American neo-conservatives pushed war
by Arshin Adib-Moghaddam*
Few analysts would question that institutions are central to the build up of salient enemy images, which in turn function to legitimate inter-state war. Fewer analysts would contend that organizations and think tanks such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Center for Security Policy, and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) have worked as Israel’s open sesame to the political establishment in the United States and that these organizations are actively advocating military action against countries Israel perceives as threatening. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was one such example; Syria and Iran are others. But is Israel’s penetration of Washington’s citadels of power reason enough to hold it responsible for the US/UK invasion of Iraq? Did the hidden hand of Israel start the transmission belt causing the demise of the Ba’athist state? Let us consider the evidence.
It is no secret that there are strong ideological and institutional links between the neo-conservative coterie dominating the Bush administration and the Likud party in Israel. One often cited example of this nexus is a paper authored by Douglas Feith (among others), currently US under secretary of defense for policy. The paper bears the curious title, “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” Produced in July 1996 by the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, a think tank based in Washington DC and Jerusalem, the paper urges Israel to reconsider its strategic posture.
The report advocates the “principle of pre-emption, rather than retaliation alone.” It suggests that Israel work with “moderate” regimes such as Jordan and Turkey in order to “contain, destabilize, and roll back some of its most dangerous threats.” In addition, it recommends that Israel “focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq--an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right--as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.” Interestingly, if viewed within the context of the recent Jordanian offer to send troops to Iraq, the paper also suggests that Israel support Jordan in advocating restoration of the Hashemite monarchy in Iraq.
The list of functionaries involved in the production of the paper reads like a who's who of the neo-conservative cabal, dubbed the “war party” by orthodox conservatives such as Pat Buchanan. Apart from Douglas Feith, the list includes Richard Perle, one of the central advocates of the Iraq War and until recently chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board; Charles Fairbanks Jr., a personal friend of Paul Wolfowitz; David Wurmser of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and Special Assistant to US Under Secretary of State John Bolton; and his wife Meyrav Wurmser, who runs the Hudson Institute and directed the Washington office of the Middle East Media Research Institute. (MEMRI is an invention of Col. Yigal Carmon, who spent 22 years in Israeli intelligence and later served as counter-terrorism adviser to former Israeli Prime Ministers Yitzak Shamir and Yitzak Rabin.)
In July 1996, then-prime minister of Israel Binyamin Netanyahu presented the central strategic tenets of the “Clean Break” paper to the US Congress. The case for an invasion of Iraq was followed up by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) and the Project for a New American Century. (JINSA’s board of advisors included Vice President Dick Cheney, Under Secretary of State John Bolton, and Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith before they entered the Bush administration. Leading neo-conservatives such as Richard Perle, Michael Ledeen, Stephen Bryen, Joshua Muravchik, and former CIA director James Woolsey continue to be members of the board. The Project for a New American Century's declared goal is “to promote American global leadership.” It is chaired by William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard.) Already in January 1998, the Project sent a letter to then-US President Bill Clinton advocating a “strategy for removing Saddam’s regime from power! ” and demanding a “full complement of diplomatic, political, and military efforts” to that end.
This appeal was followed by a letter to Congressional leaders Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott in May 1998, urging, “US policy should have as its explicit goal removing Saddam Hussein’s regime from power and establishing a peaceful and democratic Iraq in its place.” Out of the 17 signatories to the two letters, 11 have held posts in the Bush administration since the invasion of Iraq was launched in March 2003. Elliot Abrams, who orchestrated the Iran-Contra scandal, was recruited as senior director for Near East, Southwest Asian, and North African affairs at the National Security Council; Richard Armitage was named deputy secretary of state; John Bolton, under secretary of state for arms control and international security; Paula Dobriansky, under secretary of state for global affairs; Zalmay Khalilzad, special presidential envoy to Afghanistan and (former) ambassador-at-large for “Free Iraqis;” Richard Perle, chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board; Peter W. Rodman, assi! stant secretary of defense for international security affairs; Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defense; William Schneider, Jr., chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board; Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense; and Robert B. Zoellick, US trade representative.
It is obvious that the institutionalization of the neo-conservative-Likudnik nexus in a myriad of think tanks and lobbying organizations created the structural platform to advocate the case for war against Iraq. The evidence marshaled suggests that this “incestuous” relationship between two closely related ideologies has had an impact on the foreign policy process in Washington. If asked whether or not Israel was responsible for the invasion of Iraq, however, I would tend to say no, adding in parenthesis that the Israel factor was an intervening cause. The Israeli government knew that there was no need to make a raucous case for the invasion of Iraq. The neo-conservative acolytes took care of that. Likudniks in Israel and neo-conservatives in Washington appear to be in agreement about two grand strategic preferences, however: the strengthening of Israel’s position in West Asia and a unipolar world order dominated by the military potency of the United States. It is per! haps the single most insidious and apocryphal illusion, but both groups believe the invasion of Iraq has advanced those aims.-Published 15/7/2004©bitterlemons-international.org
*Dr. Arshin Adib-Moghaddam is an international affairs researcher at Cambridge University.