Right Hook

The global spread of nukes keeps conservatives awake at night. Plus: Religion for Kobe, and Howard Dean's "pro-homosexual" agenda.


Mark Follman
October 23, 2003 2:12AM (UTC)

The specter of nuclear weapons in the hands of so-called rogue states and terrorist groups is haunting conservative policy thinkers anew this week. In a Washington Times Op-Ed, James Goodby, an arms control expert and former U.S. ambassador to Finland, and Kenneth Weisbrode of the Atlantic Council, find the "Cold War model of stability" comforting compared with today's fragmented global nuclear arsenal. The United States must act quickly and decisively to stop the rapid spread of weapons, Goodby and Weisbrode assert, in part by leveraging its military presence in Iraq against a would-be nuke-wielding Iran. Otherwise, they say, we'll soon face an enraged Middle East and South Asia armed to the teeth with weapons of mass destruction.

"It is time to admit that Iran will follow North Korea's example and become a de facto nuclear-weapon state in the absence of a U.S. preventive military attack or a powerful international diplomatic offensive. Unilateral U.S. military action against Iran is not in the cards anytime soon, for reasons that the situation in Iraq makes painfully clear...

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"If Iran joins Israel as a de facto nuclear weapon state, with three other nuclear weapon states -- Russia, India and Pakistan -- nearby, it is very unlikely that other nations in the vicinity will be able to resist launching or accelerating their own nuclear weapon programs. It is not at all inconceivable that a Middle East with four, five, or six nuclear weapon states -- including Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey -- will be the reality of the early decades of the 21st century.

"Nobody should want that outcome -- least of all those who put their trust in a resurrection of the Cold War model of stability. The U.S.-Soviet nuclear standoff was stabilized by very different conditions. The United States and the Soviet Union had no territorial demands against each other and their military forces never engaged in large-scale direct combat with each other. That is not the case in the Middle East. Far from it.

"More to the point, a nuclear balance of terror in the Middle East is not inevitable. But American diplomacy is doing too little, too late to reverse course along an all-too-orthodox and pedestrian path. Its main flaw is that it is not truly regional in scope. It asks nothing of Israel, or of Pakistan or India. Vague threats are made against the Syrians, whose alleged nuclear aspirations are unlikely to be diminished by [the recent] Israeli air attack. Egypt and Saudi Arabia seem not to be on the radar screen in the nuclear field at all.

"The United States must offer a broader vision of a nuclear-free region. The presence of American troops in the Middle East makes this the time for both creative thinking and decisive action. The moment will not last too long."

In a lengthy analysis for Commentary Magazine subtitled "A Nuclear Attack? Be Very Afraid," editor Gabriel Schoenfeld frames an already nuclear-armed Pakistan in equally chilling terms:

"[Pakistan's] status as a nuclear power was confirmed when it conducted five underground tests on May 28, 1998. By any yardstick, this date deserves to be remembered as a watershed in international affairs, marking the first time that a certifiable basket-case of a country became an officially-declared nuclear power.

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"Since its birth as a nation in 1947, Pakistan's government has been regularly toppled by military coups. A major segment of the population is in the grip of radical Islam, and some leading nuclear scientists have close ties to the most fanatical Muslims of Afghanistan and al Qaeda. The country is locked in a conflict with India over the status of Kashmir that periodically threatens to become the first nuclear flashpoint since World War II. To complete the picture, Pakistan is so desperately poor that it has been paying for its military programs by barter.

"...Pakistan does still seem capable of making rational choices. But if that situation were to change, and radical Islamists were to ascend to power, the prospect that Pakistani nuclear weapons might be transferred to the remnants of al Qaeda or to other Islamic terrorists would be intolerable. Both India and the United States would feel under tremendous pressure to disarm Islamabad, a step that in the logic of things would quite possibly require a nuclear first strike."

Schoenfeld resurrects the argument for a U.S. missile-defense shield, first proposed by Reagan during the Cold War and later backed by George W. Bush early in his own presidency. (Bush had already begun edging away from the politically tenuous policy before al-Qaida and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq commandeered his military budget and foreign policy.) Schoenfeld concedes the controversial policy's limitations in the age of terror -- but says that only bolsters the Bush doctrine of preemption:

"The radical insufficiency of the [Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty] confirms once again the wisdom of deploying a missile-defense shield. This project, widely ridiculed when it was first proposed by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, has become an urgent national imperative. The U.S. needs a strategic system to defend its own skies, and portable ship- or airborne theater systems to defend its allies.

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"But even if we could deploy an impermeable missile shield tomorrow (and no missile shield is likely to be impermeable), there are other ways than missiles to deliver nuclear weapons. Such weapons can be packed into shipping containers and brought into American ports, or smuggled across our borders wrapped inside, say, a bale of marijuana. Countering this particular facet of the threat defensively is virtually impossible -- a fact that points toward yet another urgent imperative...

"We can now see things as they are -- that is, just as the government of Israel saw them in 1981 [when it destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor at Osirak.] In the aftermath of Sept. 11, fanatical anti-American regimes like those ruling Iran and North Korea cannot be permitted to obtain weapons that can be easily hidden and used without warning to destroy entire cities in an instant. If peaceful means of persuasion have been exhausted, it is incumbent on us to consider, coolly, other means."

Terror at every turn?
From the Washington sniper trial to the Guantánamo Bay spy arrests to the Saudis' global promotion of Wahhabism, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Steyn sees myriad unchecked opportunities for terrorists inside the United States. The fed-up Steyn argues it's time to connect all the dots and face the pervasive threat of militant Islam.

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"John Allen Muhammad [currently on trial for the Washington-area sniper attacks of 2002] was a Muslim, a supporter of al-Qaida's actions, a man who marked the events of Sept. 11 by changing his name to "Muhammad" and a man who marked the first anniversary of Sept. 11 by buying the Chevy Caprice subsequently used in the sniper attacks. Coincidence? Of course! According to Richard Roeper [a colleague of Steyn's at the Sun-Times], it's only a handful of conservative kooks who'd even think otherwise."

Steyn turns to a recent story in the London Evening Standard to place Muhammad within the broader matrix of terror he sees still threatening the U.S.:

"'Evidence has emerged linking Washington sniper John Allen Muhammad with an Islamic terror group. Muhammad has been connected to Al Fuqra, a cult devoted to spiritual purification through violence. The group has been linked to British shoe bomber Richard Reid and the murderers of American journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan last year.'

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"Hmm. Might be nothing. Might be just another coincidence. Lot of them around at the moment -- like that Saudi Cabinet minister who coincidentally stayed in the same hotel on the night of Sept. 10 as some of the 9/11 terrorists. Just one of those things. But the authorities seem to be taking the links more seriously than when they first surfaced a year ago.

"Here's another coincidence: The guy who heads up the organization that certifies Muslim chaplains for the U.S. military was arrested at Dulles Airport last month and charged with illegally accepting money from Libya. The month before that, Abdurahman Alamoudi was caught by the British trying to smuggle some $340,000 into Syria.

"Think about that for a minute. Ten years ago, at an American military base, at a ceremony to install the first imam in this country's armed forces, it was Alamoudi who presented him with his new insignia of a silver crescent star. And the guy's a bagman for terrorists.

"Infiltration-wise, I'd say that's pretty good. The arthritic bureaucracy at the CIA say oh, no, it would be impossible for them to get any of their boys inside al-Qaida. Can't be done. But the other side has no difficulty getting their chaps set up in the heart of the U.S. military...

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"If the Democrats hadn't decided to sit out the war on terror by frolicking on Planet Bananas for the duration, they could be seriously hammering the administration on this...

"So how come two years after Sept. 11 groups with terrorist ties are still able to insert their recruiters into America's military bases, prisons and pretty much anywhere else they get a yen to go? It's not difficult to figure out: Wahhabism is the most militant form of Islam, the one followed by all 19 of the 9/11 terrorists and by Osama bin Laden. The Saudis -- whose state religion is Wahhabism -- fund the spread of their faith in lavishly endowed schools and mosques all over the world and, as a result, traditionally moderate Muslim populations from the Balkans to South Asia have been dramatically radicalized. How could the federal government be so complacent as to subcontract the certification of chaplains in U.S. military bases to Wahhabist institutions?"

Judgment Day for Kobe
With the high-profile rape trial of Kobe Bryant set to begin, Star Parker, the president of Coalition on Urban Renewal & Education and a WorldNetDaily contributor, says the NBA star -- and the rest of black America -- could use a dose of the Bible.

"The ongoing deterioration of values in mainstream popular American culture gives reason for an even greater sense of urgency among blacks to care for our own...

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"...The question remains whether or not there is any objective standard for decent and honorable behavior. I would say yes -- the Ten Commandments. Clearly, every individual struggles with choosing discipline to do what they believe to be right. However, personal struggle is a different issue from whether there exists any social sense of common standards of good and evil, right and wrong...

"Children are profoundly influenced by the messages they get from popular American culture and as would be expected in a culture where moral standards are being marginalized, sexual promiscuity and unwed births skyrocket. Of black women, 68.5 percent of births are to unwed mothers, almost three times higher than in 1965...

"Talented young blacks like Kobe Bryant aspire to using their natural gifts to 'making it' in America. Unfortunately, 'making it' increasingly means a license to abuse others, whether a wife or a groupie, or, as we increasingly see, business colleagues and customers. Blacks know -- or certainly should know -- that abuse of others is the original sin of this great country.

"As mainstream America removes the Ten Commandments from its schoolrooms and courtrooms, black leaders and educators must work even harder to assure they are not lost. Today's black reality already mirrors what is in store for our entire nation devoid of these universal standards of decency."

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In fact, Bryant did recently tell reporters, "My escape is faith." But Gregory Moore, a columnist for Blackathlete.com, doesn't buy Kobe's sudden conversion.

"When King David sinned, he sinned a great sin. Adultery even amongst the most powerful of men is still adultery. David was repentant and thus he did what he had to do in the sight of God to make sure his soul was right. But David was a man of God according to the biblical readings. Kobe Bryant has just now embraced his 'faith' only after he has found himself in a world of trouble and that may be a little too late right now...

"Maybe covetous hasn't been covered by Bryant's church or maybe he just never paid any attention to what the that means. Covetous means having a strong desire to want something that isn't yours. Bryant strongly desired to have sexual intercourse with the 19 year old victim. And now he is wanting to show that he has religious beliefs. Well maybe I ain't buying the soft act. You just don't clothe yourself in believing in God, Allah or Jehovah when you are in trouble; that is a lifelong process of true conviction and I'm offended that he would even try to portray himself in that fashion...

"Sorry, Kobe, but I'm not buying the act. When David bedded Bathsheba, his sin was exposed for us to not follow in his footsteps. His faults don't mean that we have an excuse to forsake what is already in front of us. Maybe I'd buy Kobe's act of having faith if he was truly believing it himself. The times to proclaim your faith is when things are good; not in the darkest hour of desperation."

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"Paint Dean as pro-homosexual"
Former Republican presidential candidate turned pundit Pat Buchanan says Howard Dean is likely to grab the Democratic nomination -- unless Hillary comes to the rescue. He's pleased with the prospect of Bush vs. Dean in 2004, recommending one campaign strategy for the GOP attack machine and predicting an easy victory for the president:

"The anti-Dean vote may be the majority inside the Democratic Party. But it is divided among Gephardt, Kerry, Clark and Sens. Joe Lieberman and John Edwards, with no sign any of the five can pull it together before Dean begins rolling up victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, and pulling away. One Democrat could step in at this late hour, stop Howard Dean and seize the nomination. But she is reluctant.

"...Dean's support of civil unions for homosexuals in Vermont will make 'gay' marriage, and the GOP constitutional amendment restricting marriage to a man and woman, the social issue of 2004.

"In 1972, Nixon ran against McGovern as the candidate, in Sen. Hugh Scott's phrase, of 'acid, amnesty and abortion.' If Bush and Karl Rove, using the $170 million they plan to raise by spring, can paint Dean as pro-homosexual weddings, pro-hiking taxes and 'soft on Saddam,' Dean and the Democrats could face a wipeout."

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Read more of "Right Hook," Salon's weekly roundup of conservative commentary and analysis here.


Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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