the 1991 Gulf war, Colin Powell famously advocated that
America should not travel the road to Baghdad. Yesterday
at the UN, he travelled the road to Damascus. The outstanding
"dove" of both Bush administrations, who, well
into last year, worried that America did not have the
evidence to justify an attack on Iraq, presented that
evidence to the world.
because he appears to have the zeal of the convert, Mr
Powell was the right man for the job. Most European politicians
are Powellites, not Bushies. They think that Mr Powell
is a sane and moderate man of the world, whereas George
W. Bush is ignorant and Dick Cheney, the Vice-President,
is hard-faced and Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary,
is positively frightening. Mr Powell, therefore, is the
man to drop them a rope to help them up the steep learning
curve that he has himself climbed.
Mr Powell is indeed sane and moderate, and he was brilliantly
persuasive yesterday, but the European elites will continue
to misread the situation if they suppose that it is Mr
Powell who drives the policy and does the thinking. The
Foreign Office and the Quai D'Orsay hate to recognise
it, but the "hawks" are not hicks. It is those
hawks - chiefly Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rumsfeld's deputy,
Paul Wolfowitz - who thought about all this first. And
it is those who are first with the ideas who tend to shape
time I go to Washington - I returned from there this week
- I find a seriousness and depth of thought about terror,
the Middle East and the nature of power that, whether
one agrees with it or not, is not matched by an alternative
vision this side of the Atlantic.
long ago as the 1980s, thinkers such as Andrew Marshall,
the head of the Office of Net Assessment in the Pentagon,
were predicting the global re-ordering that would follow
the end of the Cold War. They spoke of what has been termed
the "revolution in military affairs", in which
technology mattered much more for Western superiority,
and the enemies of the West, unable to win any spending
race, would resort increasingly to terrorism.
fused with a political analysis. As long as ago as the
1970s, Wolfowitz was warning (in a document still classified
today) of the international threat posed by Saddam Hussein.
He saw the Middle East as a crucible in which were commingled
the hatred of America and Britain, the resentments of
an Arab world whose politics prevented both democracy
and economic progress, the loathing of Israel and the
adaptation of Islam for extreme political ends.
hawks - and remember that the hawk is a bird that can
see things from a long way off - thought that the threat
of "asymmetric warfare" (ie terrorism, often
by "non-state actors") was serious. They thought
that fast-growing Muslim populations, whose proportion
of young men both in Europe and in the Arab world far
outweighs that of European Christians, would be drawn
also saw how wretched was the lot of most of these Muslim
populations and how corrupt were many of the "moderates"
who ran their countries. If you like, they accepted certain
elements of Osama bin Laden's analysis of an unstable,
unequal world, though they detested his aims and remedies.
followed from all this that the hawks were the only Westerners
not surprised by September 11. The attacks that day fitted
with how they thought the world was going, and they were
therefore ready with the analysis and with the counter-attack.
The "war against terrorism" and the "axis
of evil" were not mere phrases - they were formulations
the hawks are so dark in their view of what is happening,
European elites make two mistakes about them. The first
is to suppose they are "gung-ho" and rush unilaterally
into action. This is not so. President Bush got Nato and
the world behind him before the attack on Afghanistan,
and yesterday's performance by Mr Powell was only the
latest whirl in a long diplomatic dance with the UN that,
he hopes, will at last sweep even the French off their
feet. Yes, America reserves its right to act unilaterally,
but it bases its policy on the paradox that it is only
by convincing people of your readiness to be unilateral
that you can win multilateral support.
second false analysis of the hawks' position is that,
because it is fierce, it is pessimistic. If it has a fault,
it is dangerously in the opposite direction. The hawks
scorn the importance of preserving stability in the Middle
East because they think it does not exist, except, as
one of them put it to me last week, as the "stability
of the graveyard".
doubt the attempt to restart the peace process between
Israel and the Palestinians not because they think nothing
can be done, but because they think the structure for
negotiation must be rebased. Yasser Arafat cannot deliver
peace because he remains committed to war; the Israeli
settlements are certainly a problem, but they are not
is the problem, and violence will continue if the Arab
world and the EU continue to abet it, and if the Palestinian
people are offered no beginnings of a plural society with
institutions of law, property rights - and, as an eventual
consequence, a proper ballot. That was what Mr Bush's
speech on June 24 last year was all about.
in Palestine, so in Iraq, the hawks reject the idea implicit
in the views of the chancelleries of Europe that the only
people who can effectively run the place are evil bastards.
They think that the four million Iraqi exiles and most
of the people still living in the place would like the
chance of a civil society and, with help, could start
the European cynic, an Iraqi leader such as the head of
the Iraqi National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi, who shares
Western values, is a mere "saloniste". To the
hopeful hawk, he is a big step in the right direction.
And if Iraq can be reborn, the same optimist reasons,
something similar might start to happen in all the broken
polities of the Islamic world.
some of this rather starry-eyed? Perhaps. Is it a rhetoric
that seeks to justify in moral terms the bald assertion
of American power? Certainly. But if the conflict is between
extremists who hate the West and want to destroy it and
the political and cultural values that all European nations
claim to share, why is it so wrong? And what, Jacques
Chirac and Gerhard Schroder, is the alternative?