02/19/2009 03:02 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Perles of Wisdom

Neocon maestro Richard Perle spoke at a National Interest lunch today filled with everyone from his old Reagan administration antagonist Richard Burt, former ambassador to Germany, to Milt Bearden, a former CIA officer, to Jim Lobe, who assiduously tracks the neocons as head of Inter Press Services. Perle was eloquent, suave--and in full denial mode: there is no such thing as neocons, if there were they never exercised much influence, Douglas J. Feith never ran a secret intelligence operation, and, in any case, there was ample room to suspect the quality of the CIA's information, and so on.

What was most interesting about Perle's talk, however, wasn't raking over old history about Iraq, but assessing relations between Israel and Iran now that Benjamin Netanyhu, who has always been close to Washington neocons, looks set to become prime minister with the aid of Avigdor Lieberman. Perle argued that if a bombing raid were to take place on Iranian facilities, it wouldn't need to be a massive attack that included the leadership of Iran. Instead, it could be a limited one. He didn't say it, but it sounded like the sort of thing that Israel could carry out by itself.
In 1996, the neocons originally drafted a policy paper called "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm" that recommended that Israel upend the Middle East by abandoning the Oslo Accords and to create proxy armies to destabilize Israel's enemies. This document can be seen as the foundation stone for the unilateralist Bush administration foreign policy that emerged after September 11. With Netanyahu back in the saddle, a new avenue of influence for the neocons may well open up.