In his book Petrodollar Warfare, William R. Clark discusses the influence of nineteenth century Jewish philosopher Leo Strauss on neoconservative thinking. Strauss stated that societies were divided into three types of people:
There are indeed three types of men: the wise, the gentlemen, and the vulgar. The wise are the lovers of the harsh, unadulterated truth. They are capable of looking into the abyss without fear and trembling. They recognise neither God nor moral imperatives. They are devoted above all to their own pursuit of the “higher” pleasures.
The second type, the gentlemen, are lovers of honour and glory. They are the most ingratiating towards the conventions of their society – that is, the illusions of the cave. They are true believers in God, honour, and moral imperatives. They are ready and willing to embark on acts of great courage and self-sacrifice at a moment’s notice.
The third type, the vulgar many, are lovers of wealth and pleasure. They are selfish, slothful, and indolent. They can be inspired to rise above their brutish existence only by fear of impending death or catastrophe.
(Strauss quoted in Clark, pp. 100-101)
Strauss claims that only those who realise that there is no such thing as morality – only the right of the superior to rule over the inferior – are fit to govern. However, he also stressed that religion is an essential tool for imposing moral law on the masses, but the wise should not be bound to religion themselves. Which religion is of little consequence. Clark writes that Straussian theory was highly influential on those in the Bush Administration in 2001, and this was apparent in the web of lies concocted in order to wage war on Iraq in 2003. He says:
While the elite are capable of absorbing the absence of any moral truth, Strauss thought, the masses could not be exposed to the truth or they would fall into nihilism or anarchy. His ideology of governing via secrecy, deception, and the imperative of a broad external threat to “inspire the vulgar many” provides a tragic parallel to the neoconservative strategy regarding Iraq.
(Clark, p. 101)
Ex-Deputy Secretary of Defense and prime architect of the Bush Doctrine, Paul Wolfowitz studied under Strauss’ tutorship as a graduate student, and his philosophy is also evident when looking at the careers of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld etc.
Strauss’ principles and their influence on Washington policy-makers are worth bearing in mind when thinking about America’s foreign policy in the Middle East today, specifically its readiness to topple secular governments. Despite Barack Obama being a Democrat president, his administration’s abroad policies continue to toe the neo-con line.
When Bush and Blair invaded and destroyed Iraq, the war was sold to the public as a preventative measure to eliminate Saddam Hussein’s (non-existent) stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, because of the dictator’s (non-existent) ties to al-Qaeda, and – perhaps most insulting of all – to liberate the Iraqi people. When Obama assumed the presidency in 2008, he promised to be the kind of leader to end wars rather than start them, and to seek solutions based on diplomacy and soft power rather than military might. However, while the current administration maintains this friendly facade, it has in reality gone further than ever before to establish American hegemony, covertly using religion as a tool to achieve this.
The toppling of Saddam Hussein converted Iraq from a secular state into a hornet’s nest of sectarian strife and a breeding ground for militant Islam. While this is often considered to be an unintended consequence of the war, in reality this was the desired outcome for the American elite. A unified, secular country may lead to aspirations which do not conform with US interests (meaning those of Wall Street and the energy sector); religious fanaticism is preferable to nationalism.
This reasoning explains why NATO had to intervene in Libya, in the guise of a ‘humanitarian intervention’. Libya’s secular leader Muammar Gaddafi had transformed the once colonised country into the pearl of Africa, and not long before his death had discussed proposals to create an African gold Dinar currency. Today Libya is a failed state, and its gold reserves have been plundered. Contrary to the western media’s narrative of country-wide protests by the Libyan people that were violently repressed by the Gaddafi regime, such atrocities were in reality committed by violent jihadists in order to sow chaos. Battle-hardened fighters whom had killed American and British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan were now receiving NATO air cover in order to overthrow the country’s leadership. Three years later, Libya has two parliaments rivaling for power, and Islamist militias refuse to disarm.
After the ‘successful’ removal of Gadaffi, weapons and al-Qaeda aligned fighters began flowing from Benghazi to Syria, all with the backing of the CIA – in order to destroy the last remaining secular country in the Middle East. As Strauss dictates, the American (and British) public are deceived into believing that our government’s intentions are altruistic. Thus our now open (where it had previously been covert) funding and arming of “moderate” Islamists the Free Syrian Army is portrayed as a move to bring western-style democracy to the Syrian people, rather than continuing to prolong their suffering and fanning the flames of Sunni/Shia sectarianism. Once this operation has been completed, Washington will be well and truly on their Path to Persia. Despite Iran being an Islamic Republic, it remains ambitious, and – compared to say, its regional rival Saudi Arabia – is much more secular in nature; the majority of citizens see themselves as Iranians first, and Muslim second.
Syria and Iran are two of the world’s remaining nations to have a state-run banking system and gold reserves which fall outside of the global private central banking syndicate; once the removal of their current anti-imperial/anti-Western regimes are removed, the long-term geopolitical goals of America’s neo-cons will be almost complete. By maintaining its covert support for violent jihadism and religious fundamentalism in the Middle East, the US ensures that the vulgar many continue to fight among themselves rather than the corporate interests plundering their wealth and resources, and most importantly of all: prevent the Arab states from uniting and turning their attention to the Zionist occupiers – a simple strategy of divide and conquer.
Project for the New American Century
Brookings’ “Which Path to Persia?”