In real life, Perle was the ideological architect of the Iraq war and of the Bush doctrine of preemptive attack. But at yesterday’s forum of foreign policy intellectuals, he created a fantastic world in which:
1. Perle is not a neoconservative.
2. Neoconservatives do not exist.
3. Even if neoconservatives did exist, they certainly couldn’t be blamed for the disasters of the past eight years.
"There is no such thing as a neoconservative foreign policy," Perle informed the gathering, hosted by National Interest magazine. "It is a left critique of what is believed by the commentator to be a right-wing policy."
It gets more ludicrous. Read Dana Milbank’s whole piece.
Now, let’s take a peek at Richard Perle, just yesterday, giving an interview to the editor of The National Interest magazine (YouTube — sound quality is iffy, it’s not you). In the interview, Perle says that the Bush administration was incompetent, their foreign policy was crap, "Bush, himself, was not terribly articulate," and then he’s asked about his approach to current "neocon thinking:"
"I don’t believe there is such a thing as a neocon attitude on questions of foreign and defense policies. In that, neoconservatism arose in the context…largely in the context of domestic policies. It was a reaction against the belief in the effectiveness of large government. Which people like Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz and others began to adapt and doubt seriously. I can’t identify a distinctively neconservative foreign policy. Most of the people I know who have worked in the foreign policy and defense policy arena in government would describe themselves as pragmatists.
Now, ironically, the charge that people like Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith and me are ideologues comes from people who are often ideologues themselves: who have a blind faith in multilateral institutions, who believe in the efficacy of international law and international institutions like the United Nations which has proven itself incapable of serious action when required, with the rare exception. So I simply don’t accept the concept of a neoconservative foreign policy. I do understand the concept of a sort of false realist critique of what is said to be neoconservative thinking, and that critique seems to be riddled with ideological positions.
Get that? Perle is not a neoconservative because he says so, and anyone who says otherwise is simply too ideological to understand that he no longer cops to the label he gave himself by helping the neocon foreign policy agenda along at every turn from his in-and-out perch at AEI and the Defense Policy Board.
And that his fellow neocons identify with his policy recommendations? Irrelevent.
Nope, no neocons here, and you can’t make him say so. And just because Irving Kristol in the Weekly Standard says that there is a neoconservative foreign policy, that doesn’t mean there is one, okay? Except here’s Richard Perle in 2002 on PBS’ Think Tank:
Ben Wattenberg: Irving Kristol said a neoconservative is a liberal who’s been mugged by reality.
Richard Perle: Right. And I think that’s a fair description, and I suppose all of us were liberal at one time. I was liberal in high school and a little bit into college. But reality and rigor are important tonics, and if you got into the world of international affairs and you looked with some rigor at what was going on in the world, it was really hard to be liberal and naïve.
Perle himself applies Kristol’s neocon description to foreign policy. Ooops. Or this from Perle in 2003:
…"Is the Neoconservative Moment Over?" Perle’s answer: Not even close.
"Not only is the neoconservative movement not over, it’s just beginning," he said. "Also not over is the left’s obsession with neoconservatism…."
Pay no attention to that self-proclaimed neoconservative behind the curtain.
The neoconservative attempt at "re-branding has been going on for a while, just ask David Brooks and friends, but coming from Perle it is quite simply laughable. As principle author of "A Clean Break," Perle’s neocon credentials have been repeatedly carved in weapons contracts and influence peddling at the highest reaches of government. With a little personal enrichment sidecar, just for shits and giggles.
More Richard Perle moments? This 2002 interview with Charlie Rose (YouTube), where he pushes folks like Curveball and Ahmed Chalabi as awesome sources of intel on Iraq and all those nonexistent stockpiles of chem/bio/nuke weapons in Iraq. And this double whammy interview with Perle and Fred Kagan. (YouTube) Or this interview with Perle on Al Jazeera. (YouTube)
If you can get through those, you can survive anything.
I’d laugh about this, but the media still treats Perle as a legitimate, serious source of foreign policy and defense information instead of a lying con man. Someone explain to me why on earth that is?
UPDATE: Obsidian Wings has more.