Diplomatic china rattled in Washington and cracked in Riyadh yesterday when the Washington Post published a story about a briefing given to a Pentagon advisory group last month. The briefing declared Saudi Arabia an enemy of the United States and advocated that the United States invade the country, seize its oil fields, and confiscate its financial assets unless the Saudis stop supporting the anti-Western terror network.
The Page One story, by Thomas E. Ricks ("Briefing Depicted Saudis as Enemies: Ultimatum Urged To Pentagon Board," Aug. 6), described a 24-slide presentation given by Rand Corp. analyst Laurent Murawiec on July 10, 2002, to the Defense Policy Board, a committee of foreign policy wonks and former government officials that advises the Pentagon on defense issues. Murawiec's PowerPoint scenario, which is reproduced for the first time below, makes him sound like an aspiring Dr. Strangelove.
Just who the hell is Laurent Murawiec? The Post story and its follow-up, also by Ricks, do not explain. The Pentagon and the administration insist that the presentation does not reflect their views in any way. The Rand Corp. acknowledges its association with Murawiec, but likewise disavows any connection with the briefing. (Neither Murawiec nor Rand received money for the briefing, Rand says.) According to Newsday, Defense Policy Board Chairman Richard N. Perle, a former Pentagon official and full-time invade-Iraq hawk, invited Murawiec to brief the group, so Perle can't exactly distance himself from the presentation. But he can do the next best thing—duck reporters' questions. Murawiec also declined reporters' inquiries, including one from Slate.
The first half of Murawiec's presentation reads calmly enough, echoing Fareed Zakaria's Oct. 15, 2001, Newsweek essay about why the Arab world hates the United States. Its tribal, despotic regimes bottle up domestic dissent but indulge the exportation of political anger; intellectually, its people are trapped in the Middle Ages; its institutions lack the tools to deal with 21st-century problems; yadda yadda yadda.
But then Murawiec lights out for the extreme foreign policy territory, recommending that we threaten Medina and Mecca, home to Islam's most holy places, if they don't see it our way. Ultimately, he champions a takeover of Saudi Arabia. The last slide in the deck, titled "Grand strategy for the Middle East," abandons the outrageous for the incomprehensible. It reads:
- Iraq is the tactical pivot
- Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot
- Egypt the prize
Egypt the prize?
Because none of the Defense Policy Board attendees are talking candidly about the session, it's hard to divine what "Egypt the prize" means or if Murawiec's briefing put it into any context. It sounds a tad loopy, even by Dr. Strangelove standards. The Post report does mention a "talking point" attached to the 24-page PowerPoint deck that describes Saudi Arabia as "the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent" in the Middle East. That's extreme talk even by the standards of the anti-Saudi editorialists at the Weekly Standard and the rest of the invade-Iraq fellowship.
Who is Laurent Murawiec, and where did he learn to write like this? The George Washington University Elliot School of International Affairs' Web site lists him as a faculty member, but it lists no current or future classes by him. The site's biographical page adds that he's a graduate of the Sorbonne University, that he worked as "A foreign correspondent for a major French business weekly in Germany" (isn't that kind of vague?) and is the co-founder of GeoPol Services SA, "a consulting company in Geneva, Switzerland, which advised major multinational corporations and banks." It also lists him as a former adviser to the French ministry of defense and the translator (into French) of Clausewitz's On War.
A sweep of the Web shows that he lectured on Islamic terrorism in Toronto on March 11, 2002, under the aegis of the Canadian Institute for Strategic Studies. He wrote an article titled "The Wacky World of French Intellectuals" in the Middle East Quarterly, co-edited a Rand Corp. book, and made these comments at a Nautilus Institute conference. When he spoke on panel with Richard Perle at the American Enterprise Institute on Dec. 1, 1999, Murawiec was introduced as having just moved to the United States after "a dozen years" of working as managing director of GeoPol in Geneva, "a service that supplies advice to European clients, similar to what Kissinger Associates offers from New York, except without the accent." That is a bit of an overstatement. A Google search of "Murawiec and GeoPol" produces 12 hits. Compare that to the 10,300 hits on Google for "Kissinger Associates."