Regime Change in America? Where’s the Meat?
by Dr. Robert D. Crane
Paul Findley, founder of the Council for the National Interest and author of the courageous book, They Dare to Speak Out, is a moral hero and in earlier times might have been canonized as a saint for standing up virtually alone to the Mongol Horde in Washington. Nevertheless, Congressman Findley’s speech at the recent ISNA Convention in Chicago prompts the question, “Where’s the meat?” His message boils down merely to “Stop Israel! Stop the War!” Then what? His approach is an exercise in futility. He gives a good speech, but with empty words.
In politics, defense rarely gets you anywhere except deeper into moral bankruptcy. In politics, the road to pro-active and constructive influence is not to attack leaders but to lead.
The question should be not how to oppose self-defeating policies, but how to support Israel’s enlightened interests as well as our own in America.
The question for Muslims is what can we do to help America develop enlightened policies within a framework of justice, not merely to defend ourselves against some legitimate criticism. The challenge for Muslims is to show what Islam stands for as a religion and way of life. The challenge for the followers of every religious tradition is exactly the same.
The question for all Americans is how can we together launch what President Ronald Reagan called a Second American Revolution? Twenty-one years ago he answered this question by convening the Presidential Task Force on Economic Justice to bring the framework of justice into the national discussion as the only way to revive the best of America’s past and build a better global future. His legacy has been developed by the leaders of this task force into a movement that calls itself a political party but functions really as a means to open up discussion within the two major parties to revolutionary change(http://www.americanrevolutionaryparty.us/partyplatform.htm).
The negative approach of the Democratic Party in the 2006 mid-term elections did result in at least partial regime change in America, but where are new policies to address the underlying causes of chaos? The debate so far resembles a bankrupt seeking to survive by switching from one empty credit card to another. Where is the strategy to revive America as a moral leader in the world?
The importance of a positive message is matched by the need to develop political muscle. A case in point is shown by the AIPAC News Brief of November 11th, 2006, which carries the heading, “AIPAC Builds Ties with New Lawmakers.” It reads as follows: “A non-partisan organization, AIPAC has for decades worked with Republican and Democratic members of Congress to strengthen the ties between the United States and Israel. ... AIPAC reached nearly every lawmaker elected in Tuesday’s mid-term congressional elections as part of its effort to educate political candidates on the value of the U.S.-Israel relationship. During the campaign that ended Tuesday, nearly every viable candidate met with AIPAC professional staff members and submitted a position paper summarizing his or her views on U.S. Middle East policy.”
AIPAC’s efforts in orienting every new member of Congress even before they were elected speaks volumes on how policy is made in Washington. Why is there not a network of a dozen or so think-tanks in Washington to arrange a briefing for every new congressperson on the potential of peace through justice evident in Hamas’ offer in the November 1, 2006, issue of the New York Times for a principled peace or hudna designed to secure the future of Jews and Muslims as joint inheritors of the Holy Land, building on their centuries-long history as each other’s reliable friend?
In Washington the professional orientation of new players begins the very moment they emerge on the scene. This past week, 41 new congresspersons started crash courses in their new responsibilities. This is standard operating procedure and has been for decades. In January, 1967, the Republican Party at the recommendation of Mel Laird, the future Secretary of Defense, arranged for me to brief the 40 new Republican congressmen on U.S. defense policies as part of the Nixon revolution within the Republican Party after the Goldwater defeat of 1964.
Jews and Muslims for peace through compassionate justice should have planned well in advance to brief the new congresspersons from the Class of 2006 on the possibilities for peace in the Holy Land through new policies of what President Carter’s mentor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, in 1967 called a strategy of peaceful engagement. This might include also a briefing on new possibilities for decentralizing political power in Iraq through a political federation based on devolving control of oil through the privatization of Iraqi oil resources through equal shares of inalienable voting stock to every resident of the federation, Shia, Kurd, and Sunni? It might also deal with the absurdity of creating an axis of evil by the self-fulfilling prophecy of treating Iran as its core constituent. It makes no sense for Iran to produce or acquire weapons of mass destruction in defense against what could and should be a non-existent American threat to its dignity and integrity.
This is a new day, or at least could be. As Richard Nixon said twelve years ago in his last book, Beyond Peace, erroneously attributed to me, “The twentieth century has been a period of conflict between the West and the Muslim world. If we work together we can make the twenty-first century not just a time of peace ... but a century in which, beyond peace, two great civilizations will enrich each other and the rest of the world.”
This wisdom was cited in my 200-page book, Shaping the Future: Challenge and Response, published in 1997, on page xxv, followed by Chapter One, entitled “The Strategic Value of Vision.” On page 9 of this chapter I assess the reason for the Democrats’ thumping loss of their House majority in my comment that, “The Democratic Party ... seemed to enter the 1994 elections without any commitment to the transcendent source of truth, justice, and love that alone can make compassion for the marginalized in society real.” On page xxviii of the introduction I spell out the message of the book in my statement that, “The time has come to launch think-tanks designed to use this paradigm of justice as the framework for addressing all the national and international issues that seem so insoluable today and to use the systemics of justice ... not to win elections but to shape the political conversation within the two mainline parties. ... This wisdom ... can bring ultimate success only if enlightened Muslims, Christians, and Jews who combine spiritual, activist, and intellectual sophistication can provide the necessary leadership.”
In one of my half dozen lengthy position papers, Policy Paper No. 3, sponsored by my Center for Policy Research in the late winter and spring of the Year 2000 to advise the incoming Republican Administration, I quote a position paper by Robert Gates, now the new Secretary of Defense. Writing in the New York Times on August 16th, 1998, in a vain effort to block the mindless bombing four days later of the Al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan, Gates stated prophetically, “The war [against terrorism] is the quintessential ‘long, twilight struggle,’ with limited casualties on the terrorists’s side, occasional appalling casualties on our side, and countless victims caught in between. We can bring some terrorists to justice. But, above all, we can pursue policies and strategies that in the long term weaken terrorism’s roots.” [italics added]
Secretary Gates continued, “We can pursue a peace in the Middle East that does not ... betray Ytizhak Rabin’s legacy. We can carefully pursue a nascent dialogue with President Muhammad Khatemi of Iran and not play into the hands of his militant domestic adversaries. And we can promote human rights and political freedom in the Middle East. ... But even this approach cannot be sustained absent a broader American strategy for dealing with the world beyond our borders.”
The key to good policy is what the British used to call “grand strategy.” This 83-page Policy Paper No. 3, entitled “The Grand Strategy of Justice,” begins with the statement: “Effective policy in either domestic or foreign affairs requires vision, mission, strategy and tactics. Too often policymakers may have a sense of mission, but they focus on tactics with incoherent linkage to strategy because they lack vision.”
This position paper continues: “Grand strategy links vision to tactics and operations. As defined in the by-laws of the Center for Policy Research, ‘Grand strategy is an intellectual framework and methodology for applying the art of vision and mission. This is accomplished by: 1) conceptualizing and analyzing reality from the most comprehensive and holistic perspective; 2) forecasting the dynamics of change; 3) planning proactively to shape the short-range and long-run future by continuing desirable trends and initiating desirable new trends; and 4) making decisions through management by objectives’.”
A major problem for Muslims in America is their own focus on themselves rather than on the bigger picture. As a result, even at their best, they have been crude amateurs in the political arena, reminding one of children in a family whose only argument in a name-calling contest is “you started it.” Now that opportunity finally knocks, after a long six-year dark age, Muslims should join others in providing vision and direction, and in shaping agendas, because this is what ultimately controls policies and shapes the global future.
The underlying problem can be seen in focusing too exclusively on the very legitimate mission of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), which for more than a decade has been the most effective Muslim organization in America. Like all the other national Muslim organizations in America, its official mission is to “enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims, empower Muslims, and promote coalitions of Muslims and non-Muslims to enhance mutual understanding.”
These important goals can be pursued most effectively in combination with a mission that focuses on cooperating with other like-minded centers, both Muslim and non-Muslim, in translating America’s purposes, as prioritized in the Preamble to the American Constitution, into public policy. These begin with justice and conclude with freedom as its product.
In other words, Muslims need to build on the universal principles shared by the world religions in a common mission to apply justice as the criterion and purpose of all public policy. Stated differently, on contrast to the mission of CAIR, the highest mission of Muslims in America should be to enhance understanding of America in the world, help America empower others, promote coalitions of Americans and non-Americans, and enhance mutual understanding and cooperation in bringing out the best of America’s past in order to shape a better global future.
Politically oriented Muslims in America can best shape the global future by focusing not merely on countering the threats to Muslims but on forecasting and lobbying in support of long-run opportunities to enhance America’s global leadership. This emphasis on opportunities rather than on threats would support the purposes of CAIR but go far beyond them.
An important move in this direction was taken by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in October, 2006, when its long-term Secretary General, Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, launched its new Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances, based in Washington.
Muslims should participate in the movement toward interfaith understanding but should take the lead in going beyond this by promoting practical policies for interfaith cooperation in the pursuit of compassionate justice. Muslim professionals should monitor current policies of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the federal government, as well as of the media and think-tank community, in order to evaluate them within the universal framework of compassionate justice. Muslims should work together with a select group of the 2,000 think-tank and research centers in Washington to translate the moral principles of justice into guidance for their own agendas and for the agendas of opinion leaders and government decision-makers in order thereby to shape specific long-run policies on behalf of America’s global leadership. Muslims should help in forming a network of standing working groups to address this mission and should hold an annual conference, as does the Heritage Foundation, for the heads of a hundred or so like-minded think-tanks to orchestrate their strategy.
We now have at least a partial regime change in America, the fire is burning brightly, but to provide a model for the world, we need to put some meat in the pot.