LETTERS

  /  

March 30, 2007

Letters to the Editor

Wrong assumptions about Perle

Reading Ryan McCarl’s Viewpoints article, “The Delusions of Neoconservatism,” I was forced to wonder whether he actually attended the Richard Perle talk or simply consulted his Robert Pape lecture notes and fired off a response to an idealized neoconservative boogeyman. McCarl failed to address any of the talk’s major points or achieve any nuance when addressing Perle’s views, as well as totally misinterpreting some of Perle’s current positions.

For example, for McCarl to call Perle “naïve” while calling President Ahmadinejad’s genocidal rhetoric on Israel simply “ill-advised” seems to me the height of self-parody. Iran’s active support for groups that attempt to destroy the state of Israel, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons, are more than limited rational political goals; they are actions based on an extremist world view. While neither I nor Perle is advocating immediate military action against Iran, there must be more positive steps taken to defuse the growing crisis emanating from Tehran.

McCarl also ignored the truly pessimistic tendencies of Perle’s talk while attacking neoconservatism in general. Perle did not claim that military change would be easy or that democratic transformation was assured in Iran, Iraq, or anywhere else. Moreover, contrary to McCarl’s claim that Perle has “recanted his support for the invasion of Iraq,” he said during the talk that he still supports the Iraq War but disapproves of the occupation. (Anyone interested in comparing what Perle actually said against McCarl’s imputations can see a video of the speech at israel.uchicago.edu.) Furthermore, Perle claimed that there exists no short-term cure, military or otherwise, for the continuing problem of Palestinian terrorism. More broadly, he expected to see the Middle East as a violent, turbulent region for a long time to come. He also was much more approving of “soft power” approaches than McCarl claims. In Iran for example, Perle advocated supporting the opposition, particularly in the form of student and labor movements, rather than using military power unless a nuclear attack seemed imminent.

While both McCarl and I may oppose the ideology behind the Iraq War and oppose spreading further violence around the Middle East, we should not let this opposition blind us to the danger that radical ideologies pose to the U.S, and our allies. Instead of simply bashing past opponents and assuming they want to drag us to war again, we must work with them to find new solutions. That must start with listening to what Perle and other neo-conservatives actually say, instead of drawing on ideological assumptions.

Gabe Cahn

Class of 2010

Vice President for Events and Speakers

Chicago Friends of Israel

Russia no threat to U.S.

I am not quite sure whether the greatest sin of Joe Katz’s recent article (“Russia’s Threat to U.S. supremacy,” 03/06/07) is advancing a false conclusion or drawing attention away from a true one.

Mr. Katz’s assertion that Russia can seriously threaten U.S. supremacy is madness, which he attempts to demonstrate by drawing two false analogies. First, he believes the Russian Federation to be similar to the Weimar Republic, when it lacks the unified anger against outside intervention that the Germans possessed. The Treaty of Versailles was externally imposed and left Germany without necessary resources for recovery from the war—but Russia shares none of the devastation of open conflict seen in post–WWI Europe, and its process of change (“glasnost”) began from within. In order to motivate “hyper-nationalism” (as Katz puts it), the country must be able to blame its problems on foreigners. In this case, corruption and political change were clearly Russian in origin.

His second false analogy is that America’s strategic use of Russia is equivalent to its support of Stalin’s regime in WWII, which would imply that we are providing Russia with the tools it needs to regain superpower status. But Stalin’s threat was never simply that he was used as a tool for pressure by the U.S. (We use Japan and Pakistan in similar ways today, and no one argues they will seriously threaten America.) Rather, the danger in supporting his government was providing support to an insidious, vicious ideology that preached territorial expansion and forcible conversion: communism. There is no such ideology operative in modern Russia. Dictators can be held in check. Ideas are more pernicious.

But herein lies the danger of Katz’s argument—Russia is an influence on Europe and Asia that cannot be ignored. However, if those who fear “The Bear” ignore history and go so far as to hint at kicking upstart countries out of the G8, serious policy makers will ignore their arguments. That will be to the detriment of American foreign policy.

Brian G. Hinkle

Class of 2007