Entries from April 2003

A Perle Before . . .

David Frum April 21st, 2003 at 12:00 am Comments Off

It’s
1974. U.S. presidents are clinking champagne glasses with the masters of the
Kremlin — and foreign-policy realists are quietly urging Americans to take
whatever deals they can get from the Soviets: Our side is losing the Cold War,
and the next deal will be much, much worse. There aren’t many people around who
still think the United States might actually win the Cold War. One of them is a
then-young aide on the staff of Sen. Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson. The
aide’s name is Richard Perle — and that very year, he and his boss would
astonish just about everyone by passing a law, the Jackson-Vanik amendment,
denying access to the U.S. market to Communist countries that prevented their
people from emigrating.

It’s
1979. The world situation seems, if possible, even worse than in 1974.
President Jimmy Carter has just sent the Senate a new arms-control treaty that
would lock in forever the nuclear advantages the Soviets grabbed during the
1970s. The treaty looks unstoppable: When has a Democratic Senate ever rejected
a treaty sent up by a Democratic president? But Jackson and Perle organize the
opposition — and early the following year, Carter has to surrender and
withdraw the treaty.

It’s
1983. Hundreds of thousands of Europeans are protesting Ronald Reagan’s decision
to deploy Pershing missiles. A nervous State Department is desperately trying
to placate the protesters by offering the Soviets one deal after another.
Perle, now an assistant secretary of defense, scuppers one concession after
another. The Soviets, he consistently points out, are already cheating on every
existing agreement — there should be no new agreements until the old ones are
honored.

It’s
1986. Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev are meeting at Reykjavik, Iceland.
Gorbachev startles the American delegation by offering up just about everything
that U.S. arms controllers had ever wished for in the 1980s — in exchange for
Reagan’s surrendering on the Strategic Defense Initiative. In a hasty
conference, Reagan tallies the opinions of his top defense aides. Almost
everyone present urges Reagan to say yes. Perle argues for a no. And no is the
answer Reagan gives.

These
are only four moments from a long career of public service. Over three decades,
few Americans have contributed more to the nation’s security and the freedom of
the world than Richard Perle. He fought to halt the transfer of military
technology, first to the Soviets, then later to the Chinese. He spoke up for
Communism’s victims when they might otherwise have been forgotten. He warned
early of the danger of Middle Eastern terrorism.

Perle
left government service in 1987. He went into business as a consultant and
adviser. He was successful in his work and made some money — but nothing like
the gigantic fortunes earned by his onetime colleagues, former secretary of
defense Frank Carlucci and former secretary of state James Baker, to name just
two. Though he had joined the private sector, his deepest concerns still lay
with the public; he continued to care much more about national security than
about publicly traded securities. In July 2001, he was asked by Secretary
Rumsfeld to chair the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board — and though the work is
unpaid and hugely time-consuming, Perle gladly accepted.

You
have to understand all of this background to appreciate the full and horrifying
injustice of the conflict-of-interest charges hurled at Richard Perle over the
past few weeks.

For
each of those charges there is of course a specific reply. Seymour Hersh, for
instance, charged in The New Yorker that Perle had met with two Saudi
businessmen late last year with an eye to obtaining an investment in a company
he was starting. In fact, Perle and the two Saudis all agree that the only
subject discussed at the lunch was a Saudi plan to encourage Saddam Hussein to
go into exile to avoid war.

But
there is a larger point that needs to be made — and it emerges from the basic
truth of who Richard Perle is and what he has done. The New York Times
followed the Seymour Hersh allegations with two stories of its own. Both
involved companies that had hired Perle to help them satisfy the government’s
security concerns.

In
one case, a bankrupt telecom company called Global Crossing asked Perle to
devise safeguards that would enable it to sell a chunk of itself to a Hong Kong
investor without falling foul of technology-transfer rules. In the other, the
satellite maker Loral — which had already been caught making such transfers to
China — hired Perle to help it propose an appropriate penalty for its misdeeds.

In
the Global Crossing matter, Perle proposed a battery of safeguards — including
the creation of a separate subsidiary with a board of directors entirely made
up of U.S. citizens. In the Loral case, Perle helped persuade the company to
pay the largest fine in the history of technology-transfer investigations: $20
million.

In
both cases, Perle was acting — not as the companies’ representative in
Washington — but really as Washington’s representative to the companies. He
was not offering them an escape from the rules. He showed Global Crossing how
to live within the rules; and Loral, how to atone for the rules it had
violated.

Perle
has now resigned as chairman of the Defense Policy Board, although he will
continue as a member. Perle explained that he feared that a controversy over
his chairmanship would distract the board and the Pentagon from their work at a
time of national emergency. I understand why he did it. But I resent the need
for the resignation all the same. At exactly the moment when they will need
them most, Americans have been deprived of Perle’s full services. That’s unfair
to Perle — and it is worse for the rest of us.

Unpatriotic Conservatives

David Frum April 7th, 2003 at 12:00 am Comments Off

>“I respect and admire the French, who have been a far greater
nation than we shall ever be, that is, if greatness means anything loftier than
money and bombs.”Ê – Thomas
Fleming, “Hard Right,” March 13, 2003

From
the very beginning of the War on Terror, there has been dissent, and as the war
has proceeded to Iraq, the dissent has grown more radical and more vociferous.
Perhaps that was to be expected. But here is what never could have been: Some
of the leading figures in this antiwar movement call themselves
“conservatives.”

These
conservatives are relatively few in number, but their ambitions are large. They
aspire to reinvent conservative ideology: to junk the 50-year-old conservative
commitment to defend American interests and values throughout the world — the
commitment that inspired the founding of this magazine — in favor of a fearful
policy of ignoring threats and appeasing enemies.

And
they are exerting influence. When Richard Perle appeared on Meet the Press
on February 23 of this year, Tim Russert asked him, “Can you assure
American viewers . . . that we’re in this situation against Saddam Hussein and
his removal for American security interests? And what would be the link in
terms of Israel?” Perle rebutted the allegation. But what a grand victory
for the antiwar conservatives that Russert felt he had to air it.

You
may know the names of these antiwar conservatives. Some are famous: Patrick
Buchanan and Robert Novak. Others are not: Llewellyn Rockwell, Samuel Francis,
Thomas Fleming, Scott McConnell, Justin Raimondo, Joe Sobran, Charley Reese,
Jude Wanniski, Eric Margolis, and Taki Theodoracopulos.

The
antiwar conservatives aren’t satisfied merely to question the wisdom of an Iraq
war. Questions are perfectly reasonable, indeed valuable. There is more than
one way to wage the war on terror, and thoughtful people will naturally
disagree about how best to do it, whether to focus on terrorist organizations
like al-Qaeda and Hezbollah or on states like Iraq and Iran; and if states,
then which state first?

But
the antiwar conservatives have gone far, far beyond the advocacy of alternative
strategies. They have made common cause with the left-wing and Islamist antiwar
movements in this country and in Europe. They deny and excuse terror. They
espouse a potentially self-fulfilling defeatism. They publicize wild conspiracy
theories. And some of them explicitly yearn for the victory of their nation’s
enemies.

Common
cause: The websites of the antiwar conservatives approvingly cite and link to
the writings of John Pilger, Robert Fisk, Noam Chomsky, Ted Rall, Gore Vidal,
Alexander Cockburn, and other anti-Americans of the far Left.

Terror
denial: In his column of December 26, 2002, Robert Novak attacked Condoleezza
Rice for citing Hezbollah, instead of al-Qaeda, as the world’s most dangerous
terrorist organization: “In truth, Hezbollah is the world’s most dangerous
terrorist organization from Israel’s standpoint. While viciously anti-American
in rhetoric, the Lebanon-based Hezbollah is focused on the destruction of
Israel. ‘Outside this fight [against Israel], we have done nothing,’ Sheik
Hassan Nasrallah, the organization’s secretary-general, said in a recent New
York Times interview.” The sheik did not say, and Novak did not bother
to add, that Hezbollah twice bombed the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, murdering more
than 60 people, and drove a suicide bomb into a Marine barracks in October 1983,
killing 241 servicemen.

Espousing
defeatism: Here is Robert Novak again, this time on September 17, 2001,
predicting that any campaign in Afghanistan would be a futile slaughter:
“The CIA, in its present state, is viewed by its Capitol Hill overseers as
incapable of targeting bin Laden. That leads to an irresistible impulse to
satisfy Americans by pulverizing Afghanistan.” And here is Patrick
Buchanan that same day gloomily asserting that the United States would be as
baffled by Osama bin Laden as the British Empire was by George Washington:
“We remain unrivaled in material wealth and military dominance, but these
are no longer the components of might. . . . Our instinct is the strongman’s
impulse: hit back, harder. But like British Lobsterbacks dropped in a colonial
wilderness, we don’t know this battle, and the weapons within our reach are
blunt.”

Excuse-making:
On September 30, 2002, Pat Buchanan offered this explanation of 9/11 during a
debate on Chris Matthews’s Hardball: “9/11 was a direct consequence
of the United States meddling in an area of the world where we do not belong
and where we are not wanted. We were attacked because we were on Saudi sacred
soil and we are so-called repressing the Iraqis and we’re supporting Israel and
all the rest of it.”

Conspiracy-theorizing:
Justin Raimondo, an Internet journalist who delivered Pat Buchanan’s nominating
speech at the Reform party convention in 2000, alleged in December 2001 that
Israel was implicated in the terror attacks of 9/11: “Whether Israeli intelligence
was watching, overseeing, collaborating with or combating the bin Ladenites is
an open question. . . . That the Israelis had some significant foreknowledge
and involvement in the events preceding 9/11 seems beyond dispute.”
Raimondo has also repeatedly dropped broad hints that he believes the October
2001 anthrax attacks were the work of an American Jewish scientist bent on
stampeding the U.S. into war.

Yearning
for defeat: On January 30, 2002, Eric Margolis, the American-born foreign
editor of the Toronto Sun, appealed to the leaders of the Arab world to
unite in battle against the U.S. “What could Arabs do to prevent a war of
aggression against Iraq that increasingly resembles a medieval crusade? Form a
united diplomatic front that demands U.N. inspections continue. Stage an oil
boycott of the U.S. if Iraq is attacked. Send 250,000 civilians from across the
Arab World to form human shields around Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. Boycott
Britain, Turkey, Kuwait, and the Gulf states that join or abet the U.S.
invasion of Iraq. Withdraw all funds on deposit in U.S. and British banks.
Accept payment for oil only in Euros, not dollars. Send Arab League troops to
Iraq, so that an attack on Iraq is an attack on the entire League. Cancel
billions worth of arms contracts with the U.S. and Britain. At least make a
token show of male hormones and national pride.”

Raimondo
was more explicit still on March 12, 2003. Speaking of the negative
consequences he foresaw of even a successful American campaign in Iraq, he
wrote: “It is a high price to pay for ‘victory’ — so high that patriots
might almost be forgiven if they pine for defeat.”

The
writers I quote call themselves “paleoconservatives,” implying that
they are somehow the inheritors of an older, purer conservatism than that
upheld by their impostor rivals. But even Robert Taft and Charles Lindbergh
ceased accommodating Axis aggression after Pearl Harbor. Since 9/11, by
contrast, the paleoconservatives have collapsed into a mood of despairing
surrender unparalleled since the Vichy republic went out of business. James
Burnham famously defined liberalism as “the ideology of Western
suicide.” What are we to make of self-described conservatives who see it
as their role to make excuses for suicide bombers?

“While
paleos sometimes like to characterize their beliefs as merely the continuation
of the conservative thought of the 1950s and ’60s, and while in fact many of
them do have their personal and intellectual roots in the conservatism of that
era, the truth is that what is now called paleoconservatism is at least as new
as the neoconservatism at which many paleos like to sniff as a newcomer.”

text-align:right;

text-align:right;
>–Samuel Francis, in the American
Conservative, December 16, 2002

I
happen to have been in the room when “paleoconservatism” first
declared itself as a self-conscious political movement. It was in the spring of
1986, at a meeting of the Philadelphia Society, and Professor Stephen Tonsor of
the University of Michigan read the birth announcement.

The
Philadelphia Society is a forum where the various conservative factions met
(and meet) to thrash out their differences: libertarians who believed that
parks should be sold to private industry, traditionalists who regretted the
collapse of the Habsburg monarchy, and — most recently — neoconservatives who
had cast their first Republican ballot in 1980. At first, the neoconservatives
were warmly welcomed by the veteran members. But the warmth did not last long,
and at a panel discussion that day, Tonsor startled the room by anathematizing
the neocons and their works.

True
conservatives, Tonsor said, were Roman Catholic at root, or at a minimum
Anglo-Catholic. They studied literature, not the social sciences. And while he
was very glad to see that some non-religious social scientists were now
arriving at conservative conclusions, they should understand that their role in
the conservative movement must be a subordinate one. “We are all
delighted,” he said (I am quoting from memory), “to see the town
whore come to church — even to sing in the choir — but not to lead the
service.”

I
wish I could say that Tonsor’s outburst was motivated by a deep disagreement
over important principles. Certainly principles had their place. But as the
paleos themselves tell the story, the quarrel that erupted into view that day
in 1986 began as a squabble over jobs and perks in the Reagan administration –
from the perception that, as Francis later put it, neoconservatives had
arranged matters so that “their team should get the rewards of office and
of patronage and that the other team of the older Right receive virtually
nothing.”

A
quick reality check here: It is not in fact true that the ambitions of the
paleos fell victim to neocon plots. Paleo Grievance Number 1 is the case of Mel
Bradford, a gifted professor at the University of Dallas, now dead. Bradford
had hoped to be appointed chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities
in 1981, but lost out to William Bennett. Unfortunately for him, Bradford came
to the government hiring window with certain disadvantages: He had worked on
the George Wallace campaign in 1968, and he had published an essay that could
plausibly be read to liken Abraham Lincoln to Hitler. In the spring of 1981,
Ronald Reagan was trying to persuade a balky Congress simultaneously to enact a
giant tax cut and to authorize a huge defense buildup; to slow inflation, end
fuel shortages, and halt Soviet aggression, from Afghanistan to Angola. It was
not, in other words, a good moment to refight the Civil War.

Bradford
could never accept that it was his own writings that had doomed him. As Oscar
Wilde observed, “Misfortunes one can endure: They come from outside, they
are accidents. But to suffer for one’s own faults — ah! There is the sting of
life.” Easier and less painful to blame others and pity oneself. And so
Bradford’s friends and partisans did. When this one was passed over for a
promotion at his newspaper or that one failed to be hired at a more prestigious
university, they detected the hand of the hated neoconservatives.

Perhaps
the most relentlessly solipsistic of the disgruntled paleos is Paul Gottfried,
a professor at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania who has published an
endless series of articles about his professional rebuffs. Gottfried teaches at
Elizabethtown because, as he repeatedly complains, “in what is literally a
footnote to conservative history . . . I was denied a graduate professorship at
Catholic University of America by neo-conservative lobbying.” Nor did the neocons
stop there. When a routine outside professional evaluation of the Elizabethtown
faculty reported in 2002 that Gottfried often arrived in class “unprepared
or with little thought as to what he would say” and that his students
found his classes “unfocused, with often rambling discussions,” he
responded by posting an article on the LewRockwell.com website complaining that
he had been the victim of, yes, a “neocon attack.”

>“[Clarence] Thomas calls the segregation of the Old South,
where he grew up, ‘totalitarian.’ But that’s liberal nonsense. Whatever its
faults, and it certainly had them, that system was far more localized, decent,
and humane than the really totalitarian social engineering now wrecking the
country.”

text-align:right;
exactly' class="MsoNormal">Ê

text-align:right;
exactly' class="MsoNormal">–Llewellyn h. Rockwell

exactly' class="MsoNormal">Ê

Frustrated
ambition is not a propitious foundation for an intellectual movement.
“Jobs for the lads” may be an effective slogan for a trade union, but
the paleos needed to develop a more idealistic explanation for their
resentments, if they were to have any hope of influencing the main body of the
conservative movement. They needed an ideology of their own.

Developing
such an ideology was not going to be an easy task. There was no shortage of
disaffected right-wingers; but what did Samuel Francis (who had spent the early
1980s investigating subversives for Senator John East) have in common with the
economist Murray Rothbard (who had cheered when the Communists captured
Saigon)? What connection could there be between the devoutly Catholic Thomas
Molnar and the exuberantly pagan Justin Raimondo? It didn’t help that people
attracted to the paleoconservative label tended to be the most fractious and
quarrelsome folk in the conservative universe.

Yet
the job had to be done — and thanks to a lucky accident, there was a place to
do it. In the 1970s, Leopold Tyrmand, an emigre Polish Jew who had survived the
death camps, scraped together some money to found a magazine he hoped would
serve as a conservative alternative to The New York Review of Books. He
called it Chronicles of Culture, and based it (for Tyrmand was not a man
to do things in the obvious way) in the rusting industrial city of Rockford,
Ill. Tyrmand died suddenly in 1985. His successor, Thomas Fleming, shortened
the magazine’s name to Chronicles and redirected its attention from
cultural critique to ideological war.

Fleming
was in at least one way a poor choice for the role of paleoconservative
ideologist-in-chief. He is the very opposite of a systematic, deliberate
thinker: a jumpy, wrathful man so prone to abrupt intellectual reversals that
even some of his friends and supporters question his equilibrium. But Fleming
proved himself a nervy and imaginative editor. He recruited Samuel Francis as a
columnist and collaborator, and Francis was a man nobody could accuse of inconsistency.

Francis
advocated a politics of uninhibited racial nationalism — a politics devoted to
the protection of the interests of what he called the “Euro-American
cultural core” of the American nation. He argued that the time had come
for conservatives to jettison their old commitment to limited government: A
“nationalist ethic,” he wrote in 1991, “may often require
government action.”

So, Chronicles
advocated protectionism for American industry and restrictions on nonwhite
immigration. It defended minimum-wage laws and attacked corporations that moved
operations off-shore. And it championed the Southern Confederacy of the 1860s
and the anti-civil rights resistance of the 1960s.

The
decisive year for both the magazine and paleoconservatism was 1989. Until then,
Chronicles had managed to coexist with most of the rest of the
conservative community. This coexistence was symbolized by the Rockford Institute,
which sponsored not only Chronicles but also the Center for Religion and
Society in New York, headed by Richard John Neuhaus, a Lutheran minister who
had been involved in both the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam
protests.

Neuhaus’s
experiences as a pastor in the New York slums and his passionate opposition to
abortion had led him rightward in the 1980s. But he was disturbed by the racial
politics of Chronicles, and also by what he termed its
“insensitiv[ity] to the classical language of anti-Semitism.” Neuhaus
contemplated severing the connection between his institute and Rockford. Word
of his dissatisfaction filtered back to Illinois, and, one day in May, Rockford
struck back. An executive from the institute jetted out to New York, fired Neuhaus
and his entire staff, ordered them literally out onto the streets, and changed
the office locks. The paleos at Rockford exploded in dumbfounded rage when the
foundations that had been supporting Neuhaus’s work refused to switch the money
over to them instead.

The
shuttering of Neuhaus’s offices brought the emerging paleoconservative movement
to national attention. The incident was covered by the New York Times
and commented upon by the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. It
was, however, events across the Atlantic that gave the shuttering a larger
importance.

At
the same time that Fleming was sacking Neuhaus, the people of Leopold Tyrmand’s
native Poland were engaged in their country’s first free elections since World
War II. Solidarity won all but one open seat in the lower house of parliament
and 92 of 100 seats in the Polish senate. Over the next six months, the
Communist governments of central Europe would collapse.

The
conservative movement had come to life in the 1950s to goad the governments of
the West to wage the Cold War more energetically and skillfully. When National
Review declared in its founding editorial that it would stand “athwart
history, yelling Stop” the history it had in mind was Marx’s
“History” — the “History” with a capital H that was
supposed to run inevitably toward Communism. By November 1989, that History had
indeed stopped — was rapidly running backward — and the great question for
conservatives was, “What now?”

“How
horrible to realize, ten years after the Cold War, that the real evil empire is
not some foreign regime, but the U.S. military state.

It
bombs buses, bridges, factories, churches, and schools, expresses ‘regret,’ and
then continues to do the same. A host of innocents have died from U.S. attacks
– a fact which should make every patriot wince. The propaganda should also
make us wonder to what extent the old Communist Threat was trumped up to
plunder the American taxpayer.”

>–Llewellyn h. Rockwell,
“The End of Buckleyism,” in Spintech, June 12, 1999

In
August 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded and annexed Kuwait. Iraq plus Kuwait and
prospectively Saudi Arabia would possess the world’s biggest reservoir of oil.
With this vast new oil wealth, Saddam could at last acquire the nuclear weapons
he coveted — and thus dominate the entire Middle East. President George H. W.
Bush quickly decided that the conquest of Kuwait “will not stand” and
assembled a global coalition against Saddam. The paleoconservative repudiation
of the Gulf War would be their first major independent ideological adventure.

Three
weeks after the invasion, Pat Buchanan declared his opposition to war in one of
his regular appearances on The McLaughlin Group: “There are only two
groups that are beating the drums for war in the Middle East — the Israeli
defense ministry and its amen corner in the United States.”

It
would be hard to come up with a more improbable idea than that of George H. W.
Bush of Kennebunkport as warmaking servant of the interests of International
Jewry. Yet over the next six months, Buchanan and the Chronicles writers would
repeatedly argue that America was being dragged to war in the Gulf by a
neoconservative coterie indifferent to true American interests: the
“neoconservatives,” as Buchanan said, “the ex-liberals,
socialists, and Trotskyists who signed on in the name of anti-Communism and now
control our foundations and set the limits of permissible dissent.”

Early
in 1990, Buchanan published an article in The National Interest (a
journal founded, ironically enough, by Irving Kristol, who sometimes seemed to
be the only person in America willing to accept the “neoconservative”
label), in which Buchanan called for a new foreign policy of “America
First.” And “America First” would be the slogan of Buchanan’s
presidential run in 1992: more irony, because by 1992 the paleos were frankly
disgusted, not merely with the rest of the conservative movement and the
Republican party, but with much of America. “Last month,” Buchanan
wrote in 1991, “during a week at CNN in New York, I rode nightly up Eighth
Avenue in a cab. It was like passing through a different world. We are two
countries; and many Americans in the first country are getting weary of
subsidizing and explaining away the deepening failure of the second, and want
only to get clear of it.”

Fed
up as they were with the Second America, however, the paleos felt sure that
they spoke for the First America with an integrity the traditional
conservatives, let alone the neos, never had. Francis in particular scolded National
Review’s conservatives for their isolation from America’s
“grassroots.” He chose an interesting means of illustrating his
point: “Of the twenty-five conservative intellectuals whose photographs
appeared on the dust jacket of George H. Nash’s The Conservative Intellectual
Movement in America Since 1945, published in 1976, four are Roman Catholic,
seven are Jewish, another seven (including three Jews) are foreign-born, two
are southern or western in origin, and only five are in any respect
representative of the historically dominant Anglo-Saxon (or at least
Anglo-Celtic) Protestant strain in American history and culture (three of the
five later converted to Roman Catholicism).” No wonder then that these
fringe characters were able to achieve nothing more impressive than the
election of Ronald Reagan and victory in the Cold War.

Now
Francis had the helm of an ideological movement of his own. “[A] new
American Right,” he wrote in 1991, “must recognize that its values
and goals lie outside and against the establishment and that its natural allies
are not in Manhattan, Yale, and Washington but in the increasingly alienated
and threatened strata of Middle America. . . . A new Right, positioning itself
in opposition to the elite and the elite’s underclass ally, can assert its
leadership of Middle Americans and mobilize them in radical opposition to the
regime.”

Buchanan,
inconveniently, was himself a Roman Catholic. But his skills were manifest, and
the writers at Chronicles convinced themselves that his 37 percent showing
in the 1992 New Hampshire Republican primary was the long-awaited breakthrough
for their Middle American Revolution. It was a false hope. Bill Clinton won the
presidential election of 1992. And Newt Gingrich, impeccably Anglo-Celtic
though he was, soon proved himself just another neocon: He even helped Clinton
enact NAFTA in 1993. With this final betrayal, the Chronicles crowd’s
last faint hope for political triumph through Middle America died.

“It
is clear that neither laws nor any sense of fair play will stop this rampant
U.S. arrogance. The time may soon come when we will have to call for the return
of the spirit of the man who terrified the United States like no one else ever
has. Come back Stalin — (almost) all is forgiven.”