Until recently, Jed Babbin was a contributing editor of The American Spectator and a mainstay of this site. Readers no doubt fondly remember and greatly miss his weekly “Loose Canons” column — which here makes a return guest appearance. He is a former Air Force JAG officer and served as a deputy undersecretary of defense in President George H. W. Bush’s administration. Currently, he is the editor of Human Events. His new book, In the Words of Our Enemies, is soon to be released. Previous works by Mr. Babbin include Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think and a novel, Legacy of Valor.
BC: Mr. Babbin, what is the central theme of In the Words of Our Enemies?
Jed Babbin: The reason I wrote this book is to create a hawkish diplomacy. If that sounds like an oxymoron, it shouldn’t. Churchill said of World War II that no war could more easily have been prevented by prompt action. Using the words of people such as Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez, and others I’m trying to get people to pay attention to potential enemies abroad and do what is necessary to either avoid war altogether or position America to win.
BC: Isn’t the acknowledgment that evil exists a prerequisite for the understanding of your positions? Why are so many Americans skeptical about the nature of evil? Is it due to our decadence and affluence?
Jed Babbin: Americans are skeptical because our government has — especially since 9/11 — told us that we should go about our business and they’d take care of the threats. Sure, we are affluent and some are sunk in decadence. But that’s not the only reason most of us are oblivious to the dangers arising in many places around the world.
BC: You state that Americans “tend to see our adversaries as people of the same mind as ourselves,” which is both accurate and absurd. Doesn’t the statement also illustrate the fallaciousness of multiculturalism? Its mandate seems to be that we should respect and suborn ourselves to people who are incapable of reciprocation.
Jed Babbin: That’s right as far as it goes, but this problem is much deeper. It’s akin to anthropomorphism. A cartoon animal that smiles and talks is as real as our view of many of our foreign opponents. We see our enemies and potential enemies in the terms we see ourselves: kind, peaceful, and existing in a live-and-let-live world. The real world isn’t much like that at all.
BC: What’s your opinion of those who condemn George W. Bush for neglecting diplomacy and who believe that diplomacy in itself will triumph over the likes of Iran and North Korea?
Jed Babbin: They alternately amuse and disgust me. The old “realist” crowd wants only diplomacy and is willing to wait forever for it to work. The “neocons” want to use democracy as a weapon, and do not understand that it’s not. Between them are folks such as me who want to fight this war in a manner calculated to win decisively — knowing that unless we do so we will lose it inevitably — and see nothing of the sort happening. Bush needs to undertake the hawkish diplomacy I’m describing, but seems incapable of it.
BC: It is your hope that by printing the words, speeches, and propaganda of our enemies you can enlighten the citizenry and allow them to make informed decisions. But what if many Americans aren’t interested in such considerations? The left especially is of a mindset that no land is as vile as our own.
Jed Babbin: I’m convinced there are very few people who really think that way. The Michael Mooron wing of the Democratic Party are like Churchill’s definition of a fanatic: someone who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject. Fortunately, there aren’t many like that. I know too many good, solid Americans from all over the country. They will, I believe, be receptive to the information this book assembles for the first time in one place. They’re not dumb.
BC: What’s your take on neoconservatism? Does it actually exist? Has it become synonymous with those who believe in a muscular national defense?
Jed Babbin: Neoconservatism is a psychopathology, parallel to liberalism, which exists in some corners of the White House and in the minds of all the liberals who need it as a way to label conservatives as whackos. Those who called Barry Goldwater a John Bircher now call serious defense-minded conservatives “neocons.” It happens to me all the time, and I take great offense. Thanks to the media’s willful mischaracterization of neoconservatism, anyone who wants to defend this nation with anything more than a “mother, may I?” to the UN is labeled a neocon. The basic problem with neocons is that they believe democracy is a weapon, not a system of government. Scared hell out of me to hear Rudy Giuliani talk about “nation-building” — the flip side of neoconservatism that forms the basis for losing wars — in a speech a coupla weeks ago.
There is a profound difference between real conservatives and neocons and it is best explained in the piece I wrote for Wlady in March 2006 entitled, “Endgame Conservatives.” In short form, war conservatives — “endgame conservatives,” if you will — want to attack the enemy at their centers of gravity and refuse to fight proxy wars such as what Iraq is now. That means destroying their ideology just like we destroyed Communism and forcibly ending the state sponsorship of terrorism. We object to spending lives on the “nation-building” nonsense. We believe we should have ended Saddam’s regime, propped up a provisional government and then pulled out of Iraq in about 60-90 days. The same approach should always apply — though the military measures we may have to take elsewhere will be much different. But the formula applies everywhere: kill a sufficient number of the right people, break enough of the right things, and say, “Hasta la vista, baby, and we’ll be back if you start messing with us again.”
BC:I laughed out loud when I saw your section on Fidel Castro. He’s made so many offensive utterances that you had to categorize them by the year. How is it that this stone-cold killer can continue to be esteemed by members of the political left?
Jed Babbin: Well, Leonard Bernstein isn’t around to be mau-maued anymore, but Chris Dodd acts in his stead. The lefties love Castro because he — like Dodd, Kennedy, Jane Fonda and the rest — is one of the ’60s love children. They remember their glory days, the fun they had at Woodstock smoking pot and wearing Che Guevara T-shirts (and nothing else). Fidel was part of all those glory days. It’s gonna be really hard on them when he dies: the end of their youth. It must seem like just yesterday that they were joining him in screaming for Nixon’s downfall.
BC: You quote Sout Al-Khalifa who said, “Broken and completely humiliated, George Bush, a fool who is being obeyed, announced his obvious incapability to deal with the wrath of Allah that visited the city of homosexuals.” This sentence made me think of the arguments of Dinesh D’Souza’s in The Enemy at Home. What do you make of the idea that our culture, and not our foreign policy, is what inflames the Islamofascists the most?
Jed Babbin: I dismiss both halves of that question — the premise and the suggestion — because they are both truly laughable. The only thing that is necessary for the Islamofascists to declare war against us is the fact that we aren’t yet enslaved by them. Two points: first, radical Islam is an ideology, not a religion. It provides for conquest, terrorism, death and — at best — poverty. It is a Middle Eastern version of Nazism; second, the Islamofascists have been at war with non-conforming Muslims — killing them as quickly as they can — since at least the 1920s when the final death-throes of the Ottoman Empire disturbed the Middle East. This ain’t our fault, no matter how you slice it.
BC: The Chinese have been issuing hate speech about us for many years. Is there anything we can do about it? Should we not treat China with excessive caution?
Jed Babbin: We do. But China, unlike the Islamofascisti, can be contained. Japan, unlike Taiwan, has awakened and is acting responsibly to defend itself. No nation — including us — has risen to superpower status except on a tide of war. If we can contain China and manage its emergence without war it will be a first.
BC: Chapter 9 concerns Vladimir Putin’s Russia and references an interview he did for Al Jazeera. I guess my question here kind of mirrors the one with China. The transcript reveals him putting forth the position that Hamas is not a terrorist organization. There’s no question that Mr. Putin meets well the definition of the phrase “two-faced,” but what can any U.S. politicians possibly do about his machinations?
Jed Babbin: U.S. pols are indisposed to do anything about Putin, politically or otherwise. The best thing would be for the Prez to admit he misjudged Putin. That won’t happen. But wouldn’t it be refreshing for one of the Republican presidential wannabes to mention Bad Vlad and say something like, “There — but for the grace of God — goes Brezhnev”? Bet you a box of Cuban cigars no such thing happens. Meanwhile, all we can do is make sure Raoul goes when his older brother expires. Because the CIA is such a mess, we ought to subcontract the job to the Israelis or the Brits.
BC: Do you buy Mark Steyn’s premise in America Alone that the democracies of the west may soon face extinction due to demographic decline? Do you see any way in which Europe can avoid becoming Eurabia?
Jed Babbin: Mark makes a convincing case. The numbers don’t lie, and unless the trend is reversed France — for example — won’t be French in another generation or two. Surprisingly, that won’t be good news.
BC: Lastly, do you have a favorite story with which to entertain our readers from your days at The American Spectator? Any tale ranging from mildly distasteful to truly irreverent will suffice.
Jed Babbin: Wow. There were so many great moments it’s hard to choose among them. So many dinners at R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.’s home (at which you never really knew who would pop in), the many times my loving wife would look at a draft column and say, “YOU CAN’T SAY THAT IN PRINT,” and — best of all — the reader mail from all over the world. The Spectator‘s audience is wonderful. Some day I will be able to tell the story of the bent key, the wired letter, and the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime. But not today.