Exclusive: The latest neocon gambit is to build support for “regime change” in Syria by downplaying the evils of Al Qaeda, rebranding it as some sort of “moderate” terrorist force whose Syrian affiliate is acceptable to Israel and supported by Saudi Arabia. But this audacious argument ignores reality, writes Daniel Lazare.
By Daniel Lazare
Just nine days after the fall of the World Trade Center, George W. Bush announced that he was imposing a radical new policy on virtually the entire globe: “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”
As dramatic as the statement was, just about every phrase was open to question in one form or another. But rather than launching into a long and vigorous debate about the meaning of terrorism or America’s right to impose diktat on the world at large, congressmen turned their minds off and gave Bush a standing ovation.
Today, the same Bush Doctrine is sinking beneath the waves as a growing portion of the punditocracy declares that some forms of terrorism are better than others and that harboring a terrorist may not be so bad if it advances U.S. interests. But once again, the response is not questioning, debate, or even applause, but silence.
The latest evidence of a sea change in establishment thinking is a blog that Ahmed Rashid, a prominent Middle East correspondent, recently published on The New York Review of Books website. Entitled “Why We Need al-Qaeda,” it argues that Al Qaeda and its Syrian affiliate, Al Nusra, are evolving in a more moderate direction in growing contrast to its rival, the super-violent Islamic State. So why not use Al Nusra as a counterforce against both Bashar al-Assad and ISIS?
As Rashid puts it: “Unlike ISIS, which demands absolute subjugation of the inhabitants of any territory it conquers (surrender or be executed), al-Nusra is cooperating with other anti-Assad groups…