When I turned in last night, it was with the thought that Richard Perle's War Party had succeeded in a palace coup and was in total control of the Oval Office. I was awake half the night trying to see some avenue away from to an escalation of the war past a point of no return. You can imagine I practically danced on the driveway outside my home in Morristown when I picked up the NYTimes at 7 a.m. and found President Bush had reversed course and was sending Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Mideast to rescue Yasir Arafat. To put an exclamation point to the lead story, the Times editors chose a color photograph with the caption: "Israeli guards at a border checkpoint beat a peace activist yesterday during a demonstration in Jerusalem." With President Bush today praising the peace plan advanced by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah at the Arab League meeting in Beirut two weeks ago, it is now more likely that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will be forced to take "Yes" for an answer. If you have been following The Wall Street Journal editorials lately, you surely noted their calls for war, not only against the Palestinians, but for a broader war against all the possible enemies of Israel in the Middle East.
The Journal editorial page, along with most of the neo-conservative press, has been taking its orders from Perle and the War Party, which serves the right-wing of the Likud Party in Israel. Its aim has been to realize the dream of Israel`s founders in 1948, which was to push the Palestinians into the sea, or into Jordan and the other Arab states, and have all of what had been Palestine. The Russian newspaper Pravda today observes that the Palestinian extremist group Hamas has been rooting for Sharon, and that in roundabout ways have been aided by the Likud extremists! Why? Hamas has also dreamt of pushing the Israelis into the sea and having it all, not only the West Bank and Gaza. The extremists on both sides prefer to duke it out until one side or the other wins, and they are both horrified that a genuine deal is sitting there on the table, waiting to be picked up.
A week ago, I noted that the New Yorker's Nicholas Lemann had identified the War Party and its grip on President Bush. His interviews led Lemann to decide that Colin Powell, outflanked by the hawks, had decided to give up on diplomacy and throw in with them -- good soldier that he is. In the New Yorker piece, there is a caricature tableau of the hawks joining the President to look over a map of the world: Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff, Lewis Libby, National Security Advisor Condaleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, Powell and his director of policy planning, Richard Haass. Richard Perle is not in the picture, but he does in fact run the show. The caption says: "One former Pentagon official says that the Administration`s conservatives are 'relentless' and that 'resistance is futile.'"
It certainly looked that way after Powell pleaded with Ariel Sharon to allow Yasir Arafat to go to Beirut to address the Arab League, and was turned down. Then Powell persuaded the White House to go along with a UN resolution insisting that the Israeli Army pull out of the West Bank instead of giving every indication it wants it all. And when Sharon sent more tanks into more villages, President Bush had a casual press conference at his Texas ranch, demanding that Arafat do more to stop the suicide bombers, who are being armed by the winner-take-all extremists in Hamas. Of course I may be wrong, but I have seen no evidence from Perle & Co. that they have any interest in the lasting Arab/Israeli deal that now beckons. They cannot wait to go to war with Iraq, believing it would be a piece of cake to demolish its ability to resist with the latest fancy smart bombs and "daisy cutters." If there is an Arab/Israeli deal, the last thing the Israeli government would want is a bloody war in Iraq. Remember the Arab League has voted that an invasion of any of them is invasion against all of them, which includes Iraq. Once Baghdad cut its deal with Kuwait, chances of war really began slipping away from the War Party, which is why Perle & Co. pushed the President so hard to start bombing asap.
I have kept most of our work in this realm out of our financial missives, but have been running a stream of reports on the Polyconomics website. I really recommend my Wednesday memo to former President Clinton, which explains how his Camp David negotiations with Arafat and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak produced half of a deal, with the other half coming from the Arab League. You need only look at the "Swiss cheese" link, of what the Palestinian state would look like if Arafat accepted the deal, and you would realize why Hamas would have assassinated him if he gave it a thought. Still, our political class forgets that Arafat did not walk away from the negotiations, but only agreed to suspend them while Barak hit the campaign trail seeking re-election. When Sharon won the election, having condemned Barak for going as far as he did, there could be no resumption of negotiations. The violence that has continued ever since is blamed on Arafat`s intransigence, when the blame belongs with those who want a winner-take-all war. Until he decided to send Powell to take charge, President Bush had been misinformed every step of the way by advisors who only tell him the side of the story that fuels his rage.
The WSJournal editorial page, which he reads, has become a disgrace in its one-sidedness, hammering away at the ridiculous idea that if only we remove Saddam Hussein, the rest of the Middle East will fall into place. Our website has repeatedly demonstrated there is no serious evidence Saddam Hussein "gassed his own people," no evidence that he tried to assassinate the President`s father, and no evidence that he is trying to develop nuclear weapons. A reporter only need ask the International Atomic Energy Agency what Saddam would have to do to assure us of its veracity, and if Saddam said he would not do it, we could take war seriously. But no reporter ever asks, nor do any of our politicians. If he agreed to sign the IAEA`s 1997 protocol, agreeing to random suspect inspections and in-place sensors, that would do it, and Baghdad would agree in a minute, if the embargo Perle&Co. has used to kill 1.5 million civilians since 1991 was lifted. This is why the rest of the world is so insistent on defining what constitutes "terrorism." U.S. foreign policy has routinely engaged in activities that might also be defined as terrorism under that self-same definition.
There are of course momentous investment implications for how this scenario plays out. If the War Party has its way, we will have to go far beyond the "terrorism" budgets now projected as far as the eye can see. The WSJ wants a "war budget" with more of everything, including a national missile defense system that we will actually need, given the likelihood the Islamic world will chip in to build ICBMs. Plus we will need to raise taxes high enough to post a Pax Americana legionnaire on every street corner on the planet, with a gas mask and a tactical nuclear firearm. On the other hand, if Colin Powell can get Sharon and Arafat (or their seconds) to put together the deal that is staring them in the face, we will get a Peace Dividend worth writing home about.