Frontpage Interview has the pleasure to have Richard Perle and David Frum, the authors of the new book An End to Evil: Strategies for Victory in the War on Terror, as its guests today.
David Frum, a former special assistant to President George W. Bush, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing editor of National Review. Richard Perle, the former assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration, and the former chairman of the Defense Policy Board in President George W. Bush's administration, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He is represented by www.benadorassociates.com.
Frontpage Magazine: Richard Perle and David Frum, welcome to Frontpage Interview. It's a pleasure to have you with us. In your new book, An End to Evil, you provide a manifesto on how we must deal with militant Islam in our War on Terror. For the sake of our readers, could you crystallize some of the main strategies you emphasize that will help the West win this war? Mr. Frum, why don’t we begin with you?
Frum: Thank you Jamie: honored to be here. An End to Evil is a handbook for victory in the war on terror: a series of highly specific recommendations about what to do to make America more safe and to defeat our terrorist enemies. First, we have to make the American homeland more secure by making it more difficult for terrorists to enter the country; and by cutting them off from money and support if they do enter. Second, we have to wage war against terrorist organizations abroad and the states that support them. Third, we have to challenge the terrorists' ideas - because make no mistake, the terrorists have ideas. Finally, we need to modernize our institutions so that we can fight this new war - including threatening to leave the UN unless it amends its charter to recognize the sponsoring of terror as a form of aggression.
FP: Mr. Perle, could you expand a bit on what ideas the terrorists have? And why is the UN reluctant to see sponsoring terror as a form of aggression?
Perle: The terrorists who concern us most are fanatically devoted to the dream of an Islamic universe in which we will all be governed from the mosque according to an extreme interpretation of Islamic law. They also believe that the United States, by virtue of its global power and influence, is the principal obstacle to the realization of this dream—and hence the principal target in their war waged by terror.
The United Nations was born in the immediate aftermath of World War II in hopes of establishing a collective response to aggression across the international borders of sovereign member states. The U.N.’s emphasis on collective response, after action is approved in the Security Council, tends to rule out preemptive action, even in self-defense. If the U.N. were now to recognize that the harboring or supporting of terrorists is as grave an offense as aggression across national boundaries, it would surely open the way to preemptive action, which would be seen as a response. Moreover, the U.N. would have to do something it has not done until now: define terrorists and their organizations in broad generic terms. This would put an end to the ridiculous claim that “one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. And where would that leave the many states who now regard all manner of terrorists as freedom fighters?
FP: Mr. Frum, you come out in favor of the doctrine of pre-emption in cases where there is a perceived threat. Do you think our preemptive strike in Iraq legitimates that strategy? How does this fit with the fact that, so far, there is the question of the "missing WMDs"? Give your best defence of preemptive strikes. What do you say to leftists who argue that they are "internationally illegal"?
Frum: The operation in Iraq was a tremendous success - and an indispensable prerequisite for what comes next. One crucial thing we must do is pressure Saudi Arabia to cut off the flow of funds from its citizens to terrorists. So long as the world's second-biggest oil producer was, in effect, an international outlaw, Saudi Arabia's ability to get away with a two-faced policy on terrorism was magnified. Iraq is now rejoining the international community. Soon its oil will be flowing. And Saudi Arabia will find itself much less immune to American pressure to cut off the terrorists' funds. As for international law: If international law protected the right of Saddam, Uday, and Qusay to tyrannize the people of Iraq and threaten the peace of the region and the world - well, that's a pretty serious comment about the state of international law, isn't it?
FP: So Mr. Perle, what can we do to make it impossible for “international law” to protect the likes of a Saddam to tyrannize his own people? Secondly, what is the best thing we can do to stop the Saudis from funding terror?
Perle: We must challenge the primacy of national sovereignty. Governments that rule their own people by force and tyranny ought not to be considered the legal, sovereign equal of those that rule with the consent of their people. Whether one uses the term “rogue” or “outlaw” or some other term, states that fail to meet a minimum standard of governance and behavior ought not to receive the protection of international law. As for stopping the Saudis from funding extremists and their institutions—the breeding ground and recruitment centers for the most dangerous terrorists—we must recognize that they have done this largely to keep them content with the regime. The regime fears their extremists and has been paying them to go make trouble elsewhere. Our task is to make sure they fear us at least as much—something we have not been willing to do.
FP: Mr. Frum, in the book, you push for America pursuing its foreign policy without the European governments if necessary. Is the EU actually becoming somewhat of an American enemy?
Frum: Europe is not an enemy - but the United States has enemies within Europe, and they are trying to transform the EU into an adversarial power bloc against the United States. It's precisely because Richard and I value the North Atlantic alliance that we are trying to alert Americans to the potential threat that the wrong kind of EU could pose. We have to rally our friends within Europe. We have to raise their awareness of the sinister intentions of this French government - and to make it clear to them that they can't have it both ways: that following the French lead will have the most serious consequences for the Western alliance.
FP: Mr. Perle, what exactly is France’s problem? Why do the French prefer to get into bed with monsters rather than side with us against the forces of tyranny? There is some kind of dark pathology here. Could you give us a little insight into the mindset of the French in this context?
Perle: When the issue is put properly and the facts are clear I believe most Frenchmen will come down on the same side as us. But often the facts are not clear. On Iraq, the French press was an abomination, rife with distortion on almost every element of the issue. Anyone reading the French press or watching French television would have concluded that we were acting out of base motives (mostly oil) and without regard for the hundreds of thousands of innocents who would perish in a long bloody war at the end of which the Middle East would be aflame. The current French government, under Chirac and Villepain, believes that it can build Europe as a “counterweight” to the United States. It loathes and fears the emergence of the United States as the sole superpower and seeks to diminish our standing and influence in the world. So it inclines toward opposition to any enterprise that we lead.
FP: Ok, Mr. Perle, let me continue with you for a moment. An End to Evil argues for the urgency of cleaning up the bureaucracy in our government that left us vulnerable to 9/11. Tell us a bit about this problem, where it hurt us, and what we can do about it.
Perle: The institutions and instruments we count on to defend us in the new way were largely built for a different war, the Cold War. It is hardly surprising that they are not optimized for fighting terrorists who neither march in columns or operate conventional military forces.
The CIA has lots of Russian speakers—they were needed during the Cold War—but few analysts or agents who speak Arabic or Farsi or know or understand the culture, history and forces at work in the countries of greatest concern. Our military forces (the best in the world) were optimized for a different fight—heavy, mechanized, in the center of Europe. They need to be transformed into a much more agile force capable of going to distant theaters quickly and with overwhelming firepower. The State Department has honed the skills of compromise and accommodation. But these may not apply to terrorist fanatics or the states that harbor them. The FBI is far better at catching criminals than foiling terrorist plots, and so on.
FP: So Mr. Frum, we need to reformat the CIA, State Department and our military strategies to fight the War on Terror. There is obviously going to be a lot of resistance within the U.S. government itself to these changes. What can we do best to make this overhaul possible?
Frum: Institutional reform is very difficult. Look at the terrible dilemma President Bush faced with the FBI after 9/11. The FBI had horribly failed the nation, and in the most glaring and obvious way. Reform was obviously needed. Yet on the other hand, the process of reform - firings, the closing of sections, the transfer of files and responsibilities to new organizations - would be a nasty, messy business, during which the never-very-considerable effectiveness of the main counter-terrorism unit we have would be degraded even further. President Bush understandably figured that this was not the moment. Instead, he tried to exhort the FBI to do better by constantly praising the "new culture" that he claimed had miraculously materialized since the attacks. Serious reform was postponed till later - but by then, of course, the case for reform had lost its urgency and impetus and inertia had reasserted itself. The status quo, let us never forget, is always somebody's livelihood. So - what to do?
Well there is one constituency that does have an interest in reform: the general public. To change Washington, we have to mobilize the public to DEMAND change. That was the motive that led Richard and me to write AN END TO EVIL.
FP: Mr. Perle, you demonstrate that the objectives of terrorists can only be made possible by the rogue states that harbor and sponsor them (i.e. Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran). If we do the math, the answer is that these regimes have got to go. What is the best way to get this result?
Perle: Each case is different. And the list is getting shorter: it would once have included Afghanistan and Iraq has been deleted. As for the rest, in turn: Saudia Arabia must be told to stop funding extremist groups that preach holy war against us or expect us to lose all interest in the current regime’s tenure. They should get the message. Syria should be invited, to choose between two models: Iraq and Libya. Qadaffi got the message and responded, appropriately, with a white flag. Saddam didn’t and he now sits in jail, awaiting trial. Iran is governed by a small bunch of corrupt mullahs who dictate every aspect of their people’s lives, support terrorist groups and seek nuclear weapons. The people of Iran want the mullahs back in the mosques and out of power. We should help the people.
Frum: Let me add something. Richard and I are often accused of believing that military power is the answer to everything. On the contrary, we believe that it is the answer to some things - as opposed to those who believe it is the answer to nothing. Force is to international relations what cash is to transactions between banks: the medium of final resort. So long as a bank is known to have abundant cash, it can do its business on credit; and so long as a nation is known to be ready to fight if necessary, it will discover that the necessity arises very seldom.
FP: Without doubt, we have to support the Iranian people who want freedom and to overthrow their despotic theocracy. Mr. Frum, how can we best give our hand to the forces of freedom in Iran? And what to you think about the prospects of a democratic revolution there? If the mullahs are overthrown, this might really be a blow to Islamic fundamentalism throughout the region, no? Is it possible that a sort of “domino-theory” could start, in terms of Middle East tyrannies and Islamic states dropping one by one, in the way that the Soviet empire crumbled?
Frum: There is lots we can do: provide money, communications equipment, support in international forums, and so on. But if I were to pick out one thing, it would be for Americans as a people to learn the names of the Iranian dissidents - and be prepared to demand that the Iranian government account for their whereabouts. Last summer, the Iranian government detained a woman who had photographed a rally at which regime thugs attacked demonstraters. Some days later, the regime announced that the photographer had died of (as I remember) a heart attack. Although she was born in Iran, she had become a Canadian citizen. Canadian diplomats pressed for details of the case and learned that she had in fact been beaten to death. Publicity can deter regimes from violating human rights - and we need to deploy maximum publicity against the atrocious government in Teheran.
FP: Mr. Perle, why do you think there is such a skyrocketing of anti-Americanism in our present world?
Perle: Disapproval of the U.S. has many sources: jealousy at our success, fear that we will encourage democratic change at the expense of despots and dictators, ignorance about who we are and what we stand for, the belief that we have too much power and have been too unwilling to share it—and our sovereignty—with multilateral institutions, etc. We should quit agonizing over why we have detractors and make sure our policy is a success—like which nothing succeeds.
FP: Mr. Frum, would you like to add to Mr. Perle’s comment? What are your views regarding the rise of anti-Americanism worldwide?
Frum: The United States stands - and has always stood - for the idea that ordinary people deserve the widest possible opportunity for their aspirations and talents. That may sound like a cliche - the Muzak of American politics - but over most of the earth's surface that idea is and remains an outrage and a scandal. From the social democracies of Euroep to the theocracy of Saudi Arabia, cultural and national leaders profess to be worried about "Americanization." (Indeed, I think it is "Americanization" much more than the actually existing United States of America that alarms them.) But what is "Americanization"? In Europe it can mean something as seemingly harmless and trivial as letting people watch the television programs they want to watch, rather than those the state deems good for them. In Saudi Arabia, it means something much more dramatic: the menace of female equality and religious choice. Wherever you go, though, America means liberty, and always has. And liberty remains just as explosive an idea in 2004 as it was in 1776 - possibly even more so.
FP: Mr. Perle and Mr. Frum, thank you, we really appreciate the time you took out to speak with us today.
Frum: Thank you Jamie. Frontpage stands on the front lines of this fight, and we are honored to stand with you.
Perle: Thank you Jamie, it was a pleasure.