One of the biggest deceits about the neo-conservative movement is that it is implacably hostile to militant Islam. Neo-conservatives championed the radical Islamic cause in Afghanistan in the 70s and 80s, in the Balkans in the 90s and continue to champion it in Chechnya today.
What the neo-con empire builders hate most of all is not radical Islamists, but secularists, socialists, and those who believe in progressive, uniting ideologies such as pan-Arabism, pan-Slavism or Bolivarianism. Further proof of this can be seen in the neo-conservatives' obsession, throughout the 1990s, with toppling the secular, Ba'athist regime in Iraq.
If the Richard Perles and Paul Wolfowitzes of this world had been genuinely concerned with stopping the spread of militant Islam after 9-11, the last country in the Middle East they would have attacked was Ba'athist Iraq, whose government had no links with al'Qaida. The correct policy in 2002, as I argued in the Spectator at the time, was not to attack Iraq, but instead to initiate a new policy of engagement:
By restoring diplomatic links with Baghdad, Britain would be acknowledging at long last the key role that Ba'athist governments have to play in Middle East security as a bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism. Like it or not, the most likely alternative to the secular regimes of Assad in Syria and Saddam in Iraq would be militant Islamic ones. For all its lack of 'Western freedoms', Iraq has had for the last 20 years a practising Christian as its deputy prime minister. In no other Islamic country in the region has a non-- Muslim risen to such prominence. If Lady Thatcher sincerely believes militant Islam to be the 'new Bolshevism', then she has chosen a rather strange target in Iraq.
Iraq was indeed a 'a rather strange target' if containing the spread of radical Islam was the aim. But of course it never was. For the Iraqi people, the last three years have been a nightmare. For Christians in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, the situation, as the Archbishop of Canterbury highlighted yesterday, is particularly bleak. In the place of one stable, secular state in which Christians were accorded protection and freedom of conscience, Iraq has been transformed into an inferno of religious and ethnic hatred. And the lives of millions of ordinary people around the world have been put in increased danger- as the bomb attacks on Madrid, Casablanca, Bali and London testify.