WHERE ARE YOU, Stanley Kubrick, now that we need you? Forty years ago, he gave us the classic film satire, ''Dr. Strangelove, or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.'' Richard Perle would have the star turn in a new Kubrick version, appearing as the second coming of the Prince of Darkness. He certainly has been a busy fellow of late.
First, Perle is the proud, hardly modest, behind-the-scenes promoter of the present Iraq policy. Then we have Perle, lobbyist extraordinaire. Several companies, charged by the Department of Defense and the FBI with dubious connections to the Chinese government, retained Perle to lobby the Pentagon in their behalf. The revelations prompted Perle to resign as chairman of the Defense Policy Board, but he remains a member -- a distinction without a difference.
Perle's real importance is in the realm of policy and strategic doctrines. He has pursued an ambitious agenda for years, which now is momentarily triumphant. Sadly, it has gone largely unnoticed and unchallenged.
As the Iraqi war opened, Perle published a lengthy piece in the Spectator in England, followed by an edited version in The Guardian. ''Thank God for the death of the UN,'' the article announced. Perle confidently proclaimed a dual victory: the defeat of Saddam Hussein and the collapse of the United Nations -- the ''chatterbox on the Hudson.''
He mocked opponents of American policy, both at home and abroad, as soft and naive. His vision is clear: States that possess weapons of mass destruction or terrorists will be confronted by ''coalitions of the willing'' -- the best hope for ''a new world order.'' Perle rejected any pretense for collective security; the United States has the only legitimate claim to enforce the new order. If others want to sign on as active or passive members of the coalition, fine; if not, it is of no consequence.
The Iraq adventure has swollen Perle's arsenal of objectives for our new policies. He recently spoke to a Goldman Sachs conference and advised participants on the war and investment opportunities to come. The conference title tells it all: ''Implications of an Imminent War: Iraq Now. North Korea Next?''
The large combat effort in Iraq might be approaching the end, whatever that is. Now, as we promised, we must turn to Iraq's reconstruction (and its myriad investment opportunities for American corporations), as well as the installation of a democratic regime. But the pressing issue is whether we want the American imperium and new world order that Richard Perle and others have brought us. Will we continue a policy of preemptive wars, contempt for other nations, and a repudiation of the principle of collective security?
Perle's ethics, and not his ideas, have momentarily clouded his triumphant ascendancy. Global Crossing, a company that developed a 100,000-mile high-speed fiber optic network, collapsed with $12.4 billion in debt more than a year ago. The company has received a sale offer of $250 million from a Hong Kong-based firm. But the Defense Department and the FBI objected to the sale, claiming that the deal raised national security and law enforcement problems.
Global Crossing retained Perle for $700,000 to overcome the government's objections. At the time, Perle chaired the Defense Policy Board, a shadowy group of outside advisers, most noted for their ideological compatibility with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Ethical problem? Not for Perle. Perle initially insisted that he was not lobbying the Policy Board. Of course not; why waste time there when he could deal at the very top level? Global Crossing hired him precisely because he has the wherewithal to do so. Meanwhile, the company is bankrupt, the stock is worthless, and bond holders will get pennies on the dollar. Nice work if you can get it.
President Bush committed to this war long ago; he was determined to have it. But what is to follow? Perle rides high for the moment; his ideas and advocacy of them remain dominant. He has made it clear that the Iraq venture represents only the beginning of a bold new American policy, one which the United States will unilaterally enforce to impose its will.
Where is the voice of opposition? Muted by the preoccupation with the battlefield, maybe it will assert itself when the fighting abates, and organize to challenge Perle and his crowd. Then we can determine whether Perle's vision of a new world order is what we want -- or need.
Stanley I. Kutler is the author of ''The Wars of Watergate.''
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