"One of the reasons the neocons were obsessed with Iraq, as George Packer points out in his brilliant study of the Iraq war, "The Assassins' Gate," is that they "concluded it would be very good for Israel." Many neocon thinkers were closely associated with Israel's right-wing Likud Party; some went on to write a 1996 paper, "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," that urged incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to roll back Syria, work to effect regime change in Iraq, and refuse to return the occupied territories to the Palestinians.
The neocons' attachment to the Israeli right naturally carried with it a whole series of assumptions about the Middle East, about terrorism, about Arabs, about the Palestinians, about Islam, and about how American should conduct its Mideast policy. The neocons, following the eminent pro-Israel Arabist Bernard Lewis, argued that the Arab world had only itself to blame for its backwardness. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was trotted out by a moribund Arab culture as an excuse. In any case the Palestinians had lost any moral claim because of their recourse to terrorism. America should stop trying to placate the Palestinians and impose a Pax Americana on the region. The Arabs, who respected only force, would fall in line.
Under Bush, these assumptions became U.S. policy -- notwithstanding their significant departure from traditional U.S. Mideast policy, which at least made a pretense of being even-handed. And neoconservative beliefs are enshrined in the Bush administration's "war on terror."
Bush's "war on terror" follows the neocon playbook in every particular. The salient features of that war are these: 1) "Terrorism" is itself the enemy. It is soft-minded and immoral to consider historical context or grievances. Any group that practices terrorism is to be smashed into submission. 2) All militant Islamic groups, from al-Qaida to Hamas and Hezbollah, are essentially the same. They all subscribe to a totalitarian ideology and must be destroyed. 3) Force works. If you smash the Arab world in the mouth hard enough, it will get the idea. If it doesn't, it will be necessary to continue smashing it indefinitely. 4) The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not that important, and the United States should not interfere with Israel's actions, however harsh. 5) The war on terrorism is so crucial that it merits suspending civil liberties, establishing secret prisons and using rendition of suspects in order to torture them."
"Antiwar voters who thought they were ushering in a new era of sanity in the realm of U.S. foreign policy are very much mistaken: the election was a measure of voter aspirations. But the politicians are selling them out, and rather quickly. Usually they wait a while longer before breaking their campaign promises – to do it this early, and in so brazen a manner, betrays the real contempt our "leaders" have for voters and the party rank-and-file.
Establishment types aver that this election wasn't about Iraq, it was really about corruption – but the two are intimately connected. Aside from the moral corruption of a military occupation that tolerates Abu Ghraib and routinely covers up its crimes, don't forget the war profiteers, who are raking in multi-millions investing in Washington's fastest-growing industries: homeland security and democracy promotion, the latest adjuncts of the military-industrial complex. To utter the word "Halliburton" is to evoke the spirit of corruption itself – can it be that the Democrats, in the name of "bipartisanship" and "unity" in wartime, will pass on their promise to clean up Washington?"
"Breaking news from the olive branch watch: According to the Wall Street Journal, George W. Bush has just renominated four long-stalled judicial nominees -- Terrence Boyle, William Haynes, William Meyers and Michael Wallace -- who have virtually no chance of getting through the current lame-duck Senate and even less of a shot at confirmation once the Democrats take over in January.
The Journal says that Bush's decision to renominate the four should be seen as "an effort to appease" the Republican Party's "conservative base." The news comes hard on the heels of another sop to the right -- the president's decision to renominate former Corporation for Public Broadcasting chairman Ken Tomlinson to the Broadcasting Board of Governors. "