Entries from October 2002

Western Muslims Are On The Front

David Frum October 26th, 2002 at 12:00 am Comments Off

- A gunman named Muhammad has terrorized the Washington area for weeks. He was
a follower of Louis Farrakhan and joined the security detail at the Million Man
March in Washington in 1996. He had expressed admiration for the 9/11
terrorists and violent hatred for the infidel United States. So: Could this
murderous rampage have anything to do with, um, Islamic terror? If you have
been watching television you already know the answer: Naaaah.

it seems that the single most important prerequisite for a successful media
career is a talent for ignoring the obvious. Every interviewer on television
congratulates himself or herself on "asking the tough questions." But
the questions that most urgently need to be answered are the easy questions:
Who are John Muhammad and John Malvo? What was their relationship? What was
their background?

police have been very quick to reassure the public that John Muhammad did not
take orders from al-Qaeda. Unlike the shoe bomber, Richard Reid, and the
dirty-nuke bomber, Jose Padilla, Muhammad seems to have been acting for motives
and purposes of his own: his own disappointments and resentments, his own greed
and rage, and quite possibly his own weird personal dynamic with his
"stepson." In other words, Muhammad was not a Muslim who became a
killer. He was a killer who became a Muslim.

reassurance, however, is no reassurance at all. It raises what may be the
single most important issue in the next phase of the war on terror: Is radical
Islam becoming what black nationalism and communism and fascism each were in
their day — the ideology of choice for psychopaths with a murderous grievance
against the world?

personalities can be found in every society and in every culture. In the West,
they tend to be drawn to the animal-rights movement, to anti-globalization, and
to radical environmentalism. But none of these movements looks very much like a
threat to the existing order of society, especially not compared to al-Qaeda or
Hezbollah. No wonder that at this April’s big anti-globalization march in
Washington, the anti-Nike protesters wore Palestinian keffiyehs. No wonder that
the star attraction at the anti-Iraq-war march in Madrid last month were two
young European women dressed in suicide-bomber bikinis. There was an
undercurrent of effeteness and silliness about the protests of the 1990s — all
those ridiculous paper mach? puppets! Compared to that, from the point of view
of the radically alienated, radical Islam is the real thing.

what can we do to protect ourselves?

lesson taught by the snipers is the comparative futility of what we now call
"homeland security": measures to improve the defence of aircraft,
refineries, nuclear reactors and other potential targets. Homeland security
protects things — and terrorists target people.

to continue to demand better police and intelligence work. The Patriot Act of
2001 gave the FBI, at long last, authority to send agents to listen to the
sermons preached in mosques and to read the postings on extremist Web sites –
and that will help. Ultimately, though, the police depend for their information
on the help of alert citizens. It was good detective work that identified John
Muhammad and John Malvo as the killers — it was a tip from a motorist that
actually turned them in.

this is the supreme lesson of the sniper case: It is the North American Muslim
community that must be the first line of defence against Islamic terror.

September, Assistant Attorney General Larry Thompson thanked the Muslim
community of western New York for turning in six Buffalo men of Yemeni origin
who had undergone training at al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and who were
allegedly plotting terrorist attacks inside the United States. This patriotic
act apparently split the area’s Yemeni immigrant community. The imam of the
mosque accused the police of harassment, and passed the hat around his
not-very-affluent membership to raise $700,000 bail. The Pakistani newspaper,
The Dawn, quoted one unnamed mosque member’s excuse for the arrested men:
"These men were looking for adventure and thought it was exciting to visit
an al-Qaeda camp and listen to their leaders. They never wanted to commit an
act of terrorism. They love America." Uh-huh.

been rightly said that the war on terror is not a war between the West and
Islam — it is a civil war within Islam about the future of the Islamic world.
The writer Christopher Hitchens has termed Islamic extremists
"Islamo-fascists" and that term is taxonomically exact. Just as
European fascism sought to beat back democracy and liberty in the 20th century
by invoking a medieval past that never was, so now do the Islamic fascists of
al-Qaeda and Hezbollah and their many sympathizers invoke the myths of ancient
Arabia against democratization and westernization in the 21st.

Muslim communities of the West are one of the most decisive theatres of this
civil war. And the case of John Muhammad reminds us that in this theatre, our
victory is far from won.

Myth Iv:
america Couldn’t Care Less What The Rest Of The World Thinks

David Frum October 24th, 2002 at 12:00 am Comments Off

I came to Britain, I had supposed it was the Tories who hated Tony Blair. I
stand corrected: it’s the core of his own party that most detests him. >

my eight days in Britain, I talked to three or four Old Labourites. They all
wanted to know the same thing: “George Bush doesn’t pay the slightest
attention to Blair, does he?”

hate being the bearer of bad news, but there was no denying the facts:
“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but Blair’s opinion is hugely
important in America – in fact, Blair’s voice was a decisive one in persuading
Bush to take America’s case against Iraq to the United Nations. Bush’s UN
speech has clearly swayed British public opinion. And when your closest ally
tells you that he needs something, you give it to him.”

news disheartened them horribly, but we all have to bear the truth as best we

can’t wholly blame anyone for succumbing to the myth that Americans care
nothing for international law and the views of their allies. If you read the
American press or listen to the debates of the Congress, you will certainly
find plenty of expressions of the “go-it-alone” mentality that often
vexes America’s friends abroad. On this count, America is the victim of its own
moments of exasperation.

many of the stories about American indifference to the rest of the world are
concocted in America: at a conference in 1997, I heard Hillary Clinton tell a
distinguished international group that two thirds of the Republican congressmen
elected in 1994 had never held a passport before they were elected. >

was fascinated by this claim of Republican insularity and spent two days
checking it – only to find that it was one of those urban legends that gets
reprinted and reprinted, but has no original source. Now really curious, I
placed a call to the offices of five randomly chosen Republican freshmen – and
discovered that every single one of them had possessed a passport for years. >

separate out three distinct issues.

Does America respect international law and treaties? uppercase'>

Does America consult and respect its allies?

Is Britain, in particular, America’s “poodle”?

the question of international law, the American record is pretty much like that
of most European countries: good but imperfect. America sometimes succumbs to
trade protectionism, as it did on steel earlier this year, but, while President
Bush’s action may have been short-sighted, it was legally permissible. And when
America violates international trade laws – as all major economies sometimes do
- a victim who appears in front of an American court will have at least as fair
a hearing as he will from a European court.

really irks many Europeans is not that America violates treaties it has
ratified, but that it refuses to obey agreements that it has not ratified -
such as Kyoto or the international conventions on land mines and the international
criminal court.

who is the real threat to the international rule of law: America, for acting on
the ancient and universal sovereign right not to adopt a treaty that does not
serve its interests? Or those European countries that claim that the agreement
on the international criminal court binds America, whether America adopts the
treaty or not?

law is an idea with a powerful hold on the European mind; maybe too powerful,
since Europeans often pronounce things “unlawful” when they merely
mean that they disapprove of them.

too, with many of the things that America does. It may be irritating when
Americans apply their laws on Cuban property or banking privacy
extra-territorially. It’s irritating when the Europeans do the same, by
refusing to extradite accused criminals to face the death penalty. In neither
case is it a violation of some law: it is a diplomatic problem that friends
must resolve together.

brings us to the second grievance: America’s failure to consult and listen. And
yes, Washington is often guilty of this.

look at the matter from an American point of view: for 50 years, via Nato,
America risked nuclear suicide to guarantee the nations of Europe against
attack. Sure, America benefited from the arrangement – but it benefited less
than Europe and paid much more.

paradoxically, the first Nato nation to be attacked turns out to be America.
America invokes Article V – and where are the allies? Britain is there, and God
bless you for it. Australia, though not in Nato, is there as well, and bless
Australia, too.

the others? Where are you? Where are the Germans whom America defended at their
hours of maximum danger – the Berlin crises of 1949 and 1961? The French, the
Dutch and the Belgians?

aspires to become a great power and world leader alongside America. Well, what
are Europe’s obligations to listen to its friends in their hour of need? Or do
the obligations run one way only?

1945, we have lived through any number of “crises” in the
trans-Atlantic relationship. Almost all of them take the same form: Washington
does something that segments of the European population dislike; they protest;
and European governments urge the American government to do something to
mollify the protesters.

the European governments get their way. President Bush did, in the end, go to
the UN; Bill Clinton did keep quiet as Europeans banned GM foods from the
markets; Ronald Reagan did negotiate away his cruise and Pershing missiles. >

time is different. This time, for perhaps the very first time, it is American
public opinion that is aroused against Europe.

few weeks ago, a piece by an American internet essayist showed up in my
in-basket. It is an arresting statement of a newly familiar thought: “It’s
like we’re the guy who ended up being the designated driver for the planet.
Sure, we’d love to sit back and drink ourselves into a stupor with the rest of
the globe, but we’re responsible for getting as many people safely home as

so often, while we’re sitting around wishing we could kill a few beers like the
rest of the planet, a sloppy drunk, drooling Europe comes over to where we’re
sitting. Then, they take another swig of vodka straight out of the bottle and
tell us not to worry about a thing because they’ll drive everyone home in their
‘international law’ van.

we know, if we drink up, that we’ll just get a call at 4am asking us to bring
our tow truck and the ‘jaws of life’ to clean up the bloody mess on dead man’s
curve. That’s the burden of being an American.”

to a nearly equal extent, it’s the burden of being British. Of all the myths I
heard in Britain, none saddened me more than the recurrent self-flagellation
about how little Americans must care about what Britain thinks. To some extent,
this is that familiar post-imperial syndrome that Tony Blair diagnosed when he
complained in Blackpool: “At times, we in Britain lack self-belief.” >

it is also something newer and more disturbing: a flight from responsibility.
When the British tell themselves that it does not matter to Americans what the
British think, they come dangerously close to telling themselves that it does
not matter what the British think. And the conclusion that follows from that
pessimism is that the British might as well abandon themselves to the
misanthropic sanctimoniousness that often prevails on the Continent. >

fact, Britain commands at least as much attention and respect in America as it
has done at any time since 1945. Here is one very practical example. Americans
are now debating the nature of the regime that should succeed Saddam Hussein’s.
Some quarters – the State Department, the CIA, the military, the more
traditional members of the foreign policy elite, and the European and Arab
allies and coalition partners – would prefer to install another, more rational,
Sunni strong-man in Saddam’s place. Others – Congress, the civilian leaders of
the US Department of Defence, the more ideological members of the foreign
policy elite – want to try to build representative institutions in Iraq as the
first steps toward Arab democracy.

times, Mr Blair has dropped hints that he favours the second point of view. At
Blackpool, for instance, he noted that some say that the Iraqis do not have a tradition
of political freedom. “No, they don’t, but I bet they’d like to,”
said Mr Blair. A nice rejoinder. But if he were to deliver that thought in a
non-party setting and at length, he would transform the debate in America. >

has earned the right to be listened to. Its voice counts. That’s why succumbing
to myths about America is ultimately most damaging to the British. For when you
fail to see the world as it is, you cannot usefully influence it. >

Myth Iii:
bush Wants War With Iraq Because Of A Family Vendetta

David Frum October 23rd, 2002 at 12:00 am Comments Off

this security-conscious era, a visit to Number 10 is a shock to a White House
alumnus. You stroll right up to a guardhouse barely 50 yards away from the
famous black door, show a photograph of yourself, go through a metal detector,
walk to the house and simply press the doorbell. Then, you are shown to a chair
in the same lobby through which the Prime Minister himself must pass on his way
in and out of the building.

the Governor of the State of New York is surrounded with more pomp than the
elected leader of the world’s fourth-largest economy. uppercase'>

space isn’t everything, of course. An American president has grander premises,
bigger motorcades and a snazzier plane than a prime minister. But compare the
two leaders’ legal powers, and it is the prime minister who is the Titan.

prime minister can, for instance, theoretically take Britain into war without
either a vote in the House of Commons or a meeting of the Cabinet. Perhaps that
is why it is possible for so many people in Britain to accept myth number
three: that George W. Bush is recklessly leading America into one confrontation
after another for weird personal or family reasons of his own. >

you ask certain senior British Civil Servants what they think of President
Bush, they respond with a smile. It took me a while to learn how to translate
that smile, but I think I understand it now. It says: “I am a professional
and, while that notebook of yours is open, nothing you can say could possibly
induce me to reveal my true opinion of that moron the Americans call their

personal disdain for Mr Bush undergirds some very basic illusions about how the
American political system works – and why it fights, when it fights. >

the media, the president is often described as “the most powerful man in
the world”. But that’s not how it feels to him. His cabinet officers and
judicial nominees must all be approved by the Senate, and any one senator can
delay an appointment almost indefinitely. The president’s budget is a mere
suggestion that Congress rewrites at its pleasure. uppercase'>

do presidents control their political organisations: four of the past seven
presidents – George Bush Snr, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Lyndon Johnson -
failed to win re-election after a primary challenge from within their own

have to worry about holding their cabinets together. If Jack Straw were to resign
tomorrow – say, to protest about some action of Tony Blair’s – it would be a
24-hour news story that would end with most journalists shrugging their
shoulders and saying: “Poor guy gave up a good job.” >

Colin Powell or Donald Rumsfeld resigned, however, they would tear the Bush
Administration apart, as Cyrus Vance tore apart the Carter administration when
he resigned to protest at the rescue mission in Iraq in 1980. >

clever British observer said to me: “Your system works the way ours did
150 years ago.” What he meant was that the American cabinet – made up from
the president’s party and from people with strong independent power-bases in
the country – looks a lot more like one of Disraeli’s or Gladstone’s cabinets
than it does like the party council that surrounds the contemporary
all-powerful prime minister. My informant may have overstated the case a
little, but only a little.

those facts in mind the next time somebody suggests, as so many British
journalists suggested to me, that America’s confrontation with Saddam Hussein
is nothing more than the working out of a Bush family vendetta. >

concede that, like the others, this myth also contains its particle of truth.
It is true that Saddam attempted to assassinate the first President Bush in
1993. It is true, too, that many Republicans criticised President Clinton for
his weak response to the murder plot (he fired cruise missiles at the
headquarters of the Iraqi secret police after regular working hours, so fewer
people would be hurt).

it’s true that Republicans generally agree that the decision to leave Saddam in
power in 1991 was the gravest error of the presidency of George Bush, one that
they have a special responsibility to rectify.

the idea that an outburst of family pique and pride can move the gigantic and
sluggish American democracy to the edge of war is simply – why be polite? -

president cannot take America into a major war all by himself. He needs the
support of both houses of Congress. In 1991, after the Iraqi invasion of
Kuwait, the elder Bush managed to win only 250 votes in the House of
Representatives for a war resolution, and only 52 votes in the Senate. Earlier
this month, the younger Bush’s Iraq resolution passed the House with 296 votes
and the Senate with 75.

all of those 371 legislators driven by family pride? Hardly. Bush won strong
congressional backing for his resolution because, since September 11, a wide
consensus has been growing in America that Saddam cannot safely be left in

for example, is Senator Joseph Lieberman, Al Gore’s running-mate in the 2000
election, in a speech delivered last year: America, he said, must be
“unflinching in our determination to remove Saddam Hussein from power in
Iraq before he, emboldened by September 11, strikes at us with weapons of mass
destruction”. And here is Bush’s one-time rival, Senator John McCain,
after the Iraq resolution debate earlier this month: “Saddam Hussein’s
regime cannot be contained, deterred or accommodated.” >

bottom, the idea that Bush’s Iraq policy is inspired by personal psychological
issues is based on a failure to understand how American foreign policy is made.
The American government is a gigantic, messy organisation. The line between
where the government stops and where the rest of society begins is never
entirely clear.

is full of people such as Leon Feurth, Al Gore’s former chief adviser on
security issues, who have rotated out of government with their heads full of
secrets – but who no longer draw a government salary; or Jim Hoagland of The
Washington Post
, a journalist so
connected to the intelligence services that reading him is like listening to
the CIA talking to itself; or Richard Perle, the former Reagan defence aide who
trained an entire generation of Republican national security operatives who
still look to him for ideas and advice.

people talk to one another and argue and attend conferences together and read
each other’s newspaper columns – and out of it all, ideas get hammered out and
party positions are formed. And not just party positions, but true national
consensus. The definitive case for war with Iraq has just been published, not
by some still-bitter alumnus of the Gulf war, but by Kenneth Pollack, who
analysed Iraq on President Clinton’s National Security Council. >

to the British parliamentary system, America’s congressional-presidential
system has many disadvantages. It is slow; it often produces sloppy laws and
muddled compromises. But it has one great advantage: while Parliament is
organised to produce the sharpest possible divisions between the Government and
the Opposition, Congress and the presidency are organised to produce something
approaching a national consensus on the most important issues. >

1993, Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan warned President Clinton
against trying to ram his healthcare proposals through Congress on a party-line
vote. “Anything that big and important,” Moynihan predicted,
“will pass the Senate 70-30 – or not at all.” And what is true for
important peacetime measures is doubly true for war. uppercase'>

will destroy the legitimacy of a presidency faster than any credible hint that
the president is risking the lives of American servicemen for personal

small credibility President Clinton had among Republicans, he lost by ordering
a missile attack on Sudan three days after his grand jury testimony in August
1998 – and then approving Operation Desert Fox to begin two days before the
House of Representatives’ impeachment vote in December 1998. These were the
episodes that convinced even so gentle a conservative as former Reagan
speechwriter Peggy Noonan that Clinton was “a bad man, and not a

jokey way that American columnists such as Maureen Dowd insinuate that Bush is
motivated by family pride is the surest evidence that they do not believe their
own accusation – for if they did, it would be no joking matter at all. >

biographer of the great New York highway builder Robert Moses tells this story.
Before the First World War, Moses had unwisely made an enemy of the young
Franklin Roosevelt by routing a road away from FDR’s state assembly district. >

quarter-century passed – and now Moses wanted to build a great bridge across
New York harbour and name it after himself. But because the bridge crossed the
route from the ocean to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Moses needed a waiver from the
Navy Department.

problem: the bridge was more than high enough to let super-battleships sail
beneath it. Or there was no problem until FDR heard about Moses’s request. He
gleefully ordered the waiver to be denied.

the matter did not stop there. The New York building unions wanted the bridge
built. So did the steel and concrete manufacturers. So did the Brooklyn
real-estate industry. So did the entire New York congressional delegation. >

trusted aide broke the news to the president: he would have to give way.
“Are you telling me,” Roosevelt complained, “that the President
of the United States cannot be allowed one teeny-weeny, little, personal
animosity?” “No sir,” came the answer. “Not even one.” >

its best, the American political system is a great machine for the production
of consensus. It has arrived at just such a consensus on Iraq. This conflict is
not a matter of personal pique: it is an assertion of a broad national interest
by a united people.

Myth II: America Wants War with Saddam Because of Oil.

David Frum October 22nd, 2002 at 12:00 am Comments Off

a visitor from across the Atlantic, the most immediately startling thing about
British political and media life is this: everybody knows each other.


was an editor at The Wall Street Journal

12.0pt’>, America’s most important conservative paper, for three years in the
late 1980s and early 1990s. I can count on two hands the number of times I met
a politician in an informal setting – that is, something other than an editorial
board meeting or an interview.


can blame distance for some of this sense of remoteness: New York is 225 miles
from Washington, only slightly less far than the distance from London to


even inside Washington, it is very unusual for politicians and journalists to
know each other as well as their London counterparts seem to do. The Georgetown
dinner party you read about in the novels of the 1950s and 1960s is dead and
gone. At 8pm on a weekday evening, Senator Foghorn is much more likely to be
drinking sparkling water at a 50-person fund-raiser with the American Smelting
Association than to be exchanging wisecracks with a syndicated columnist across
a mahogany dinner table.


to the fragmentation of American political, media, and intellectual life, there
is something wonderfully seductive about London’s intimacy and conviviality.


if the fragmentation of American political life has many bad effects, it has
one good one: it helps to reduce the spread of clich?s. A plausible delusion
can sweep through London like the Dutch blight through a close-packed forest of
elms – and one such delusion is that the West’s war in the Middle East is a
“war for oil”.


Labour MP, Alan Simpson, phrased the accusation pungently in the Commons during
the debate after Tony Blair presented the Government’s dossier against Iraq.
Saddam Hussein’s “real crime”, Mr Simpson said, “is his threat
to negotiate oil contracts with Russia and France, not America”. President
George W. Bush was like a drunk “who needs to satisfy his thirst for power
and oil”, and it was Mr Blair’s duty “not to pass the bottle”.


a visitor from Washington, this was all a bit dizzying, for three reasons.


Wasn’t it just yesterday that America was being scolded for not buying oil from
Iraq and thereby causing (as it was wrongly but loudly alleged) the deaths of
hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians?


Isn’t it odd for people who oppose “wars for oil” to rally to the
defence of a dictator who launched two of them – one to conquer the oil fields
of Iran, the second to annex neighbouring Kuwait?


Although it is apparently wrong for hawks to be swayed by oil, it seems to be
perfectly OK for doves. Here, for example, is a leader from the anti-war
Guardian: “Would Saddam launch missiles against Kuwaiti and Saudi oil
fields? Would an attack on Baghdad foment strife in Riyadh? To different
degrees, both would be a shock to oil supplies . . . [During the Iranian
revolution,] Iranian oil production fell from six million barrels a day to
three million and never recovered. If the same happened in Saudi Arabia, the
world would see oil prices spurt upwards. The consequences would be rising
inflation and consumers deprived of spending power.” So, while war for oil
is condemned, appeasement for oil is quite all right.


is important. America imports half its oil, and its friends and allies import
much more. Although America’s own imports mostly come from secure sources in
the Western hemisphere and Africa, the shock to the world economy from a crisis
in the Middle East would not spare it. And so, ever since 1973, the security of
Middle Eastern oil has become one of the top priorities of American foreign
policy – as it is for most of America’s European allies.


here is where the no-war-for-oil crowd make their mistake. Those Americans who
worry most about oil tend to oppose action against Saddam, because they worry
about the effects an Iraq war would have on Saudi Arabia. Take, for example,
former Georgia Senator Wyche Fowler, President Clinton’s ambassador to Saudi
Arabia. Last November, Mr Fowler resigned his post and returned to America to
slam President Bush’s Iraq policy.


war with Iraq “would open wounds in the Arab world that we don’t want to
deal with”, he said. Saddam’s “neighbours can’t stand him, but they
don’t understand why we won’t leave him alone. They’re also fearful of the
break-up of the country into feuding ethnic groups if and when Saddam is


real danger to the Middle East, Fowler added, was undue pressure on Arab states
to democratise. “All of us Western democrats believe that the finest
expressions of the human mind and spirit happen under democratic governance,
but that’s not the experience of most of the world.”


the Arab world, the human mind and spirit was best expressed under theocracy.
“To have a civil government whose highest priority isn’t serving God is
beyond their comprehension.” That incomprehension causes the Saudis to
despise American liberty. But not to worry: despite their contempt for US
principles, Saudi Arabia is a “solid ally” and “uniquely


America’s highest priority in the region, he concluded, should be to mollify
Arab opinion by pressuring Israel to make renewed concessions to the


is the authentic voice of the oil lobby, the people who ran America’s Middle
East policy more or less unchallenged until September 11: pro-Palestinian
statehood, sceptical of Arab democracy and concerned above all with the
“stability” of the Middle East – meaning the preservation of the
Saudi royal family.


of these people supported Bush in 2000, but they are found in both parties and
throughout the American government. Listen to the retired officials and
distinguished public servants who have criticised President Bush’s Iraq policy
- the Brent Scowcrofts and the James Bakers, the Anthony Zinnis and the
Laurence Eagleburgers – and you will hear that word “stability” over
and over again. “Stability” means oil.


remarkable thing about America’s post-September 11 Middle Eastern policy is
that, for the first time in a generation, oil has been bumped to second place
in the country’s concerns.


for a minute about the logic of the claim that America wants to fight for oil.
Does that mean “for access to oil”? America can already freely
purchase all the oil it wants. There has not been a credible threat to access
to oil supplies since the Arab embargo of 1973-74 and there is no credible
threat to access today. Saddam wants to sell more oil, not less. And if
conquest and occupation were necessary to obtain oil, why wouldn’t America
attack an easier target than Iraq – Angola, for example?


does “for oil” mean “for cheaper oil”? Is it suggested that
America will invade Iraq, occupy its oilfields, and then sell oil for, say,
$12-$15 a barrel, rather than the $25-$30 barrel it fetches today?


though a $12-$15 price would close down the larger part of America’s domestic
production and drive the country’s dependence on oil imports up from 50 per
cent toward the two thirds or three quarters mark?


though America winked when its close allies Mexico, Norway, and Oman
co-operated with Opec in 1998-99 to drive the price of oil back up from $10 to
$30? Even though Mr Bush’s own father publicly worried in 1986 about the
dangers of an excessively low oil price – at a time when oil prices adjusted
for inflation were only slightly lower than today?


Alan Simpson is right, fighting “for oil” means “for oil
contracts”. Last year, for example, Saddam offered Russian companies
multi-year contracts that supposedly totalled $40 billion. Perhaps America
covets those deals? But why would any government – and especially one as
cynical as Mr Simpson believes America’s to be – fight a war widely expected to
cost $100 billion to gain contracts worth $40 billion?


does Mr Simpson understand how small a sum $40 billion really is compared to
the US economy? It is, for example, only a little more than half the gross
state product of Arkansas. Does he really imagine that any president, no matter
how inebriated, would risk the lives of American soldiers – and his own
political future – for that?


then: perhaps fighting “for oil” means “for an oil market
unmenaced by Saddam”, or “for an oil market in which suppliers do not
use their wealth to acquire weapons of mass destruction”? That would be
true. But that is not a fight “for oil” – it is a fight against a
dictator who wants to use oil wealth to threaten the peace of the world and the
safety of America and its allies. If Saddam were spending his oil wealth on
palaces and roads, America would not worry about him. It is the use he is
making of his oil that worries Americans – and should worry the world.


who mistrust America’s good faith in the Middle East can accurately point to
the country’s long willingness to tolerate local despots, so long as they kept
quiet and kept pumping. Shah Reza Pahlavi of Iran was by no means the worst,
although he was bad enough. Perhaps America was wrong then; perhaps it was
making the best of a difficult situation not originally of its own making.


way, the despots of today are much more dangerous than those of 30 years ago.
Who seriously believes that Saddam and the mullahs of Iran will keep quiet and
keep pumping once they have the nuclear weapons they seek? Surely not even the
editorial executives of the Guardian could convince themselves of that.


is the weapons and ambitions of the regimes and terror groups which make up the
axis of evil that fuel American policy in the Middle East today. Not the price
of petrol.

Myth I: America is Totally in Hock to the Jewish Lobby

David Frum October 21st, 2002 at 12:00 am Comments Off

weeks ago, I was standing in Piccadilly, watching the big anti-war march pass
by. Two girls in Islamic headdress glanced my way, nudged each other, and then
approached me.

we seen you on television?" one of them asked. uppercase'>

had appeared on a British television programme about Iraq shortly before, so I
answered that yes, very possibly they had.

knew it!" they exclaimed. Then they hissed: "You’re part of the
Jewish lobby, aren’t you?"

yes," I said, with maybe more bitterness than I should have. "I’m the
man responsible for putting up your interest rates." >

wish I could say that those two girls had learnt their politics from some
ranting mullah in a north London mosque. In fact, the certainty that American
policy is controlled by what one British magazine called a "kosher
conspiracy" was the single most widely held opinion I heard in the course
of an eight-day visit to Britain.

The Daily Telegraph
invited me to
report on British attitudes about America, I had braced myself for the worst.
Only a week after September 11, the Guardian
font-size:12.0pt'> had published a column with the charming headline,
"A Bully With a Bloody Nose is Still a Bully", and, in the year since
then, my "ugly file", as I called my collection of anti-American
clippings from the British press, had grown fatter and fatter. >

it was a very pleasant surprise to spend a week here in person and discover
just how faint and marginal true anti-Americanism is. It exists, of course, but
even when it does, it often seems motivated by envy rather than hatred.
"You have to understand," one Left-wing journalist told me over a
boozy lunch, "that everybody in our business here wonders whether he didn’t
make the mistake of a lifetime by not moving to the United States when he was

I encountered more often than animosity was a strange unawareness of the
realities of American society and politics. So I thought it might be useful to
address directly the perceptions – and misperceptions – about America that I
encountered most often. Think of it as one Anglophile’s reply to Four Weddings
and a Funeral: Four Myths – and One Truth.

many myths, the myth of the Jewish lobby is founded on observed facts. Once upon
a time, Jewish votes – though few in number – did play a strategic part in
national politics. Back in 1948, New York was the largest state in the country.
Harry Truman may have hoped that recognition of Israel would help him snatch
New York’s electoral votes from his Republican opponent, New York Governor
Thomas Dewey.

Jewish votes matter much less, not only because the Jewish population is
relatively smaller (5.2 million in a country of almost 300 million), but
because only one of the states with a large Jewish population – Florida – is
still a key marginal state in a presidential election. uppercase'>

is true that American Jews are important sources of political funds. Some
experts estimate that up to one third of the money given to Democratic candidates
comes from Jewish donors. But most of this money seems to come from people
motivated by their liberalism rather than their ancestral Judaism: Hollywood
gives generously to pro-abortion and pro-environmental Democrats, but in this
year’s United Jewish Appeal campaign, Greater Los Angeles lagged well behind
Toronto, a city with half LA’s population and much less than half its wealth. >

is where the myth is false. The force that sways American politicians’
positions on Israel is not their hope for Jewish money or votes: it is
ideology, conservative or liberal.

all American presidents, Bill Clinton was far and away the most personally
friendly to America’s Jews. No president had ever before named so many people
of Jewish background or faith to so many important positions: Madeleine
Albright, Sandy Berger, William Cohen, Alan Greenspan, Bernie Nussbaum, Robert
Reich, Robert Rubin, Larry Summers and on and on. Even Clinton’s most famous
mistress was Jewish.

America’s Jewish community loved Clinton right back. He raised tens of millions
in soft money from Jews in Hollywood and New York, culminating in an $8 million
gift from entertainment mogul Chaim Saban to build a new HQ for the Democratic
Party and more than $500,000 from Denise Rich for his own library. >

which American president was it who pushed Israel hardest and furthest to
evacuate from the West Bank and Gaza for a Palestinian state? Who received
Yasser Arafat more often than he received any other world leader, including
even the Prime Minister of Britain and the President of Russia? Who responded
to the September 2000 al-Aqsa intifada by pressing Israel for even more radical
unilateral concessions? That same Bill Clinton. uppercase'>

of all American presidents since the Second World War, only one was infected
with anti- semitism – Richard Nixon. "The Jews are irreligious, atheistic,
immoral bunch of bastards," Nixon observed in a conversation he recorded
in 1972.

kept lists of Jews in the media and in his own administration, and never quite
forgave even his closest adviser, Henry Kissinger, for his religion. Yet it was
Nixon who rearmed Israel in its darkest hour, October 1973, turning
catastrophic defeat in the early hours of the Yom Kippur war into triumph by
the end.

Jewish influence explains America’s Middle East policy, how do we account for
Clinton’s conduct and Nixon’s? For that matter, how do we account for George W.
Bush’s? Few presidential candidates of modern times received less support from
Jews than did Bush in November 2000 – about 19 per cent. uppercase'>

answer to the conundrum can be found in the opinion polls. In America, Israel
is not an issue that divides Jews and non-Jews. It divides liberals and
conservatives. A Gallup poll taken in April found that Republicans secular as
well as religious support Israel over the Palestinians by a margin of 67 per
cent to eight per cent, while Democrats do so by a margin of 45 to 21. (The
most liberal Democrats are even more evenly divided: 41 for Israel against 40
for the Palestinians.)

the European political Left looks at the Middle East, it sees a page out of a
shameful past: arrogant white people conquering and colonialising oppressed
non-whites. They think the Israeli cause is wrong, but, right or wrong, they
believe it is hopeless – after all, did their own countries not fight very
similar wars themselves during the retreat from empire? And did they not lose? >

is the political Left immune to older prejudices: a Labour minister complained
to me about the Israelis "rampaging through the Holy Land at Easter"
- an unconscious hint that, while dechristianised Britain may have lost its
faith that Christ ever lived, it has not quite forgotten who killed Him. >

post-colonial guilt has a weaker purchase on the American conscience. When
Americans look at the Middle East, they see a democratic society inspired by
the Bible and committed to human freedom, surrounded by murderous and
tyrannical enemies.

when they look at the Palestinians, what do they see? Not the victims that
Europeans perceive – but the people who danced with glee as New York and
Washington burned. Americans see the inventors of the airplane hijacking and
the exponents of suicide-murder. In short, they see people who inspired and
sympathise with America’s newest and deadliest enemies. uppercase'>

a joke from the 1960s about the social worker who witnesses a brutal mugging.
The victim crumples to the ground, the mugger administers a final kick and then
runs away with the victim’s wallet. The social worker rushes over, checks the
victim’s pulse, and murmurs: "That poor man! Imagine how much he must have
suffered to want to beat you like that!"

had little sympathy with that social worker; they have less sympathy for her
foreign policy equivalents today. And it is for that reason, and not because of
some kosher conspiracy, that America stands by Israel and confronts Iraq. >

There Is No Making Deals With Dangerous Regimes

David Frum October 19th, 2002 at 12:00 am Comments Off

is a hard teacher, but fools will have no other." — Benjamin Franklin.

likes his little jokes. Not one week after Jimmy Carter received his Nobel
Peace Prize, we learn that his most important post-presidential assignment
ended the way most of his policies in offices did: in total disaster.

1993, the United States detected a North Korean nuclear weapons program. The
dangers of allowing the world’s looniest regime to develop nuclear weapons were
obviously terrifying. On the other hand, the then-new Clinton administration
abhorred confrontation and the use of force.

rather than eliminate the North Korean weapons sites Israeli-style, President
Clinton decided to negotiate. He sent Carter to North Korea as a special envoy,
and in the summer of 1994, Carter and the North Koreans worked out a deal.
North Korea would suspend its nuclear-weapons program. In return, the United
States would build North Korea two nuclear reactors for energy production and
would provide oil, food, and other aid to the self-isolated country’s starving

the time, many people criticized the naivet? of the Carter agreement. They
warned that the food and fuel provided by the United States would be diverted
to military purposes — and so they were. Skeptics warned too that North Korea could
not be trusted to honour the deal — and this week they were proved right
again. Earlier this month, the United States confronted the North Koreans with
evidence that they had acquired nuclear-weapons technology from Pakistan (you
remember them: our great allies in the war on terror). The North Koreans
forthrightly admitted that they had cheated on their deal with Carter and
formally repudiated it, dropping heavy hints that they now possessed nuclear
weapons and that the United States had better watch its step. >

optimists interpret the North Koreans’ admission as a sign that the regime may
be reforming. The thinking goes: Well the North Koreans may now be
nuclear-armed, but at least they have stopped lying. But that’s pretty cold
comfort for the hundreds of millions of South Koreans, Japanese, Russians,
Chinese, and American military personnel who find themselves within range of
North Korea’s ballistic missiles.

are at least two urgent lessons here. One is that it is not easy to hide a nuclear-weapons
program from American eyes –the North Koreans were caught in the end — but it
is not impossible either. The second follows from the first. A dangerous regime
will acquire dangerous weapons, no matter what promises they make, no matter
what safeguards are put in place. It is only a matter of time. And the time is
often shorter than we think.

new Korean regime of Kim Jong Il does, mercifully, seem to be less bent on
aggression than the mad government of his father, Kim Il Sung. Quite possibly,
the younger Kim will use his nuclear capacity, whatever it is, to extract
money, not to wage war. Let’s hope so. And let’s hope while we are at it that
the North Koreans are lying, and that U.S. intelligence caught them before
their weapons became operational.

Korea’s hypothetical nuclear weapons are forcing the United States to treat the
vicious little regime with care. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has
already ruled out the use of force against North Korea. In this case, deterrence
is working: for the North Koreans.

we are not careful, deterrence will be working soon for the Iraqis. We could
easily be talking now not about a North Korean nuclear weapon, but about an
Iraqi bomb — and if not now, then certainly within a year or two or three. And
unlike the current North Korean regime, surrounded by vastly richer and more
powerful neighbours, Saddam Hussein has large ambitions for himself and his
regime. Protected by nuclear weapons, he could intimidate his neighbours with
impunity. Perhaps he could frighten them into defying the UN sanctions against
Iraq — or into denying their territory to American forces — or into raising
the price of oil. Protected by nuclear weapons, he could rebuild his army to
bully Kuwait and Saudi Arabia — or support plots and rebellions against
pro-Western regimes in the Gulf — or encourage even deadlier acts of terrorism
against Israel and the United States.

said a minute ago that there were at least two lessons here. Actually, there is
a third — and it is, that a deception like North Korea’s is most likely to
succeed when the deceived inwardly wish to be deceived. uppercase'>

did not want to act, and hoped that by negotiating even a bad deal he would
postpone problems he lacked the nerve to face. And of course he knew the deal
with the North Koreans was a bad deal: Bad deals are the only kind of deals
Jimmy Carter ever makes.

nuclearized Korean peninsula is the price the region and the world must now pay
for Clinton’s weakness — but not the only price. In Iraq and with Osama bin
Laden, Clinton’s methods were the same. See nothing, do nothing, and then
congratulate yourself.

have had a hard lesson. Let us hope that there are no harder lessons to come. >

What Journalism Schools Don’t Teach

David Frum October 15th, 2002 at 12:00 am Comments Off

school is a remarkable institution: the only form of professional education
despised by its own profession. I have seldom heard a journalist say a good
word for j-school, and many journalists actively scorn it. No wonder then that
Columbia’s new president, Lee Bollinger, has made radical reform of the
Columbia School of Journalism one of his first priorities. >

July, Bollinger postponed the appointment of a new dean of the school to
replace departing dean Tom Goldstein. Bollinger called for a task force to
rethink journalism education from top to bottom. Since Columbia is the oldest,
richest and most prestigious journalism school in the world, Bollinger’s
reforms are bound to influence the teaching of journalism everywhere.

the bottom of the working journalists’ distrust of journalism school is an
excessively romantic vision of the journalistic profession. Here, for example,
is Slate
magazine’s Jack Shafer
responding to Bollinger’s task force:

… require all J-students to sit in a hard chair and keyboard several of the
longer classic works of journalism so that 1) they learn what the rhythms of
great journalism are … Playing the complete sheet music to John Hersey’s Hiroshima
font-size:12.0pt'>, Ben Hecht’s 1001 Afternoons in Chicago font-size:12.0pt'>or Lawrence Wright’s Remembering Satan font-size:12.0pt'> would make any writer more lyrical." >

journalism is a trade, not an art form — and trades can be taught. In fact,
what’s wrong with journalism as a profession is not that too few journalists
aspire to write literature, but that too many lack what ought to be their
trade’s basic skills.

unaccountably left me off his task force. But in the collegial spirit for which
we journalists are so famous, I have prepared some suggestions for him all the

Teach statistics. One of the most valuable press watchdogs I know is the
Statistical Assessment Service, which regularly and hilariously flays
journalists for gross misuse of statistics.

summer, for example, a number of prestigious papers reprinted a study by the
Boston University School of Public Health that blamed alcohol for 1,400 student
deaths a year. Yet a closer look showed that the school counted as an
"alcohol-related death" any death in which any amount of alcohol was
present in the blood of the dead person, regardless of whether the person was
inebriated or whether the alcohol in any way caused the death, such as "a
pedestrian who drank a beer hours before being struck and killed by a
hit-and-run driver."

world is full of cause-driven groups who manufacture statistics to serve their
polemical purposes — and all too few journalists possess the skills to see
this manipulation for what it is.

Teach history. A friend of mine overheard the following conversation in a
London bar frequented by journalists:

just horrible what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians. And it goes on
day after day!"

at least the Holocaust only happened once." uppercase'>

I cannot confirm that the people he overheard were actually journalists. But
anyone who works with journalists cannot help being awed by their historical
ignorance. The villains here are sometimes the correspondents themselves, but
more often their assigning editors and producers back home, who ask for
exciting bang-bang footage with only the haziest notion of what happened in the
region five minutes before.

Teach economics. Earlier this year, The Washington Post
font-size:12.0pt'> — a paper that suffers much less than many from
liberal bias — ran a long story about how imports of cheap clothing from the
developed world were hurting Zambian manufacturing. Never once did the reporter
pause to wonder: Zambian clothing buyers must outnumber Zambian clothing makers
by a thousand to one. What do they think of this sudden drop in the price of

Teach ethics. You’ve probably heard the joke that "journalistic
ethics" is an oxymoron like "military intelligence." The joke
stops being funny, though, when a journalist invades your privacy or damages
your reputation.

now, for example, the British press is cackling over that country’s most recent
sex scandal: A radio host and former MP named Edwina Currie has just published
diaries vividly describing a love affair back in the 1980s with future British
prime minister John Major. The Times of London
font-size:12.0pt'> (The Times of London font-size:12.0pt'>!) paid a rumoured (ps)100,000 to publish five lurid
extracts from the diaries.

all the giggling coverage, hardly anybody — and certainly nobody at the Times
font-size:12.0pt'> — seems to have paused to ask: In what sense is this
story news? What is our justification for reprinting almost 20-year-old gossip
that will cause terrible pain to living people, none of whom are alleged to
have broken any law or violated any public trust? uppercase'>

Journalism schools have been
around for 90 years now. They have tried to raise journalistic standards — and
sometimes they have even succeeded a little. But so far, an honest evaluator
would have to say, "must try harder." And who knows? If they did, the
trade for which they purport to train might at last respect them

Jimmy Carter Doesn’t Deserve A Nobel

David Frum October 12th, 2002 at 12:00 am Comments Off

there be a less deserved Nobel Prize than the one just awarded to former U.S.
President Jimmy Carter?

his four years as President, Carter managed through weakness and ineptitude to
create crisis after crisis.

the 1976 presidential campaign, he pledged to withdraw U.S. troops from South
Korea — a pledge that emboldened the North Koreans to position eight
additional infantry divisions and 35% more tanks against the South. North
Korean bellicosity forced Carter to break his pledge, but he had left behind a
deadly permanent legacy: It was during the Carter years that the North Koreans
started their nuclear weapons program.

president, Carter startled the world with his credulity and naivet?.

the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, he said he had learned more about
the Soviets that one week than in all his previous life. But he never learned
that weakness in an American president means danger for the whole world. His
indecision helped to bring the Ayatollah Khomeini to power in Iran — and to
put a terrorist regime in control of the most powerful state in the Middle
East. Khomeini’s chosen heir, who presently holds supreme executive power in
Iran, is now sheltering perhaps as many as two dozen al-Qaeda leaders.

is often credited with the Camp David peace agreement between Egypt and Israel.
The credit is undeserved. Carter’s eagerness to propitiate the Soviets — and
his unconcealed hostility to the Israelis — inspired him to endorse the old
Soviet idea of resolving the Middle East conflict in a gigantic multiparty
peace conference co-chaired by the United States and the USSR. This idea
terrified Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who had expelled Soviet military
advisers from his country when he caught the Soviets plotting against him in
1972. Rather than resubmit to the Russians, Sadat opened secret bilateral
negotiations with the Israelis in 1977. Camp David was the result.

would have supposed that Carter touched bottom in 1980, when he lost the
presidency by the largest margin of any incumbent since Herbert Hoover. But
after his catastrophic presidency, Carter launched a new and unprecedented
second career — he made himself America’s first catastrophic ex-president.

1980, Carter has made himself the supporter and apologist of anti-American

met with Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega in 1989 and lent his prestige to
Sandinista-written election rules that disfavoured the democratic opposition.
Jeane Kirkpatrick noted at the time how bitter Carter was when the Sandinistas
nevertheless lost. “You’d have thought,” she said, “that a
democrat would have been happy.”

1994, Carter was off to North Korea, where he met Kim Il Sung and pronounced
the vicious old mass murderer “vigorous and intelligent.”

Earlier this year, Carter
visited Cuba and delivered a jaw-dropping speech at the University of Havana.
He credulously praised Cuba’s “superb systems of health care and universal
education” and accused the U.S. of imposing the death penalty in a
discriminatory manner. He offered perfunctory criticism of Castro’s
dictatorship — and then hastily undercut his few decent words by shaking Castro’s
hand and grinning at him as soon as he finished his speech.

record on the Middle East is especially contemptible. Jay Nordlinger of National
describes the first of
Carter’s many meetings with Yasser Arafat: He said, “When I bring up the
[PLO] charter, you should not be concerned that I am biased. I am much more
harsh with the Israelis.” Arafat, for his part, complained about the
Reagan administration’s alleged “betrayals.” Rosalynn Carter, who was
taking notes for her husband, interjected, “You don’t have to convince
us!” which … “elicited gales of laughter all round.”

is worst about the Arafat story is not Carter’s toadying to a tyrant and a
murderer, but his willingness to undercut his own country in order to
ingratiate himself. Carter took this disloyal behavior to an unprecedented
extreme the following year, 1991, when the UN Security Council was debating a
resolution to authorize the United States to use force to liberate Kuwait from
Saddam Hussein. Carter wrote a letter to the Security Council asking them to
vote the resolution down.

Nobel Committee audaciously cited Carter’s eagerness to sabotage the foreign
policy of his successors as a reason for his prize: “In a situation
currently marked by threats of the use of power, Carter has stood by the
principles that conflicts must as far as possible be resolved through mediation
and international co-operation based on international law, respect for human
rights, and economic development.”

that be misunderstood, Gunnar Berge, the committeeis chairman, commented at
yesterday’s press conference that Carter’s prize “should be interpreted as
a criticism of the line that the current administration has taken … It’s a
kick in the leg to all that follow the same line as the United States.”

patriotic American would indignantly refuse any foreign prize that came
accompanied by insults to his country. But in Carter’s character, patriotism
has always taken a very distant back seat to vanity and malice. No prize can
redeem his reputation — but this choice certainly mars the reputation of this