Guest Editorial: Fisher on Perle and Iran
THE PRINCE OF WONDERLAND
By William Fisher
Good news! The Prince of Darkness has morphed into The Prince of Peace.
Having fixed Iraq, Richard Perle is now ready to advise us on Iran. The former Assistant Defense Secretary in the Reagan Administration, and Neocon darling, appeared on a recent Charlie Rose show on PBS, following his nemesis, Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker magazine.
When Perle appeared, Rose quoted Hersh: “The Neocons believe that if we take out Iranian nuke sites with precision airstrikes, the people will rise up and overthrow the mullahs.”
He said: “Before we face war, there are things we can do today. Tens of millions of people are unhappy with Iran’s theocracy. We should be providing material support to the opposition…Broadcasting…helping young Iranians who want to publish…helping students, trade unions…(This could) bring about regime change by Iranians for Iranians…(and it) could well take out the Mullahs…We should spread the demand for good governance.”
Perle seemed eager to assign blame for the Iraqi occupation, which he said is “sadly misguided.” The US “should have turned over Iraq to the Iraqis immediately” following Saddam’s overthrow. We “should have been working with Iraqis” to expedite a quick and bloodless regime change.” He added, “Failed military actions often can lead to destructive occupations.”
Excuse me, but isn’t “working with” Iraqis how we found Ahmed Chalabi?
Perle believes the US “can’t exclude the possibility of military action elsewhere in the Middle East,” he said, adding, “The Middle East is producing the vast amount of terrorists in the world. ” He focused specifically on Syria, which he said is funding and encouraging the insurgency in Iraq.
Perle suggested that an Iraqi Shia government would be Iran’s rival — not its ally — despite their religious, ethnic, and cultural similarities. His reasoning was that the Iraqi government will have been elected legitimately.
The jury on the Iraqi government, some would argue, is still out.
But regardless of how our Iraq adventure turns out, one has to feel a sense of profound loss: The Prince of Darkness has become the Prince of Peace. Gone is the man who gave us “If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don’t try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war… our children will sing great songs about us years from now.”
Or is he?
A few years ago, many of those who now serve George W Bush launched their “Project for the New American Century (PNAC)”. Its stars included names like Elliott Abrams, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, James Woolsey, John Bolton, Douglas Feith and, of course, Perle. Its ideology was the proactive assertion of American power in the world. It believed that the kind of rhetoric we heard in the President’s inaugural address was for real.
The PNAC said what America needed was “a new Pearl Harbor.” A wake-up call to arms and manifest destiny. They wrote, they spoke, they circulated policy papers, they lobbied the corridors of Washington power. And absent 9/11, they might all just be doing the same old things. But Usama Bin Laden was the greatest gift the neocons ever got.
Then came Iraq.
But Iraq was far from Perle’s first bout with controversy — though it was probably his biggest. His career has been marked by big ups and big downs. Among them:
He is credited with bringing to the Pentagon a number of staunchly pro-Israel activists who dramatically increased weapons sales to Israel.
In 1996, he simultaneously advised both the Dole campaign in the United States and the Netanyahu campaign in Israel.
He was the principal author of a widely circulated policy paper that advised Netanyahu to cancel the Oslo accords concluded with the Palestinians.
During the Camp David negotiations, Perle advised the Israeli delegation to prepare to leave to keep it from appearing to be a pawn of Vice President Gore’s campaign. Perle’s statements drew a harsh rebuke from the White House, which criticized him for injecting politics into international diplomacy. The Bush camp quickly disavowed the remarks, claiming that Perle had been ‘speaking for himself.’
In an article he wrote while he was a member of Donald Rumsfeld’s Defense Policy Board, he lauded the Pentagon plan to lease tankers from the Boeing Company but failed to disclose that Boeing was a major investor in his venture capital company. “It takes a special government green-eyeshade mentality to miss the urgency of the tanker requirement,” Perle and a coauthor wrote in the Aug. 14 article in the Wall Street Journal.
These and other appearances of conflicts of interest resulted in his resigning the chairmanship of the Pentagon advisory group, but he remained a member until he fell off the radar just before the 2004 presidential campaign.
Despite these ups and downs, don’t count Perle out. He’s still with us, looking for another Pearl Harbor. Maybe it will happen in Tehran.
William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the Middle East for the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development, and served in the international affairs area in the Kennedy administration.