Norman Podhoretz believes that America needs to go to war soon with Iran. As far as he knows, Rudy Giuliani thinks the same thing.
“I was asked to come in and give him a briefing on the war, World War IV,” said Mr. Podhoretz, a founding father of neoconservatism and leading foreign policy adviser to Mr. Giuliani. “As far as I can tell there is very little difference in how he sees the war and how I see it.”
During a long interview this week in his bookcase-lined East 81st Street home, Mr. Podhoretz, 77, explained the very straightforward proposition he has been proposing to Mr. Giuliani from the start of the campaign: “The choice before us is either bomb those nuclear facilities or let them get the bomb.”
In the apartment, a Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded by President Bush was displayed next to records of Bach and Beethoven, tin African sculptures and Japanese furniture. A picture of his son, John Podhoretz, the new editor of Commentary, which he himself edited for decades, was stuck to the refrigerator. Two of his grown Israeli grandchildren, one in a tank top, the other in an Atari T-shirt, watched television in John’s old room.
In July, Mr. Giuliani named Mr. Podhoretz a senior adviser on a foreign policy team subsequently stockpiled with more neoconservatives, including Middle East historian Daniel Pipes and Paul Wolfowitz acolyte Michael Rubin.
To Mr. Podhoretz’s obvious admiration, the Giuliani campaign seems to have become something of a lifeboat for neoconservatives shipwrecked after the Bush administration’s failures in Iraq.
“Well, I’m not finished,” said Mr. Podhoretz, who has just come out with a new book titled World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism.
“I think it is interesting that he doesn’t think that this is a liability,” he continued. “He is certainly aware of the fact that some people see it as a liability or use it against him.”
Not, Mr. Podhoretz believes, that all voters will see things that way.
“It’s certainly not hurt him in the South,” he said. “It may be that he thinks having a preponderance of hawks among his advisers, forget about neoconservatives, is good for his campaign. And from what I can gather, this has proved to be the case in South Carolina—you have a lot of military families.”
In addition, while his foreign policy ideas may be in bad odor with voters, they most certainly seem to remain the prevailing sentiment in the White House, with President Bush talking about “WWIII” in relation to Iran and Vice President Dick Cheney this week promising “serious consequences” if Tehran does not abandon its nuclear program.
And just as he has helped encourage Mr. Giuliani’s muscular international posture, Mr. Podhoretz can take some credit for the Bush administration’s articulated worldview.
In late spring, he met with President Bush at the Waldorf Astoria to share his views about what to do with Iran. As Karl Rove took notes, Mr. Podhoretz stressed that anything short of military action to prevent Iran from getting nuclear capabilities would fail, and that America needs to strike to prevent another Holocaust. Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove, Mr. Podhoretz recalled, laughed when he indirectly referred to the futility of the current American policy of pressuring Iran with sanctions and diplomatic isolation.
“I thought if they had believed in what they were doing there, they would get their backs up and say, ‘No, it’s not futile,’” Mr. Podhoretz said.
Other than that, the president didn’t tip his hand. But, turning the conversation back to the former mayor, Mr. Podhoretz said, “Rudy is another matter.”
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