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An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror
By David Frum and Richard Perle
Random House
HC, 284 pg. US$25.95/C$37.95
ISBN: 1-4000-6194-6

Saving the world from itself the American way

By Steven Martinovich
web posted February 2, 2004

An End to Evil: How to Win the War on TerrorFor some the war against terror has gone one war too far. In a fit of Wilsonian madness, they argue, the Bush administration has turned a justifiable war against al-Qaida into an immoral global campaign to reshape the world according to American desires. It has come at the price of American liberties and anger by allies and enemies alike. Intoxicated by its power, the American giant may wakeup one day with quite a hangover and regrets about what it did the night before.

Former Bush administration officials David Frum and Richard Perle would disagree with all of these sentiments. Far from a nation eager to continue prosecuting the war, they argue in An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror, they believe "many in the American political and media elite are losing their nerve for the fight." Instead of renewed energy after a successful war in Iraq, they "can feel the will to win ebbing in Washington; we sense the reversion to the bad hold habits of complacency and denial."

The immodestly titled An End to Evil is their response, a game plan to put the war back on track. The pair propose what can only be called an ambitious agenda, one that includes action both inside and outside American borders. Indeed, there aren't many aspects of American policy that wouldn't in some way be impacted by their blueprint.

After a few chapters that essentially reiterate large portions of the Bush doctrine, Frum and Perle get down to business by tackling the changes they believe the United States must make internally. They argue that there needs to be stricter enforcement of the nation's immigration laws by all levels of government. The government should commit to cutting off fundraising efforts by the front groups of terrorist movements and dedicate law enforcement to investigating suspicious behavior. If that's not enough to worry civil libertarians, they also lobby for the instituting of a national identity card system.

Their plan for action abroad may be even more ambitious. They contend that a harder line needs to be taken with nations like North Korea, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Libya and terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, and the complete abandonment of the Palestinian cause. They propose a number of solutions to handle each target -- for example; helping Iranian dissidents as the Reagan administration did the Polish Solidarity movement -- from diplomatic pressure to creating internal dissent to weaken their governments. They are the types of solutions that will doubtlessly have paleo-conservatives up at night screaming about neo-conservative influences contaminating the White House.

Perhaps the most useful section of the book, and one that most would be sympathetic with, are Frum and Perle's call to reorganize or restructure the FBI, CIA and State Department. The mess over Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction and the failure to stop the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks are all the arguments Bush needs to shake up America's federal law enforcement and intelligence communities. More controversial, however, are Frum and Perle's contention that the State Department sometimes acts against American interests. The department, the claim, needs to "stop representing America to the world and begin representing the world to America." One way to do that, they argue, are more political appointees.

The most contentious section may be that which sees Frum and Perle lay out their list of friends and foes. The European Union, particularly France, comes under heavy fire though they do not -- as some commentators have alleged -- declare the French to be enemies. Also earning their ire is the United Nations, which they declare to be outdated and unable to respond to the new threats emerging. A firmer hand with Russia, a kinder approach to China and outreach to South Asia round out this disappointingly short section.

So what does this ambitious agenda, if put into place, earn the United States? "A world at peace; a world governed by law; a world in which all peoples are free to find their own destinies: That dream has not yet come true, it will not come true soon, but if it ever does come true, it will be brought into being by American armed might and defended by American might, too." It's the kind of eye rolling statement that arguably justifies claims of neo-conservative arrogance.

An End to Evil is overly ambitious given that most of it rests on the belief that American might or persuasion can fix the problems of the world. Certainly, there are some elements of the Frum and Perle agenda that are worthwhile but their optimism is likely misplaced. One could argue that the United States is the greatest force for good on the planet, especially since it has toppled two tyrannies in recent years. Frum and Perle seem unaware, however, there are limits to American power and dealing a deathblow to evil isn't one of them.

Steven Martinovich is a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.

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