End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror
David Frum and Richard Perle, 279 pages, $25.95
Richard Perle is one of the masterminds who created American’s
current foreign policy. Until some months ago he held the
crucial post of chairman of the President’s Defense Policy
Board. David Frum is a writer for the ultraconservative National
Review. Their book, An End to Evil, defends America’s
embattled foreign policy and lays out an agenda for the future.
This isn’t sunny beach reading, but it’s easy on the brain.
Frum is the former presidential speechwriter who came up with
the phrase “Axis of Evil,” and the prose in this volume has
the simple clarity of a Saturday radio talk by George W. Bush.
The authors begin rather scarily by saying that they can feel
the will to win ebbing in Washington. “The forces and people
who lulled the United States into complacency in the 1990s
remain potent today, and in the wake of the victories in Afghanistan
and Iraq, they are exerting themselves ever more boldly.”
Those people include not only the administration’s opponents
in the Democratic Party (with “a few stalwart exceptions such
as Senator Joe Lieberman”) but also the State Department.
Under Colin Powell, they say, “there is a constant pressure
to return to business as usual, beginning by placating offended
allies and returning to the exaggerated multilateral conceit
of the Clinton administration.”
The conservative authors not only bash the previous Democratic
administration, but they also reach back to beat up on the
first President Bush, his secretary of state, his national
security advisor and—you guessed it—his chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell. Those were the men who, having
liberated Kuwait and having demolished the Iraqi army, decided
not to take Baghdad and not to occupy Iraq. The fact that
he has had his way with the younger Bush has not solaced Richard
When it comes to preventing terrorism at home, the authors
come up with some suggestions that seem plausible—and others
that are totalitarian. Probably Americans would go along with
denying tax-exempt status to schools that actually inculcate
violence. As for tracking all us law-abiding citizens by “a
national identity card that registers the bearer’s name and
biometric data, like fingerprints or retinal scans or DNA”—well,
I hope not. Like too many parts of the Patriot Act, this would
turn the Constitution inside out: It would open your private
life to government oversight, while hiding government actions
from your view.
The authors also have some provocative suggestions for the
war on terrorism abroad. Their view of the Saudis—“The Saudis
support terror on a lavish scale”—is accurate and refreshingly
candid. Their solution to this problem is simple: We know
that the government and the elite live in the western, Red
Sea side of the country, but the oil fields are in the eastern,
Persian Gulf side. The way to get the Saudis to cooperate
with us is to threaten to bring independence to the Eastern
Province. Yeah, sure, this might work, especially if the Islamic
countries of the world don’t fuss and the Europeans stay still.
Their solution to the North Korean problem is equally straightforward:
We pull our troops beyond the range of North Korea’s artillery,
then isolate the North with a naval and air blockade, and
prepare for a preemptive strike against their nuclear facilities.
“The North Korean nuclear program is a Chinese responsibility,
for which China will be held accountable.” The authors say
they “hope” a credible buildup to an American strike will
persuade the Chinese to “bring the North Koreans to heel.”
They don’t explain what the ominous phrase “China will be
held accountable” means.
One of the striking things about this book is the paranoia
that seeps through it. Frum and Perle complain that “Much
of the world—and much of liberal opinion in the United States—decided
sometime early in 2002 that it no longer wanted to fight the
war on terror.” Does that square with everything else you
According to the authors, parts of our own government are
reluctant to fight terror. This is due to a liberal bias.
Take the CIA for example: “Over the years, it has become an
agency with very strong, mostly liberal views, and these views
have again and again distorted its analysis and presentation
of its own information.”
This book sees wily enemies everywhere: “Indeed, one important
motivation of ‘globalist’ projects like Kyoto and the ICC
[International Criminal Court] has been to entangle the United
States in restrictions that restrain its power until the new
Europe can challenge it.”
According to Perle and Frum, there’s a liberal myth that a
neoconservative cabal is pushing the war on terror. This myth
“offers Europeans and liberals a useful euphemism for expressing
their hostility to Israel. Israel is everything that Europeans
think a state should not be: proudly nationalist, supremely
confident, willing and able to use force to defend itself—alone
if need be.” The logic eludes me. But we do know that the
French and Germans, and other peoples of Europe, have not
given up their national pride and confidence, or their willingness
to fight to defend themselves.
What makes the thinking of Perle and his confederates so attractive
to the president is its bold simplicity. It focuses narrowly
and exclusively on a solitary problem and solves it with a
bang. Unfortunately, the problems we face are enmeshed in
the global web of history, society, politics and religion.
They’re not simple and solitary.
Yes, we can thrust into Baghdad virtually alone, flatten the
Iraqi military and capture Saddam. So now we’re there, virtually
alone, losing one or two people a day, spending about a billion
dollars a week trying to build a democratic political system
in an Islamic nation—all this in a country that hates us and
is pulling itself apart in three different directions. Neoconservatives
like Richard Perle are fond of telling us that it’s a dangerous
world out there. It’s a complicated world, too; far more complicated
than this book knows.