The Committee on the Present Confusion

With full-page ads in The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Washington Times trumpeting its slide down the spillways, The Committee on the Present Danger has been relaunched.

The 1970s committee of Republican hawks and neoconservatives denounced detente and called for clarity, courage and perseverance in the Cold War against a Soviet empire that had overrun Southeast Asia and was on the march in Africa and close to strategic superiority.

The declaration of principles and purposes of the new committee, however, help explains why support for President Bush’s war is crumbling. It is pure mush. It reads like the final communique, negotiated in some all-night session of deputies, of a contentious meeting of the G-8.

”America faces its greatest threat in a generation,” declares the CPD. ”An organized global movement — assisted by rogue regimes — has adopted mass terror as a weapon to achieve political goals.” OK, fine. But nowhere is this ”organized global movement” even named. If it is al Qaeda, why not say so? But if it is al Qaeda, it is hard to think of any regime, rogue or not, that supports it. Even the Iranians, whose diplomats were murdered by the Taliban, helped us finish them off. Who, then, are the rogue regimes? And what are the ”political goals” that this ”global movement” hopes to achieve?

Of late, al Qaeda has been targeting the Saudis. Perhaps the CPD did not wish to name this political goal of the terrorists, because so many of the neocon signers of the CPD ad share a similar desire to see the Saudi monarchy dumped over.

”We are joined together,” the ad declares, ”by the recognition that no accommodation can be made with terrorists.” But terrorism is a tactic, a weapon used in wars of liberation by the IRA, the Stern Gang, the Mau Mau, the Algerian FLN, the Viet Cong, the ANC and a dozen other movements. Not only have we made accommodations with the regimes that came out of these movements; we are giving most of them foreign aid.

Was FDR wrong to accommodate Stalin to defeat Hitler? Was Nixon wrong to go to Beijing and accommodate Mao Tse-tung in the Shanghai Communique? Were not Stalin and Mao two of the greatest terrorists of the 20th century?

Bush’s father made an accommodation with Hafez al Assad, who had slaughtered thousands of Muslims in Hama, for help in ousting Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. Was the elder Bush wrong to do so? In ousting the Taliban, George W. Bush enlisted a Northern Alliance of warlords whose hands were soaked in blood. Was he wrong, too?

“No accommodation can be made with terrorists.”

OK. Why, then, does the CPD not denounce Bush for trumpeting his deal with Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi and letting this instigator of the Berlin discotheque bombing and Lockerbie massacre out of the sanctions box? Is Bush not accommodating a terrorist in return for his surrender of weapons of mass destruction?

The new CPD calls for ”strategic clarity” and for ”educating the American people on the nature of the danger.” But what the CPD is offering is none of the clarity of the Cold War nor any of the passionate certitude of ”Remember Peal Harbor!” The closest it comes to educating us about the enemy we face is this line: “Victory over terror inspired by radical Islamists — fought in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere — will also be a long struggle.”

But Hussein was ”not inspired by radical Islamists”; he was a secular despot. He despised Islamists. He fought an eight-year war with the leading Islamist state, Iran.

Something is fishy here. While that CPD ad has 40 signers, only three are big-name Republicans: Sen. John Kyl, Jack Kemp and Ed Meese. The rest of the list reads like the head table at the annual American Enterprise Institute dinner. Yet, Pete Hannaford, a former Reagan aide, told The Post that he put this all together after talking with a “variety of friends.”

No way. This is a front group. Somebody had to pony up the hundreds of thousands of bucks to pay for these ads. Who’s behind it?

Says The Post, “Initial costs have been made from a grant from two businessmen whom he (Hannaford) declined to identify.”

Now we’re getting somewhere. As Deep Throat said, “Follow the money!”