August 20, 2002
By Mike McArdle
Richard Perle never met an aggressive military action that
he didn't fall madly in love with. He is a think-tank-hawk,
one of those people who visit talk shows, work for the American
Enterprise Institute, and make it their job to tell us that
we're not pursuing our enemies with enough ferocity. He's
also the chairman of the Defense Policy Board, a panel that
advises the Pentagon and apparently actually has military
higher-ups pay attention to them. He makes his money thinking
about wars and suggesting that they actually occur.
Now of course, Mr. Perle, for all his wild eyed desire to
send other people into harm's way to rid the world of the
tyrants that he so graciously identifies for us, has never
been in or anywhere near a real war. He wanted to make sure
that the gun-toting commies in Vietnam wouldn't deprive America
of a badly needed think-tank hawk so he developed an insatiable
desire for higher education during the era when men his age
were being drafted to fight in Southeast Asia.
Perle apparently now senses that his current favorite project,
a war against Iraq starting yesterday if at all possible,
is losing support both at home and abroad so he's taken to
beating the war drums in the press. Writing last week in the
Telegraph for an British audience that is increasingly skeptical
of the need to get lots of people killed and risk economic
and geopolitical chaos to produce what our courageous commander-in-chief
euphemistically calls a "regime change" Mr. Perle dragged
the charred carcass of old Adolf Hitler out of its Berlin
bunker and held it up as an example of what's waiting for
us unless we take out Saddam Hussein right now. "A pre-emptive
strike against Hitler at the time of Munich would have meant
an immediate war as opposed to the one that came later. Later
was much worse," wrote Mr. Perle.
Of course, Adolph has been dusted off before in discussions
of Saddam. Back in the demonization phase of the 1991 Gulf
War the toothbrush mustache was a constant feature of the
debate. The war wasn't about Kuwaiti oil we were told by Perle
and others, it was about "naked aggression", a madman who
wasn't going to stop with Kuwait but would soon be raining
nukes down on American cities if we didn't take him out then
and there. Funny thing though, once the war started Saddam's
Army ran away. Lit up a few oil wells and headed back toward
Baghdad. Our guys killed a bunch of them as they hit the road
but it wasn't very sporting and once the oil was secure we
decided that Saddam wasn't the goose-stepping, swastika wearing
devil he was supposed to be so we just kind of left him where
But there were some like Mr. Perle who never quite got over
the pre-war rhetoric. I guess it was kind of embarrassing
that the guy they sold as Adolf Reincarnated turned out to
be about as menacing as Stuart Little and has been nothing
but a minor annoyance ever since.
But then September 11 happened and Perle sensed that he was
going to get another shot at that triumphant march into Baghdad.
"We didn't do the job, in part because we didn't understand
the dangers. I think after Sept. 11 those dangers are now
much better understood," Perle said in an interview with PBS.
Now, of course, neither Perle nor anyone in the administration
has been able to connect Iraq and Al Qaeda so he's had to
be creative. "Saddam Hussein could -- and very possibly will
-- transfer weapons of mass destruction to anonymous terrorists,"
he told PBS. He hasn't and he didn't but he could and he might.
As calls to arms go this leaves a bit to be desired.
So now Perle has come up with a new rationale for going after
Adolf, er, I mean Saddam. We have to fight Saddam because
we've already said we would. That's right. We can't justify
it. It's unprovoked. It has next to nothing to do with terrorism
but we have to do it because it will look bad now if we don't.
Perle told the New York Times last week, "The failure to take
on Saddam after what the president said would produce such
a collapse of confidence in the president that it would set
back the war on terrorism." Yep. We have to drop bombs on
a city full of living people killing tens of thousands of
them - mostly innocent civilians - so that people will believe
that the miniscule little man in the White House really intends
to beat up on those evildoers in the event that he ever does
encounter any of them.
Of course Mr. Perle seems to have forgotten the fact that
our little commander strutted around last fall telling us
all that he was going to bring in Osama Bin Laden "dead or
alive" and now has to acknowledge that he is completely clueless
about Bin Laden's whereabouts. By Perle's standards then,
what meager credibility our boy might have had has already
But if you bring up such awkward matters you simply don't
understand the world of the think-tankers. They have wars
to create, young people to sacrifice, and global scenarios
to plan. People like Richard Perle can't afford to have reality
intrude on matters of such cosmic import.
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