Monday, March 14, 2005

Michael Rubin's (AEI) Hypocrisy (on Iraq / Iran)

This is a case of contradiction which I'm guessing Michael Rubin has been aware of ever since he read this story in the American Prospect last November, Cloak and Swagger: The Larry Franklin Spy Probe Reveals an Escalating Fight Over Control of Iran Policy, and has been hoping nobody would call him on. To the best of my knowledge, nobody else had juxtaposed these two articles and pointed out Rubin's hypocrisy.

The following is a passage from an article Rubin wrote in the National Review Online in May 2004 (after he left government service) You Must Be Likud!, in which he throws out charges of antisemitism against people who have criticized the neoconservatives. In this passage, he quotes fellow neocon Max Boot to the effect that, if they were truly acting with Israel's interests in mind, they would have pushed for an attack on Iran, not Iraq:

The news is not all bad. Several scholars have addressed the creeping anti-Semitism in the current discourse. Max Boot, Olin Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, published an excellent essay in the January/February 2004 edition of Foreign Policy in which he called the charge "a malicious myth" the argument that neoconservatives were "Jews who serve the interests of Israel." Boot explained, "With varying degrees of delicacy, everyone from fringe U.S. presidential candidates Lyndon LaRouche and Patrick Buchanan to European news outlets such as the BBC and Le Monde have used neocon as a synonym for Jew, focusing on Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Eliot Cohen, and others with obvious Jewish names." Boot continued, "In the 1980s, they were the leading proponents of democratization in places as disparate as Nicaragua, Poland, and South Korea. In the 1990s, they were the most ardent champions of interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo-missions designed to rescue Muslims, not Jews. Today neocons agitate for democracy in China (even as Israel has sold arms to Beijing!) and against the abuse of Christians in Sudan. Their advocacy of democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan is entirely consistent with this long track record. If neocons were agents of Likud, they would have advocated an invasion not of Iraq or Afghanistan but of Iran, which Israel considers to be the biggest threat to its own security."

Now, what makes this such amazing hypocrisy is that Michael Rubin, before he took off his government hat, had authored a draft National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) advocating a policy of regime change against Iran:

The classified document that Franklin allegedly passed to AIPAC concerned a controversial proposal by Pentagon hard-liners to destabilize Iran. The latest iteration of the national-security presidential directive was drafted by a Pentagon civilian and avid neocon, Michael Rubin, who hoped it would be adopted as official policy by the Bush administration. But in mid-June, Bush's national-security advisers canceled consideration of the draft, partly in response to resistance from some at the State Department and the National Security Council, according to a recent memo written by Rubin and obtained by The American Prospect. No doubt also contributing to the administration's decision was the swelling insurgency and chaos of postwar Iraq.

Rubin, in his early 30s, is a relative newcomer to the neoconservative circles in which he is playing an increasingly prominent role. Once the Iraq and Iran desk officer in the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans and later a Coalition Provisional Authority adviser in Iraq, these days the Yale-educated Ph.D. hangs his hat at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and serves as editor for controversial Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes' magazine, The Middle East Quarterly.

In an article published in the Republican-oriented quarterly Ripon Forum in June, Rubin suggests that the administration resolve its Iran waffling by turning against the current regime. "In 1953 and 1979," he wrote, "Washington supported an unpopular Iranian government against the will of the people. The United States should not make the same mistake three times." In other words, President Bush should step up his public condemnation of the Iranian regime and break off all contact with it in hopes of spurring a swelling of the Iranian pro-democracy movement. In short, Rubin, like his fellow Iran hawks, urges the administration to make regime change in Iran its official policy.

This invocation of "moral clarity" has a long intellectual pedigree among neoconservatives. It's the same argument they made to Ronald Reagan about the Soviet Union more than 20 years ago. "If we could bring down the Soviet empire by inspiring and supporting a small percentage of the people," Michael Ledeen, a chief neoconservative advocate of regime change in Iran and freedom scholar at AEI, recently wrote in the National Review, "surely the chances of successful revolution in Iran are more likely."

Was it to this end that Franklin was allegedly observed by the FBI passing the draft NSPD on Iran to AIPAC? Was he trying to inform AIPAC, or Israel, about the contents of the draft NSPD? Or rather, and perhaps more plausibly, was he trying to enlist the powerful Washington lobbying organization in advocating for a Iran-destabilization policy? In other words, is the Franklin case really about espionage, or is it a glimpse into the ugly sausage-making process by which Middle East policy gets decided in Washington and, in particular, in the Bush administration.

Now think about the sequence of events here: Rubin 1) writes a policy paper as a government official advocating destabilizing Iran, 2) someone else from his office leaks it to AIPAC (can't prove Rubin knew about Franklin, but it's suspicous to say the least) so they can pressure the rest of the Bush administration on the issue, 3) Rubin leaves government service, and then 4) writes an article arguing that if the neocons were really acting for Israel's interests, they would have gone after Iran, so people accusing them of such for pushing for the liberation of Iraq are antisemites.

Daily Kos


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