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Declaring War on ‘Political Islamism’

William Kristol

The neocons have been around for decades, first to mobilize support against Soviet-led communism, and then, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, to wage a so-called “Global War on Terrorism.”

As the architects of the spectacularly disastrous Iraq War, the necons should have been thoroughly discredited and relegated to the political fringe. Yet it seems these foreign policy hawks have simply retooled their message, founded a new think tank, and are poised to wreak havoc once again.

By Robert Parry

Like George W. Bush, Mitt Romney has responded to his lack of foreign policy experience by surrounding himself with clever neoconservatives who are now looking forward to expanding Bush’s “global war on terror” into what neocon ideologue William Kristol calls a U.S. “war with political Islamism.”

In a Washington Post op-ed on Thursday, Kristol dismissed President Barack Obama’s phased military withdrawal from Afghanistan – and his statement that “this time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end” – as foolish wishful thinking.

“It would be wonderful if Obama’s view of 9/11 and its implications were correct,” Kristol wrote. “But if it’s not going to be true that Afghanistan is where ‘this time of war … will end’ — even if Afghanistan is pacified and we’re no longer fighting there — then the American people should know that.”

What the American people should know, in Kristol’s view, is that a post-Obama administration – presumably headed by Republican Mitt Romney and staffed by neocon hawks – will undertake a grander “war with political Islamism,” a conflict whose full dimensions even “war president” George W. Bush shrank from.

“This isn’t a pleasant reality, and even the Bush administration wasn’t quite ready to confront it,” Kristol wrote. “But President George W. Bush did capture the truth that we are engaged in — and had no choice but to engage in — a bigger war, a ‘global war on terror,’ of which Afghanistan was only one front.

“There are, of course, problems with ‘global war on terror’ as a phrase and an organizing principle. But it does capture what we might call the ‘big’ view of 9/11 and its implications.”

As part of an even “bigger” view of 9/11, Kristol called for engaging in a broader conflict, ranging “from Pakistan in the east to Tunisia in the west, and most visibly now in places such as Iran and Yemen and Somalia.”

In other words, Kristol and the neocons expect a President Romney to let them refocus the United States onto a “war” not simply against al-Qaeda and its affiliates but against nations where “political Islamism” gains power, which could include Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and many other Muslim countries.

One might as well say the United States will be at war with the Muslim world, though Kristol hastily added that this “war with political Islamism” does not always have to involve open warfare.

He wrote: “This doesn’t mean we need to be deploying troops and fighting ground wars all around the globe. [But] unfortunately, the war in which we are engaged won’t end with peace in, or withdrawal from, Afghanistan.”

A Romney Presidency?

Most political analysts say the November elections will turn on the economy with foreign policy a second-tier issue. In addition, many progressives have denounced Obama and his more targeted approach of relying on drone strikes to kill alleged terrorists as unacceptable, with some on the Left vowing not to support his reelection.

But it shouldn’t be missed that a President Romney would reinstall the neocons, including many who worked for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, at the levers of American power. Indeed, Romney’s foreign policy “white paper” was largely drafted by neocons. Even the name, “An American Century,” was an homage to the neocon manifesto of the 1990s, “Project for a New American Century.”

Romney’s foreign policy advisers include:

Cofer Black, a key Bush counterterrorism official; Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security; Eliot Cohen, a neocon intellectual; Paula Dobriansky, a former Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs; Eric Edelman, a national security aide to Vice President Cheney; Michael Hayden, the ex-director of CIA and the National Security Agency who defended Bush’s warrantless spying program; Robert Kagan, a Washington Post columnist; former Navy Secretary John Lehmanand Daniel Senor, spokesman for Bush’s Iraq occupation.

Romney’s foreign policy also would restore George W. Bush’s “with us or against us” approach to the world – except that Romney, like Kristol, advocates even a more confrontational style, essentially a new Cold War against “rogue nations,” a revised “axis of evil.”

“A special problem is posed by the rogue nations of the world: Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Cuba,” Romney’s white paper declares. “Their interests and values are diametrically opposed to our own and they threaten international peace and security in numerous ways, including, as in the case of North Korea and Iran, by seeking nuclear weapons, or by harboring criminal networks, exporting weapons, and sponsoring terrorists. …

“Mitt Romney would work to protect and advance America’s interests by employing all the instruments of national power at the president’s disposal. He will defend our country, defend our allies, and restore American leadership around the world. It is only American power — conceived in the broadest terms — that can provide the foundation of an international system that ensures the security and prosperity of the United States and our friends and allies. …

“A Romney foreign policy will proceed with clarity and resolve. The United States will clearly enunciate its interests and values. Our friends and allies will not have doubts about where we stand and what we will do to safeguard our interests and theirs; neither will our rivals, competitors, and adversaries. …

“The United States will apply the full spectrum of hard and soft power to influence events before they erupt into conflict. In defending America’s national interest in a world of danger, the United States should always retain a powerful military capacity to defend itself and its allies.”

No Apologies

The Romney “white paper” also treats any recognition of past American errors as unacceptable “apologizing” and calls any notion of seeking multilateral consensus on a problem as an admission of weakness.

“A perspective has been gaining currency, including within high councils of the Obama administration, that regards that United States as a power in decline. And not only is the United States regarded as in decline, but that decline is seen as both inexorable and a condition that can and should be managed for the global good rather than reversed.

“Adherents of this view argue that America no longer possesses the resources or the moral authority to play a leadership role in the world. They contend that the United States should not try to lead because we will only succeed in exhausting ourselves and spreading thin our limited resources.

“They counsel America to step aside, allow other powers to rise, and pursue policies that will ‘manage’ the relative change in our national fortunes. They recoil from the idea of American Exceptionalism, the idea that an America founded on the universal principles of human liberty and human dignity has a unique history and a special role to play in world affairs.

“They do not see an international system undergirded by American values of economic and political freedom as necessarily superior to a world system organized by multilateral organizations like the United Nations. Indeed, they see the United Nations as an instrument that can rein in and temper what they regard as the ill-considered overreaching of the United States.

“This view of America in decline, and America as a potentially malign force, has percolated far and wide. It is intimately related to the torrent of criticism, unprecedented for an American president, that Barack Obama has directed at his own country. …

“Among the ‘sins’ for which he has repented in our collective name are American arrogance, dismissiveness, and derision; for dictating solutions, for acting unilaterally, for acting without regard for others; for treating other countries as mere proxies, for unjustly interfering in the internal affairs of other nations, for committing torture, for fueling anti-Islamic sentiments, for dragging our feet in combating global warming, and for selectively promoting democracy.

“The sum total of President Obama’s rhetorical efforts has been a form of unilateral disarmament in the diplomatic and moral sphere. A President who is so troubled by America’s past cannot lead us into the future. … Mitt Romney believes in restoring the sinews of American power.”

Hawks in the Middle East

As for the Middle East, Romney’s team advocates unquestioned support for Israel both regarding its treatment of the Palestinians and toward Iran:

“Israel is the United States’ closest ally in the Middle East and a beacon of democracy and freedom in the region. The tumult in the Middle East has heightened Israel’s security problems. Indeed, this is an especially dangerous moment for the Jewish state. …

“To ensure Israel’s security, Mitt Romney will work closely with Israel to maintain its strategic military edge. … The United States must forcefully resist the emergence of anti-Israel policies in Turkey and Egypt, and work to make clear that their interests are not served by isolating Israel.

“With regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Romney’s policy will differ sharply from President Obama’s. President Obama and his administration have badly misunderstood the dynamics of the region. Instead of fostering stability and security, they have diminished U.S. authority and painted both Israel and ourselves into a corner.

“President Obama for too long has been in the grip of several illusions. One is that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is the central problem in the region. This has been disproved repeatedly by events, most recently and most dramatically by the eruption of the Arab Spring.

“But it nonetheless led the administration to believe that distancing the United States from Israel was a smart move that would earn us credits in the Arab world and somehow bring peace closer. The record proves otherwise. The key to negotiating a lasting peace is an Israel that knows it will be secure. …

“[Under President Romney] the United States will reduce assistance to the Palestinians if they continue to pursue United Nations recognition or form a unity government that includes Hamas, a terrorist group dedicated to Israel’s destruction.

“The United States needs a president who will not be a fair-weather friend of Israel. The United States must work as a country to resist the worldwide campaign to delegitimize Israel. We must fight against that campaign in every forum and label it the anti-Semitic poison that it is. Israel’s existence as a Jewish state is not up for debate.”

Regarding Iran, the Romney “white paper” repeats many of the canards about Iranian intentions that have been debunked even by Israelis, such as the mistranslation of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statement regarding “wiping Israel off the map.” But Romney’s neocon foreign policy team even suggests using that mistranslation to indict Ahmadinejad for war crimes:

“Romney will also push for greater diplomatic isolation of Iran. The United States should make it plain that it is a disgrace to provide Iran’s Holocaust-denying president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the trappings and respect offered to responsible heads of state. He should not be invited to foreign capitals or feted by foreign leaders.

“Quite the opposite. Given his calls for Israel to be wiped off the map, Ahmadinejad should be indicted for incitement to genocide under Article III of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.”

So, even Americans disappointed in Obama’s foreign policy should recognize what the stakes are in November. They include whether to put hard-line neocons back in charge of U.S. foreign policy and the American military.

[To read more of Robert Parry’s writings, you can now order his last two books, Secrecy & Privilege andNeck Deep, at the discount price of only $16 for both. For details on the special offer, click here.]  

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.

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  • @Reynardine

    responding to me you wrote,
    Dragon, this is the first time in three weeks I’ve dropped by, but yes, it’s apt. The Dominionists, however, are intertwined with the Friedmanist/Randians in a way that gives the joint sociopolitical agenda an impact far broader in scope, both within the nation and worldwide.

    That makes sense.

  • Reynardine

    Dragon, this is the first time in three weeks I’ve dropped by, but yes, it’s apt. The Dominionists, however, are intertwined with the Friedmanist/Randians in a way that gives the joint sociopolitical agenda an impact far broader in scope, both within the nation and worldwide.

  • Just Stopping By

    @Nur Alia: Thanks for your comment.

    If I understand you, your objections to Zionism/Israel are (1) the lack of a written constitution and (2) calling the country a Jewish state, because these could lead to issues in the future. Of course, you note that a country can override its constitution. And there are many countries, like the Islamic Republic of Pakistan that have religious aspects to their names. If the main bases of your objections to Israel are things that are common, then I don’t understand your focus.

    You do claim about Israel: “we can see that they are ‘selective’ in who and in what situations the laws apply by religion or ethnicity more than by the merit of the law.” Again, Israel certainly does not provide equal protection of the laws to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza who are not citizens of Israel, and that is one reason I think that Israel should withdraw from those areas. But, you still have not given one example of an Israeli policy of selective application of the law among its citizens.

    “You seem to never attempt to say…what would the Palistinians do if they were free of oppression and given legal parity under the universal law. Would the vote for and support a armed Hamas?” You make a fair point. We do not know how the Palestinians would vote if they were independent. But, we do know that Israelis have not voted for a religious government, yet you assume that they might do so in the future. Shouldn’t we apply the same standard to both? Again, if I adopted your view of assuming that the worst could happen and were against groups that might adopt a religious government, I would have to change my position and oppose Palestinian independence. The more I consider your views, the more I fear that your arguments could be used as anti-Palestinian.

  • Nur Alia

    “I object to Zionism, and Zionists based on thier point of view to create a religious utopia as thier ultimate goal.”

    There is a ‘possibility’ for anything, including America superceding its own constitution, and becoming a Christian theocracy. So…based on ‘possibilities’ that have not occured, and understanding that the REASON Hamas exists and is viable is because the people are being oppressed, your response is baseless to me.

    Firstly, Isreal has no ratified, offical document, (like a constitution, and as we know a declaration of independance is not a founding document, but a preview of what the intention is to create a legal foundation like a constitution) voted for by any legislative body or people that guaruntees that people are equal under the laws there…and we can see that they are ‘selective’ in who and in what situations the laws apply by religion or ethnicity more than by the merit of the law.

    I live in Malaysia, and I NEVER said my homeland was ‘perfect’ or that I agree with everything written in our contistution…so dont attempt to try that ‘well you do it too’ on me in this conversation. In fact, the mention of ‘someone having thier rights and privileges taken away because they change thier religion is wrong in Malaysia, and wrong everywhere else.

    Now, lets say you are correct, and the Zionists dont want an ‘religious state’. Thier insistance on being called ‘THE JEWISH STATE’ makes me think then, that they want an ‘ethnic Jewish state’…which gives privilage to those who are ‘ethniclly Jewish’ (determined by the state) over and above the rights of those who are not ‘ethniclly Jewish’…with what we used to call ‘Bantustans’ under the ‘protection’ of the Jewish State, where the rights are ‘protected’ under a different set of laws.

    So…which is it I object to. The Jewish state as a theocracy, or as an ethiclly pure state? It can be both, but bottom line is…there cant be democracy if the intention is to create a ‘Jewish State’.

    ON the Palistinian issue of independance, again you make assumptions based on a situation in which people are reacting to thier oppression. You seem to never attempt to say…what would the Palistinians do if they were free of oppression and given legal parity under the universal law. Would the vote for and support a armed Hamas?

  • Just Stopping By

    @Nur Alia: “I object to Zionism, and Zionists based on thier point of view to create a religious utopia as thier ultimate goal.”

    Great! If that is the reason for your objection, then you can stop opposing Zionism, because Zionists are generally NOT interested in having a religious state.

    As has been pointed out, the founders of Zionism were not religious. They clearly had no interest in a religious state.

    As can be seen in Israeli elections, most Zionists have no interest in a religious state; in fact, while religious parties in Israel have some power, there has never been a serious possibility that a religious party would wind up leading a government, unlike in Palestine (where Hamas, or the Islamic Resistance Movement, did win elections) or various nearby Muslim-majority states. In fact, if that is your concern, logically you should be more opposed to Palestinian independence than Israeli independence.

    “We can see by Saudi Arabia, and Iran (the most open about thier religious intentions) that this is simply the EXACT opposite of democracy in it’s most extreme form.” Let’s accept that premise. I don’t think there is any doubt that Gaza under Hamas (the election winner) is much closer to Saudi Arabia or Iran than Israel is in term of religious intensity of the government. Again, by your logic, you should be more opposed to Palestinian independence than Israeli independence.

    “No matter how ‘democratic’ they may pretend to be, no theocracy can be for equal rights for everyone. Some people are ‘evil’ by default by making the choice not to be ‘the religion’.” Let’s consider Israelis of different religions (as opposed to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, who I agree are not treated equally with Israeli citizens) within Israel. Can you tell me one way in which some are considered “evil” or are not given equal rights by the government? (Of course there is discrimination, but we have that in the United States, which is secular. I am asking about actual Israeli government policies.)

    Are you aware that Israel’s declaration of independence states ” it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture”? If all you are talking about are points of views or goals, that is clearly not the stated goal for Israel’s leaders. While a minority is interested in a religious state, again, that would be smaller than the numbers that we see in Gaza, Palestine overall, or many nearly Muslim-majority states.

    I think, Nur Alia, that your concerns are entirely misplaced. Again, most Zionists are opposed to a religious state and there is no indication that Israel is or will become a religious state. Yes, there are some religious aspects to the country, but much less than in its Muslim neighbors or perhaps even Malayia, whose constitution explicitly declares that some of its citizens will lose certain rights if they convert from Islam.

    Nur Alia, if I followed your logic, I would have to oppose Palestinian independence because there is a good chance that the country would be led by parties such as Hamas that want an Islamic utopia. I am afraid of that outcome, but I still support a fully independent Palestine. Do you?

  • Nur Alia

    just stopping by.

    Remember, a political ideology with a religious end game is the most dangerous thing on this planet.

    I object to Zionism, and Zionists based on thier point of view to create a religious utopia as thier ultimate goal.

    We can see by Saudi Arabia, and Iran (the most open about thier religious intentions) that this is simply the EXACT opposite of democracy in it’s most extreme form.

    No matter how ‘democratic’ they may pretend to be, no theocracy can be for equal rights for everyone. Some people are ‘evil’ by default by making the choice not to be ‘the religion’.

  • many if not most of the founders of zionism were atheists etc. political folk in tune with their times. and not religious.

  • Just Stopping By

    @Nur Alia: Thank you for your comment.

    I agree that Zionism is a political ideology, like Palestinian nationalism to use an example. However, most Zionists (and certainly not the early Zionists) have no interest in creating a religious state, just like I imagine most supporters of Palestinian nationalism are not interested in creating an Islamic state.

    I also agree that we should not want any political movement to supercede the rights, freedoms, or lives of other people by force. Of course, the Zionists accepted the 1947 proposal for two states that would not have involved any force or anyone losing any rights. But, for example, I would not argue that no one should reject Palestinian nationalism just because they rejected a peaceful solution at one point in time.

  • Nur Alia

    @Just Stopping By.

    I should have said ‘NO person in the forum has actually objected to Jews living and owning property anywhere on earth, including the west bank.

    I am so sorry for this mistake.

    My definition of Zionism is that it is a political entity, much like communism. The sole purpose is to create a religious ‘state’ based on a holy book regardless of how it happens.

    My definition is NOT a person, or a religion, except that the person defines himself a Zionist freely, and/or espouses thier beliefs.

    In other words…I dont care what the Torah says or the Bible or any religious book says about the Zionist, it is the political entity, and it ultimate goal, when it superceds the rights, freedoms, and lives of other people by force.

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