilson's War, a terrific book about the covert CIA war against the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s that I'll have more to say about later. For now, though, I just want to share an excerpt from the book that's both timely and enlightening.

First some background. Richard Perle is one of the most hawkish neocons around, part of the group that seemed to think that we could waltz into Iraq, be greeted as liberators, and then turn the whole thing over to their favorite exiles within a few months.

It's a crazy idea on its face, and it makes you wonder what kind of people could believe something so transparently out of touch with reality. Well, here's a hint: they believe stuff like this because they are out of touch with reality.

As you read this anecdote, keep in mind that it's being told by a guy who is a very hardline, hardass anti-communist. His idea of fun is to figure out new and better ways to kill Russians, and at the time this is happening he's in charge of an incredibly creative, brutal, and effective buildup of arms to kill those Russians in ever greater numbers. But even he thinks Perle and his pals are loons.

Here's the story:

Their idea was to encourage Soviet officers and soldiers to defect to the mujahideen. As [CIA chief Gust] Avrakotos derisively describes it, "The muj were supposed to set up loudspeakers in the mountains announcing such things as 'Lay down your arms, there is a passage to the West and to freedom.'" Once news of the program made its way through the Red Army, it was argued, there would be a flood of defectors.

....Avrakotos thought [Oliver] North and Perle were "cuckoos of the Far Right"...."What Russian in his right mind would defect to those fuckers all armed to the teeth?" Avrakotos said in frustration. "To begin with, anyone defecting to the Dushman would have to be a crook, a thief, or someone who wanted to get cornholed every day, because nine out of ten prisoners were dead within twenty-four hours and they were always turned into concubines by the mujahideen. I felt so sorry for them I wanted to have them all shot."

The meeting went very badly indeed. Gust accused North and Perle of being idiots....Avrakotos thought that would be the end of the...idea, but he greatly underestimated the political power and determination of this group, who went directly to Bill Casey.

....In spite of the angry complaints, Clair George and everyone else on the seventh floor agreed with Avrakotos' position. He says that Director Casey even privately told him, "I think your point is quite valid. What asshole would want to defect to these animals?"

But the issue wouldn't go away. Perle, [Walt] Raymond, and the others continued to insist that the Agency find and send back to the United States the many Russian defectors they seemed to believe...the mujahideen were harboring. They had visions of a great publicity campaign once these men reached America.

....Avrakotos describes what happened next with the kind of pleasure he feels only upon achieving revenge. It had been almost impossible to locate two prisoners, much less two defectors. The CIA found itself in the preposterous position of having to pony up $50,000 to bribe the Afghans to deliver two live ones. "These two guys were basket cases," says Avrakotos. "One had been fucked so many times he didn't know what was going on. The other was an alcoholic."

....At that point, Avrakotos says, he went to Perle to announce the good news that the Agency had twelve more willing to come over. "I turned the tables on them and demanded they take them all. And they didn't want to....In all I think we brought three or four more over. One guy ended up robbing a 7-Eleven in Vienna, Virgina."

How can you trust the judgment of someone who not only proposed an idea like this, but fought long and hard for it in the face of massive ground level evidence that it was absurd? Is it any surprise that someone who thought Russian soldiers would defect if we just set up loudspeakers in the mountains of Afghanistan might also think that governing postwar Iraq would be simple and easy?

Remember this the next time you hear Richard Perle say anything. And then give his opinions all the consideration they deserve.

Posted by Kevin Drum at January 17, 2004 04:37 PM | TrackBack


Comments

"Russians would like to defect to crazed Talibans."

"Arabs like people who bomb them, and would shower them with flowers."

"Americans like a government who screws them over time and time again."

Well, the masochist thinking is at least consistent and one out of three ain't too bad.

Posted by: Johannes at January 17, 2004 04:56 PM | PERMALINK

I've posted this before, but it bears repeating.

Read the attitude about the Soviet Union and Gorbachev in the late 1980s and even as late as 1990 that many prominent neoconservatives expressed. They sincerely believed that Gorbachev's newfound openness and willingness to negotiate was all part of sinister Leninist ruse designed to trick the US into "Finlandization." They though Regan's stance from 1985 forward was the wrong one to take. People like Norman Podhoretz held this view - who aren't so prominent today - held this view, but so did people like Kenneth "Cakewalk" Adelman and Frank Gaffney who still appear on cable news shows. Their credibility should be judged against this, IMO.

Ben P

Posted by: Ben P at January 17, 2004 05:01 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps, Richard Perle volunteered to defect to the mujahadeen as a "test". ???

Nah, they would have let him go.... saying something like, "Dat American is too crazy for us. And he's already plenty f*cked!".

Posted by: Jay R. - Oregon at January 17, 2004 05:02 PM | PERMALINK

Go farther back than that, Ben. James Burnham and Bill Buckley believed that Roosevelt sold out America at Malta and containment was bound to fail and that the implementation of both of these was due to the weakness of such communist symps as Dean Acheson and George Kennan. The hard Right has never been particularly good in grasping what is going on in the world. They are, however, extremely talented at the repeatedly selling the image of themselves as being the only serious fighters remaining.


Posted by: Thomas at January 17, 2004 05:10 PM | PERMALINK

Here's the problem I see: Perle and his ilk don't care whether we think their ideas are bad, or whether truly knowledgeable people think they're bad, or even whether they're actually bad.

They're classic courtiers. They care only about what sounds good at the time, within the very narrow circles in which they wish to maintain their reputations.

As long as they get on CNN, as long as they're quoted admiringly by George Will, as long as certain far-right Republican Congress-critters want them to appear at fund-raisers, they're where they want to be.

Seven-Elevens in suburban Virginia? When was the last time they paid huge consulting fees to "leading conservative intellectuals"?

Posted by: bleh at January 17, 2004 05:10 PM | PERMALINK

WEll, Perle is obviously fucked in the head.
His view of reality has been sodomized.
I propose using Perle and his ilk for a
hostages for arms trade with Iran.

Posted by: CluedIN at January 17, 2004 05:25 PM | PERMALINK

And next time you think about Clinton, remember this:
BJ

Posted by: bj at January 17, 2004 05:25 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't Perle one of the leading guys behind the hilarious myth that Reagan caused the collapse of the Soviet Union, by the way?

Posted by: Johannes at January 17, 2004 05:25 PM | PERMALINK

Why on earth am I hearing this for the first time from an Orange county blogger? Why haven't I heard it from the presidential candidates of the DEMOCRATIC PARTY? Or the NY Times, or LA Times? Sweet Jesus, no wonder the GOP swine consider themselves impervious to a simply told truth.

Posted by: Sovereign Eye at January 17, 2004 05:28 PM | PERMALINK

When Josh Micah Marshall described his panel discussion with Perle at the Hudson Institute, that was the telling moment for me.

Anybody who can't sit sit straight and talk pros and cons with the eminently even-minded JMM is obviously a goon.

Thereafter, instead of seeing Perle as a shrewd hegemonist he became for me just another sloppy bully; needing nothing so badly as to have someone come along and nail him to the wall through his ears.

Posted by: -pea- at January 17, 2004 05:30 PM | PERMALINK

Immature and out of their league, Kevin, that's how these guys need to be portrayed in 2004. A bunch of overcompensating polyannas who've seen way too many Claude Van Damme movies and seem to think watching Michael Douglas in Wall Street qualifies as an MBA--hell, forget "servicing a target", just point out that most of these guys have never even peeled an army potato.

Roll it out via every available sympathetic/deeply offended General, Spook and Paul O'Neill type. Shouldn't have any trouble finding new faces. Given the trends, there's a bull market in professional anger at this administration.

Posted by: fouro at January 17, 2004 05:35 PM | PERMALINK

There was--somewhere on the Internet last week, but God knows I can't remember where--a late review of a work of fiction by Richard Perle, published in the early 1990s, or thereabouts. In it, the Perle-protagonist saves the day by finding a Soviet exile to persuade the Reagan-character that the Gorbachev-character is insincere about reducing his nation's atomic stockpiles to nothing. Yipee.

Again, I have got to recommend the so-far-too-little-attended James Fallows article in this month's The Atlantic Monthly. Reality is inconvenient for these ideologues, so they ignore it, to our peril. I mean, Wolfowitz, to this day, has refused to address his prewar dismissal of a difficult, resource-consuming Iraqi occupation, one that the Pentagon, the State Department, and any number of NGO's and think-tanks predicted with absolute accuracy. His fantasist viewpoint cost Americans lives, treasure, and perhaps even the peace. Perle is just another.

And this goes without even mentioning, of course, that the men and organizations whom Perle was busy arming in the 1980s are now the very ones holed up in South Asia after having attacked the United States.

Posted by: Brian C.B. at January 17, 2004 05:46 PM | PERMALINK

Remember too that Perle is certainly one of the brightest lights of the current administration. He's among the smartest and most in touch, which is to say that the situation is really really bad.

Posted by: QrazyQat at January 17, 2004 05:57 PM | PERMALINK

What's next? Loudspeakers broadcasting a similar message in arabic at all our airports?

And people like this are taken seriously by those in charge? The mind reels.

Posted by: bobbyp at January 17, 2004 06:34 PM | PERMALINK

Raymond? As in Lee Raymond? The same Raymond who is now head of Exxon-Mobile and Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for the American Enterprise Institute?

Or a different Raymond?

Posted by: Alice Marshall at January 17, 2004 06:44 PM | PERMALINK

But the issue wouldn't go away.

This is actually the single most important sentence in the anecdote. No matter what you hear about how "the neocons are in eclipse now," the truth is that they never go away and never give up. The Syria thing, the Iran thing, the North Korea thing, the New Cold War with China - every one of them are still live issues in their minds. And because, Alan Ehrenhalt-like, they are highly motivated, they stand a very good chance of getting what they want, sooner or later. Remember that they spent 12 years pushing for the ouster of Saddam after Gulf War Phase I. They scored numerous small victories along the way (see: Outline of History, Chapter 1998), and were ready to pounce when circumstances ripened. Foreign policy chance very much favors their prepared minds.

Posted by: Jim Henley at January 17, 2004 07:13 PM | PERMALINK

Forget it Jake. It's Chinatown.

Posted by: Slothrop at January 17, 2004 07:24 PM | PERMALINK

While I would never equate the Perle with him, I can think of multiple equally-harebrained ideas from one Winston Churchill. Men of sweeping vision, good and bad, often have bizarre projects or idée fixes to their (dis)credit. You can build a case for dismissing Perle if you wish, but using this as a sole disqualifier isn't going to cut it.

Posted by: Tacitus at January 17, 2004 07:49 PM | PERMALINK

Wasn't Gallipolli Churchill's idea?

Posted by: ruthbuzzy at January 17, 2004 07:56 PM | PERMALINK

Wasn't Gallipolli Churchill's idea?

Actually,no,though he got tarred with it; see Fromkin, A Peace to end all Peace, 156-60, 165, 233

Posted by: P. Clodius at January 17, 2004 08:04 PM | PERMALINK

Richard Perle = "sweeping vision". That's a good one!

Posted by: dick tuck at January 17, 2004 08:08 PM | PERMALINK

Good because it's accurate.

Posted by: Tacitus at January 17, 2004 08:15 PM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't equate Perle with Churchill, either, but they also share a relative indifference to US casualties in pursuit of geopolitical aims fifty years out of date.

Posted by: D. Case at January 17, 2004 08:16 PM | PERMALINK

"One had been fucked so many times he didn't know what was going on. The other was an alcoholic."

I think it's safe to assume "fucked" means raped. Any defectors were raped or burned alive fairly fast. I know of one Russian who ended up in an arragned marriage with an Afghan woman. Arranged by a warlord, of course.

Posted by: Arash at January 17, 2004 08:18 PM | PERMALINK

It ain't the sole disqualifier, Tacitus, and you know it. This anecdote simply points out that he's been delusional for years and that his problems are not isolated to just his serious errors of judgment with respect to Iraq.

Posted by: PaulB at January 17, 2004 08:20 PM | PERMALINK

Tacitus wrote: "Good because it's accurate"

And your evidence of this is?

Posted by: PaulB at January 17, 2004 08:21 PM | PERMALINK

We don’t have to use just this one example of his stunning stupidity in the face of real world contradictions, we also have a $150 Billion adventure in nation building distracting us from the war on terror; you might have seen something about it in the papers.

Posted by: Lori Thantos at January 17, 2004 08:26 PM | PERMALINK

Re: Tacitus. "sweeping vision" might be accurate.

Of course, JRR Tolkien also had a "sweeping vision". But it was all FANTASY!

Posted by: Satan luvvs Repugs at January 17, 2004 08:59 PM | PERMALINK

[keep the trains moving]

Perle=hubris=accurate

Posted by: dick tuck at January 17, 2004 09:12 PM | PERMALINK

The release of Perle's new book seems to have been overshadowed by the O'Neill fiascos. Nonetheless, he has a specific media agenda now too - role reversal!

Posted by: charles at January 17, 2004 09:38 PM | PERMALINK

Churchill was motivated by adventure, heroics and a chance at greatness, while Perle, has a more earthy goals...

Working for less, so to speak...running for an other goal, perhaps...

Now, in another turn of subject, is David Frum an American citizen? Anybody? He's still Canadian, right?

Yes or no?

Posted by: Springbored at January 17, 2004 09:49 PM | PERMALINK

It ain't the sole disqualifier, Tacitus....We don’t have to use just this one example....

Folks, I don't really care that you have a whole catalog of Perle misdeeds to draw upon to make your weighty case. I've got nothing invested in the guy, so save it for someone who does. I do endorse more than a few of his ideas; but discrediting the messenger on unrelated issues doesn't affect those, so count me unworried in that respect. My point is that Kevin's would-be pithy comment is logically flawed. That's all. Point made.

Posted by: Tacitus at January 17, 2004 09:52 PM | PERMALINK

Your point is without merit. Kevin’s pithy comment is perfectly valid because we do have evidence that this loon has no business running anything more complex than the user side of an RTS game; anything more and people, real people, with lives and families, are maimed and killed for little more than his entertainment. This isn’t an “unrelated” issue; this is about his understanding of real world strategy, his ability to understand the consequences of his ideas, and his ability to divert blame when these consequences come to pass.

Posted by: Lori Thantos at January 17, 2004 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

Tacitus: one anecdote isn't a disqualifier, but it makes you think twice, doesn't it?

More generally, my point is that monomaniacs tend to ignore ground level evidence, often disastrously. They're just too convinced of their own righteousness. My problem with the neocons is as much that monomania as it is their actual ideology. (Which I actually have some occasional sympathy for.)

Posted by: Kevin Drum at January 17, 2004 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

So where exactly has Perle passed the reality test?

I had a mechanic once who told me I could fix my engine knocks by letting him pour sugar in my gas tank. Sounded loony to me, but I decided that there were many mechanics of sweeping vision throughout history who had blown it before. Yeah, the car didn't work so good afterwards, but I'm going back to him next time, because he has this great idea to fix my scraping wiper blades with a cinderblock, and maybe this time's the charm!

Just because he has a whole catalogue of misdeeds behind him doesn't necessarily mean that he's always wrong. It just means he's probably wrong most of the time.

That's why it's such a terrific idea to trust him with my country. Whoops, I meant soldiers' lives. Whoops again, I meant car.

Point made.

Posted by: Thersites at January 17, 2004 10:22 PM | PERMALINK

You still don't get it, Lori. No matter.

Agreed on the intrinsic value of the anecdote, Kevin.

Posted by: Tacitus at January 17, 2004 10:24 PM | PERMALINK

So, just because Perle and his best buddies are proven to be raving lunatics does not mean that every frothing idea that pours from their unhinged minds is necessarily insane.

Posted by: Kirby at January 17, 2004 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

Frogs and alligators have many similarities. That's accurate.

Posted by: dequincey at January 17, 2004 10:36 PM | PERMALINK

Tacitus, Perle may have some kernels of good ideas, but he's so out of touch with reality that he can't possibly contribute anything of value in coming up with plans to accomplish those goals.

It's like the difference between two people both in favor of space exploration; one supports rational scientific means of exploring space, the other insists that there's a spaceship hiding behind comet Hale-Bopp coming to beam us up, so here, put on these Nikes and this purple shroud, and eat this Stoli/Mott's/barbiturate cocktail.

Perle is the second type.

Posted by: Jon H at January 17, 2004 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

Good because it's accurate.

Folks, I don't really care that you have a whole catalog of Perle misdeeds to draw upon to make your weighty case.

That's all. Point made.

You still don't get it, Lori. No matter.

Putting aside the merits of your argument for the time being, Tacitus, you're really behaving like a total ass.

Posted by: JP at January 17, 2004 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

I wrote: "Tacitus, Perle may have some kernels of good ideas, but he's so out of touch with reality that he can't possibly contribute anything of value in coming up with plans to accomplish those goals."

I should also add that Perle has financial interests in provoking military engagements, which is yet another reason to not believe a word the crazy bastard says.

Posted by: Jon H at January 17, 2004 10:46 PM | PERMALINK

You can build a case for dismissing Perle if you wish, but using this as a sole disqualifier isn't going to cut it.

If this isn't enough evidence for you that Perle is a lunatic, then you're delusional as well.

But then we already knew that about you.

Posted by: four legs good at January 17, 2004 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

Jon H., just so.

I saw something on the news last week about psychopathic bosses. The doctor said also that psychopaths tended to gravitate to politics.

I think Perle is a case study.

Posted by: four legs good at January 17, 2004 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

I realize Tacitus that you were attempting to make a “the plural of anecdote is not data” point, but in choosing to make such a stand where the anecdote is merely filigree on a large data set (remember that $150 Billion adventure I mentioned – that’s data), you merely look foolish. That you don’t get it is, unfortunately, expected.

Posted by: Lori Thantos at January 17, 2004 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

"But the issue wouldn't go away."

You can never discredit a conservative idea. It means that at some point they would have to admit their wrong. Private accounts for social security? The stock market tanks, and pension funds are going bankrupt. But their still pushing them.

"I don't really care that you have a whole catalog of Perle misdeeds to draw upon to make your weighty case."

Facts...we don't need no stinkin facts. Do you get it now?

Posted by: Conker at January 17, 2004 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

I usually don't buy into the 'evil' thing, but I just have to say that Perle is one of the most evil men in history.

He makes me wish I believed in Hell.

Posted by: Magnum at January 17, 2004 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

And people are actually buying the new book by Perle and that turd Frum. Amazing.

Posted by: SOB at January 17, 2004 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

"And people are actually buying the new book by Perle and that turd Frum."

They probably think it's the new "Left Behind" volume or spinoff.

It looks the same. Clearly, their target market is credulous conservatives.

Posted by: Jon H at January 17, 2004 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

Just have a look at this: U.N. Support Crucial in Iraq, U.S. Says. Quote:

The Bush administration and the Iraqi Governing Council will appeal Monday to the United Nations in New York to dispatch a team of envoys to meet with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to convince him that holding fair elections is impossible in the limited time left, the officials said.

So there you have it: begging the head of an irrelevant organization to convince a man who doesn't own a single weapon to cut these sweeping-visioned geniuses some slack. A huge amount of pain and death & a few hundred billions spent to acquire a tiny bit of practical knowledge that probably won't last very long.

Posted by: Pedro at January 17, 2004 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

I realize Tacitus that you were attempting to make a “the plural of anecdote is not data” point....

Well, no. That's not the point I was attempting to make; I don't even agree with that phrase where nonscientific subjects are concerned.

Kevin understood and accepted my point (and I his), so while you're free to continue with the bluster, you might want to think about just who's being made to look foolish here. Do the smart thing and let it go.

Posted by: Tacitus at January 17, 2004 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

Josh at TPM has not one, but two entries that link to Kevin's site. I thought Josh was above reading blogs!

You the man, Kevin!

Posted by: Magnum at January 17, 2004 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin understood and accepted my point (and I his)

So back to the kiddie table, the lot of you!

Tacitus is being pompous and ridiculous. He "accepts" Kevin's point. Wonderful. Now, let's see him pursue the actual implications of Kevin point, that Perle is demonstrably a monomaniacal nut with an inordinate influence over public policy. Life and death public policy, no less.

He's left with the argument that a monomaniacal nut with demonstrably bad ideas may be right in just this one instance. Like Winston Curchill. Who is not really even a little bit like Perle.

And yet again he tries to game the basic question at issue by portraying himself as Captain Civility in the comments section. Good for him.

Posted by: Thersites at January 17, 2004 11:29 PM | PERMALINK

I don't even agree with that phrase where nonscientific subjects are concerned.

Too bad, because it is a useful reminder for those of us who look at Republican rhetoric that pretends the thirty people cheering in the street, while the US military is massacring their countrymen, represent a populace who loves us.

Oh, and your condescension would be better targeted at those who think your intellect warrants such hubris, rather than those of us who know otherwise – it merely marks you as a petty victim of self-delusion.

Posted by: Lori Thantos at January 17, 2004 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

"I can think of multiple equally-harebrained ideas from one Winston Churchill."

That was his point, I think. I wonder how many of these harebrained ideas Churchill actually tried to implement once the flaws were pointed out? Or did he admit that they were foolish at the time or in hindsight? I seem to remember Mark Twain also had some "harebrained ideas" on which he lost a lot of money, but he was the first to ridicule both his ideas and himself when they turned out badly. I always considered the ability to do this kind of critical self-examination to be an indicator of a person's basic sanity. Churchill could do it. Hitler could not.

Posted by: Conker at January 18, 2004 12:08 AM | PERMALINK

The guy calls himself Tacitus. What an asshole.

Posted by: muineog at January 18, 2004 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin understood and accepted my point (and I his), so while you're free to continue with the bluster, you might want to think about just who's being made to look foolish here. Do the smart thing and let it go.
--Tacitus

Oh HA HA HA. You're just trying to imitate the Bush administration! "Watch what you say."

Fuck you, Tacitus. I frankly don't care who LOOKS foolish, I think that you ARE foolish. Oh, and Richard Perle, and those who listen to his hare-brained, crackpot perspective on things....

Posted by: Slum Lord at January 18, 2004 12:19 AM | PERMALINK

"I've got nothing invested in the guy, so save it for someone who does. "

Then why were you in this thread, and repeatedly posting to it, Tacitus?

You attempted to defend Perle with a ridiculous comparison to Churchill, got caught, and can't admit it.

Posted by: Barry at January 18, 2004 12:32 AM | PERMALINK

My favorite thing about the neocons is the battle they are having with CIA & State...in the middle of a war. On one had they screech that anyone who disagrees is unpatriotic and with the other hand they try to undermine CIA & State. They are indeed out of touch with reality.

The excerpt from Wilson's War is priceless.

Posted by: Sioux at January 18, 2004 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

So the guys our government was calling freedom fighters were routinely raping any one they captured? They were acting like the worst animals in prison?

Do you get the feeling that Perle has as much concern for the health of US citizens as he did for the health of the Russian defectees?

Posted by: KevinNYC at January 18, 2004 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

Posting an argumentative statement without evidence to back it up and then continuing posting without addressing the substance...

Is that the definition of a troll?

Posted by: McDruid at January 18, 2004 12:59 AM | PERMALINK

Tacitus may be right that the aphorism I used (however generally useful) was not the correct one for his initial point, but in any case that point only makes sense if one believes that Mr. Drum’s post was made in a vacuum. It was not. Mr. Drum’s post did not introduce us to Mr. Perle, it merely pointed to a revealing episode in the history of this grim figure. Were we to base our entire opinion of Mr. Perle on this single anecdote, this would be a gross failure of logic – but no one has asked such a thing and only someone feigning ignorance of the last three years would posit such an event. Not exactly the basis for honest debate.

(I shouldn’t bother posting on this, but I would hate for a dishonest poster to win points because I failed to admit I made a mistake.)

Posted by: Lori Thantos at January 18, 2004 01:04 AM | PERMALINK

I've noticed this phenomenon before. Tacitus on his own blog, writing at more length, comes across as a fairly reasonable guy with only one major flaw: he actually wants Bush to win the 2004 election and continue this trail of disaster.

Tacitus commenting on non-conservative blogs comes across as an arrogant idiot, defending Richard Perle and comparing to Winston Churchill, or (back in December) being petty and spiteful on Body and Soul.

Which is the real Tacitus? I suspect it's a combination of the two: surrounded by his peers, confident of approval, Tacitus lets his genuinely good qualities be seen. Entering enemy territory - for so I think he perceives non-conversative blogs - he behaves like a kneejerk, defending the indefensible and inventing straw men to attack, because he cannot stand the sight of non-conservatives intelligently criticizing conservatives and conservative policy.

I'm told Sebastian Holsclaw is similar: knee-jerk asshole in comments on other people's blogs, much more reasonable on his own territory. But I first encountered Sebastian in comments, and first impressions stick.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 18, 2004 01:18 AM | PERMALINK

Here's another example of how far Perle's head is stuck in the fantasy dreamland that is his butt: "If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war... our children will sing great songs about us years from now."

Posted by: Magnum at January 18, 2004 01:25 AM | PERMALINK

I think Kevin's burying the lead (I hate 'lede').

""...."What Russian in his right mind would defect to those fuckers all armed to the teeth?" ... nine out of ten prisoners were dead within twenty-four hours and they were always turned into concubines by the mujahideen. I felt so sorry for them I wanted to have them all shot."

So those in the know had few illusions about the Mujihadeen at the time and we supported them and armed them to the teeth _anyway_ assuming it would never come back to bite our ass.

Ralph Peters once wrote that the US was probably on the wrong side in this particular conflict. My own opinion on Peters is that he's 1/3 insightful, 1/3 wrong and 1/3 completely fucking insane. Nevertheless he has a point. The Mujihadeen weren't fighting 'communism' they were fighting western (comparitively speaking) civilization and we we helped.

Posted by: Michael Farris at January 18, 2004 02:30 AM | PERMALINK

Shortest Perle: "I swear, Judge! I didn't know she was only three!"

Posted by: bad Jim at January 18, 2004 02:35 AM | PERMALINK

..."Putting aside the merits of your argument, Tacitus, you're really behaving like a total ass"...

You sound surprised.

Posted by: andrew at January 18, 2004 02:46 AM | PERMALINK


I want to contribute to the Tacitus thread not the Perle thread. As I scrolled and read I used many unkind words to refer to Tacitus. By the time I finally got to the end of the comments, I am more inclined to criticise his many critics above.

First on Perle and Churchill, Tacitus clearly said right off that he doesn't consider them similar except in having hare brained ideas. I found the analogy useful. My spin would be that part of what is wrong with Perle is that he treasures the faults he shares with Churchill (extreme self confidence and a tendency to monomania) because he, unlike Tacitus, believes that the virtues automatically come with the faults.

Later, I think that Tacitus used rhetorical tricks including attempting to change the topic from "the messenger" to the message and snearing. However, the worst of the Tacitus comments are much much more rude including profane languate and attacks without reasoning.

No one seems to have noticed that Tacitus appears to have conceded Drum's orginal point "Agreed on the intrinsic value of the anecdote, Kevin." Now in the context of a blog comments flame session this is remarkable. I think that the plural of anecdote is not data, but if anyone could point to Richard Perle ever ever doing something like Tacitus just did, I would be less alarmed.

All this leads to "which is the real Tacitus". I agree that he seems reasonable on his blog and doesn't always seem reasonable in this discussion. I think this tells us about the discussion not about Tacitus. Given the way people comment on him, how can he help feeling he is in intellectually enemy territory ?

OK this is too long and Tacitus certainly didn't ask for my help.


My whole post is about being polite in comments. I think there is one very simple rule. Never point out that someone specific has been rude. Many people are rude on the web. A chance to be rude without getting punched is part of the attraction. Comments (like this one) about etiquette are a waste of time.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann at January 18, 2004 03:14 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting story from someone who works in the "belly of the beast" (i.e. I am a laborer who works in one of the largest newspapers in New England, The Boston Globe):

Last weekend, our paper was doing a piece on Perle in our "Ideas" section (editorials, letters, book reviews) for the Sunday edition and one of the articles covered Perle's short jaunt into fiction writing revealing how his main charecter was a spy with many of the credentials of Perle himself. To compliment the article, The Globe staff had doctored a photo of James Bond with his little pistol and a girl laying across a luxury car in the backround. We printed up over a 100,000 of the Ideas section with this picture on the page with the article.

THEN, someone at the New York Times (they own us) got wind of the picture and we had to PULP all the sections we printed up. The picture was removed (not sure if the article was changed) and all new Ideas sections were printed.

Looks like some people at the New York Times don't want to piss off Perle.....

Posted by: Demise at January 18, 2004 03:21 AM | PERMALINK

There is a definite tension here between those who would dearly love to be cornholed, those who would cheerfully cornhole all and sundry, and the majority who under no cirucmstances would permit such a thing.

Yeesh, yick and (preemtively) OUCH! not necessarily in that order.

Posted by: bad Jim at January 18, 2004 03:41 AM | PERMALINK

Getting back to the larger theme of neocon lunacy, the epic new Ken Pollack piece in Foreign Affairs includes this passage:

In Baghdad, a variety of CPA officials all gave the same account of the acceptance of the November 15 agreement. Ahmed Chalabi's supporters within the Pentagon and the Office of the Vice President were fighting to have the United States simply turn things over to Chalabi, or to the current IGC -- where he has gained an inordinate amount of power, and which is the forum most conducive to his gaining complete control over the government. On the weekend of November 7, Bremer was called back to Washington, and there he met in private with the President and convinced Bush that his plan (what eventually became the November 15 agreement), and not the Chalabi idea, was the right course for the United States.

And a New York Times article from later in November included these paragraphs:

Another possibility, some in the administration say, is that Iraq could evolve toward a political compromise forged by the exile Ahmad Chalabi — a secular Shiite. Mr. Chalabi might manage to stitch together pro-Iranian groups, Kurds and others into a government.

A top administration official predicted recently that in that event, Mr. Chalabi — who set up an office for his opposition group in Tehran before the American invasion of Iraq — could become the first Iraqi prime minister.

As I wrote in commenting on the NYT article, these guys aren't just drinking the Kool-Aid, they're spiking it with LSD.

Posted by: Swopa at January 18, 2004 03:44 AM | PERMALINK

Isaac Newton had harebrained ideas (e.g. his alchemy would be his most-remembered contributiom). My cats have harebained ideas (e.g. chasing squirrels). So no one has made the argument that Isaac Newton was smarter than my cats. Thanks for the lesson in logic, Tacitus!

Posted by: Social Scientist at January 18, 2004 04:31 AM | PERMALINK

Winston Churchill and Richard Perle? Like St. Paul and Pat Robertson!

In fact, rather than being a monomaniac, Churchill changed his positions many times (e.g. leaving the Tories for the Liberals early in his career, and wholeheartedly supporting the USSR in WWII). After being scapegoated for the Gallipoli failure (for which he had some responsibility, and the soundness of which is still a matter of fierce debate) he took his place in the trenches like the honorable soldier he was.

As war leader he had many ideas, and most of them were bad, but he had a vary competent staff who were able to persuade him of that and he listened to them.
Can you imagine Mr. Perle listening to anybody?

Posted by: frogblog at January 18, 2004 04:43 AM | PERMALINK

According to Tacitus (whom I have come to respect) this is anecdotal and therefore hardly relevant. Maybe that's what Michael Jackson will plead to the Court too. Will it help his case? Of course it will not. Sometimes one anecdote is considered one anecdote too many and society will try to prevent that more "anecdotes" will take place.

Whether this story about Perle is anecdotal is irrelevant. It is valid evidence in a case made to establish that Perle and reality are two things, and should be weighed as such. And that seems to be exactly what Kevin was communicating. This single anecdote should be *more* than enough to nullify Perle's credibility as an advisor.

FWIW, in his reply to Tacitus Kevin actually hurt his case, because the Perle anecdote says nothing about other neocons/monomaniacs. *That* is a fallacy.

Posted by: BRB at January 18, 2004 05:38 AM | PERMALINK

Okay, a few quick points.

- "One anecdote is not a disqualifier." Agreed. However, Tacitus tried to act as if this was the only such anecdote ("using this as a sole disqualifier isn't going to cut it"). But of course it's not; rather, it's one additional anecdote - and one one where the conclusions are not left just to the reader but are offered by the participants. And that's a significant difference.

(Yes, I know Tacitus said "you can build a case against Perle if you wish," but since the rhetorical effect of his statement is that no one example can be a "disqualifier," the only way to criticize Perle's grip on political reality is to raise every damn incident every damn time, which is not only impractical but would probably just get you dismissed by some version of Tacitus as suffering from "irrational hatred.")

- "Churchill also had harebrained ideas." This was not simply a matter of a bad idea, it was a bad idea pursued with passion not only against the advice of anyone with any clue what they were talking about, but against overwhelming evidence on the ground. That's not being overly self-confident. That's delusion.

- "Agreed on the intrinsic value of the anecdote." In light of the above, this is more than a "concession," it's an admission of defeat.

Conclusion: Perle is indeed a loon.

Posted by: LarE at January 18, 2004 05:40 AM | PERMALINK

Two commenters above, KevinNYC and Michael Farris, made a very illuminating point that nobody apparently has paid attention to, obsessing over Perle and Churchill instead -- yet another successful example of how conservatives often manage to change the subject and liberals just follow along.

Look, it's obvious to us now, as Kevin's post illustrates, that the Mujihadeen, these brutish, barbarous buggers we supported against the Soviets, grew up to be the Taliban and al Quada who attacked us on 9/11. I think it was also obvious to anyone with any sense of perspective that Islamic fundamentalism was the growing threat against western civilization and modernity as early as 1979 when Iranian militants stormed our embassy in Tehran and took 70 Americans captive, humiliating us and setting the stage for audacious acts of terrorism.

Yet, what did we do? We continued to obsess over communism, which, by that time was well contained. Our failure in Vietnam -- and the failure of the idea that failure to capture Vietnam would inextricably lead to the fall of all of South Asia into communist hands -- taught us nothing. Nothing about how nationalism is a far more potent and more powerful force than communism and it is fundamental forms of nationalism (whether based on ethnicity and nativism like in Vietnam, or religion in the Middle East) that are the enemy of the pluralistic, secular, tolerant societies of the West.

But it was -- and it seems remains -- a heresy in this country to state the obvious: That our obsession with communism blinded us to the real gathering danger. Even during Iran-Contra it was obvious that conservatives thought of the Iranian fundamentalists as closer to our values than communists (what was Iran Contra after all, but another case where we tried to play nice with people who supported terrorism because countries in Central American, like Vietnam before, would fall like dominoes into the hands of communists unless we struck a bargain with the devil).

We should have allowed the Soviets to contain Afghanistan. And we should have helped them too. Why? Not because communism wasn't a repugnant ideology. Of course it was. But is was a lesser evil than Islamic fundamentalism. Like during WWII, we chose Stalin, an evil man, to help us destroy a worse evil. We should have started fighting Islamic fundamentalism in the '80s.

Communism would have eventually collapsed of its own weight, just as it did. But our obsession with communism and our support for the Mujihadeen led directly to 9/11.

Posted by: Ares Akritas at January 18, 2004 05:45 AM | PERMALINK

"...our obsession with communism blinded us to the real gathering danger."

How quickly some of us forget that, while we are currently concerned about one nuclear device the Islamists may potentially get their hands on, the Soviets had several thousand real ones which really were 'deployable' within minutes, all pointed at the United States homeland.

Posted by: JK at January 18, 2004 06:19 AM | PERMALINK

This is Perle saying he was wrong. It's about Helsinki.
RP: We though it unwise to have gone as far as we did go but quickly concluded that the best response to what had happened was to make the most of basket three. Looking back, I think we were wrong. we under-estimated the potential of basket three.
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/coldwar/interviews/episode-19/perle3.html

Posted by: Hans Suter at January 18, 2004 06:57 AM | PERMALINK

"...the Soviets had several thousand real ones"

Had?? The Russians still have thousands of nuclear devices, and so do the Chinese, who continue to be ostensibly communists. What they did not seem to have then -- and do not seem to have today -- is the suicidal willingness to use them.

That's why I expressly stated above that they were contained. The fact is, we won the cold war long before the Soviet Union fell.

Islamists on the other hand, the progeny of our friends and allies the Mujihadeen, have over and over demonstrated a willingness for extreme and suicidal brutality. By any criterion they are far more dangerous than the communists ever were.

If you want to blame somebody for 9/11 blame the conservatives whose obsession with communism made them allies with those who've been aiming to do us in for several decades.

Posted by: Ares Akritas at January 18, 2004 07:02 AM | PERMALINK

Let's not forget David Brooks' execrable NYT op-ed in which he none-too-subtly equates criticism of "neocons" with anti-Semitism.

As Kevin and many others pointed out, his piece was an attempt to pre-empt discussion of how loony, obsessed, and unswayed by empirical data the neocons really are, *and* yet another instance of conservative jiujitsu to change the subject of the debate.

This post, and the subsequent discussion, is evidence that in some circles it didn't work, of course. But as Soveriegn Eye says upthread, the fact that we are reading this in Kevin's (admittedly fine) blog rather than the NYT is possible evidence that Brooks' tactics are working.

Posted by: Gregory at January 18, 2004 07:02 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin - I've read the same book. Just finished it in the middle of last week. As a former moderate Republican, I can only say that your quotes are "spot on" in terms of what I saw and felt while working at the RNC and the various campaigns I've worked on.

Some of these people truly are nuts. That is clear.

In the lead-up to the war, I didn't believe what Perle & Co. were saying, because having personal experience, I KNEW that these guys are full of shit. Thing is, they DO believe what they say.

It's depressing.

Things will change.

Posted by: Tony Shifflett at January 18, 2004 07:22 AM | PERMALINK

Tacitus,

You make little sense.

I think all 'reasonable' readers would agree that this one anecdote, by itself, does not mean that Perle is not to be trusted with anything.

But added to what we know about him, to what he said about the Iraq war (I would even include his WSJ editorial) it is an illuminating piece of information.

That whole "Kevin and I understand each other" tirade was childish, to say the least. If you agree with what Kevin is saying than you agree with most posters here.

Posted by: GT at January 18, 2004 07:42 AM | PERMALINK

I'm reminded of the Doctor's character in the movie "Bridge Over the River Kwai", who at the end screams, "Madness, madness!" The neo-cons are building bridges and then blowing them up. There is something else at work here, I don't know what it is, but I'm tempted to call it insanity. They're not out of touch with reality, they're out of touch with humanity. They've made their own reality, and in that reality it never occurs to them that other human beings mght not agree with their world views or even like them. They thought that the Iraqis would welcome us with open arms, because the simple question, "would I like the Iraqis to occupy the U.S.?" never was asked. If they wouldn't "like it" what makes them think the Iraqis would? It wasn't that they were deluded by Chalabi into thinking that the Iraqis would throw flowers at us, it's that the thought never occurred to them that they wouldn't.

Posted by: BevD at January 18, 2004 08:21 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not ready to declare Perle a lunatic. I see him more as the kind of shrewd, arrogant bully who cannot admit he is wrong. Ego is one reason, but more germane, I think, is that he would jeopardize the money he's making selling his lunatic ideas. His consultant business, his media appearances, his government sinecure have made him a wealthy man. He's selling the air of certainty to credulous fools who have no faith in their own judgment. He's selling red meat to obligate carnivores and insider access to supplicants and petitioners. He can't afford to backpeddle.

So yes, his theories and proposals are lunatic in the real world, but he's selling agreeable fantasy to people who regularly substitute wishful thinking for hard facts.

In short, to my mind Perle's a classic con man. A bullshit artist. The real scandal is that this con man is operating at the highest levels of government policy, with influence over real life and death.

Posted by: thunder at January 18, 2004 08:28 AM | PERMALINK

"blame the conservatives whose obsession with communism made them allies with those who've been aiming to do us in for several decades."
And it's those same obsessive conservatives who are running/ruining our foreign policy now. Again.

Posted by: ciceraw at January 18, 2004 08:51 AM | PERMALINK

our children will sing great songs about us years from now."

"iiiiiii'm gonna sit @ the welcome table, hallelujah!"
-strangers with candy

Posted by: n69n at January 18, 2004 09:10 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, the neocons and Perle's group are nutcases.

But looking at their competition, I can see why they get away with it.

Posted by: Matt Young at January 18, 2004 09:12 AM | PERMALINK

You guys are still listening to "Tacitus"?

Why bother? He's not willing to accept criticism of the neocon agenda in any way, shape, or form. Not interested in acutal debate and reasoning on that subject, far from it.

He just pretends to be oh-so-knowledgable and dismissive because he craves attention.

A sure sign of insecurity and strong feelings of inadequacy. (sp?)

Posted by: Monkey at January 18, 2004 09:12 AM | PERMALINK

I'd like to thank Ares Akritas for his smart thoughts given above. That was truly thinking outside the box...and yet, I am left asking myself, Was it possible (emotionally, intelectually), to support the Soviet Union, not the Russians, but the Soviet Union as then constituted, after the failure of the Prague Spring, the supression of the Velvet Revolution, and still remembering the brutal Soviet repression of Hungarians in Budapest in the '56 uprising...was it possible to support the Soviet Union against the Mujahideen?

Nah, it just wasn't possible....not emotionally, not intellectually, and not even by a good progressive liberal such as myself.

It could not be...still, that was very smart thinking and analysis by Ares in identifying the larger threat, the greater evil.

Hummmmmmm....

Best Wishes,

Traveller

Posted by: Traveller at January 18, 2004 09:23 AM | PERMALINK

"Churchill had many harebrained ideas."

Indeed he did. Gallipoli was the first of his "soft underbelly of Europe" blunders. The Italian front in WW2 was the second.

After the War, the British people turned him out because he refused to allow the Empire to slip away -- behavior likened to the old woman, trying to sweep back the rising tide with a broom.

Churchill was a great war leader, but a crackpot on many other issues.

Posted by: Charles K at January 18, 2004 09:29 AM | PERMALINK

Does the Perle story remind anyone of this gem from GW I?


...Cheney got his staff busy and began presenting Schwarzkopf with his own ideas about how to fight the Iraqis: What if we parachute the 82nd Airborne into the far western part of Iraq , hundreds of miles from Kuwait and totally cut off from any kind of support, and seize a couple of missile sites, then line up along the highway and drive for Baghdad? Schwarzkopf charitably describes the plan as being “as bad as it could possibly be… But despite our criticism, the western excursion wouldn’t die: three times in that week alone Powell called with new variations from Cheney’s staff.

Mix Cheney's Idiocy with Perle's delusions and Rove's political hackery, and you've got the Perfect Storm of foreign policy cock-ups.

Posted by: Boronx at January 18, 2004 09:32 AM | PERMALINK

I quit listening to Tacitus when he claimed that kidnapping Americans and trading them to Reagan for terrorist arms was a good plan for American security.

Posted by: Matt Young at January 18, 2004 09:35 AM | PERMALINK

I, for one, would really like that the Higher Blogging Beings hanging around would find Demise's post worth of interest, research, and maybe of an entry in their blogs.

Thinking out loud, y'know.

Posted by: yabonn at January 18, 2004 09:44 AM | PERMALINK

Boronx, in the 1990's I felt that Powell was pretty much a stuffed suit (as generals go). His reputation stemmed from being a well-spoken black Republican military man, in the 1980's, and from being a well-spoken front man in a short and easy little war.

The Bush II administration has done nothing but increase that belief. Some say that Powell was diminished by his service in this administration; I think that he was simply revealed to be not much in the first place.

Posted by: Barry at January 18, 2004 09:46 AM | PERMALINK

Matt:

"Yes, the neocons and Perle's group are nutcases.

But looking at their competition, I can see why they get away with it."

Ya know Matt, generally I figure that you're 100% full of it, but every so often you come up with an uncomfortably true statement.

Posted by: Barry at January 18, 2004 09:48 AM | PERMALINK

Ares: very insightful. "You have grasped the needle by the point."

Tacitus: If you concede the validity of Kevin's anecdote, do you therefore agree that Richard Perle is a dangerous, dangerous man, who either through lunacy, greed or pure cussedness has set us on a course that has the potential to destroy us?

The potential for further terrorist attack, massive budget deficits, plummeting value of the dollar, yes, I think we teeter on the brink of disaster.

Of course, for many this simply argues for more force, more security, less civil rights for all. I disagree.

Greater involvement in economic development, a foreign policy based on international cooperation and rule of law, a real commitment to fighting disease and poverty in the developing world, these are the things that will bring us back from the brink, not more guns & louder talk.

Posted by: Atlas at January 18, 2004 09:52 AM | PERMALINK

Ares, Great Thoughts.

Except, the neo-cons will never grasp your concept of the birth of 4th generation warfare. To the neo-cons all terrorism is state supported. Thus, the coming drive through Syria and Iran. Again, always fighting the last war. Except Iraq has morphed into the next war.

Posted by: Jim S at January 18, 2004 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Tacitus is either a scoundrel or a fool, and frankly I could care less.

I'm old enough to remember the words of the same Tacitus-like "reasonable" folks who attributed criticisms of Pinochet to anti-American or pro-communist elements, thank you.

Coincidentally, Juan Cole also reminisced about the very same thing today:

Chile can't catch a break from Republican administrations, can it? First Nixon and Kissinger overthrew an elected president and instituted a reign of terror that involved the disappearance, killing and torture of thousands. And then W. was having someone spy on their ambassador to the UN in hopes of finding ways to influence his vote at the Security Council.

Kissinger used to protest the inexplicable bad press military dictator and mass murderer Gen. Augusto Pinochet got, attributing it to mere anti-Americanism. Is he really so much worse than other Latin American rulers? he kept demanding of his staff at State. Their answer: Yes.

That bs is what I grew up with, and seeing the next generation of evil little trolls like Perle or (I suspect) Tacitus continue to defend this country's worst policies is nauseating.

End of rant.


Posted by: Lupin at January 18, 2004 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

"we also have a $150 Billion adventure in nation building distracting us from the war on terror"

I think it is Al Quaeda that is getting distracted, they are diverting resources from Afghanistan to Iraq. Aghanistan is a harder place for us to fight due mountainous terrain, unfriendly populace, and cross border sanctuaries. Iran is an easier place to win, the terrain and populace are more favorable.

Posted by: Buck Smith at January 18, 2004 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

"That was his point, I think. I wonder how many of these harebrained ideas Churchill actually tried to implement once the flaws were pointed out? Or did he admit that they were foolish at the time or in hindsight? "

Gallipoli was a disaster in implementation which was out of Chruchill's hands but conceptually the idea was sound - unless you think D-Day and Inchon were likewise harebrained.

Churchil's other less than wise strategic ideas were to have ( mostly American) Allied troops to slog through Yugoslavia and to liberate Crete ( or some other miserable rock). And of course there was the Suez Crisis which Anthony Eden was blamed but for which Churchill was the impetus.

On the other hand, Churchill was one of the first to see that Hitler was a general menace and moved Heaven and Earth to try to wake up the British government to that fact. Likewise, with the Cold War, Leftists fantasies aside no one wanted to hear Churchill's Iron Curtain warning at the time either. He was right about that too as well as many less important issues over a long career.

Few people commenting on the list, I wager, know all that much about Richard Perle beyond the partisan cartoon of the blogosphere. He's been around a very, very long time in DC and has influenced policy in both parties and, by the way, made some important contributions to nuclear arms control. ( Albeit from a hardline stance much despised at the time from the anti-American Left and liberal Senate staffers who recalled Perle's days in their party). Some of his policy ideas are extreme but he's hardly a nut

Posted by: mark safranski at January 18, 2004 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

A couple of things:

First--One good anecdote can be far more instructive than 10,000 data points.

Second--The fact that Tacitus would use Churchill in comparison to Perle is instructive in itself.

After all, Churchill had my vote for Man of the Century. His spirit animated our victory in the War of Civilizations.

Those of the Tacitus-Perle persaussion want this to be another War of Civilizations.

It is that simple folks.

The Neocons have leveraged the crimes committed by a handful of religious terrorists into an invasion of another nation.

Osama and his fanatics and the Neocons and their fanatics want the same thing: a War of Civilizations.


Third--As far as I know we have two good anecdotes: Kevin's...and my early link to Josh Marshall's attempt at civil debate with Perle.

(someone ought to create a index and resevoir for instructive anecdotes...much like Poputonian is indexing the Clark smears.

Posted by: -pea- at January 18, 2004 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Remember this the next time you hear Richard Perle say anything. And then give his opinions all the consideration they deserve.

Be especially cautious when Richard Perle is calling for a war! Besides poor judgment, Perle has also demonstrated divided loyalties.
He's at the nexus of many of the neo-con "pro-democracy" organizations that have a long history of advocating an attack on Iraq. In 1970, while working for Sen. "Scoop" Jackson's office he was caught on a NSA wiretap giving classified information to the Israeli Embassy:

http://www.amconmag.com/03_24_03/cover.html

http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/82may/hershwh2.htm

Posted by: Rick Barton at January 18, 2004 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

I think labeling Perle and neoconservatives as lunatics is a poor strategy. It is much more useful to understand your enemies (and thus, be better able to predict their future actions) than to dismiss them as stupid or insane. Otherwise you are repeating the exact same error that the Bush administration has often committed with its foreign policy.

What Kevin's post indicates to me is not that Perle is a lunatic, but that he is a bit too willing to see what he wants to see and ignore or dismiss evidence that conflicts with his world view. A very human quality. One that should be resisted, for sure, but human nonetheless.

Posted by: fling93 at January 18, 2004 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

I think that all the anecdote proves is that Perle may be seriously flawed as a tactician. But it says nothing about his ability as a strategist.

Just kidding. The guy's a flaming fruitcake.

Posted by: Sven at January 18, 2004 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Look, it's obvious to us now, as Kevin's post illustrates, that the Mujihadeen, these brutish, barbarous buggers we supported against the Soviets, grew up to be the Taliban and al Quada who attacked us on 9/11

Ares, I agree: I was saying something the same at the end of this thread, in response to Echidne.

The decision made by Carter, and then disasterously continued by Reagan and then Bush I, to support the mujihadeen was an example of the invisibility of women to the type of frat-boy who literally doesn't see the oppression of women as an important issue. No matter that women are 50-60% of the population: women are, to this kind of person, utterly unimportant.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 18, 2004 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

The Mujahedeen and the Taliban are not the same thing, even the brands of Islamic fundamentalism are different. While, in Afghan fashion, some Mujahedeen warlords joined up with the Taliban when that movement gained momentum, the former did not grow into the latter, the latter toppled the anarchic rule of the former.

The Talibs were originally Afghans who grew up in refugee camps in Pakistan who went through radical Madrassas funded by the Saudis and the ISI. They were in those camps because of the Soviet invasion, not because of the Mujahedeen, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan or Richard Perle. The initial rebellion against the Communists in Kabul predated the Soviet invasion and was in response to brutal " reform " policies initiated by the Taraki-Amin regime in the villages.

Posted by: mark safranski at January 18, 2004 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

How can you trust the judgment of someone who not only proposed an idea like this, but fought long and hard for it in the face of massive ground level evidence that it was absurd? Is it any surprise that someone who thought Russian soldiers would defect if we just set up loudspeakers in the mountains of Afghanistan might also think that governing postwar Iraq would be simple and easy?

Kevin Drum, best Monday morning quarterback you'll find anywhere.

I'm so glad people like him aren't running the country? Is it because he picks out faults? No. It's because he picks out faults and is devoid of real alternative ideas.

Posted by: sickles at January 18, 2004 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

fling93:>"It is much more useful to understand your enemies (and thus, be better able to predict their future actions) than to dismiss them as stupid or insane."

Absolutely right. It's important to realize that a working human brain can develop, on some topic, a perfectly consistant and logical theory that has no relation to the real world.

The Brain is not crazy. The Human sounds logical, rational and civil.(*) The theory by itself "makes sense."

But those who actually implement the theory will create misery and disaster.

(*) - I heard Perle debate Krugman on Amy Goodman's show just a few days ago. Like many 'intellectual' conservatives, he is very civil and pleasant in tone. Poor Krugman had no idea how to counter Perle's reasonable sounding nonsense.

To me this is clear evidence that Krugman is anything but an experienced polemist.

Posted by: Joey Giraud at January 18, 2004 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Perle is obviously (1) unduly taken with his own schemes; (2) out of touch with reality and unable to see when his schemes don't jibe with reality; and (3) much more concerned with humanity in the abstract than with soldiers and real people in their actual lives, if he even thinks of the latter. Such people are very dangerous when given power.

But Ares is a little off in his history. There were several groups under the umbrella "mujahedin". We supported all of them fighting the Russians. They they split into factions (or reverted into factions) after the Russians and we left the scene. IIRC the "buggers" are what became the Northern Alliance. The Taliban were a faction of the mujahedin who supported a strict version of traditional Islam. Mullah Omar came to power among other things because he promised to outlaw pedophilia, if not forced male rape in general. The population supported him at least in part because of this, and because he was able to bring a semblance of order. Mind you, I am not defending him, as his people ended up being as savage in the name of their Islam as the Northern Alliance, just pointing out that a lot of different groups fought as "mujahedin. The point is still correct that 9/11 was a blowback of our support for the anti-Russians in Aghanistan regardless of their other qualities, and our subsequent neglect of the country. We are, of course, repeating those mistakes right now with our costly diversion into Iraq.

Posted by: Mimikatz at January 18, 2004 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Sickles, people like you are the Tuesday morning quarterbacks. You haven't got the brains to actually pick apart current reportage, so instead you point fingers at the people who do. And unfortunately, someone very like you thinks he is running the country - because he's got people like Richard Perle and Dick Cheney to do it for him.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 18, 2004 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

On the other hand, Churchill was one of the first to see that Hitler was a general menace and moved Heaven and Earth to try to wake up the British government to that fact.

Actually, Ive never been a big fan of Churchill. Before this realization, he was a fan of Hitler (not a facist himself, of course, but an admirer). I see Churchill as a semi-paranoid character who just happened to wander into a position that perfectly matched his stubborn paranoia.
Which is not to say that he was a bad man- I just think that history has made much more of Churchill than was actually there.

Having said that, he did appear to have much better ability to understand when his 'bright ideas' didnt fit the world. He was a monomaniac about fighting his enemies, not about the methods to be used.
Perle's ilk are more dangerous- I think it was Brad DeLong who recently called this egotism "CEO disease"- thinking that one is so brilliant and one's ideology so right that one persists in viewpoints even when contracted by evidence. Even when, as here (or in Iraq, or with the CPD's estimates of the Soviet threat in the 80s) they turn out to be about as wrong as humanly possible, they are *still* convinced that they were right, somehow.

Wu

Posted by: carleton wu at January 18, 2004 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

The initial rebellion against the Communists in Kabul predated the Soviet invasion and was in response to brutal " reform " policies initiated by the Taraki-Amin regime in the villages

With a little help from the CIA. The rebellion was the trigger to the invasion. Your distinction between the Mujahedeen and the Taliban is irrelevant. The so-called freedom fighters were Islamic fundamentalists. Further, it was under US funding and organization that more Islamic fundies were brought in from other nations, the very beggining of Al Quaeda, an organization which concerns us more than the provincial Taliban ever could. This is how Bin Laden got into the game. He was a conduit for US support. Many Islamic recruits were actually trained in the US, during the 1980's.

This all brings me back to the basic lie propagated by Bush and posters such as Ben (in a previous thread):

People are trying to kill us -- not because of what we have done, but because of who we are.

Which flat out creates a problem when we read things like:

He says that Director Casey even privately told him, "I think your point is quite valid. What asshole would want to defect to these animals?"

What the US did, esentially, is equivalent to hiring psycopaths to do police work. The average Afghani suffered horribly as a consequence. A poor nation was turned into a destitute wreck by a conflict we fed. Ares Akritas has it just right: the Soviets were not nearly the enemy of our values and way of life as were the people we were arming and training.

To Traveller:

was it possible to support the Soviet Union against the Mujahideen?>

Nah, it just wasn't possible....not emotionally, not intellectually, and not even by a good progressive liberal such as myself.

There was no need to support the Soviet Unions. That would have been going too far. But certainly it was unwise to support fundamentalist fanatics, to train them, and worst of all, to network them throughout the Middle East.

It was also, from a strictly liberal/progressive point of view, a criminal act to feed a proxy war in such a poor nation, resulting in millions of dead, wounded, and displaced, and then, once the Soviets were gone, to simply discard such a hard-suffering people to the wims of a few dozen warlords and fundamentalist groups. The end result of our Afghan adventure was the Tabliban, the worst regime on Earth. A policy with such results cannot be defended, even in the name of giving the Soviets a hard time.

But it gets even worse: During the 1980's Pakistan was advancing towards nuclear weapons. But Pakistan was a the key access point to Afghanistan, and so the Pakistan ICI was a basic link to the Afghan rebels. So we let Pakistan do whatever it wanted, incluiding developing the first Islamic bomb, all to spite the Soviets. This was insane. One one side of the border we fed Isalmic fundamentalism while on the other side of the border we passively let them adquire nuclear weapons. All to spite the Soviets in a peripheral conflict.

See Ben? It has a lot to do with what we do.

Posted by: M. Aurelius at January 18, 2004 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

First, thanks for leaving your comments on. Micah is too scared to turn his on, and he has stopped engaging in any kind of discussions or debates on issues of substance (where he is often wrong). His claim to fame is that Schlesinger knows him. For that we should all revere him I suppose.

This war that you (and Micah) wage against Perle is interesting. As far as I can tell, you guys just can't stand the fact that Perle has reached the pinnacle of success and has a wide ranging influence on foreign policy over the past 20 years. I see your criticism as petty and personal, not substantive criticism of policy.

Posted by: Randy H. at January 18, 2004 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Mimikatz: There were several groups under the umbrella "mujahedin".

Yes. One of them was al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden began it there and then: it's called "the base" in Arabic, and while the old Reaganites who are in Bush & Co's team do not wish this pointed out, it's very likely that the US, under Reagan, was al-Qaeda's first financial backer after the bin Laden clan itself. Given the bin Laden clan's close financial and social links with the Bush clan, it's entirely possible that if anyone were interested in looking (not the 9/11 commission, that's for sure) they would find financial links from the pockets of George H. W. Bush direct to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, back when they were attacking Western civilization in Afghanistan.

I wonder, I really do: if it turned out that Clinton's administration had been among the first backers of al-Qaida, if it turned out that there were conceivably financial links from Clinton to Osama bin Laden, do you think the Republicans would have kept quiet about it? Would have considered the financial misjudgements of 20 years ago were irrelevant to a public commission today? But I don't wonder very often. The rest of the time I'm dead certain what would have happened : shitstorm come down.

But because it was the Bushes, everyone in the media just pays it no mind.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 18, 2004 01:06 PM | PERMALINK

Randy H., I don't think anyone would mind Richard Perle having reached "the pinnacle of success" if he didn't apparently define that pinnacle as "What really crazed, stupid, unworkable idea can I convince a Republican government to pay me for - no matter what it costs anyone else to implement?"

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 18, 2004 01:10 PM | PERMALINK

you guys just can't stand the fact that Perle has reached the pinnacle of success

wow. what a totally ridiculous thing to say.

Posted by: ChrisL at January 18, 2004 01:23 PM | PERMALINK

Randy H.

Almost all the commentary about perle is specifically on policy issues--that people assume that the person behind these policy positions, behind the war profiteering, behind the obstinate refusal to accept criticism or correction by people on his own side (and by the hard facts) would be kind of a creepy person is just a byproduct of Perle's actual policy positions and his influence. You can argue that he has no influence (which, of course, Brooks does), you can argue that he is right on everything (Tacitus's position? I cant tell and I don't care) and you can argue that some people on the board think someone with perle's resume and history is a jerk. But you can't seriously suppose that the large number of people who disagree with Perle, a man none of us (hopefully) will ever meet, simply dislike him for "personal reasons?" or are envious of his current political position (which, I daresay, few aspire to). Do you really think that policy wonks like the people on this board get up every day, a la Maureen Dowd, Drudge, and Limbaugh and think about the personalities in the government as personalities? You've taken the celebrity culture thing a bit too far if you do.

Posted by: aimai at January 18, 2004 01:34 PM | PERMALINK

Sickles, you seem to say that Kevin Drum should never criticize policy because he isn't running for office himself. In other words, no one who isn't in power or trying to be has any right to criticize anyone who is. This reminds me of a homeowner's association fight I was in once: the treasurer informed me, with sneering disdain, that his actions were beyoond criticism because he had volunteered his time. I remember his sneers with some amusement now because when the annual meeting finally happened, this sneerer had to admit that he had published a total lie about how much money the association had, in order to push through a fee increase that would have -- among other things -- made his job a paid one instead of a volunteer one! He had plenty of ideas about how to act and all I had was criticisms ... but I was right. So I suggest you take your ideas about how people who don't have solutions should just shut up, and ... shut up.

Posted by: Temperance at January 18, 2004 02:06 PM | PERMALINK
How quickly some of us forget that, while we are currently concerned about one nuclear device the Islamists may potentially get their hands on, the Soviets had several thousand real ones which really were 'deployable' within minutes, all pointed at the United States homeland. Posted by JK

And yet, not a single one was launched. Why was that JK? Can you punch through your ideological blinders and fathom that out?

Get back to us when you do.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus at January 18, 2004 03:04 PM | PERMALINK

For a man who prescribes never ending war as a solution to dealing with the Arab/Muslim world, I was curious: did Perle ever serve in our Armed Forces, especially during the Vietnam War?If he didn't, what was his excuse for evading the draft?
Can any one enlighten me?

Posted by: Bodhisattava at January 18, 2004 03:08 PM | PERMALINK

Thersites... you let a mechanic pour sugar down your gas tank and your -going back to him????

Your faith in humanity is to be commended.

As far as Perle... anyone that sounds absolutely sure of himself is absolutely not to be trusted. The problem is.. that's how most crazies get power... they self-confidently shove and beat down people who have to take time to think on the issues.

Basically, "you have to think?? I -know- .. so make room for someone competent."

Posted by: Gimli at January 18, 2004 03:23 PM | PERMALINK

RandyH: I see your criticism as petty and personal, not substantive criticism of policy.

Randy, you're suggesting we should bring a rock to your knife fight. Sure, I'd try and stack the odds in my favor too, you know, get inside your OODA loop.

But rationality and the finer points of policy have had no place, ever, in this brawl. Plain and simple guesswork supporting gung-ho-ism drove this thing. People like Shinseki, Zinni, Kwiatkowski and others high, deep and wide in the military have been saying so out loud long before shock and awe was gleam in someone's eye. Langley types up to and including Tenet have said the same. All are very pissed at common sense and rational doctrine and planning being frozen out. The public record is clear on this. The prevalence of "gut" thinking from those with none of the on-the-ground, in-theatre, on-the-job exprerience that "proofs" one's gut is what's at work here. And zeal for "right-thinking" is all that's listened to in cults of limbic ideas or, of personality.

Which, to my mind brings up aimai's point:

You've taken the celebrity culture thing a bit too far if you do.

aimai, in a larger way, it is precisely about celebrity--political celebrity and transference at least. That is why all the "rational", logical structured rebuttals are like BBs to kevlar. To my memory, two things to being a true believer: Nonsense discounts proof. And you need, in this case, a zealous, everyman statue upon which to transfer your idealized enemy: fear of change, fear of emasculation and fear of others. The requirement for rhetorical consideration is that you salute the leader and nod at all his warrior-king puffery. Flight-suit codpieces, carrier landings, climbs atop the WTC "pile", Thanksgiving midnite visits--they're all the epitome of political worship and cult of personality: Celebrity.

As I said, to RandyH, ignore this dyanamic and you're not even bringing a rock to a knife fight.

Posted by: fouro at January 18, 2004 03:25 PM | PERMALINK

M. Aurelius wrote:

"With a little help from the CIA. The rebellion was the trigger to the invasion. Your distinction between the Mujahedeen and the Taliban is irrelevant."

Funny, neither the Taliban nor the various factions of the Mujahedeen believed so because they were bitter enemies. Oh, and the CIA help came later, after the fact.

"The so-called freedom fighters were Islamic fundamentalists."

Most non-Communist Afghans were but the degree of harshness and acceptance of the outside world varied considerably. There are also differences between being an Islamic fundamentalist and an Islamist advocating outright theocratic rule.

"Further, it was under US funding and organization that more Islamic fundies were brought in from other nations, the very beggining of Al Quaeda, an organization which concerns us more than the provincial Taliban ever could. "

Ahistorical nonsense. Have you ever heard of a timeline ? Afghanistan is where al Qaida ended up, not where it began, several years *after* the Taliban came to power, long after the Soviets were gone.

Posted by: mark safranski at January 18, 2004 03:32 PM | PERMALINK

Ahistorical nonsense. Have you ever heard of a timeline ? Afghanistan is where al Qaida ended up, not where it began, several years *after* the Taliban came to power, long after the Soviets were gone.

OK, OK. You caught me. It was all a big coincidence. All those Islamic fighters imported into Afghanistan with CIA money didn't talk to each other once they arrived. They never share there thoughts while being indoctrinated in places like Brooklyn. They weren't managed by the same Pakistani handlers. Nope, Al Quaeda just happened spontaneously out of context, cause they hate our freedom.

There are also differences between being an Islamic fundamentalist and an Islamist advocating outright theocratic rule.

Yes right. Absolutely. Caught me again. Islamic fundamentalists never advocate theocratic rule. Those are the other Islamists, the ... well, you know, those other ones, the nasty-looking ones, ahhh, with the beards.

Oh, and the CIA help came later, after the fact.

Oops! You caught me again. Boy! Are you good! I guess Zbigniew Brzezinski doesn't know what he's talking about. I mean, he was just the National Security Advisor at the time, what would he know?

Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

mark, I'm just so happy you straightened me out. I mean, here I was thinking all these mistaken things. Blogs are such a great thing.


Posted by: M. Aurelius at January 18, 2004 04:04 PM | PERMALINK

Be careful now -- if you criticize Perle, David Brooks may call you an anti-Semite... ;-)

Posted by: S. Pratt at January 18, 2004 04:04 PM | PERMALINK

Bodhisattava, no, Richard Perle did not serve in the military. He's a charter member of the Chickenhawk database.

Posted by: PaulB at January 18, 2004 04:04 PM | PERMALINK

their

I hate when that happens.

Posted by: M. Aurelius at January 18, 2004 04:05 PM | PERMALINK

One thing fascinates me about Mr. Perle and other policy "wonks": the mediocre quality of many of their resumes. Not their accomplishments, but the accomplishments they themselves claim. According to Mr. Perle's fact sheet from the American Enterprise Institute, his "professional experience" consists of political appointments, his publications consist of newspaper op-eds, and his academic background consists of an MA in political science.
The American media today seems to recognise three types of people qualified to comment on defence policy: soldiers, politicians, and "defence intellectuals". But while the soldiers have passed the various test the military sets its members, and the politicians have at least convinced a reasonable number of people to support them, the tests the world sets for scholars, such as academic achievement and peer-reviewed publication, have apparently passed the defence intellectuals by. Since Mr. Perle's resume mentions neither military service nor elective office, I can only assume his backers consider him an intellectual worthy of note. But plenty of people teaching at community colleges throughout the United States have more impressive scholarly credentials than Mr. Perle claims.
Mr. Perle's influence raises the troubling question: exactly what do we mean by an intellectual in this context?

Posted by: John G. Spragge at January 18, 2004 04:05 PM | PERMALINK

Randy H. wrote: "I see your criticism as petty and personal, not substantive criticism of policy."

Chortle...guffaw...wheeze.... Gee, Randy, so CalPundit and JMM must be just imagining all of those examples where Perle was ridiculously, embarrassingly wrong, including the example cited by CalPundit in the post that launched this thread. Thanks for clearing that up!

Posted by: PaulB at January 18, 2004 04:08 PM | PERMALINK

Buck Smith wrote: "I think it is Al Quaeda that is getting distracted, they are diverting resources from Afghanistan to Iraq."

Now if only you had some real evidence of this. Hell, the folks in the field can't even make up their minds about whom they're fighting.

Sadly, we do know that the administration has diverted resources away from Afghanistan and the struggle against al Qaida because of this ill-conceived war in Iraq.

Posted by: PaulB at January 18, 2004 04:15 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like we should have urned Perle and Ollie North over to the "Muj."

Posted by: Hesiod at January 18, 2004 04:17 PM | PERMALINK

P.S.

Even Tom Friedman jumped on the "they're fuckin' nuts" bandwagon in his most recent column:

"American policy today toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is insane.

Can anyone look at what is happening — Palestinians, gripped by a collective madness, committing suicide, and Israelis, under a leadership completely adrift, building more settlements so fanatical Jews can live in the heart of Palestinian-populated areas — and not conclude the following: That these two nations are locked in an utterly self-destructive vicious cycle that threatens Israel's long-term viability, poisons America's image in the Middle East, undermines any hope for a Palestinian state and weakens pro-American Arab moderates. No, you can't draw any other conclusion. Yet the Bush team, backed up by certain conservative Jewish and Christian activist groups, believes that the correct policy is to do nothing. Well, that is my definition of insane."

Posted by: Hesiod at January 18, 2004 04:22 PM | PERMALINK

hey, can we set an internet rule that only people who have SERVED in the military are allowed to call others 'chickenhawks'? i think it's a little absurd to question another on the value of sacrifce that soldiers pay, without first acknowledging that they themselves ALSO didn't make such a sacrifice. and fyi, this is being written by a person who did not serve in the military.

Posted by: steve at January 18, 2004 04:52 PM | PERMALINK

oh, and my other proposal for anyone who argues that the iraq war distracted from the war against alqaida, is to recommend what policy you would suggest in the iraq war's absense. while i agree that the iraq war has made the u.s. less popular, i fail to see what cooperation these other countries that opposed the iraq war would have offered if they had a more positive view of the u.s; or, to be more clear, what was chirac going to give us that he already did not? answer = zero.

Posted by: steve at January 18, 2004 05:01 PM | PERMALINK

I'm reminded of an interesting article (from Teresa Nielsen Hayden's blog), "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments," by Justin Kruger and David Dunning, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 77 (Dec. 1999), 1121-34. In short, they show via experiment that incompetent persons, in various fields, have a highly inflated view of their own incompetence.

They start off with a Darwin Awards-like anecdote of an incompetent bank robber, but I add that this syndrome is now found in the higest places. Perle is a shining example.

Military incompetence, and some other types of bureaucratic incompetence, actually reward the incompetent individual up to a point, as this person is unable to recognize that he / she is incompetent, and hence seems highly confident, the “gung-ho” and macho attitude that the military and some other bureaucracies (such as NASA or police) reward. The confident-seeming incompetent person will be promoted ahead of the timid and modest competent person as long as neither are severely tested by reality. Perle's confidence is astronomical, as it seems to survive all reality testing. As a "defense intellectual," he hasn't even been put through the usual testing of military advancement (as was said by someone already).

Furthermore, the specific social location of the incompetent person may further mask his or her incompetence, because people at that location are assumed to be competent: high birth (as was the case for the aristocratic commanders in WWI); high position in a political party or government; degrees from prestigious institutions, or association with other prestigious academic institutions.

This is why we’re in Iraq today: none of the Bush admin or PNAC / AEI folk seem highly competent individuals, as they went in with massively inadequate or even delusional intelligence and / or the onviction that they could lie to us and get away with it. They did not plan for a protracted and difficult war and occupation or estimate difficulties based on the particular realities of Iraq as a society and nation. They did not estimate or care about the worldwide geopolitical reaction to the war and its long-term strategic and diplomatic results; or about its long-term economic impact. But they seemed highly confident, which people mistook for competence. They had no idea that they might be incompetent, it seems.

Furthermore, their social location masqueraded as competence. Bush was elected (selected) as POTUS. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice, Wolfowitz et al. are high-status appointees. Many of the PNAC people have prestigious degrees or associations with prestigious institutions. Others of the admin and think tanks have been CEOs (the phenomenon of the overpaid CEO is another instance of institutional pseudo-competent incompetence). Bush represents an aristocratic family.

The Bushites, furthermore, belong to a political party that represses doubts in its adherents and forces maintenance of a party line; the entire Republican Party possibly manifests this syndrome of pseudo-competent incompetence, suggested by the rage with which they dismiss information, ideologies and views that do not fit their dogma. Perle is only an extreme example, far to the left end on the distribution curve of competence.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Posted by: sara at January 18, 2004 05:22 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry -- "a highly inflated view of their own competence." Evidently I have an highly inflated view of my own competence in previewing comments (though the tiny type of Kevin's comments is partly to blame).

Posted by: sara at January 18, 2004 05:24 PM | PERMALINK

Really steve? You think that the onus is on those of us who thought attacking a non-threatening nation was a bad idea to come up with more? We already suggested one thing that would have prevented a massive loss of credibility and now you think we need to provide ideas that would further increase our credibility?

Posted by: Lori Thantos at January 18, 2004 05:28 PM | PERMALINK

The Mujahideen we supported in the 1980s did NOT "grow up to be the Taliban and Al Qaeda."

The Mujahideen we supported in the 1980s were the ones overthrown by the Taliban, who are now once again the "freedom fighters" we supported in Afghanistan against the Taliban (and who were responsible for allowing Bin Laden to escape from Tora Bora in December 2001). They are the ones who had turned Afghanistan into the world's largest opium poppy garden before they were overthrown by the Taliban, and who have - after only 18 months in power - once again turned Afghanistan into the world's leading supplier of opium. Russian defectors aren't the only ones who get fucked by these mercenary 10th century assholes. And nowadays the DEA is told to stay away from Afghanistan. So much for the "war on drugs."

Cheers,

Tom Cleaver

Posted by: Tom Cleaver at January 18, 2004 05:29 PM | PERMALINK


I went and read his book. In my eyes, it isn't totally crazy (Rats!), and some of the minor foreign policy proposals are pretty much conventional wisdom (Darn!) so I can't dismiss it out of hand (phoey!).

(Though I do get a kick that Frum (a Canadian) is calling America to carry a giant "terror war" burden that he, as a foreigner, won't have to carry.) (And that Frum, in the first paragraph, starts off by using "We" and, well, pretty disingenuously associating himself with Americans. Which he, as I understand, ain't.)

So, i agree with the blogger who said, "I think labeling Perle and neoconservatives as lunatics is a poor strategy. It is much more useful to understand your enemies (and thus, be better able to predict their future actions) than to dismiss them as stupid or insane..."

Every "softliner" must read the book (you can read it in the store over an afternoon)...It's verrry interesting.

Posted by: Springbored at January 18, 2004 05:56 PM | PERMALINK

hey, can we set an internet rule that only people who have SERVED in the military are allowed to call others 'chickenhawks'?

Not really. I did not serve in the military, but I do not go around talking losely of "using force" or whatever euphemism is in vogue for putting people in the way of bullets and shrapnel. I'm also completly sure that under a justified war (such as World War II), I would have served well and gladly.

Moreover, people sign up for all kinds of crazy reasons. I almost joined Air Force ROTC, but decided not to when I was told by the recruitment officer who interviewed me that with my eyesight I stood no chance of becoming a pilot, which is what I really wanted (as did many friends). There were no wars at the time, it was just a question of carreer, money for college, and so forth. In some cases people joined to avoid fighting. An old boss of mine signed up in 1970 to avoid the draft and Viet-Nam. He spent three years having a great time in Germany.

And what about those who serve as first responders, or people who live in places like New York? Members of the Armed Forces do not "own" sacrifice or valor. To so suggest is to separate them from the rest of the country, as a sort of chosen elite. This article addresses this concern in an interesting way.

Posted by: M. Aurelius at January 18, 2004 05:57 PM | PERMALINK

I think, at bottom, we simply have to conclude that Perle and his ilk are nothing more than run of the mill con artists; albeit con artists playing in the major leagues.

And the thing you have to keep in mind about con artists is that it's the rush of "getting over" and the ego boost that drives them much more so than the material gain.

Furthermore, it is typical of con artists that, though they may be clever schemers and master manipulators, they are generally limited in academic type intellectual functioning.

They only know enough jargon to sound impressive to the uninformed.

Deep analysis is antithetical to their character which is primarily that of the thrill seeker, the gambler, the speculator.........and the sociopath.

Posted by: avedis at January 18, 2004 06:32 PM | PERMALINK

Here are my notes from _Charlie Wilson's War_, a very revealing book about modern US foreign policy.

_Charlie Wilson’s War_ by George Crile
NY: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2003

(54) “’Typically terrorists have three targets,’ he [Gust Avrakotos] says, ‘and they almost always pick the easiest to go after.’”

(95) “’If you’re from Aliquippa in the CIA, you may not be black but you’re still a nigger.’”
Editorial Comment: Read Walter Mosley’s _Workin on the Chain Gang_ to understand how this racist/classist idea pervades the US power structure.

(102) “The basic law of modern guerrilla warfare is that no insurgent movement can survive without a sanctuary for its fighters.”

(103) “There has been only one pure holy war in modern times that rallied Muslims everywhere, and that was the jihad of the Afghan tribesmen.”

(108-109) “There is a sound in the streets of this city that must be experienced to be understood. It’s like being inside a beehive - a whirl of turbans, beards, ox-drawn wagons, brightly painted buses, motor scooters turned into rickshaws and driven by Pashtun tribesmen.”

(200) “At MI6 headquarters Awk told Avrakotos that watching that man die had made him finally understand the Afghans’ ancient code: ‘Honor, hospitality, and revenge.’”

(219) “That was the beauty of being on the right side of the guerrilla war; it’s expensive to fight men who are not afraid to die.”

(263) “Alan Fiers, who took over the Central American task force after losing out to Avrakotos for the Afghan job, recalled to the _Wall Street Journal_ the enormous significance Casey attached to the Contra war. Casey told him, ‘Alan, you know the Soviet Union is tremendously overextended and they’re vulnerable. If America challenges the Soviets at every turn and ultimately defeats them in one place, that will shatter the mythology... and it will all start to unravel....’”
Editorial Comment: A lesson for the US to learn although it may be too late.

(294) “Special Forces doctrine held that if a guerrilla insurgency survives and grows, then it is by definition winning.”
Editorial Comment: This means that the Iraqis are winning as of late summer 2003.

(331-334) "For Avrakotos, 1985 was a year of right-wing craziness. About the same time [Senator Gordon] Humphrey surfaced as a menace, he was confronted with a far weirder and more threatening problem from inside the government. A band of well-placed anti-Communist enthusiasts in the administration had come up with a plan they believed would bring down the Red Army, if the CIA would only be willing to implement it.

"The leading advocates of this plan included Richard Perle at the Pentagon, so intense in his Cold War convictions that he was nicknamed 'the Prince of Darkness.' Oliver North also checked in briefly, but ht eman who set Avrakotos' teeth on edge most was Walt Raymond, another NSC staffer who had spent twenty years with the CIA as a propagandist.

"Their idea was to encourage Soviet officers and soldiers to defect to the mujahideen. As Avrakotos derisively describes it, 'The muj were supposed to set up loudspeakers in the mountains announcing such things as "Lay down your arms, there is a passage to the West and to freedom." Once news of this program made its way through the Red Army, it was argued, there would be a flood of defectors.

"This vision was based on Vlasov's army, a German-backed effort during World War II to persuade Communist soldiers to join an anti-Stalinist front. It had met with some success before collapsing, enough at least to excite the passionate efforts of its latter-day advocates. Andrew Eiva, not surprisingly, was deeply involved in this effort. He had gone to Pakistan in the early 1980s trying to find Russian prisoners to demonstrate how effective such a policy could be, but he had learned that the mujahideen did not have much interest in keeping prisoners alive. At a White House meeting, North and Perle told Avrakotos they wanted the Agency to spend millions on this program, expressing the belief that as many as ten thousand defectors could be expected to pour across the lines.

"Avrakotos thought North and Perle were 'cuckoos of the Far Right,' and he soon felt quite certain that Raymond, the man who seemed to be the intellectual ringleader, was truly detached form reality. 'What Russian in his right mind would defect to those fuckers all armed to the teeth?' Avrakotos said in frustration. 'To begin with, anyone defecting to the Dushman would have to be a crook, a thief, or someone who wanted to get cornholed every day, because nine out of ten prisoners were dead within twenty-four hours and they were always turned into concubines by the mujahideen. I felt so sorry for them I wanted to have them all shot.'

"The meeting went very badly indeed. Gust accused North and Perle of being idiots. Larry Penn, Gust's consigliere, actually giggled in their faces. Avrakotos said to Walt Raymond, 'You know, Walt, you're just a fucking asshole, you're irrelevant.'

"Avrakotos thought that would be the end of the Vlasov idea, but he greatly underestimated the political power and determination of this group, who went directly to Bill Casey to angrily protest Avrakotos's insulting manner. The director complained to Clair George, who responded by forbidding Avrakotos to attend any more interagency meeting without a CIA nanny present. George gave the job to his executive assistant, Norm Gardner, who worked out a system so that whenever Gust started to feel the anger coming from his toes he would tap Gardner and let the more diplomatic officer do the talking. But Gardner, who shared Avrakotos's frustrations with the Vlasov business, would often sit back and let his charge have at least a preliminary run at Raymond and the others.

"At one point Avrakotos arrived for one of these White House sessions armed with five huge photographic blowups. Before unveiling them he explained that they would provide a useful understanding of the kind of experience a Soviet soldier could expect to have should he surrender to the mujihadeen. One of them showed two Russian sergeants being used as concubines. Another had a Russian hanging from the turret of a tank with a vital part of his anatomy removed. Another showed a mujahid approaching a Soviet with a dagger in his hands. 'If you were a sane fucking Russian, would you defect to these people/?' he had demanded of Perle.

"In spite of the angry complaints, Claire George and everyone else on the seventh floor agreed with Avrakotos's position. He says that Director Casey even privately told him, 'I think your point is quite valid. What asshole would want to defect to those animals?'

"But the issue wouldn't go away. Perle, Raymond, and the others continued to insist that the Agency find and send back to the United States the many Russian defectors they seemed to believe, despite Avrakotos's denials, the mujahideen were harboring. They had visions of a great publicity campaign once these men reached America. As soon as their stories were known, others would defect. They refused to believe Avrakotos's claim that there were no defectors.

"Avrrkotos describes what happened next with the kind of pleasure he feels only upon achieving revenge. It had been almost impossible to locate two prisoners, much less two defectors. The CIA found itself in the preposterous position of having to pony up $50,000 to bribe the Afghans to deliver two live ones. 'These two guys were basket cases,' says Avrakotos. 'One had been fucked so many times he didn't know what was going on. The other was an alcoholic. We brought them back to the United States and I said to Walt Raymond, "Do you what me to give them your telephone number? They're yours now."'

"Finally, Avrakotos turned the Soviets over to Ludmilla Thorne at Freedom House. 'One guy had hallucinations of the KGB murdering him. The other started fucking with boys.' At that point, Avrakotos says, he went to Perle to announce the good news that the Agency had twelve more willing to come over. 'I turned the tables on them and demanded they take them all. And they didn't want to. That was the new Vlasov's army. In all I think we brought three or four mroe over. One guy ended up robbing a 7-Eleven in Vienna, Virginia.'"

(338) “The Agency was not just flooding Afghanistan with weapons of every nature; it was now unapologetically moving to equip and train cadres of high-tech holy warriors in the art of waging a war of urban terror against a modern superpower.”

(340-341) “’I told Casey,’he [Gust Avrakotos] recalls, ‘that he should talk to the king [of Saudi Arabia] about “your Muslim brothers,” about using the money for food for the families, for clothing, weapons, for repairing the mosques. You talk to him about being the “keeper of the faith.”’

“’Jesus, fuck, I like that - keeper of the faith,’ Casey said. ‘Oh fuck, I like that - keeper of the faith.’”

(346) “He intended to give them the most sophisticated weaponry and turn them in to a force of late-twentieth-century ‘technoguerrillas.’

“Drawing on Gust’s authority, Vickers was already channeling a torrent of new and varied weapons to the mujahideen, but that was only half the battle. He had been appalled when he’d discovered that the Agency was offering the mujahideen only four or five training courses in weapons and tactics, none any longer than a week. Now, under the supervision of marine Colonel Mick Pratt, the straitlaced officer who had been so repelled by Charlie Wilson on the Egyptian trip, the Agency began giving twenty different courses covering a range of irregular warfare disciplines, some lasting a month or more.”

(349) “Throughout the war, the CIA was rigidly prohibited from having any American agents operating inside Afghanistan. In fact, for most of the war, they were only permitted to train the Pakistanis, who in turn trained the Afghans.”

(393) “Bearden became so intoxicated with this kind of psychological warfare that he later developed plans to have a group of mujahideen shoot dead Russian soldiers with crossbows. To him, the vision of men who might kill you with a bow and arrow one day or with a satellite-guided mortar the next would be unnerving to any army.”

(408) “The simple truth, as Vickers saw it, was that in this lone encounter [Gardez-to-Kabul ambush] the mujahideen had proved that they could become the army of technoguerrillas that he had set out to create.”

(463) “The dirty little secret of the Afghan war was that Zia had extracted a concession early on from Reagan: Pakistan would work with the CIA against the Soviets in Afghanistan, and in return the United States would not only provide massive aid but would agree to look the other way on the question of the bomb.”
Editorial Comment: So not only do we fund, arm, and train an army of technoguerrilla “keepers of the faith” but we also allow their other sponsors and co-religionists to develop atomic weapons.

(471) “Charlie found himself thinking of life in the Old West as Yousaf told him about the Pashtuns’ warrior tradition: How children are taught to withstand pain. How no boy cries after the age of six. Of the towering importance of revenge. How a Pashtun will wait generations, if necessary, to get even. He talked of their astonishing courage and orneriness, their total religious faith and their uncanny marksmanship. Of how little they needed to sustain themselves in the field and how they would bury their fallen comrades in the clothes and in the precise locations in which they’d died. For them there is no greater honor than to be shaheed, to die in the jihad.”

(478) “As Wilson and CIA saw it, all might be lost if the United States publicly slapped Zia in the face and withdrew its aid. They knew that without Zia running Pakistan by martial law, there could be no Afghan war. Officially there was no Pakistani involvement with the mujihadeen, but the population of Pakistan certainly knew about it and didn’t like it. The Soviets were bombing their borders, sponsoring terrorist attacks. There were three million Afghan refugees and tens of thousands of armed warriors in Pakistan. And all of this at a time when Pakistan had to worry about a new war with India. The only reason Zia was able to maintain the loyalty of his army in the continuation of this policy was because of the billions he was receiving in U.S. military and economic aid. If that was taken away, all bets were off.

“At the Pakistan embassy over dinner, former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski confronted Steve Solarz with a question: ‘Steve, what are your objectives in cutting off aid to Pakistan? Because if you do, I foresee the following things happening: one, the Afghan resistance collapsing and Soviets triumphing; two, the present government in Pakistan will disappear; and three, you’ll have an anti-American government in Pakistan in possession of the bomb. Is that what you want?’”
Editorial Comment: At this time, the US was giving Pakistan more foreign aid than anybody except Israel and Egypt, the two largest recipients. 

(510) “Throughout the Muslim world, the victory of the Afghans over the army of a modern superpower was seen as a transformational event.”
Editorial Comment: As was 9/11.

(521-522) “The consequence for America of having waged a secret war and never acknowledging or advertising its role was that we set in motion the _spirit_ of jihad and the belief in our surrogate soldiers that, having brought down one superpower, they could just as easily take on another.

“The question that has puzzled so many Americans, ‘Why do they hate us?’ is not so difficult to understand if you put yourself in the shoes of the Afghjan veterans in the aftermath of the Soveit departure. Within months, the U.S.government ‘discovered’ what it had known for the past eight years - that Pakistan was hard at work on the Islamic bomb. But with the Russians gone, sanctions were imposed and all military and economic assistance was cut off. The fleet of F-16s that Pakistan had already purchased was withheld. Within a year, the Clinton Administration would move to place Pakistan on the list of state sponsors of terrorism for its support of Kashmiri freedom fighters. The Pakistan military had long been the surrogates for the CIA, and every Afghan and Arab mujahid came to believe that America had betrayed the Pakistanis. And when the United States kept its troops (including large numbers of women) in Saudi Arabia, not just bin Laden but most Islamists believed that America wanted to seize the Islamic oil fields and was seeking world domination.”

(523) Charlie Wilson: “I truly believe that this caused the Berlin Wall to come down a good five, maybe ten, years before it would have otherwise. Over a million Russian Jews got their freedom and left for Israel. God knows how man were freed from the gulags. At least a hundred million Eastern Europeans are breathing free today, to say nothing of the Russian people. It’s the truth, and all those people who are enjoying those freedoms have no idea of the part played by a million Afghan ghosts. To this day no one has ever thanked them.”
Editorial Comment: Do you think it would make much difference if we thanked the mujahideen now?

Posted by: gmoke at January 18, 2004 06:37 PM | PERMALINK

I saw Juan Cole talk at Harvard in December. He mentioned a statement by Paul Wolfowitz to the effect it's a good thing that Iraq has no holy cities. Wokfowitz and Perle are very smart guys but they are also too smart for their own good in that they don't recognize their own ignorance.

A little humility is a good thing and Mr Perle and Mr Wolfowitz (and probably Mr Bush) don't seem to have any.

Posted by: gmoke at January 18, 2004 06:42 PM | PERMALINK

M.A.
"I would have served well and gladly."

That you would have "served well", I have no doubt.

That you would have served "gladly" implies that you would have been some sort of rear echelon type and that you were unattached to a wife, children and all.

No one on the line is glad. They are frightened, miserable, disgusted, and debased by the inhuman savagery that is inflicted on them and that they inflict on others.

But, I also think the suggestion that only those with military service get to use the term "chicken hawk" is silly.

The disguting aspect of those meritting the title "chicken hawk" is not that they never served, but that the avoided serving during a time of war and that now they advocate (with rellish) sending our service members into harm's way without the normal causi belli and perpetually.


Posted by: avedis at January 18, 2004 06:47 PM | PERMALINK

M. Aurelius and other commenters have already done an excellent job of dispelling this nonsense about the Afghan Mujahedin not being the direct progenitors of the Taliban and al Quada. I have little in terms of analysis to add...except I'd like to share this little quote below, from a 1993 newspaper interview:

"...Talk he eventually did about a war which he helped to win for the Afghan Mujahedin: 'What I lived in two years there, I could not have lived in a hundred years elsewhere,' he said. When the history of the Afghan resistance movement is written, Mr. Bin Laden's own contribution to the Mujahedin -- and the indirect result of his training and assistance -- may turn out to be a turning point in the recent history of militant fundamentalism; even if, today, he tries to minimize his role. 'When the invasion of Afghanistan started, I was enraged and went there at once -- I arrived within days, before the end of 1979,' he said."

Yes, folks this is Osama Bin Laden himself talking about how he joined the Mujahedin as soon as the Soviets invaded. You remember Mr. Bin Laden, don't you? Mr. al Quada himself, the ally of the Taliban? You know, the guy who actually attacked us on 9/11? (It really wasn't Saddam, you know).

Posted by: Ares Akritas at January 18, 2004 07:06 PM | PERMALINK

gmoke,
I will reads this book.

What I find particularly interesting are the lines pertaining to ignoring Pakistan's development of nuclear weapons in exchange for cooperation with plans in the 'stan.

I had held in the build up to war in Iraq that the idea that Iraq could be a threat was ludicrous.

That Iraq was the most effectively scrutinized counrty on the globe (due to the presence of intel members on the inspection teams and intel from the teams proper) and that there was no way that Iraq could produce, let alone set up the necessary and obvious delivery systems for WMD without our noticing well in advance.

Furthermore, I submitted prior to the war that prima facia evidence of Iraqi impotence lay in the Clinton admin.'s continual destruction of anything that vaguely resembeled a guidance system component.

I received a few rebuttles based on Pakistan's ability to develop their program undetected (until the actual test).

I had what I thought were reasonable responses, yet I knew something was missing. I did not believe it possible that we had no inkling of their program.

This book could put the final nail in the case coffin as far as I am concerned.

Posted by: avedis at January 18, 2004 07:15 PM | PERMALINK

Traveller: "Nah, it just wasn't possible....not emotionally, not intellectually, and not even by a good progressive liberal such as myself."

I can certainly appreciate your predicament. I was, and remain, an anti-communist myself. I detest all forms of tyranny. However, I think if we had the right leadership back then the case could have been made for at least isolating the fundamentalists in Afghanistan instead of supporting them. Remember, the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets took place after the Iranian fundamentalists seized the American embassy. Yes, it was only 20 days or so earlier, and sure, hindsight is 20/20. But still, we did have a pretty good sense of what Islamic fundamentalism was capable of. And from the descriptions in "Charlie Wilson's War" it's obvious that our government also knew what these buggers were all about. And still, what we did was to give them the means to facilitate recruitment, and the training to eventually attack us.

If Nixon managed to pull off going to China in the midst of the Cold War, a true leader could have explained why it was in our long-term interest to avoid giving aid and comfort to medievalists bent on destroying modernity. Instead, Carter was too scared the conservatives would label him soft on atheistic communism and Reagan just didn't have a functioning brain.

Posted by: Ares Akritas at January 18, 2004 07:26 PM | PERMALINK

Aurelius,

If you pick up Brzezinski's memoirs, in which he devotes a fair amount of space to Afghanistan, he writes a good deal more than your limited excerpt:

(p. 427) " In April 1979, I pushed a decision through the SCC to be more sympathetic to those Afghans who were determined to preserve their country's independence...by midsummer we had received numerous intelligence reports of widespread resistance through Afghanistan to the Soviet-supported regime..."

Here, Brzezinski is probably referring to the uprising in Herat which resulted in the massacre of a small garrison of Soviet advisors and their dependents, an event that propelled hardline demands in the KGB, GRU and CPSU CC for direct intervention.

"...On July 23, I warned the President that the Soviets would probably unseat Prime Minister Amin ( who later in September siezed complete control from his fellow Communist President Taraki), since Amin's Communist terror tactics were proving counterproductive "

In other words, the fighting in Afghanistan predated not only CIA help to the rebels, but the presidential finding signed by Jimmy Carter that authorized it that Robert Gates describes in detail in his memoir. Moreover, Brzezinski's chronology jibes with the view of prominent Soviet officials like KGB General Oleg Kalugin who worked under Vladimir Kyuchkov, an advocate of the Soviet invasion. Read his book and that of Robert Gates. For that matter, go back and read old news articles on Afhanistan from 1978-1979.

The lunacy of the " Blowback Thesis " on al Qaida is that it in Leftist zeal to blame America, it treats the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan like some kind of amoral natural disater like an earthquake or a hurricane and ascribes moral fault primarily to the American * reaction* to Soviet behavior.

Had the Soviets not invaded, not encouraged Taraki to assassinate Amin, not aided their client's attempt to transform the countryside along Marxist lines ( this is where the Islamic hornet's nest was really stirred) not encouraged Parcham-Khalq to overthrow Daoud, not supported Daoud's toppling of King Zahir Shah, Afhanistan would have remained an unimportant buffer state.

Posted by: mark safranski at January 18, 2004 07:50 PM | PERMALINK

" M. Aurelius and other commenters have already done an excellent job of dispelling this nonsense about the Afghan Mujahedin not being the direct progenitors of the Taliban and al Quada "

Bin Laden's ideology as it manifests itself in al Qaida is again, a post-Afghanistan phenomenon occurring in response to the House of Saud's reaction to the invasion of Kuwait. Even then it took several *years* of exile and the influence of Egyptian Islamic Jihad leaders to transform Bin Laden's vague jihadism into al Qaida's extreme but well-developed Islamist worldview. Aurelius and other posters are projecting these views backwards on to bin Laden half a decade or more and then attributing them to American policy in Afghanistan.

Posted by: mark safranski at January 18, 2004 08:01 PM | PERMALINK

I think the point is Perle and his ilk have a sweeping vision of using American military power to force democracy down the throats of failed nations all over the world. Nevermind that the vision is impossible to attain and will likely bankrupt us while leaving us virtually friendless. Churchill had his own hairbrained ideas like uniting France and Britain into one country in order to bring the US into the war a few days before France fell in 1940. Perle may have a sweeping vision and goals like worldwide democracy are laudable but that doesn't mean his methods are feasible.

Posted by: markg8 at January 18, 2004 08:19 PM | PERMALINK

Er, yeah. We should turn foreign policy over to the party filled with experts who believe that the US should use Saudi forces to hunt Osama bin Laden, and who believe that US foreign policy should be subject to a veto by any European power, and who believed that the inspections regime in Iraq in the mid-90s was effective, and who believed that North Korea lived up to its agreements, et cetera.

Posted by: Thomas at January 18, 2004 08:22 PM | PERMALINK

It's interesting reading this....

It's a wonderful demonstration of why the Democrats will lose in November.

Here you have a bunch of the most articulate Democrats around arguing that it was in our interest to let the Soviets win in Afghanistan and that we aren't really in a war with Islamic fundamentalism.

Go tell it to the NASCAR dads!

I'm also amused by the intellectual inconsistency.

If we're not in a war with Islamic fundamentalism then why shouldn't we have supported the Afghans against the Soviet empire?

Umm... Err...

In real life, of course, both are/were wars.

In 1980 the hot war was against the Soviets. Today it's against Islamicists.

Using one to finish off the other made sense.

Just like allying with Stalin to defeat Hitler made sense.

Posted by: Mike at January 18, 2004 08:29 PM | PERMALINK

Mark, you're arguing semantics here. Ares labeled the mujahdeen the "progenitors" of Al Qaeda. You may call Al Qaeda a "post Afghanistan phenomenon", but that doesn't alter the fact that Al Qaeda was spawned from the mujahadeen. Ares is correct to use the term.

With regard to M. Aurelius's point concerning the CIA's help... here are his words: "With a little help from the CIA. The rebellion was the trigger to the invasion."

Now, you do agree that the rebellion preceded the invasion, right? And, you did not attempt to refute the quote concerning the 1979 directive to offer CIA assistance, right? In other words, Mark, Aurelius's points are correct. The other quotes you offer don't counter either one. I think you're operating under the assumption that he initially claimed CIA assistance preceded the rebellion, but that's not how I read his remarks.

Finally, your comments about leftist zeal and lunacy regarding blowback are the twisting of arguments to suit your bias against liberal thought. They carry as much weight as someone who may wish to characterize right-wingers as zealots who believe that America can do no wrong, therefore if anyone attacks us it's because they hate our freedoms.

Posted by: Amigo at January 18, 2004 08:56 PM | PERMALINK

Aurelius and other posters are projecting these views backwards on to bin Laden half a decade or more and then attributing them to American policy in Afghanistan.

No mark, that is factually incorrect as is everything else you've said so far. I have no idea where Bin Laden developed his views. Others and I have pointed out where, when, how, and with support and funding from whom he developed his contacts and networks.

The point is not that nut cases can develop extreme ideology by themselves or not. The point is that nut cases with finnancial backing, logistical support, weapons, black op and military training, and carefully nurutured international links with others of their kind made up the "broth" so to speak, which resulted in the creation of Al Quaeda and its affiliates.

Certainly, there are and have been strands of dangerous fanaticism in Islam, as well as many other religions. What the CIA did was weave these strands together, add water, and stir. A lot of people died in the process, and now we've got a nice mess in our hands.

Posted by: M. Aurelius at January 18, 2004 09:01 PM | PERMALINK

"We should turn foreign policy over to the party filled with experts who believe that the US should use Saudi forces to hunt Osama bin Laden"

I'm thinking your hearing voices speaking in tongues or something. Whatever they tell you don't do it! Take your medication, get psychiatric help immmediately!

Posted by: Conker at January 18, 2004 09:32 PM | PERMALINK

"Mark, you're arguing semantics here. Ares labeled the mujahdeen the "progenitors" of Al Qaeda. You may call Al Qaeda a "post Afghanistan phenomenon", but that doesn't alter the fact that Al Qaeda was spawned from the mujahadeen. Ares is correct to use the term."

" Progenitor " - words actually mean something - implies " fathering ". The Taliban were, not by and large, Mujahedeen - particularly in terms of ideology. So, no, the term was used incorrectly to obscure the fact that evidence weighs against the position....much like conflating events 1985-1998 in one unsystematic witch's brew of allegation and assumption. " Predecessor " might be an accurate word because it does not imply a nonexistent direct organizational tie.

"Now, you do agree that the rebellion preceded the invasion, right? And, you did not attempt to refute the quote concerning the 1979 directive to offer CIA assistance, right?"

I don't dispute the quote, it's an established fact that a presidential finding was signed. When we talk about *causation* of the invasion however, we have to look at what the Soviet side considered significant and the finding was not it. The Soviets were deeply concerned about both the rebellion and bloody rivalry between the Taraki and Amin factions more than a year before the invasion. They sent prominent Soviet officials - Kalugin, Kryuchkov, a CC secretary ( a Tatar) and two Red Army marshals, including the guy who had commanded the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia - to shore up the regime and lay the groundwork for direct intervention. More importantly, Soviet interest in Afghanistan ( and increased meddling) went back to the overthrow of the monarchy.

"I have no idea where Bin Laden developed his views. "

Agreed. However, that might have some bearing on this discussion. Lots of people are veterans of various wars throughout history without going on to form dangerously apocalyptic and messianic political movements. That such a person might subsequently do something along those lines as a justification for not resisting things like military expansion strikes me as a self-defeating strategy.

Posted by: mark safranski at January 18, 2004 09:40 PM | PERMALINK

The lunacy of the " Blowback Thesis " on al Qaida is that it in Leftist zeal to blame America, it treats the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan like some kind of amoral natural disater like an earthquake or a hurricane and ascribes moral fault primarily to the American * reaction* to Soviet behavior.

Unfortunately for you, I do not consider America to be the CIA or even the excecutive branch. I don't "blame America" for this any more than I "blame America" for the assasination of the Kennedys and MLK. The standard right-wing tactic is to say "I am America", and hence if you blame them for anything you are blaming America. Please take that reasoning elsewhere.

Second, the entire sequence of events in Afghanistan is only one of many threads in the Islamic world. The CIA toppling of a democratic secular government in Iran is probably even more significant and, unlike Afghanistan, there was no credible blame possible on the Soviet Union. The British simply wanted the oil profits.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was unjustified and wrong enough. However, the US was a frequent invader of nations it considers in its "backyard". Afghanistan had been under Soviet influence for decades, in a manner not unlike, for instance, Central America had been by the US. Since our actions in Afghanistan were not meant to support democracy, but rather a bunch of "animals", the moral underpinings of our reaction are rather slim.

In any case, our intervention in Afghanistan predates even the Carter directive, except that it was done through a proxy, the Shah of Iran since at least 1975. The change in 1979 came because, well, our puppet the Shah was no longer available to do our bidding:

Selig Harrison, the Washington Post's South Asia specialist, wrote an article in 1979 entitled "The Shah, Not the Kremlin, Touched off Afghan Coup", concluding:

The Communist takeover in Kabul [April 1978] came about when it did, and in the way that it did, because the Shah disturbed the tenuous equilibrium that had existed in Afghanistan between the Soviet Union and the West for nearly three decades. In Iranian and American eyes, Teheran's offensive was merely designed to make Kabul more truly nonaligned, but it went far beyond that. Given the unusually long frontier with Afghanistan, the Soviet Union would clearly go to great lengths to prevent Kabul from moving once again toward a pro-western stance.{4}

As for the phrase The lunacy of the " Blowback Thesis", all I can respond is that the true lunacy is to believe that isolated, primitive, almost neolithic peoples continents away from the United States would suddenly wake up one day (so to speak), hate our freedom, and decide to fly jetliners into our cities.

It is plain as day that they did not come to us but rather we came to them. The "we" includes (just so you don't give me that "blame America" nonsense), every Western power plus the Russians. In particular the French and the British had screwed up between them nearly every African and Middle Eastern country for nearly a century by about 1965. Rather than present an enlightenned alternative to their abusive colonial history, the US national security establishment followed in their blood-soaked footsteps. And this, roughly, is why we are where we are today.

Posted by: M. Aurelius at January 18, 2004 09:44 PM | PERMALINK

Selig Harrison, BTW, in the early 1990's co-wrote a book on the Afghan invasion ( can't recall title, might have been_Afghanistan_) that delved much deeper into Soviet decision-making process for the invasion than the 1979 article you cited and was, as a result, quite critical of Soviet intentions and the client regime in Kabul. Harrison, as you are no doubt aware, is *not* a right-winger.

I'm afraid I can't equate American aid to the Mujahedeen with Franco-British colonialism, Teddy Roosevelt era intervention in Latin America or the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan itself. For obvious reasons, giving a third party weapons to fight an invader is a different act from setting up a colonial empire.

Standing aside from such conflicts entirely, a suggested route by a number of posters - basically the Franco-British position in the Spanish Civil War and during ethnic conflict in Yugoslavia and Bosnia - has a very unhappy historical record. Aurelius, is that the route we should have followed ?

Posted by: mark safranski at January 18, 2004 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

Mark, words do mean something. Progenitor: 1) a forefather, ancestor in direct line. 2) a source from which something develops; originator or precursor.

The Taliban were not by and large mujahedeen, but some were, among them Mullah Rehmani, one of its founders and the former governor of Kandahar.

The causation was a concern for both the rebellion and the bloody rivalry? If there had been no rebellion, would the Soviets have invaded, Mark?

Posted by: Amigo at January 18, 2004 10:19 PM | PERMALINK

“The Agency was not just flooding Afghanistan with weapons of every nature; it was now unapologetically moving to equip and train cadres of high-tech holy warriors in the art of waging a war of urban terror against a modern superpower.”

Hard to believe that could ever have negative consequences for us ...

Posted by: Michael Farris at January 18, 2004 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

Standing aside from such conflicts entirely, a suggested route by a number of posters - basically the Franco-British position in the Spanish Civil War and during ethnic conflict in Yugoslavia and Bosnia - has a very unhappy historical record. Aurelius, is that the route we should have followed?

Good question. My answer is that if there are no good guys, no intervention. And if there are good guys but you aren't willing to pick up the pieces afterwards, no intervention either. In Afghanistan we were helping one warlord who was known for throwing acid at women's faces. These are American values?

Further, the Afghan effort involved recruiting Islamists from all over the Arab world, not just helping Afghan fighters. This is how Bin Laden, who is not Afghan, comes into the picture. The main mistake was to create a large fundamentalist network of people trained to fight unconventional warfare.

The problem with where your argument is going is that it is quite clear that no effort was made to help the Afghan population either during or after the conflict. In other words, the motives were never humanitarian, as the book excerpts make clear (I have not read it). They only intent was to harm the Soviets, regardless of what this meant to the Afghan population.

Had a true effort to help the Afghans been mounted, I would feel diferently about this period, even if things had gone wrong.

Note also that, being on the Left, I should be defending Carter. On the contrary, I think Afghanistan was his darkest moment.

In either Yugoslavia or Spain, intervention would have been primarily based on defending civil populations from military attack by authoritarian regimes. Yet in Spain, particularly, Anglo/French inaction (as well as American passive support for Franco) there was another motive at work. The Republic had communist and anarchist elements, and a socialist program. It was openly supported by the Soviet Union, although not to the degree the Germans armed Franco and did his bombing for him. The Anglo/French/Americans had no interest in a socialist Spain. It was not a question of mere passivity or appeasment.

I'm afraid I can't equate American aid to the Mujahedeen with Franco-British colonialism

Well, the methods were similar, particularly to the British who had made proxy fighting an art (the UK always had a manpower problem, a white manpower problem to be exact).

But in the case of Iran or Indochina (Viet-Nam) the relationship to colonial rule is linear and direct. Iran was a former British colony that was stuck with a bad oil deal made when they were still a colony. They decided to change it, as a free nation, and offered the British a 20% take. The Brits did not accept this (post-war Brittain was basically insolvent, so they really wanted the money), and the UK proceeded to mount a trade embargo and stage a coup, which failed. The UK embassy was then closed, and so the Brits asked the US for help. Truman said no, but later Ike gave the green light. The result was a coup, 300 dead, and a 25-year reign of terror which would kill and torture thousands. The Brits even lost the oil business to the Americans.

The Iranian students were obssesed with the US embassy because that's where the coup was run from. Hence, they closed the circle by taking the hostages.

You can't get a straighter colonial link than that.

Posted by: M. Aurelius at January 18, 2004 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

"you guys just can't stand the fact that Perle has reached the pinnacle of success and has a wide ranging influence on foreign policy over the past 20 years."

What?? He concocted huge whoppers to help lie us into this war and in 1970, while working for Sen. "Scoop" Jackson"s office he was caught on a NSA wiretap giving classified information to the Israeli Embassy:

http://www.amconmag.com/03_24_03/cover.html

http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/82may/hershwh2.htm

He should have done time.

Posted by: Rick Barton at January 19, 2004 01:59 AM | PERMALINK

Tom Cleaver claimed: The Mujahideen we supported in the 1980s did NOT "grow up to be the Taliban and Al Qaeda."

Tom, that's absurd.

Osama bin Laden was one of the Mujahideen who were being supported by the US in the 1980s. That's as much a fact as Saddam Hussein being supported by the US in the 1980s. Part of Osama bin Laden's mythos in the Muslim world is that he is a veteran of the fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Muhammad Omar, the mullah who was leader of the Taliban, is also a veteran of the mujahideen - as were most of the other Taliban who were old enough to fight in the Mujahideen. What do you think, the Taliban were one and all in their early 20s?

Like it or not, Tom, Carter foolishly supported the mujahideen because they were "anti-Communist". Maybe he would have thought better of it had he had four years more of government, but Reagan's team were typical knee-jerk right-wingers - it didn't matter that the mujahideen were anti-women, anti-freedom, and anti-democracy, because they were also anti-Communist, and to Reagan's team that made them "pro-American".

And yes, the Northern Alliance are also the inheritors of the mujahideen: different factors, same people. The only chance for civilization left in Afghanistan is with the Soviet legacy of universities, value for education, equal rights for women. Unfortunately, in Afghanistan, the US always, always, picked the wrong side to support.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 19, 2004 02:18 AM | PERMALINK

so Jesurgislac, you're arguing we should have supported the soviets in afghanistan? i don't think that at all is the obvious policy decision, even in hindsight.

the awful thing right now, that neither the pubbies (cuz they like their 4x4s) or the dems (cuz they're slaves to the wahhabis) will admit, is that by buying hordes of oils we fund our own murderers. that's the real issue, that's the 'root cause' of all the terror... the dems want to treat terror as a criminal issue, and the republicans want to treat terror without addressing who funds them.... it's frustrating as hell for a registered independent.

Posted by: steve at January 19, 2004 07:22 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, the Dems are explicitly dealing with this issue. Consider this Dean interview fragment:

And I dobut Jesurgislac advocates (or would have) support for the Soviet Union. On the contrary, the US should have made all the requisite noises against the invasion, and led the World community to pressure the Soviets to get out and to respect human rights while they were there. The Soviets, as a global power, had multiple pressure points that could have been exploited, such as their dependence on foreign grain (Carter cut US exports and Reagan resumed them). None of these things would have ended the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, but they would have exacted a cost, and boosted our own credentials much damaged after the CIA interventions of the 50's, 60's, and 70's.

But organizing and arming religious psycopaths is not (or should never have been) compatible with US policy abroad. It destroyed our credibility and our image, and has created a threat to our very life and freedom, as well as the life and freedom of moderate Middle Eastern peoples. It also resulted in the "collateral" destruction of Afghanistan, and allowed the creation of the Pakistani nuclear bomb. All in all, I'd call that a disaster. Wouldn't you?

Posted by: M. Aurelius at January 19, 2004 08:10 AM | PERMALINK

so Jesurgislac, you're arguing we should have supported the soviets in afghanistan? i don't think that at all is the obvious policy decision, even in hindsight.

No, Steve. I'm arguing that Carter should not have supported the mojaheddin in Afghanistan. That's a very different thing from supporting the Soviet invasion. Take a look at the timeline involved.

I read a book by an Irish woman, Dervla Murphy, who travelled by bicycle through Afghanistan in the 1960s. It's the only first-hand account by a woman that I've read of Afghanistan at that time. She describes a culture where - especially in rural areas - women are so repressed as to be virtually invisible (though she found that she, as an obvious foreigner and a guest in the land, was treated with respect and hospitality). She commented (this is in Full Tilt) on the balance Afghanistan had to walk between the USSR and the US, and noted (this was generally in her travels) that the US was good at the big flashy stuff, but the USSR was good at small changes that really affected people's lives. She mentions the Taliban, as an extremist sect that clearly didn't affect many people.

It would have been around the time that Dervla Murphy visited that King Zahir Shah announced the New Democracy: the first elections were held in 1965. In 1973, Prince Daud staged a coup against the monarchy (his father was in Italy at the time for medical reasons) and declared Afghanistan a republic and himself the first President. Daud evidently had plans to be a President of an independent and progressive Afghanistan. He was ousted in 1978 in a bloody coup staged by the PDPA (Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan).

The PDPA was a completely indigenous party: it was begun by Afghans, led by Afghans: the coup by which they took power was bloody, but no worse than any other coup in Afghan's bloody history.

Here's the point at which things get fuzzy. Apparently the PDPA began a programme of land reform (until then, 3% of the population had owned 75% of the land, in a feudal landlord system that dated back centuries), abolished dowries and arranged marriages, and were denounced by "the people of Afghanistan" as atheists - but no one says anything about how women in Afghanistan felt about this. Contemporary reports (what's available) indicate that the PDPA had strong support among the educated elite.

In 1979, the US Ambassador, Adolph Dubs, was killed in Kabul. There were a succession of coups and murders, leaving finally Babrak Karmal, a member of PDPA, President of Afghanistan, calling in Soviet troops to fight the mujahideen. In 1986, he was replaced in another coup by Najibullah, and by 1992 the last stronghold of communist government in Afghanistan had fallen, and the victorious mujahideen were calling for US aid to rebuild Afghanistan. Which they didn't get; military aid over the years of war is reckoned as about $2.6 billion, but peacetime aid fell away to virtually nothing, once the Soviets had pulled out.

The US didn't support the Taraki government (1978 coup) from the very beginning - not because of the bloody coup that began it, but because it was a leftwing government, socialist in tendency, geographically close to the USSR. Reports of CIA involvement with the mojaheddin date from that period.

It seems likely that despite claims that "the people of Afghanistan" denounced the Teraki government as atheists from the very beginning, the reason that the CIA supported the mojaheddin was because only in the ranks of Islamic extremists could they find enough men who hated the Teraki government of Afghanistan enough to rebel against it. It's notable that though Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, the last communist stronghold didn't fall to the mojaheddin until 1992.

I'm certain that when Jimmy Carter decided that the US should throw its military support into the scales on the side of the mojaheddin, and when Ronald Reagan (and later Bush I) continued that policy, the last thing they were thinking about was that the mojaheddin aimed to violently and viciously repress 50% of the population of Afghanistan. Because the women of Afghanistan did not figure in Carter's mind, or Reagan's, or Bush's, as being in the least important: their freedom, their rights, were absolutely invisible next to the political imperative of "fighting communism".

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 19, 2004 09:10 AM | PERMALINK

sorry, what dean fragment are you talking about? from what i've read of dean, he has specifically said that 9/11 was a criminal act. i'm willing to hear out other dems on the issue, maybe edwards of n.c., but dean does not impress me.

anyway, i appreciate that you have advocated a position to take during the afghan-soviet wars, but is starving people to death really a good answer as you propose? it hasnt worked in north korea, nor did it work in iraq.

as for afghanistan, it has been war ravaged for quite a long time, sadly. and the middle east has been not exactly moderate for a long time as well; you may recall a certain lebanese adventure of the u.s., designed to bail out our french friends. of course, in conflicts the u.s. had absolutely nothing to do with, you have situations like egypt using chemical weapons against yemen.

again, all i want to hear from a pol is this -- we're at war, but while we're fighting these guys, maybe we'll stop funding them too!

Posted by: steve at January 19, 2004 09:15 AM | PERMALINK

The blog by Arthur Silber at http://blog.light-of-reason.com is quite excellent. He's an Objectivist, but very independent, of the ethics oriented sort, and not a flunky for the usual interests which capture non-liberal thinkers. Very good commentary on ethical issues, Administration mischief, concerned about Iraq and neocons, etc. (He alerted me to the shameful smearing of their critics as "anti-semitic.") I came here from a commentary and link at his blog.

Posted by: Neil at January 19, 2004 09:38 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, here is the Dean quote:

You criticized the president for not standing up to Saudi Arabia. What would you do to confront the Saudis?

First of all, I'd get off foreign oil. All it means is enormous investment in renewables. Wind -- the Danes get twenty percent of all their electricity from wind. We can do something very close to that. Solar -- you've got to change the tax laws and have a massive effort to do that. Oil conservation -- if you had the same mileage requirements for SUVs and trucks as you did for the rest of the fleet, every year you'd save the entire amount of oil that's supposed to be in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

And:

A lot of people say that maybe we don't have much economic pressure against the Saudis. They hold billions in U.S. Treasury notes. What if they responded by threatening to liquidate their investment in our government? Wouldn't we be screwed?

Balancing the budget would help that. I mean, this president has made us much weaker than we were when we got here: $500 billion deficits as far as the eye can see is a terribly weakening thing to the economy. Both the Chinese and the Saudis, and others, hold enormous amounts of T-bills. That's a huge problem for us in an era with a declining dollar and a huge deficit. If most Americans understood what you just said, George Bush would be gone.

As for starving people, the Soviets were not about to starve. I did not mean blocking food flow into Afghanistan. And no, I don't advocate starving people. It does not work. The grain embargo would have raised the cost of food, hurt economically. The Soviet Union was in no danger of starvation.

as for afghanistan, it has been war ravaged for quite a long time, sadly. and the middle east has been not exactly moderate for a long time as well; you may recall a certain lebanese adventure of the u.s., designed to bail out our french friends

Well of course, if you read my posts, you'll see I'm pretty far from blaming US covert policy for everything. I specifically mention how much damage the French and British did. I mean, we have to come clean but we have to force them to come clean as well. The british gassed the Iraqis in the 30's. This is common knowledge in the Middle East. What do you think goes through their minds when they hear Blair harp about WMD's?

9/11 was a criminal act, of course. The "war on terror" is (should be) an abstraction, a rallying cry such as "war on cancer". This is not a military problem, for the most part. This is fundamentally a political, intelligence, and police problem. No nation is at war with us. We look almost foolish letting a few lunatics with box-cutters declare war on the greates power on Earth.


Posted by: M. Aurelius at January 19, 2004 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

ah, now we get to the heart of the matter:

9/11 was a criminal act, of course. The "war on terror" is (should be) an abstraction, a rallying cry such as "war on cancer". This is not a military problem, for the most part. This is fundamentally a political, intelligence, and police problem. No nation is at war with us.

no, we ARE at war. i just don't see how you can see it any other way. a foreign entity, albeit non-state, wants to kill, maim and subsequently take over our society in a way that neither you or i would, to put it very mildly, like. policemen don't stop planes flying into buildings. and as alqaida claim that they plan attacks by land, sea and air (and indeed have hit sea and land targets outside the u.s. since 9/11), it requires a military response in all of those arenas. the fact alqaida don't have f-16s is utterly irrelevant from determining whether they are or are not at war with us. as it turns out, they use 747s.

and as far your line about it being in part about politics -- are you suggesting 9/11 was some invitation to further talks? a little letter, hey let's have lunch, we have some things to talk about?

Posted by: steve at January 19, 2004 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, al-Qaida is not a nation.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 19, 2004 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

jesurgislac, i said as much -- 'a foreign entity, albeit non-state'

Posted by: steve at January 19, 2004 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

a foreign entity, albeit non-state, wants to kill, maim and subsequently take over our society

Let me put it this way, the Columbine massacre authors wanted to kill and maim, and they did, and they wanted to fly a 747 into the World Trade Center towers, which they did not do. However, I would not call the Columbine even a war, and I dobut you would either. Likewise for Timothy McVeigh. There is, obviously, not chance at all of these people takning over our society. We do them a great service by taking that seriously, if they have even said as much. So far as I know Bin Laden's main issue is that we get out of Muslim lands and stop polluting their culture, under the threat of total destruction, not takeover.

In reality, the basic threat they pose is the posibility that they may adquire nuclear weapons, or even just one. Any acts of a lesser order do not constitute a threat to our society as such, unless we contrive it to be so for our own political purposes.

Politics does not mean negotiation with people who are irrational. But the roots of this entire situation are political: They have to do with a history of US and Western action in the region dating back at least a hundred years, much of it very harmful, and some of it outright terror. They have to do with the economic and political relationships in the region, with the suppression of people all over the Arab world, with the Israeli/Palestine conflict, the arming of dictators such as the Shah or even Saddam Hussein himself.

What you need to see is that terrorists or guerrillas always work within and are supported by a social and political context. No man lives in a vacuum. Al Quaeda would disappear if it did not have broad popular support. It would run our of recruits, and most people in Al Quaeda would leave. What these people crave is respect and dignity; their own identity, their own society. they have been denied these things for a very long time. What we are seing as a result of this prolonged stress is a portion of the Arab population "going postal". The underlying stress must be removed for this to stop. And that can only be done politically.

Terror organizations such as Al Quaeda or Hamas will continue to have support as long as the US and the West is seen, often correctly, as a destructive force in the Middle East. Of course, many people will distort the record and blame the US for all Arab problems, in order to cover their own corruption or incompetence. But make no mistake, the US has put itself in a position where enough of these allegations are true that we have little credibility. After the WMD fiasco, we have even less credibility now.

I'll give you an example of how important social approval is to real terrorists, rather than the "Dr. Evil" caricatures of Hollywood. For decades, the IRA received monetary support from Irish Americans. I personally know Irish Americans who routinely gave money to the IRA up to the mid 80's, as was common in the Northeast of the United States, if not elsewhere. Even the Irish Americans who did not give money to the IRA accepted the fact that their friends did so. There was a code of silence, but everybody knew it was going on. The reason was the collective memory of the Potato Famine and the British role in it, that could be labeled genocidal by todáy's standards.

Yet the IRA campagin became too brutal and bloody. Even people who simply could not stand the British, who swore never to step foot on that country, who hated everything they stood for, from Masterpiece Theatre to the Queen, began to have second thoughts. The money began to dry up as events such as Bloody Sunday receded into the past.

Rest assured that a bloody UK military crackdown on the IRA would have increased their funding and supplies overnight. But gradually a peace process began to emerge, and hardline IRA elements became isolated.

What you need to see from all of this is that a few thousand fighters had the support and aid of millions of people, because of political reasons. Historical grievances, policy actions, economic relationships.

What we have here is a web that must be unwound. The hardliners must be isolated. If they become the victims, the heroes, we will never see the end of this. It took the Birtish nearly a hundred years to figure it out. We don't have that kind of time.

Posted by: M. Aurelius at January 19, 2004 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

"This is fundamentally a political, intelligence, and police problem. No nation is at war with us."


"no, we ARE at war. i just don't see how you can see it any other way."


Whether this is a war or not depends on whether you have the religious orientation and outlook that casts it as a Holy War.

The bulk of the supporters of this war are believers in Satan. Usama is an agent of Satan. Saddam is an agent of Satan. Thus, by fighting Saddam, you fight Satan - which is what you want to do by fighting Osama. There is where your Saddam-Osama linkage lies.

This isn’t just a holy war for the Muslims - it’s holy war for the Christians also. It’s someone else’s fight from my POV, but I still get stuck picking up the costs of it.

It’s not just Christians - I get mailings from religious Jews who like Bush because of the blank check he gives the Likud.

Posted by: horseloverfat at January 19, 2004 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Tacitus wrote: "I do endorse more than a few of his ideas" ...(Perle's) Say what? It appears you, and those who have written to support your position, have mistaken this for a neocon blog. Perle, and the majority of his associates in PNAC, are all Likudnik-Zionists, who's destructive dual loyalty is nothing less than acts of treason against THIS nation.

As such, and given the evidence in hand, Perle and his cohorts should be accorded an escort to the nearest tree, given a cervical collar made of an unbreakable rope-like material, and have the chair kicked from underneath them. Of course, given the evil they have instituted, and the tens of thousands of deaths they have caused, perhaps it might be better if they suffered the same fate as the Russian soldiers did at the hands of the Afghan war lords?

Posted by: Oscar at January 19, 2004 02:42 PM | PERMALINK

I am old enough to remember the debate over the funding of the mujahideen in Afghanistan. There were a number of people, mostly Democrats and leftists, who were worried about the problem of blowback, especially where shoulder-mounted surface to air missiles were concerned.

There was probably a way to support the anti-Soviet Afghan fighters without ignoring the probability of blowback. There was certainly a way to help rebuild Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal that would have minimized the possibility of the Taliban takeover and the spawning of Al Qaida. That these possibilities were never substantively addressed is due to our willing ignorance, especially to the willing ignorance that seems to be a foundation of modern Conservatism. "We know everything we need to know already and anyone who doubts that must hate America." This is the attitude that I see in way too many public spokespeople of the Right.

When the WTC fell, I felt that it was a major demonstration of the fact that modern technology allows a relatively small group of people to cause massive amounts of damage to civilian populations. One way of looking at Al Qaida is to see them in relation to such groups as Aum Shin Rikyu, the Tokyo subway gassers, Heaven's Gate, Jonestown, and the Posse Comitatus (as well as the recent Texas terrorist case).

You can look at the present situation as a "war against terrorism" but a competent strategist would allow for the possibility that there are going to be copycats who will use the Al Qaida model not to advance Islam but their own goals simply because the present state of technology allows anyone to contemplate mass destruction and genocide.

It is impossible, in my estimation, to declare war against everyone who might entertain such notions. It is prudent to recognize the threat and prepare for it by increasing civil defense, public health, intelligence, and police investigation.

Posted by: gmoke at January 19, 2004 06:24 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, war is carried out between nation-states. The US can bomb Afghanistan, it can invade Iraq, but it cannot bomb or invade al-Qaida. Al-Qaida is a criminal organization: taking it down involves crime-fighting tactics, not military tactics.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 20, 2004 02:02 AM | PERMALINK

Perle is out making similarly ridiculous statements while on a book tour with fellow whacko David "axis of evil" Frum. He goes into this ridiculous spiel about how we have to be willing to attack any country if it is discovered that they have a missile aimed at us. Pre-empt one pre-empt all!

The interesting remark Perle keeps repeating is that our intelligence knew much more than we would imagine in advance of 9/11. Makes all of those PNAC "we need a Pearl Harbor" like event comments before that day seem all the more relevant.

The best speech given recently on the House floor was by a Republican. Ron Paul out of Texas of all places gave a scathing summary and indictment concerning the neo- cons and the military industrial complex. It is right on and worth checking out if you care to google it up.

Posted by: neo-nausseus at January 22, 2004 03:16 PM | PERMALINK

David Frum may be a Canadian by birth but he left this country a long time ago to go worship "America". In particular, the American Enterprise Institute vision of America. I consider him a traitor to Canada and its values. He is part of a small small handful of Canadian thinkers, literally we are talking about 5 to 10 people, who think along the lines of AEI and the Cato institute. This group is known to harbor fantasies of some sort of UK Canada USA union against the world to promote conservative values: no taxes, no UN, no welfare. Conrad Black was their sponsor when he owned the National Post, but he is now indisposed. Now that Frum has gone USA full time we see a lot less of him up here.

I have contemplated starting a petition to strip him of his Candian Citizenship, but then you guys would be stuck with him and that would be asking a lot from a good neighbour.

Posted by: Scott McArthur at March 11, 2004 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

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