Is there some difference in understanding and perspecive between President George W Bush and the members of his administration who are the dominant influences over foreign policy? Is the President, possibly because he is generally neither well read or well informed, a relative weak influence in his own administration and is dominated by such highly intelligent and forceful members of the Pentagon such as, Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, and others and by the Vice President? There is some evidence for this and some reason to believe it.
The following exchange took place at the Aqaba Summit on June 5 between Bush an Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz:
According to The Guardian, Palestinian Defense Minister, Dahlan gave a five- minute synopsis of the Palestinian view of the security situation and the difficulties he faces because the Israelis have destroyed much of the Palestinian security infrastructure. At the end of the briefing, General Mofaz, jumped in. “Well”, he said, “they won’t be getting any help from us; they have their own security service.” Bush turned to General Mofaz, “Their own security service? But you have destroyed their security service,” he reportedly said. General Mofaz remained firm. “I do not think that we can help them, Mr President,” he said. Bush replied, “Oh, but I think that you can, and I think that you will.” A similar confrontation followed with Sharon.
According to the The Guardian story, towards the end of the summit, Bush told Condoleezza Rice, his national security adviser, that he liked and trusted Abbas and Dahlan, but Sharon was “a problem”.
In July President George W Bush, on the podium with then Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, said: “It is very difficult to develop confidence between the Palestinians and the Israelis … with a wall snaking through the West Bank.”
On Friday, December 12, US President George W. Bush urged Israel to avoid measures that could block a Palestinian state… “It’s in Israel’s interest there be a Palestinian state,” Bush said, adding, “It’s in the poor, suffering Palestinian people’s interest there be a Palestinian state.”
A few days later, US deputy assistant secretary of state and Bush administration envoy to the Middle East David Satterfield said in Rome that Israel had “done too little for far too long” to foster peace negotiations with the PNA.
The exchange between Bush and Israeli Defense Ministert Mofaz was striking in its singularity for it was apparently the first time on record that there had been a sharp disagreement between Bush and the Sharon government in which Bush evidently understood the burden of the Palestinian Authority’s providing for Israeli security with a police force and police installations largely destroyed by the Israeli army.
The December 12th statement expressing an understanding of the suffering of the Palestinians is an attitude rarely heard within the Bush administration.
If it is difficult to imagine these expressions from Bush, it is beyond imagination to picture them coming from civilian Pentagon officials, Wolfowitz, Perle, Douglas Feith, or David Wurmser at State, except possibly as a prelude to condemning Arafat.
Nor has Bush’s irritaion with Israel’s “security” wall been translated into policy as the US subsequently vetoed the UN Council Resolution declaring the construction of the Wall to be in violation of international law.
Indeed, Perle, Wurmser, and Feith are on record as being commited to policies which are radically at variance with long standing American policy and are also radically at variance with President Bush’s Roadmap.
At focus in this context is the document, A Clean Break: a New Starategy for Securing the Realm, written in 1996 for the incoming Natanyahu government of Israel by Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, David and Meyrav Wurmser, James Colbert, and Robert Loewenberg in their capacity as members of The Institute for advanced Strategy and Political Studies’ “Study Group on a New Israeli Strategy Toward 2000” a Washington/Jerusalem based think tank providing policy analyses for the government of Israel. This document is remarkable for its very existence because it constitutes a policy manifesto for the Israeli government pennned by members of the current US government. Richard Perle was, until his recent resignation chairman of the defence policy board, and now continues to sit on the board. Douglas Feith is currently undersecretary of defence for policy, the departments number three man and a protege’ of Perle who has worked closely with him in the past. David Wurmser is assistent to undersecretary for arms control, John Bolton, at the State Department, the latter coming from the far right conservative American Interprise Institute
This document makes the following points:
1. “Israel has the opportunity to make a clean break; it can forge a peace process and strategy based on an entirely new intellectual foundation…”
2. The previous Israeli government’s pursuit of a peace process which was responsive to “supranational over national sovereignty… undermined the legitimacy of the nation and lead Israel to strategic paralysis.” That peace process obscured the evidence of an “eroding national critical mass — including a palpable sense of national exhaustion — and forfeited strategic initiative. The loss of national critical mass was illustrated best by Israel’s efforts to draw in the United States to sell unpopular policies domestically, to agree to negotiate sovereignty over its capital….”
3. Israel should “work closely with Turkey and Jordan to contain, destabilize, and roll-back some of its most dangerous threats. This implies clean break from the slogan “comprehensive peace” to a traditional concept of strategy based on balance of power.”
4. Israel should “change the nature of its relations with the Palestinians, including upholding the right of hot pursuit for self defense into all Palestinian areas and [should nuture] alternatives to Arafat’ exclusive grip on Palestinian society” [itallics mine].
5 “While previous governments, and many abroad, may emphasize “land for peace” — which placed Israel in the position of cultural, economic, political, diplomatic, and miilitary retreat — the new government can promote Western values and traditions. Such an approach … includes “peace for peace”, “peace through strength” and self reliance : the balance of power.”
6. “Displaying moral ambivalence between the effort to build a Jewish state and the desire to annihilate it by trading “land for peace” will not secure “peace now.” Our claim to the land — to which we have clung for hope for 2000 years — is ligitimate and noble…”[itallics mine]..
7. “Only the unconditional acceptance by Arabs of our rights, especially in their territorial dimensions, “peace for peace,” is a solid basis for the future.”
The breathtaking import of this program should not be obscured. The rejection of “land for peace”, indeed the identification of withdrawal from territory with “annihilation” of the state of Israel, the pursuit of the “unconditional acceptance” of Israel’s rights (apparently including the right to expand its borders) by the Arab states is a complete rejection and a radical departure from 36 years of American Middle East Policy which embraces UN Resolution 242 and all subsequent Security Council Resolution on the Middle East. It is also at radical variance with the Roadmap which embodies the two state solution and calls for the establishment of a “viable and contiguous Palestinian state.”
Under the subheading, Securing the Northern Border:
8. “Syria challenges Israel on Lebanese soil.”
9. Israel should engage Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran, as the principle agents of aggression in Lebanon by:
10. striking Syrian military targets in Lebanon, and should that prove insufficient, striking at select targets in Syria proper.
11. “Given the nature of the regime in Damascus, it is natural and moral that Israel abandon the slogan “comprehensive peace” and move to contain Syria,… rejecting “land for peace” deals on the Golan Heights.”
Under the subheading, Moving to a Traditional Balance of Power Strategy:
12. “Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria.”[itallics mine]
13. “This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.”
14. “Damascus fears that a “natural axis” with Israel on one side, central Iraq and Turkey on the other,and Jordan, in the center would squeeze and detach Syria from the Saudi Peninsula. For Syria, it would be a prelude to redrawing the map of the Middle East….
15. Iraq’s future could affect the strategic balance in the Middle East profoundly.
It is amazing how much of this program, though written for the Israeli government of Natanyahu of 1996, has already been implemented, not by the government of Israel, but by the Bush administration. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the two year old house arrest of Arafat and the attempt to cultivate a new Palestinian leadership, the complete rejection by Sharon of the land for peace agreement on the Golan Heights, with little US demurral, and the bombing inside of “Syria proper” with only the response from Bush, “Israel has a right to defend itself”. In the complete rejection, de facto if not de jure, of the Roadmap, Sharon is well aware that he is strongly supported by those inside of the Bush administration to such an extent that Bush can well be ignored.
After interviewing CIA officials including George Tenant, U.S. diplomats, and Syrian President, Bashar Assad, investigative journalist, Seymour Hirsh, writing in the New Yorker under the title, The Syrian Bet, has described how American official burned Syrian source of intelligence on Al Qaeda largely because of Syrian support for Hesbollah in southern Lebanon and also because the government has allowed Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad to maintain offices in Damascus.
Because the secular Syrian government had been at war for more than two decades with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood based in Alleppo, with close ties to Al Qaeda, Syria had complied hundreds of files on Al Qaeda, including dossiers on the men who participated in the September 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Syrian had also penetrated Al Qaeda cells throughout the Middle East and in Arab exile communities throughout Europe. Many of the airline hijackers of the September 2001 attack had operated out of cells in Hamburg and Aachen. Some of these members worked for a German firm called Tatex which was infiltrated by Syrian intelligence during the eighties.
Hirsh states that just after the September 2001 attacks, the Syrian government began allowing the CIA and FBI to operate in Alleppo, and on one occasion provided the U S with advanced knowledge of an Al Qaeda plot to fly a glider loaded with explosives into a building at the U S Navy’s 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain. Syria also provided the US with advanced knowledge of a plot against an American target in Ottawa.
American intelligence and State Department told Hirsh that by 2002 Syria had become one of the most effective sources of intelligence and one of the most important allies in the fight against Al Qaeda. After the September 11 attacks, Syria provided a flood of information to American operatives which only ended with the onset of the Iraq war.
With the invasion of Iraq, came the constant threats from Rumsfeld, Condeleez Rice and members of the Pentagon along with the accusation that Syria is harboring some of the Iraqi Baathist leadership as well as having stashed Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. It is a poorly kept secret that the neo-conservatives members of the Pentagon want to see the fall of the Syrian government and that it is their next target after Iraq
In June 2003, the American army attacked several vehicles inside the Syrian border, killing about 80 people and detained several members of Syrian security personnel who spent several days in interrogation. Evidently, Rumdsfeld believed that this small caravan of cars was carrying Saddam Hussein or other high ranking Iraqi officials to sanctuary in Syria. It turned out to be little more than people smuggling gasoline.
In early October, after a suicide bombing in Israel, two Israeli Airforce F16 fighter jets attacked a position 10 miles from Damascus which Israel said was a terrorist training camp and which Islamic Jihad said had not been used for two years. In either case, the point was made. In Washington, a senior administration official said, “We have repeatedly told the government of Syria that it is on the wrong side in the war on terror and that it must stop harboring terrorists.”
Givern the constants threats to the Syrian government of Bashar Assad, son of the late President Hafez Assad, including attacks by both the United States and by Israel inside of Syrian territory it is little wonder that intelligence on Al Qaeda provided by Syrian intelligence has ceased.
One sees, in the case of the Syrian relation, a conspicuous instance of Israeli interest eclipsing American interest. Al Qaeda, not Islamic Jihad or Hames is a threat to the United States. Islamic Jihad and Hamas threaten Israel, not the United States.
In February of 2002, the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah advanced what became known as the Saudi initiative in which Arab states would offer normal diplomatic relations including peace agreements which would recognize Israel’s right to exists within secure borders in return for Israel withdrawal to its 1967 borders including withdrawal from East Jerusalem. When, in April, the Crown Prince was the guest of the President at his ranch near Crawford, Tx., he found that the Bush was barely aware of the plan and had not been briefed on it. Bush has said on one occasion that he does not independently keep up with the news but rather relies on his staff for briefings.
In fact, there is little motivation within the administration for briefing Mr Bush on a proposal centered around the “land for peace” formula which has been forthrightly rejected by the major foreign policy players of this administration.
The major players of foreign policy, Perle, Wolfowitz, Cheney, Feith, Wurmser, are not the only sources of action within the administration; there is Powell, there is the President himself. But the authors of A Clean Break have had dramatic success in shaping foreign policy to their conceptuallization.
The following conclusions can be drawn with considerable confidence:
1. The Middle East policies driving the American government’s Middle East policy are delineated in the document, A Clean Break, and are are only partially congruent with the attitudes of the President. Much of the program of this document has already become reality and has eclipsed President Bush’s Roadmap which embodied a two state solution.
2. The authors of A Clean Break, those driving American policy, derive their concepts based on Israeli security and Israeli interest so that American foreign policy under the Bush administration is primarily serving the interest of Israel and secondarily that of the United States.
3. The invasion of Iraq for the purpose of overthrowing Saddam Hussein was undertaken for the interest of Israel though paid for with American capital and with American and Iraqi <lives.Statements> made by David Kay, chief US weapons inspector in Iraq that Iraq almost certainly possessed no weapons of mass destruction on the eve of the American invasion of Iraq destroyed any justification for the claim that Iraq posed an immediate threat to the United States.
WILLIAM JAMES MARTIN is a visiting Instructor of Mathematics at the University of Central Florida, Orlando. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org