Policy Exchange, SANE and the ‘vital importance of controlling the Arabs’

Here's an interesting postscript to Nick Clegg's attack on Policy Exchange for privately briefing against the Global Peace and Unity event in London.

One of the organisations cited by Policy Exchange, the Society of Americans for National Existence, has objected to my characterisation of them in a post at Spinwatch. On their blog a SANE staffer writes:

In this link the leftist Brits continue to blather on about SANE and its deep, secret powers. We continue to get many visitors from England trying to figure this out. In this blog and in the links, SANE is tied to IASPS (true, we are indeed closely linked to IASPS), but then we are both (IASPS and SANE) labeled "neocons"–which merely demonstrates these folks are either illiterate or fools or just don't read or are wholly disingenuous.

They then quote the following section of the Spinwatch piece:

One point worth making is that the Society of Americans for National Existence are not just some bunch of marginal crazies. SANE is actually a project of the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies. IASPS was where key neoconservatives like Richard Perle, David Wurmser and Doug Feith worked out the clean break strategy, which many believe formed the basis of the Iraq War agenda they went on to pursue in the Bush administration.

Neither the quote nor the full article labels either SANE or IASPS as 'neocon' institutions. Much of what the article does say is specifically accepted by SANE. Indeed, SANE goes on to provide two articles which elaborate on IASPS' role in formulating the Clean Break strategy.

The first of these, Israel: The Advanced Case of Western Affliction, states (my emphasis):

Anyone who studies that Institute document and the voluminous studies and analyses provided by IASPS over the years to policy makers and politicians in Israel and Washington, D.C., knows that IASPS does not advocate “democracy” as a tool of foreign policy. It doesn’t even advocate “democracy” as a tool of domestic policy. Indeed, the Institute’s founder, Loewenberg, has made clear that the drift in this country to “democracy” and away from a constitutional republic built on a federation of states, themselves layered on a bedrock of Judeo-Christian values, is very much a continuation of the decline of the West. Moreover, even a casual read of A Clean Break points to the vital importance of controlling Arabs by understanding and exploiting their tribal affiliations. Anyone who looks at Iraq or Jordan and doesn’t understand, not just the Shia-Sunni divide, but the important tribal ones that make claims going back to the terrorist founder/freedom fighter/nation builder of Islam, Mohammed, will never come to grips with the geo-strategic realities in that part of the world. The evidence of this claim is before us now in Iraq, in Afghanistan and in Gaza.

The piece also alludes to the role of Wurmser, Perle et. al:

The Institute has of course gained enormous worldwide attention through its pre-Iraq war publication titled, “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," in which it advocated a triangulated strategy between Israel, Turkey and Jordan to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and become the base of a tripartite power alliance to rule over and secure a strategic stability in the Middle East. Because the report's contributors included many of the policy professionals that took up important positions in the Bush administration, left-wing types, right-wing types, Arabs, and main stream media soon gravitated to this study as the blueprint for the “Jewish neocon war” in Iraq.

At this point, SANE would seem to have recapitulated most of my original argument. So what are they trying to establish with their rebuttal? I think there are two key points which also emerge in the second article Does Pat Buchanan Have a Flea Problem, a Blind Spot or Both?

First things first. As I have written in the past, the “Clean Break” document was not about America at all, but about a strategy those of us at the Institute (I was then a trustee and legal counsel) proposed to Netanyahu as the new Israeli prime minister (not written by him as Taki asserts)…

..Nothing in the Clean Break or in any of the other IASPS studies would suggest that America should become the Great Last Hope for building democracies among the ruthless and murderous Muslims of the Middle East. The point of the carefully researched and more closely analyzed studies of the Institute suggest that a regional strategic stability is possible in the Middle East given free market economic reforms and a regional power structure that would understand well and accept the Islamic and Arab realities that exist in that part of the world. There was none of the utopian democracy ideology that so dominates the Bush administration’s foreign policy initiatives.

So the Clean Break document was aimed at the Israeli government, not the US, and strategic security was the goal not spreading democracy.

It is worth comparing this with what some of the neoconservatives' critics have said. For example, Stephen. J Sniegoski has written:

It should be emphasised that the same people – Feith, Wurmser, Perle – who advised the Israeli government on issues issues of national security would later advise the George W. Bush administration to pursue virtually the same policy regarding the Middle East. (The Transparent Cabal, p.90)

Sniegoski went on to note the very same points SANE make about the differences between a Clean Break and the case for war presented in 2003:

While neocons present American policy in a very idealistic light, their policy prescriptions for Israel, which involved similar concrete policy objective, were devoid of such sentiment. Written in terms of Israeli interest, the study made little mention of the benefits to be accrued by Israel's neighbouring countries, such as the establishment of democracy. (The Transparent Cabal, p92)

The conclusion that SANE invites us to draw is that the aims of the Israeli geopoliticians of 1996, were unrelated to those of the American idealists of 2003, despite the minor coincidence of their being the same people. The more credible view is that a right-wing Likudist analysis of Israel's geopolitical interests was a factor in the neoconservative drive to war.

The Clean Break document was not silent on the role of the United States:

To anticipate U.S. reactions and plan ways to manage and constrain those reactions, Prime Minister Netanyahu can formulate the policies and stress themes he favors in language familiar to the Americans by tapping into themes of American administrations during the Cold War which apply well to Israel.

The subsequent emphasis on bringing democracy to Iraq was consistent with this principle.

In the transition from A Clean Break to the US invasion of Iraq  the neocons presented a identity between American and European interests, and a hard-line Likudist conception of Israel's interests. [Edit 2014: Note this does not necessarily mean that A Clean Break was a truer reflection of Israeli interests than of American ones, An alternative conception of Israeli interests might well stress peace with its Arab neighbours. What's clear is that the neoconservatives were pushing the same underlying agenda to both governments in different ways].

This is a habit that arguably did not end in 2003, and may explain episodes such as Policy Exchange's private briefing. 

If Europeans oppose engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood at home, they are not likely to press for Israeli negotiations with Hamas. Likewise, If Europeans fear Muslim population growth at home, they are more likely to accept extreme responses to Palestinian population growth.

A Clean Break is not, incidentally, the only evidence that SANE and IASPS have neoconservative links. SANE president David Yerushalmi is general counsel and policy advisor to the Center for Security Policy, a think tank headed by the former Assistant Secretary of Defense, Frank Gaffney. Gaffney's neoconservative record has been documented by Jim Lobe, who also revealed earlier this year, that Gaffney's sister, Devon Gaffney Cross has been organising Pentagon-funded private briefings by fellow neoconservatives for reporters in London and Paris.






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