June 24, 2006

The Zealotry of Richard Perle: Still Praising "Great Songs" -- and Funeral Dirges

[Added 6/25/06: There's a misattribution in a column I cite. It was Michael Ledeen, not Richard Perle, who made the statement about "sing[ing] great songs." That and more discussed here.]

Those of us who remain even marginally sane can usually find cause for happiness, or at least relief, when Richard Perle is in great distress, as he is in this article entitled, "Why Did Bush Blink on Iran? (Ask Condi)." Perle is aching for regime change in Iran, as he and his fellow ideologues have been for years. And he is now mired in the bleak pits of depression as he contemplates Bush's great transgression: the administration may actually engage in even very limited diplomacy with Iran.

Perhaps we should recall some of Perle's other remarks on matters of war and peace, and about Iran:
On Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist insisted that Congress has the political will to use military force against Iran, if necessary, repeating the mantra " We cannot allow Iran to become a nuclear nation." Even Richard Perle has come out of the woodwork to add a convoluted new wrinkle regarding the lessons of the attack on Iraq. Since one cannot depend on good intelligence, says Perle, it is a matter of "take action now or lose the option of taking action." One of the most influential intellectual authors of the war on Iraq, Perle and his "neo-conservative" colleagues see themselves as men of biblical stature. Just before the attack on Iraq, Perle prophesized:

"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."
About Perle's statement regarding "great songs," I wrote:
[The remark] has haunted me because of the almost incomprehensible danger contained in such a worldview. Note the complete disdain for "clever diplomacy" -- i.e., peaceful, non-violent solutions to international conflicts. In the place of "clever diplomacy," we have the full embrace of war -- and not simply war, but "total war." And in a turn of phrase that we would expect from a Roman emperor -- or from an Adolf Hitler, heralding an empire that would last a thousand years -- but words that are deeply unsettling coming from an American who is very influential in foreign policy matters, "total war" is embraced for the sake of adulation from future generations: "our children will sing great songs about us years from now."

This is the language of the genuine zealot, a religious combatant devoted to bringing about a new world through sacred violence and death. It is the language of the apocalyptic crusader.
I cannot resist offering a couple of passages from Perle's WaPo article. I note this:
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran knows what he wants: nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them; suppression of freedom at home and the spread of terrorism abroad; and the "shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the liberal democratic systems."
And this (my emphasis):
The president knows that the Iranians are undermining us in Iraq. He knows that the mullahs are working to sink any prospect of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, backing Hamas and its goal of wiping Israel off the map. He knows that for years Iran has concealed and lied about its nuclear weapons program. He knows that Iran leads the world in support for terrorism. And he knows that freedom and liberty in Iran are brutally suppressed.
In terms of what Perle believes this "knowledge" necessarily implies about what our Iranian policy should be, I am reminded of Barbara Tuchman's observation about Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam debacle:
Worse, as soon as United States weakness was perceived by Moscow and Peking, they would move to "expand their control over the vacuum of power we would leave behind us ... and so would begin World War III." [Johnson] was as sure of this "as nearly as anyone can be certain of anything." No one is so sure of his premises as the man who knows too little.
Perle completely embraces the worldview that I analyzed in detail just yesterday (where I quoted that passage from Tuchman, as well as a further lengthier excerpt from The March of Folly) -- the worldview that led to the humiliation in Vietnam, to the catastrophe in Iraq, and that may yet lead to global nuclear war if we were to attack Iran. But he will not give up his fundamentalist belief in "Western exceptionalism," or in the entirely false notion that "everyone wants what we want." History, culture, facts, argument, and endless death and suffering mean nothing to these lunatic zealots. Their faith must be preserved, no matter how many people must die. With regard to Iran, Perle desperately insists that it is "not too late to redeem our honor." Ah, these "honorable" warriors, who always make certain they themselves are far removed from the bombs and bullets that rip apart the lives and bodies of those who fight the glorious battles they plan in their protected, insulated aeries.

I wish I could find comfort in Perle's unhappiness. I can't. The Bush administration is most notable for its irrationality in every imaginable area. They may feint at the embrace of diplomacy today -- but they still could launch bombing runs over Tehran in the fall, especially if they genuinely fear for their electoral prospects.

In light of the immense destruction that continues to flow from the policies for which Perle endlessly advocates, I'm certainly not in the least displeased whenever he is deeply discouraged. But it provides me no solace whatsoever.

This administration is dangerous to a degree that is incomprehensible. Broken, bloody bodies and human suffering have no reality to these people -- and they are incapable of admitting defeat, or that they have been horribly wrong. None of us, and no one in the world, will be safe until they are gone from the scene.

May we be spared further and perhaps infinitely worse destructive madness until that day.