Famed Prince of Darkness Richard Perle is a political animal unique to Washington. He has successfully melded personal, ideological and commercial entrepreneurship into a polished package that looks kosher just so long as no one examines its particulars. Too bad for Perle, Rabbi Sy Hersh decided to take a look in the March 17 New Yorker.
Together with Paul Wolfowitz, Perle is the primary intellectual architect of George W. Bush’s foreign policy. Exercising his influence through his many protégés, whom he’s placed in key jobs throughout the Pentagon and elsewhere, Perle’s only official role is as voluntary chair of the President’s Defense Policy Board. This leaves him free not only to say what he pleases but to do what he wants.
Having spent decades in and out of office, feeding journalists and seeing his “genius” promoted in return, Perle has employed his semi-oracular status to promote war with Iraq while consistently underestimating its likely costs. As Perle told US News & World Report: “The Iraqi opposition is kind of like an MRE [meals ready to eat, a freeze-dried Army field ration]. The ingredients are there and you just have to add water, in this case U.S. support.” Testifying before Congress in 2000, Perle insisted, “We need not send substantial ground forces into Iraq when patriotic Iraqis are willing to fight to liberate their country.” Last year, he conceded that the US troop requirement might go as high as 40,000.
The above sounds quite incredible, given that 250,000 troops are poised for invasion as we go to press. But credibility was never the point; provocation was. In August of last year, Perle told the New York Times, “The failure to take on Saddam after what the president said would produce such a collapse of confidence in the president that it would set back the war on terrorism.” He also frequently insults US political opponents in intensely personal terms, complaining that France has lost its “moral fiber” and Germany is headed by “a discredited chancellor.” Perle serves the valuable function of giving voice to the Bush Administration’s genuine goals and emotions while remaining distanced from official responsibility. That’s why Perle, almost alone in Washington, is allowed to goad the President in public and yet remain in the good graces of his loyalty-obsessed Administration.
Not satisfied with helping to inspire a war–not that big a deal, really, to a guy who’s had a hand in derailing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and upending US-Soviet arms control agreements–Perle apparently thought it would be glorious to be rich as well. In his spare time, it turns out, he is also managing partner in a venture-capital company called Trireme Partners, which invests in companies “dealing in technology, goods, and services that are of value to homeland security and defense.” In his New Yorker piece Hersh raised questions about whether Perle had violated the terms of his service on the Policy Board and noted the confluence of his business interests with his government work.