A Dangerous Appointment: Profile of Douglas Feith
Sat Nov 15 02:05:33 2003
A Dangerous Appointment: Profile of Douglas Feith, Undersecretary of Defense
This is what Douglas Feith looks like. He has immense and terrifying power
despite having never been elected. Something he has in common with the
They just can't help themselves. According to a Newsday report in August,
neo-cons in the Pentagon working for Douglas Feith have been meeting with
Iranians involved in the secret, and illegal, Iran-Contra operation:
the State Department has complained that the Pentagon was doing freelance
foreign policy planning. Two Pentagon officials, including one who worked under
Feith outside the special plans office, met in 2001 with Iranians
arms-for-hostages figure Manucher Ghorbanifar in Europe, and one Pentagon
official later met with him again in June 2003
No word on what kind of insanity they're cooking up, but considering the
Director of Middle East Affairs in the White House, Eliott Abrams, was actually
convicted for his role on the Iran-Contra scheme - and then pardoned by big Bush
- I guess they still have all those phone numbers handy.
The same Newsday article does deliver a bit of good news though - the Pentagon
has responded to criticism in the press that the spookily-named "Office of
Special Plans" - also staffed by neo-con nuts reporting to Feith and Paul
Wolfowitz, and chiefly responsible for delivering to the White House slanted,
worst-case scenario interpretations of 'intelligence' about Iraqi WMD the CIA
thought meaningless - will be reformed. They've taken the sweeping, radical step
of renaming it - the Northern Gulf Affairs Office.
Hmm, let's see, what else is north of the Persian Gulf besides Iraq? Oh yeah,
Douglas J. Feith, the new Undersecretary of Policy at the U.S. Department of
Defense, believes in “good” versus “darkness” duality. Defining Middle East
conflict in his absolute terms puts serious questions whether or not someone
with his views can fairly serve in his critical post asks James Zogby*.
Douglas J. Feith has been appointed Undersecretary of Policy at the U.S.
Department of Defense (DOD). This is one of the Pentagon’s four senior posts,
charged with "all matters concerning the formulation of national security and
defense policy and the integration and oversight of DOD policy and plans."
Additionally, among his many areas of responsibility according to the DOD, the
undersecretary of policy has the responsibility to:
- "Develop policy on the conduct of alliances and defense relationships with
foreign governments, their military establishments and international
- "Develop, coordinate, and oversee the implementation of international security
strategy and policy…on issues…that relate to foreign governments and their
defense establishments; and
- "Provide oversight of all DOD activities related to international technology
This is a powerful position with great influence. Feith’s appointment to this
post is a matter of great concern.
Feith has had a long career in both government service and the private sector.
During the Reagan Administration he served as the White House National Security
Staff and in the Defense Department as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for
Negotiations Policy. He also served as Special Counsel to Richard Perle, then
Assistant Secretary of Defense.
Feith is an attorney with the Washington firm of Feith and Zell. His own
biography says that he specializes in "technology transfer, joint ventures and
foreign investment in the defense and aerospace industries."
On the political front, Feith has been associated with the Cold War
"neo-conservative" school of thought. What is of concern here is the extent to
which Feith has transposed the neo-conservative worldview onto the Middle East.
As his fellow cold warriors defined the world in ideological dualistic terms—the
forces of absolute good confronting the forces of absolute evil—Feith defines
the Arab-Israeli conflict in similar terms.
A prolific writer, Feith has left a long paper trail of anti-Arab tracts and
diatribes against those who challenge or seek to compromise Israel’s strength
and as he defines it, "moral superiority" over the Arabs.
As was the case in the Cold War battle against Communism, in Feith’s view, there
can be no place for compromise between Israel and the Arabs. Since he defines
the Middle East conflict in absolute terms, the only option for Israel is to
confront its Arab enemies until they are defeated, which, in his worldview,
means when they submit and accept Israel’s legitimacy and sovereignty over all
of mandatory Palestine.
Since Israel represents the "good" and "our values," in Feith’s view, it is
necessary for the United States to identify with Israel in its struggle against
the forces of "darkness," the Arabs. This means providing Israel with superior
military strength and political support. It also means that the United States
should never pressure Israel either to surrender land or to compromise its
hegemonic position in the region.
Throughout his career, Feith has articulated views such as these.
In the late 1970s, for example, he criticized then President Jimmy Carter’s Camp
David effort to bring about a "comprehensive peace"—a concept he decried as
false since it required Israel to weaken itself by surrendering "Judea and
Samaria" to the Arabs. Feith’s logic was that
- Arabs have no legal rights in Palestine;
- Palestinians are not a "national group as such" and, therefore, have no
special claim to Judea and Samaria;
- Jordan is the Palestinian state for the Arabs; and
- No pressure should be brought against Israel for building settlements in Judea
and Samaria, since it is their right to do so.
Operating from this framework, Feith argues that the notion that "the core of
the Arab-Israeli conflict is the issue of the stateless Palestinians" is a
clever Arab trap designed solely to weaken Israel by threatening its
relationship with the United States and its hold over Judea and Samaria.
He, therefore, condemned the Carter Administration for its opposition to
Israel’s settlement policy since, in his view, this "only encouraged Arabs to
believe that they could win benefits from the United States by refusing to make
concessions to Israel."
For Feith, Arab objections to Zionism were at the core of the conflict. Israeli
withdrawal from the occupied territories would not solve the conflict, only Arab
acceptance of and submission to Israel would end it. Summarizing his
recommendations to the Carter Administration, Feith suggested in a 1979 article
that they, "(1) abandon the view that Judea-Samaria is the crux of the
Arab-Israeli conflict, (2) acknowledge that the crux is really the Arab refusal
to accept a Jewish state in Palestine, (3) renounce quarreling over Israel’s
rights in Judea-Samaria, which encourages Arab inflexibility and damages
valuable U.S.-Israeli ties, (4) confine itself to the role of mediator, rather
than party, to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and thus (5) inform Damascus, Amman,
the Palestinian Arabs, and Riyadh that if they want an alteration in Jerusalem’s
policies they had best start negotiating with Jerusalem, as Sadat has done, and
quit relying on Washington to ‘deliver’ the Israelis."
In the 1980s and 90s, Feith continued his criticism of any U.S. policy that
deviated from his view. He criticized the Bush Administration for denying Israel
loan guarantees and for pressuring the Shamir government to come to the Madrid
His advice to the Bush Administration in 1991 echoed his earlier recommendations
to the Carter White House. The U.S. government should, he suggested, require the
- "Drop the slogan of ‘land for peace,’ which skeptical Israelis must suspect is
a program for dismantling Israel in stages, and simply offer peace. That is,
they could put forward an open, unqualified, non-grudging and sincere
acknowledgement that the Jewish people are entitled to a state in a Jewish
- "Abandon the name game by which they apply the label ‘Palestine’ only to the
20 percent of the British Mandate Palestine that lies west of the Jordan River.
So long as one’s goal is the elimination of Israel, one does well to pretend
that the Kingdom of Jordan, which occupies the other 80 percent of Mandate
Palestine, is not a Palestinian state. That makes it possible to propagandize
that the Jews control all the land and the Arabs of Palestine are ‘stateless.’"
During the Clinton years, Feith continued to oppose any agreement negotiated
between the Israelis and Palestinians: Oslo, Hebron and Wye.
At one point he defined Oslo as, "one-sided Israeli concessions, inflated
Palestinian expectations, broken Palestinian solemn understandings, Palestinian
violence…and American rewards for Palestinian recalcitrance."
His objection to the Hebron and Wye understandings, however, is more interesting
because it was his ideological soul mate, then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu, who had agreed to them.
In 1996, Feith, together with Richard Perle wrote an advisory paper for the
newly elected Likud Prime Minister. In that piece, entitled "A Clean Break: a
New Strategy for Securing the Realm," they advised Netanyahu to: "make a clean
break from the peace process;" reassert Israel’s claim to its land by rejecting
"land for peace" as the basis of peace; strengthen Israel’s defenses to better
confront Syria and Iraq; and forge a new and stronger relationship with the
United States based on self-reliance and mutual interest.
Feith was, therefore, deeply disappointed when Netanyahu appeared to accept the
basis of Oslo and sign two additional agreements with the Palestinians that
turned more land over to them. In a lengthy piece written in 1997 "A Strategy
for Israel," Feith returned to his neo-conservative roots arguing that "land for
peace" was a fabrication designed to weaken Israel. Peace would only come when
Arab and specifically Palestinian society was transformed into a democratic,
law-abiding and peaceful one. Since Oslo had created unrealistic expectations
and rewarded bad Palestinian behavior, the only solution for Israel was to
repudiate Oslo and "reestablish an effective security and intelligence policy in
the areas under Palestinian Authority control" (i.e. reoccupy the West Bank and
Gaza). He went on to note that "the price in blood would be high," but would be,
a necessary form of "detoxification—the only way out of Oslo’s web."
Despite his apparent obsession with the Arab-Israel conflict, Feith has written
about a number of other Middle East-related topics. In all cases, inspired by
the same pro-Israel, anti-Arab Manichean worldview.
He has written condemning U.S. politicians for estranging themselves from Israel
in order to accommodate Arab oil states. He has associated himself with a
controversial strategy paper that suggested, among other options, that the U.S.
might lead a Kuwait-style invasion and war of liberation to oust Syria from
Lebanon. And he has been one of Washington’s strongest advocates supporting the
Iraq Liberation Act.
As disturbing as Feith’s views may be, his political associations cause even
greater concern. In recent years, Feith has frequently been featured in the
activities of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). Known for its virulent
anti-Arab incitement, the ZOA regularly attacks all Arab American political
activity and demonizes politicians who hire Arab Americans or even associate
with community organizations. The ZOA also frequently attacks American Jews whom
they feel are not in line with their extremist pro-Likud philosophy.
In just the past few years, Feith was the Guest of Honor at ZOA’s 100th
Anniversary Gala Banquet. He served as Master of Ceremony at two other major ZOA
functions and has been a frequent participant at ZOA sponsored policy briefings
on Capitol Hill supporting that organization’s anti-Palestinian legislative
Feith’s law practice in Washington sheds further light on the one-sided nature
of his work. His small law firm has one international affiliate, in Israel. Over
two-thirds of all their reported casework involves representing Israeli
interests. And, in light of Feith’s new appointment, one of these cases deserves
some attention. As described on the firm’s website, Feith "represented a leading
Israeli armaments manufacturer in establishing joint ventures with leading U.S.
aerospace manufacturers for manufacture and sale of missile systems, to the U.S.
Department of Defense and worldwide."
Feith has long been a strong advocate for Israeli military technology. In a 1992
article, he wrote that the U.S. should deepen its military cooperation with
Israel noting that, "Israel has a number of unique military technologies that it
behooves the U.S. armed forces to acquire, such as unmanned aircraft and air-to
ground missiles. With shrinking U.S. defense budgets, it is less expensive for
the Defense Department to acquire these technologies from the Israelis than to
pay to have them reinvented."
He also observed in the same piece that, "It is in the interest of the U.S. and
Israel to remove needless impediments to technological cooperation between them.
Technologies in the hands of responsible, friendly countries facing military
threats, countries like Israel, serve to deter aggression, enhance regional
stability and perhaps also promote peace thereby."
In the private sector, Feith is free to hold whatever views he wishes to hold,
associate with whomever he wishes to associate, and do whatever legitimate
business comes his way. But serious questions must be asked whether or not
someone with his views and associations can fairly serve in a critical post at
the Department of Defense. I, for one, am terrified at the prospect. He is
ideologue with an extreme anti-Arab bias, and his role in the sensitive position
of chief architect of U.S. defense policy can, I believe, have grave
consequences for the United States and its relations with the entire Arab world.
For comments or information, contact or .
* Dr. James J. Zogby is President of Arab American Institute.
Another article describing Douglas Feith's ideas:
Israeli Settlements: Legitimate, Democratically Mandated, Vital To Israel's
Security And, Therefore, In U.S. Interest from the Freeman Center for Strategic
Studies, a Texas-based pro-Zionist group.
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