Peter Beinart: Policy Prescriptions that Fall Way Too Short

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[from the International Herald Tribune and NYT]

World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism By Norman Podhoretz 230 pages Doubleday. $24.95.

The Iranian Time Bomb: The Mullah Zealots’ Quest for Destruction By Michael A. Ledeen 234 pages. Truman Talley Books/St. Martin’s Press. $24.95.

In an interview roughly a year ago with The Wall Street Journal, Norman Podhoretz explained why, as the editor of Commentary during the Vietnam War, he had moved to the right. “The issue,” he explained, “was America.”

It still is. His new book, “World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism,” contains remarkably little information about its supposed subject. “Islamofascism,” for instance, goes largely undefined. Podhoretz does call it a “monster with two heads, one religious and the other secular.” But if fascism involves worship of the state, how exactly does the religious “head” – Al Qaeda – qualify, given that Osama bin Laden sees the state as a pagan imposition threatening the unity of Islam? And if the secular “head” was Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, what made it Islamofascist? After all, Saddam’s longtime foreign minister was Christian, as was Michel Aflaq, Baathism’s ideological founder (though some claim that on his deathbed he converted to Islam).

Podhoretz shows no interest in such details. His assertions are bold, sweeping and almost wholly unencumbered by evidence. We learn, for instance, that “almost to a man, Muslim clerics in their sermons” endorsed the Sept. 11 attacks. “Just about everyone in the whole world who was intent on discrediting the Bush doctrine,” he tells us, claimed that Jews were behind the Iraq war. And none of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib “so far as anyone knew, was even maimed, let alone killed.”

What really interests Podhoretz, who now advises Rudolph Giuliani, isn’t the Islamic world; it’s the home front. The news media, he explains, are in favor of “an American defeat in Iraq.” So are the former national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft. Why do these ostensibly patriotic Americans want to see their nation humiliated and its troops killed? Because it will help their careers. Many “realists along with most liberal internationalists,” he writes, “were rooting for an American defeat as the only way to save their worldview from winding up on the ash heap of history.”

[continue reading]

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