March 1, 2004 issue The American Conservative
No End to War
The Frum-Perle prescription would ensnare America in endless conflict.
By Patrick J. Buchanan
On the dust jacket of his book, Richard Perle appends a Washington Post
depiction of himself as the “intellectual guru of the hard-line
neoconservative movement in foreign policy.”
The guru’s reputation, however, does not survive a reading. Indeed, on
putting down Perle’s new book the thought recurs: the neoconservative
may be over. For they are not only losing their hold on power, they are
their grip on reality.
An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror opens on a note of hysteria.
In the War on Terror, writes Perle, “There is no middle way for Americans:
is victory or holocaust.” “What is new since 9/11 is the chilling
that the terrorist threat we thought we had contained” now menaces “our
survival as a nation.”
But how is our survival as a nation menaced when not one American has died
in a terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11? Are we really in imminent
of a holocaust like that visited upon the Jews of Poland?
“[A] radical strain within Islam,” says Perle, “ ... seeks to overthrow
civilization and remake the nations of the West into Islamic societies,
imposing on the whole world its religion and laws.”
Well, yes. Militant Islam has preached that since the 7th century. But
are the odds the Boys of Tora Bora are going to “overthrow our
and coerce us all to start praying to Mecca five times a day?
In his own review of An End to Evil, Joshua Micah Marshall picks up this
same scent of near-hysteria over the Islamic threat:
The book conveys a general sense that America is at war with Islam itself
anywhere and everywhere: the contemporary Muslim world .... is depicted as
great cauldron of hate, murder, obscurantism, and deceit. If our Muslim
adversaries are not to destroy Western civilization, we must gird for more
To suggest Frum and Perle are over the top is not to imply we not take
seriously the threat of terror attacks on airliners, in malls, from dirty
bombs, or, God forbid, a crude atomic device smuggled in by Ryder truck or
container ship. Yet even this will never “overthrow our civilization.”
In the worst of terror attacks, we lost 3,000 people. Horrific. But at
Antietam Creek, we lost 7,000 in a day’s battle in a nation that was
as populous. Three thousand men and boys perished every week for 200 weeks
that Civil War. We Americans did not curl up and die. We did not come all
way because we are made of sugar candy.
Germany and Japan suffered 3,000 dead every day in the last two years of
World War II, with every city flattened and two blackened by atom bombs.
came back in a decade. Is al-Qaeda capable of this sort of devastation
they are recruiting such scrub stock as Jose Padilla and the shoe bomber?
In the war we are in, our enemies are weak. That is why they resort to the
weapon of the weak—terror. And, as in the Cold War, time is on America’s
Perseverance and patience are called for, not this panic.
In 25 years, militant Islam has seized three countries: Iran, Sudan, and
Afghanistan. We toppled the Taliban almost without losing a man. Sudan is
failed state. In Iran, a generation has grown up that knows nothing of
or the Great Satan but enough about the mullahs to have rejected them in
to-back landslides. The Iranian Revolution has reached Thermidor. Wherever
Islamism takes power, it fails. Like Marxism, it does not work.
Yet, assume it makes a comeback. So what? Taken together, all 22 Arab
nations do not have the GDP of Spain. Without oil, their exports are the
of Finland’s. Not one Arab nation can stand up to Israel, let alone the
States. The Islamic threat is not strategic, but demographic. If death
to the West it will be because we embraced a culture of death—birth
abortion, sterilization, euthanasia, and ''gay marriage''. Western man is dying as Islamic man
migrates north to await his passing and inherit his estate.
Said young Lincoln in his Lyceum address, “If destruction be our lot, we
must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must
live through all time, or die by suicide.”
In his first inaugural address, FDR admonished, “[T]he only thing we have
to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which
paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Fear is what Perle and his co-author David Frum are peddling to stampede
America into serial wars. Just such fear-mongering got us into Iraq,
we have since discovered, Iraq had no hand in 9/11, no ties to al-Qaeda,
weapons of mass destruction, no nuclear program, and no plans to attack
Iraq was never “the clear and present danger” the authors insist she was.
Calling their book a “manual for victory,” they declaim:
For us, terrorism remains the great evil of our time, and the war against
this evil, our generation’s great cause. We do not believe that Americans
fighting this evil to minimize it or to manage it. We believe they are
fighting to win—to end this evil before it kills again and on a genocidal
scale. There is no middle way for Americans: It is victory or holocaust.
But no nation can “end evil.” Evil has existed since Cain rose up against
his brother Abel and slew him. A propensity to evil can be found in every
human heart. And if God accepts the existence of evil, how do Frum and
propose to “end” it? Nor can any nation “win the war on terror.” Terrorism
simply a term for the murder of non-combatants for political ends.
Revolutionary terror has been around for as long as this Republic. It was
used by Robespierre’s Committee on Public Safety and by People’s Will in
Romanov Russia. Terror has been the chosen weapon of anarchists, the IRA,
Irgun, the Stern Gang, Algeria’s FLN, the Mau Mau, MPLA, the PLO, Black
September, the Basque ETA, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, the Al Aksa
Martyrs Brigade, SWAPO, ZANU, ZAPU, the Tupamaros, Shining Path, FARC, the
ANC, the V.C., the Huks, Chechen rebels, Tamil Tigers, and the FALN that
attempted to assassinate Harry Truman and shot up the House floor in 1954,
name only a few.
Accused terrorists have won the Nobel Peace Prize: Begin, Arafat, Mandela.
Three lie in mausoleums in the capitals of nations they created: Lenin,
Ho. Others are the fathers of their countries like Ben Bella and Jomo
Kenyatta. A terrorist of the Black Hand ignited World War I by
the Archduke Ferdinand. Yet Gavrilo Princep has a bridge named for him in
The murder of innocents for political ends is evil, but to think we
can “end” it is absurd. Cruel and amoral men, avaricious for power
and “immortality,” will always resort to it. For, all too often, it
But what must America do to attain victory in her war on terror?
Say the authors: “We must hunt down the individual terrorists before they
kill our people or others .... We must deter all regimes that use terror
weapon of state against anyone, American or not” [emphasis added].
Astonishing. The authors say America is responsible for defending
everywhere from terror and deterring any and all regimes that might use
terror —against anyone, anywhere on earth.
But there are 192 nations. Scores of regimes from Liberia to Congo to
from Zimbabwe to Syria to Uzbekistan, and from Iran to Sudan to the Afghan
warlords of the Northern Alliance who fought on our side—have used torture
terror to punish enemies. Are we to fight them all?
Well, actually, no. Excepting North Korea, the authors’ list of nations
that need to be attacked reads as though it were drawn up in the Israeli
Defense Ministry. By the second paragraph, Perle and Frum have given us a
short list of priority targets: “The war on terror is not over, it has
begun. Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas still plot murder.”
Now al-Qaeda was responsible for 9/11. [This belief makes this article
powerful than it should be. There is NO REAL PROOF WHATSOEVER been
by anyone of who actually did 9/11. Buchanan has fallen for the media
scapegoating al-Qaeda. - Tony B.] But when did Hamas attack us? And if
can co-exist and negotiate with Hezbollah, why is it America’s duty to
Hezbollah? Iran and North Korea, the authors warn, “present intolerable
threats to American security. We must move boldly against them both and
against all other sponsors of terrorism as well: Syria, Libya and Saudi
Arabia. And we don’t have much time.”
“Why have we put up with [Syria] as long as we have?” the authors demand.
They call for a cut-off of Syria’s oil and an ultimatum to Assad: Get
troops out of Lebanon, hand over all terrorist suspects, end support for
Hezbollah, stop agitating against Israel, and adopt a “Western
you, too, get the Saddam treatment.
But what has Syria done to us? And if Assad balks do we bomb Damascus?
Invade? Where do we get the troops? What if the Syrians, too, resort to
Bush’s father made Hafez al-Assad an ally in the Gulf War. Ehud Barak
offered Assad 99.5 percent of the Golan Heights. Why, then, must Bashir
Assad’s regime be destroyed—by us?
“We don’t have much time,” say Frum and Perle. But what is Assad doing
warrants immediate attack? Is he, too, buying yellowcake from Niger?
Colonel Khaddafi is now paying billions in reparations for Pan Am 103,
giving up his weapons of mass destruction, and inviting U.S. inspectors in
verify his disarmament. Why is it imperative we overthrow him?
While the Saudis have been diffident allies in the War on Terror, they are
not America’s enemies. They pumped oil to keep prices down in the first
War. They looked the other way as U.S. fighter-bombers flew out of Prince
Sultan Air Base in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Yet the Saudis are directed to
provide us “with the utmost cooperation in the war on terror,” or we will
invade, detach their oil-rich eastern province, and occupy it.
But why? If the monarchy falls and bin Laden’s acolytes replace it, how
would that make us more secure in our own country?
What did Iran do to justify war against her? According to Perle and Frum,
Iran defied the Monroe Doctrine and sponsored murder in our own
killing eighty-six people and wounding some three hundred at the Jewish
community center in Buenos Aires—and our government did worse than
opened negotiations with the murderers.
But that atrocity occurred a dozen years ago, long before the reform
government of President Mohammad Khatami was elected. And if Iran was
an attack on a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, why did Argentina
Israel not avenge these deaths? Why is retribution our responsibility? It
not Americans who were the victims, and the attack occurred 5,000 miles
the United States.
The Frum-Perle invocation of the Monroe Doctrine is both cynical and
comical. If they were genuinely concerned about violations of the Monroe
Doctrine, why did they not include Cuba on their target list, a “state
of terror” 90 miles from our shores that has hosted Soviet missiles and,
according to Undersecretary of State John Bolton, is developing chemical
biological weapons? Why did Saudi Arabia make the cut but not Cuba? Might
have something to do with proximity and propinquity?
For Iran, there can be no reprieve. “The regime must go,” say our authors,
because Ayatollah Khamenei has
… no more right to control ... Iran than any other criminal has to seize
control of the persons and property of others. It’s not always in our
do something about such criminals, nor is it always in our interest, but
it is in our power and interest, we should toss dictators aside with no
compunction than a police sharpshooter feels when he downs a
But where in the Constitution is the president empowered to “toss
aside”? And if it took 150,000 U.S. soldiers to toss Saddam aside, how
troops do Frum and Perle think it will take to occupy the capital of a
three times as large and populous and toss the ayatollah aside? How many
and wounded would our war hawks consider an acceptable price for being rid
As South Korea favors appeasement, they write, we must take the lead,
demand that North Korea surrender all nuclear materials and shut down all
missile sites. If Kim Jong Il balks, we should move U.S. troops back to
beyond artillery and rocket range of the DMZ and launch preemptive strikes
known North Korean nuclear sites and impose a naval and air blockade. As
the South Koreans, they should probably brace themselves. “We have no
how such a war would end,” say the authors. They also had no doubt how the
Iraqi war would end.
Is the Perle-Frum vision for the suffering people of North Korea a future
of freedom and democracy? Not exactly:
It may be that the only way out of the decade-long crisis on the Korean
peninsula is the toppling of Kim Jong Il and his replacement by a North
communist who is more subservient to China. If so, we should accept that
Swell. America is to fight a second Korean War that could entail a nuclear
strike on our troops, but, when we have won, we should accept a communist
North Korea that is a vassal of Beijing. How many dead and wounded are our
warlords willing to accept to make Pyongyang a puppet of Beijing?
But the Frum-Perle enemies’ list is not complete. France, if she does not
shape up, is to be treated as an enemy.
From every page of this book there oozes a sense of urgency that borders
the desperate for action this day: “We can feel the will to win ebbing in
Washington, we sense the reversion to the bad old habits of complacency
The neocons are not wrong here. With the cost of war at $200 billion and
rising, with deaths mounting, and with the possibility growing that Iraq
collapse in chaos and civil war, President Bush appears to be experiencing
buyer’s remorse about the lemon he was sold by Perle and friends.
They promised him a “cakewalk,” that we would be hailed as “liberators,”
that democracy would take root in Iraq and flourish in the Middle East,
Palestinians and Israelis would break bread and make peace. With Lord
Melbourne, Bush must be muttering, “What all the wise men promised has not
happened, and what all the damn fools said would happen has come to pass.”
What do Perle and Frum see as our decisive failing in Iraq?
But of all our mistakes, probably the most serious was our unwillingness
allow the Iraqi National Congress, Iraq’s leading anti-Saddam resistance
movement, to form a provisional government after the fall of Baghdad. In
we took care to let French troops enter Paris before U.S. or British
We should have shown equal tact in 2003.
Thus, we are in trouble because Ahmad Chalabi was not allowed to play de
Gaulle leading his war-weary, battle-hardened Free Iraqis into Baghdad.
Why was Perle’s protégé passed over? Because the “INC terrified the Saudis
and therefore terrified those in our government who wished to placate the
Saudis.” The damned Arabists at State did it again.
Hastily written, replete with errors, with no index, An End to Evil is a
brief in defense of neoconservatives against their impending indictment on
charges they lied us into a war that may prove our greatest disaster since
Vietnam. And the charge of deliberate deceit is not without merit.
In mid-December 2001, in a column distributed by Copley News, Perle
asserted that Saddam “is busily at work on a nuclear weapon .... it’s
matter of time before he acquires nuclear weapons.”
Naming Khidir Hamza, “one of the people who ran the nuclear weapons
for Saddam,” as his source, Perle gave credence to Hamza’s tale of 400
enrichment facilities spread all over Iraq. “Some of them look like
farmhouses, some of them look like classrooms, some of them look like
warehouses. You’ll never find them.” Only “preemptive action” can save us,
By the end of 2001, according to Perle, the threat of a nuclear-armed
Saddam was imminent:
With each passing day he comes closer to his dream of a nuclear arsenal.
know he has a clandestine program, spread over many hidden sites, to
natural uranium to weapons grade .... And intelligence sources know he is
the market, with plenty of money, for both weapons material and components
well as finished nuclear weapons. How close is he? We do not know. Two
three years, tomorrow even?
When he wrote this, Perle, as chairman of the Defense Policy Board, had
access to secret intelligence. So the question cannot be evaded: did Hamza
deliberately deceive Perle, or did Perle deliberately deceive us?
For those unpersuaded that Saddam was a strategic threat, there were his
links to the 9/11 massacre. Saddam’s “collaboration with terrorism is well
documented,” wrote Perle, “Evidence of a meeting in Prague between a
Iraqi intelligence agent and Mohamed Atta, the September 11 ringleader, is
Thus did the neocons get the war they wanted. And after America fought the
war for which they had beaten the drums, how do Perle & Co. explain why it
not turn out as they assured us it would?
Answer: any disaster in Iraq, the authors argue, will be due to the
venality and cowardice of the State Department, CIA, FBI, retired
and ex-ambassadors bought off by the Saudis. “We have offered concrete
recommendations equal to the seriousness of the threat, and the softliners
have not, because we have wanted to fight and they have not.”
Which brings us back to the point made at the outset: the neocon moment
be passing, for they appear to be losing their grip on reality as well as
their influence on policy. Rather than looking for new wars to involve us
deeply in the Middle East, Bush and Rumsfeld seem to be looking for the
exit ramp out of our Mesopotamian morass. “No war in ‘04” is said to be
watchword of Karl Rove.
Moreover, Americans are coming to appreciate that, all that bombast
about “unipolar” moments and “American empire” aside, there are limits to
American power, and we are approaching them. U.S. ground forces of 480,000
stretched thin. There is grumbling in Army, Reserve, and National Guard
about too many tours too far from home. Backing off his “axis-of-evil”
rhetoric, Bush said in this year’s State of the Union, “We have no desire
dominate, no ambitions of empire.”
The long retreat of American empire has begun.
In Washington, there are rumors of the return of James Baker and the
imminent departure of Paul Wolfowitz. As Frederick the Great, weary of the
antics and peculations of his house guest Voltaire, said, “One squeezes
orange and throws away the rind.”
Moreover, the radicalism of their schemes for two, three, many wars,
given our embroilment in Iraq, not only rash but also rooted in unreality.
Before Bush could take us to war with any of these regimes, he would have
convince his country of the necessity of war and persuade Congress to
him the power to go to war. Yet absent a new atrocity on the magnitude of
9/11, directly traceable to one of the regimes on the Perle-Frum list, the
president could not win this authority. Nor does it appear he intends to
And were the United States to attack Libya, Syria, or Saudi Arabia, we
alienate every ally in the Islamic world and Europe—including Tony Blair’s
Britain. To fight these wars and occupy these nations would bleed our
forces and mandate a return to the draft. But how would any of these wars
us more secure from terrorism here at home?
Indeed, it is because Americans cannot see the correlation between the
the authors demand and security at home that Frum and Perle must resort to
fear-mongering about holocausts, the end of civilization, and our demise
If it is America we defend, An End to Evil makes no sense. The Perle-Frum
prescription for permanent war makes sense only if it is the mission of
armed forces of the United States to make the Middle East safe for
here we come to the heart of the quarrel between us.
Copyright © 2004 The American Conservative