Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Caroline B. Glick, the senior Middle East Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post. She is the author of the new book, Shackled Warrior: Israel and the Global Jihad.
FP: Caroline B. Glick, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Glick: Great to be here.
FP: What are the key threats facing Israel and the West today?
Glick: There are several key threats, some are military, some are economic and some are cultural. All complement each other in ways that compound the dangers to the free world – with Israel as its frontline outpost.
There are four basic threats facing the world today. The first is Iran’s quest for regional dominance and global prominence which it advances primarily through the support of Islamist insurgencies regionally and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Second is the totalitarian jihadist ideology which is ascendant throughout the Islamic world. Third is the West’s inability to break its dependence on Arab oil. And fourth is the West’s cultural insecurity and malaise and increasingly, its self-hatred.
The first two threats are physical and ideological challenges to the West’s survival. The third – the West’s economic dependence on Arab oil – has brought about the perverse situation where the free world is bankrolling its enemies’ war efforts. And the fourth, Western cultural malaise which is approaching collapse in Europe and among the American and Israeli intellectual and cultural elites makes it impossible for nations to defend themselves against the physical threats, to consider ways to actively replace oil as the primary energy source for our economies, or to present a coherent and attractive alternative to Islamic totalitarianism for Muslim societies and minorities in the West.
FP: What can – and what should – the U.S. and Israel do about Iran?
Glick: Former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton and others have said repeatedly for the past several years, the US has two options for dealing with Iran. It can work to overthrow the regime or it can attack Iran militarily with the aim of setting back its nuclear weapons program for several years. Israel has less capacity to incite a popular insurrection against the regime, although it certainly could stir a bit of chaos in the country by arming some of the disaffected groups there.
The second option is to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations and kill its nuclear scientists. Bombing the installations will set Iran’s program back long enough to actually take concerted steps to bring down the regime. Killing Iran’s nuclear scientists will make it impossible for Iran to rebuild its nuclear weapons program for the foreseeable future.
While pushing for regime change seemed like a viable path to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons four years ago, today it may be too late. Iran is already so close to nuclear capabilities. There simply isn’t enough time.
That this is the fact is the fault of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who decided to follow Europe’s lead in on the one hand offering Iran generous payoffs to suspend its uranium enrichment program, and on the other hand, attempting to persuade the Russians and Chinese to pass sanctions against Iran in the UN Security Council. This policy has given Iran four years of unimpeded freedom to pursue its nuclear weapons program. And the Mossad now projects that it could be within months of acquiring the bomb.
Far from working to curb the mullahs’ enthusiasm for acquiring the means of genocide, the US and European soft-shoe approach to Iran’s nuclear program has emboldened them to move forward with their program while increasing their terrorist aggression in Gaza, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq. enrichment and begging Russia and China to go along with weak, ineffective sanctions resolutions in the UN Security Council has failed. If anything, Iran has been emboldened by this weak Western response to its aggressive behavior.
FP: Is there any hope in terms of the West’s cultural insecurity, malaise and self-hatred? The central problem is that the Left controls the boundaries of discourse. What can ultimately be done -- if anything?
Glick: I see reasons for hope every day both here in Israel and around the world. It is true that the Left controls the boundaries of discourse but then, that discourse has become so absurd, so farcical that it cannot long sustain itself.
When university campuses are concerning themselves with transgender studies and teaching students that the 1968 campus riots were among the most triumphant events in US history, when here in Israel we have faculty saying that they will not reschedule exams for their students who are called to reserve duty during exam period because they do not make excuses for war criminals, and Israeli schoolchildren graduating from 12th grade knowing almost nothing about Jewish history, the people will simply abandon this discourse. Israelis are already forming new institutions to make up for the failings of the traditional ones controlled by the Left.
In the US, we see this with the blossoming of the Internet blogosphere, talk radio and other new institutions. The assumptions of the founding fathers in the US and of the Zionist revolutionaries in the early 20th century were correct. People are capable of making the right choices about their lives. And they are only going to put up with the powers that be for so long before they find their way to getting around them. So ultimately, the institutions that tell us who we are – the courts, schools, media, entertainment sectors, have to be transformed either from within or from without. And this is already happening.
FP: Why is Islamic fundamentalism such a threat?
Glick: You know, at first glance, it seems ridiculous to think that Islamic fundamentalism could be a threat and this is so for two reasons. First, it is so unappealing and unaesthetic to Westerners that it is hard to imagine that anyone could take it seriously. We cannot imagine for instance, women accepting a situation where they are treated worse than livestock in the 21st century. Who would wish to live like this? Who would wish this sort of misery on their daughters or mothers? It seems impossible to believe that a culture that enslaves half its members from the getgo and treats its religious minorities so horribly and has been responsible for so much poverty and suffering could possibly be of interest to anyone.
Moreover, there is the fact that Islamic totalitarianism professes itself to be a religion. In the largely post-religious or at least religiously tolerant West, it is hard to believe that a religious group consciously uses religion and proselytizing as a way to build cadres, Communist style to undermine Western civilization. We lack the cognitive tools – and the legal and policy tools – for contending with such a situation.
For these two reasons, we in the West have a very hard time understanding that Islamic totalitarianism exists, let alone that it is a threat.
The main reason that Islamic totalitarianism is a threat is because it is a supremacist movement that due to oil revenues and the absence of a Western cultural challenge of any significance has the ability to grow and attract adherents. With Persian Gulf petro-dollars behind it, it can overwhelm all voices preaching non-totalitarian and non-confrontational forms of Islam.
I think that were it not for the massive wealth accruing to the likes of the Saudi Arabians, the attraction of totalitarian Islam would be much smaller. Certainly the ability of Islamic totalitarians from Iran to Pakistan to London to Saudi Arabia to threaten Western civilization and Israel would be vastly decreased if they were forced to support themselves. But in the absence of Western willingness to embrace imperfect alternatives like methanol, coal, nuclear energy and domestic drilling, it seems that in the foreseeable future, the physical threat to the West and to Israel presented by Islamic totalitarianism will likely grow.
FP: Can you talk a bit about how certain forces in the West and in Israel practice self-deception in the face of the enemy?
Glick: One of the ways both Israelis and Westerners deceive themselves is by judging Islamic totalitarians by their words and not by their deeds. Whether it is Iran agreeing to meet with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana for another worthless round of talks about the Iranian nuclear weapons program, CAIR’s assertion that it is a civil rights movement, Israeli Arab parliamentarians who on the one hand commit treason by working actively for Israel’s enemies and on the other hand defend their criminal acts as “free speech” or actions to defend against “racism,” the Palestinian Fatah organization which claims it supports peace with Israel but then actively carries out terror attacks against Israel and colludes openly with Hamas and Islamic Jihad to bring about Israel’s demise, or Hizbullah claiming that they are a Lebanese political movement when in fact they are Iran’s foreign legion working to facilitate Iranian and Syrian control over Lebanon, we insist on believing their words and ignoring their deeds.
If you look at the level of public discourse in Israel and throughout the West regarding the strategic challenges our countries face as it has unfolded over the past eight years, you will see a studied refusal to acknowledge or recognize the significance of the actions of jihadists. Instead, you end up with reportage where statements by Western leaders are contrasted with statements by jihadists and treated as if they are of equal weight. Hence we get terms like “cycle of violence” when what we are really talking about is jihadist aggression.
Aside from that of course, there is the tendency to demonize those who do look at actions of the enemy and insist, indeed beg their governments in Israel and the West to take action to defend their countries and their interests. In the US, those who recognize the dangers are referred to as “neocons,” or “chickenhawks.” In Europe, they are referred to as Zionists or Americans. And in Israel they are pilloried as anti-peace. Then too, in the US and Europe and to a lesser degree in Israel, the cultural elites frighten the “hawks” who are really just realists into silence by threatening to call them racists. Finally, in Europe, voices calling for an acknowledgment of the Islamic totalitarian threat are silenced by jihadist intimidation and death threats, or in Theo Van Gogh’s case, with murder.
FP: What are some of the strategies Israel and the West need to pursue to win the war against global jihad?
Glick: On a macroeconomic level, as people like R. James Woolsey, Gal Luft, Robert Zubrin, Frank Gaffney, Anne Korin and others have explained convincingly over the past several years, the West needs to end its addiction to foreign oil as quickly as possible. Energy security is a paramount issue. In Israel we have entrepreneurs working on changing Israel’s small transportation market into one based on battery operating cars. This is an interesting concept and it will hopefully be successful. But overall, the West simply has to get its act together. For seven years under the Bush administration, the US has done essentially nothing as oil prices have gone from $20-$140 per barrel.
The culture wars in the West are also a key aspect of a winning strategy. We see many societies simply sinking into nothingness – places like Sweden and Norway come to mind most readily. And Britain for its part, seems to be on an inexorable decline towards collapse. When we do not understand who we are, we also cannot understand why who we are is worth defending. When we cannot assert our cultural and national identities, we cannot explain to either ourselves or Islamic totalitarians, why freedom is preferable to slavery.
Finally, we have to realize that people who call for global domination in the name of Islam and carry out acts of violence, and develop nuclear weapons are our enemies and that they are irreconcilable. They are fighting a war to the death against us and we need to fight back. We need to develop strategies aimed at defeating our irreconcilable foes and first and foremost among them is Iran. We have the means to win this war. We just have to understand why it is necessary to fight it.
FP: In your view, what is the best course for the West to take to break its dependence on Arab oil?
Glick: The best course is to seek other means of fuelling cars, trains and airplanes. The key to everything as far as I can see is for all cars to have the capacity to run on fuels other than gasoline – what are called “flex fuel cars” and to have the capacity to run on electricity – what are called “plug-in cars.” What is needed is not so much one solution – but the ability to use many other fuels at once.
Once cars are able to run on methanol and ethanol and electricity as well as gasoline, then you have a lot of options for action. It makes sense to increase the supply of oil as much as possible by drilling in as many places as possible and increasing refining capacities. It also makes sense to start developing massive quantities of methanol that you can produce from just about anything. It makes sense to develop clean coal, increase nuclear energy supplies.
It makes sense to put a floor on the price of imported oil at $60/barrel to ensure that alternative energy sources that are now being developed can be competitive. It would prevent the Arabs from prolonging our dependence on them by flooding the US with cheap oil and pushing all alternatives off the market.
Finally, it makes sense to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. Every time that Israeli leaders say something about attacking Iran, or most recently, when the Israeli Air Force flew 100 fighter jets 1500 km across the Mediterranean to simulate the flight length to Iran and home, the oil futures markets went bananas. Oil prices spiked. Consequently, a lot of people are warning that if Israel attacks Iran’s nuclear facilities, the price of fuel could rise to $8/gallon.
I think that this misses a key point in international affairs. It is Iran’s nuclear brinkmanship, and the world’s apparent fear of stopping it from acquiring nuclear weapons that gives the mullahs so much influence over oil traders. When the West – whether it’s Israel or the US – asserts itself in a forceful way, the Iranian capacity to intimidate is decreased and hence their ability to cause spikes in oil prices decreases. After all, Iran has to export oil and gas regardless of the market price. Their economy is completely dependent on oil and gas revenues. That makes them price takers no less than anyone else at the end of the day.
FP: Are you optimistic or pessimistic in terms of the West’s and Israel’s conflict with the jihadist enemy?
Glick: I am both. Right now, there are reasons to be deeply worried. The Olmert government in Israel is the weakest and worst government Israel has ever had. The only thing it seems adept at doing is surrendering to Israel’s enemies and demoralizing the Israeli public. In the US, the public’s love affair with Senator Barack Obama, who refuses to acknowledge that there is a jihad going on at all and seems to think that the best way to assert US global leadership is to run around the world apologizing about the US’s assertion of its power to anti-American dictators is also deeply troubling. And our willingness to be led by fabulists comes as our enemies behave more and more aggressively.
But looking into the medium and long term, at least in the US’s case, there is no doubt that the war will end in a US victory. For the US then it is not victory but the cost of victory that hangs in the balance.
In Israel’s case, prospects are less clear. If Israel doesn’t move to elections and responsible leaders do not take over soon, the road to the medium and long term could be rather deadly.
In short, democracies are always slow to act. But once we do, our enemies are no match for us. The trick today is that our actions mustn’t come too slowly.
FP: Caroline B. Glick, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
Glick: Thanks so much for inviting me. Always a pleasure.