Michael Hirsh, Newsweek
Oct. 15, 2007 issue – Neocons can’t help but slink around Washington, D.C. The Iraq War has given the neoconservatives—who favor the assertive use of American power abroad to spread American values—something of a bad name, and several of the Republican candidates seem less than eager to hire them as advisers. But Rudy Giuliani apparently never got that memo. One of the top foreign-policy consultants to the leading GOP candidate is Norman Podhoretz, a founding father of the neocon movement.
Podhoretz is in favor of bombing Iran because of the country’s unwillingness to suspend its uranium-enrichment program. He also believes America is engaged in a “world war” with “Islamofascism” and that Giuliani is the only man who can win it. “I decided to join Giuliani’s team because his view of the war—what I call World War IV—is very close to my own,” Podhoretz tells NEWSWEEK. (World War III, in his view, was the cold war.) “And also because he has the qualities of a wartime leader, including a fighting spirit and a determination to win.”
Giuliani clearly hopes this image, born of his heroic performance on 9/11, can carry him to the GOP nomination and to the White House. But is he really the candidate who will “keep Americans safer” if his primary tactic is to go “on offense” in the “long war,” as he often puts it in his campaign stump speech? Critics will say that the neocons already tried that—in Iraq. Still, what’s left of the neocon movement does seem to be converging around the Giuliani campaign, to some degree, because he embraces their common themes: a willingness to use military power, a tendency to group all radical Islamist groups together as a common enemy, strong support for Israel and an aggressive posture toward Iran. “He’s positioning himself as the neo-neocon,” jokes Richard Holbrooke, a top foreign-policy adviser to Hillary Clinton.
Among the core consultants surrounding Giuliani: Martin Kramer, who has led an attack on U.S. Middle Eastern scholars since 9/11 for being soft on terrorism; Stephen Rosen, a hawkish professor at Harvard who advocates major new spending on defense and is close to prominent neoconservative Bill Kristol; former Wisconsin senator Bob Kasten, who often sided with the neocons during the Reagan era and was an untiring supporter of aid to Israel, and Daniel Pipes, who has advocated for the racial profiling of Muslim Americans. (He’s argued that the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II was not the moral offense it’s been portrayed as, though he doesn’t say Muslims should suffer the same.)
Some traditional conservatives are wary of the Giuliani team. “Clearly it is a rather one-sided group of people,” says Dimitri Simes of the Nixon Center, a Washington think tank. “Their foreign-policy manifesto seems to be ‘We’re right, we’re powerful, and just make my day.’ He’s out-Bushing Bush.” Giuliani campaign spokeswoman Maria Comella says that while the candidate listens to these advisers because “he wants to have as much information as possible, at the end of the day he makes his own decisions.” In some speeches and writings, Giuliani has clearly departed from the more extreme views of Podhoretz—who has said he “hopes and prays” that Bush bombs Iran—and others. His foreign-affairs team also consists of those who take a more centrist view, chief among them his policy coordinator, Yale scholar Charles Hill, who is more skeptical of policies like democracy promotion than most neocons. “I don’t really know much about neoconservatives,” Hill tells NEWSWEEK, adding that the team engages in “lively discussions.” Asked recently in London about Iran, Giuliani said he hoped to avoid military action in the end, but he indicated that the threat of using it should be made plain. “I believe the United States and our allies should deliver a very clear message to Iran, very clear, very sober, very serious: they will not be allowed to become a nuclear power,” he said. Podhoretz, by contrast, tells NEWSWEEK: “I believe that a bombing campaign is the only way to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear capability.”
Regardless of any differences on Iran, Giuliani’s neocons are in line with his pro-Israel stance. As mayor of New York—home to the largest Jewish community in the United States—Giuliani became renowned in the 1990s for his aggressive support of Israel and his mistrust of Palestinian leaders. In 1995, with the Oslo peace process underway, Giuliani kicked Yasir Arafat out of a concert for world leaders at Lincoln Center. Arafat “has never been held to answer for the murders he was implicated in,” the mayor said. On a trip to Israel in 2001, Giuliani told an Israeli audience: “We’re together with you. We are bound by blood.” Earlier this year, in an interview with Foreign Affairs magazine, Giuliani suggested that “too much emphasis” had been placed on promoting negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. He said “it is not in the interest of the United States, at a time when it is being threatened by Islamist terrorists, to assist in the creation of another state that will support terrorism.” One of his advisers, Pipes, has advocated “razing [Palestinian] villages from which attacks are launched.”
All the other candidates for president, both Republican and Democratic, are also advocates of Israel, as are most American voters. And Giuliani’s GOP rivals have also taken strong stands against Iran’s nuclear program. There are also a few neocons advising them—most notably, Liz Cheney, the vice president’s daughter, who has joined Fred Thompson’s team. Yet other GOP candidates, like Mitt Romney, have shied away from identifying too much with neocons, especially those who worked for the Bush administration. Romney has consulted with critics and skeptics of the Iraq War, including Gen. Anthony Zinni, Gen. Barry McCaffrey and former NATO commander Joseph Ralston—but he’s also met with hawks like Fred Kagan. “He talks to everybody, more or less,” says one campaign adviser who didn’t want to be named talking about internal campaign strategy.
Giuliani may be gambling by leaning so heavily on the unpopular neocons. He also knows, however, that painting the War on Terror as a broad moral crusade—the basic neocon approach—is probably the only way he can win over a conservative Republican base that doesn’t like his squishiness on values issues like abortion or his marriages. Giuliani has succeeded by casting the War on Terror as the “defense of Western civilization, and for many [conservative] voters that is a moral issue” that may be as important as abortion, says Gary Bauer of American Values, an advocacy group that promotes traditional marriage and pro-life views, among other conservative issues. (He’s not backing a candidate.) “Without that it would be inconceivable that a socially liberal New York mayor could be leading in the polls for the Republican nomination.” Giuliani’s support of Israel also plays well with Christian evangelicals who have made survival of the Jewish state part of their doctrine. Then there is the Clinton factor. Even key Southern evangelical leaders who don’t favor Giuliani because of his views on abortion, like Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, tell NEWSWEEK that Giuliani is still running strong because the right sees him “as the only candidate who can beat Senator Clinton.” No matter whom he’s taking advice from, Giuliani knows that the impression that he can make Americans safer than Hillary Clinton could ultimately bring him the nomination and the presidency.
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