Introductory Material

Some Mid-Year Thoughts on Militarism and the Bush Administration by Jean Hardisty
U.S. Foreign Policy--Attention, Right Face, Forward March, by Tom Barry and Jim Lobe
Includes detailed information on The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), and Americans for Victory Over Terrorism (AVOT).

Beware Right Wing Anti-Globalism A collection of web pages from PRA

The Clashing Civilization

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Some Mid-Year Thoughts on Militarism and the Bush Administration

By Jean Hardisty


Most PRA readers know of the Bush Administration’s ideological split between Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense and Gen. Colin Powell, Secretary of State.  Rumsfeld, a lifelong hawk, is eager to expand the “War on Terror” by invading Iraq.  Powell, though he is no dove, is a pragmatic collaborationist and a Republican moderate who is reluctant to counsel that the U.S. act unilaterally. The struggle between the two for the soul of George W. Bush is the foreign policy story.

But we are currently seeing more than a struggle between hawks and doves over invading Iraq. It is a struggle over the role of the United States in the post-Cold War world. As the one country that dominates the world stage – militarily, economically, and even socially – will the U.S. be a benign manager of international conflict, playing a reactive role by intervening when some “trouble spot” can no longer be left without an international peacekeeping force? Or will the U.S. shape the world, preventing the rise of a competitor nation, determining how nations are ruled, and controlling who is allowed to exert international influence?

The Clinton Administration leaned toward the managerial role – intervening when it seemed the U.S. would lose credibility with its allies if it did not.  When George W. Bush came into office, it was nearly impossible to predict where he would fall on the foreign policy spectrum.  He had no foreign policy experience (or knowledge, it seemed). His reliance on Condoleezza Rice, an expert on Russia and Eastern Europe, seemed more consistent with his corporate ties than a true guide to his foreign policy aspirations.  During the presidential campaign, he promised to increase the pay of military personnel, attacked the Clinton Administration’s attention to military preparedness, and courted isolationists with talk of “humility” and not getting involved “willy nilly” in foreign problems. He said he would pursue only the “narrow interests” of the U.S.  Some columnists thought he would follow in his father’s footsteps internationally, as a tough “manager” of foreign crises when absolutely necessary.

But Bush’s choice of Dick Cheney, his father’s Secretary of Defense, as his Vice-Presidential running mate, and his subsequent appointment of Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary and Paul Wolfowitz as Assistant Secretary at the Defense Department, combined with the events of September 11, have opened the door for the new post-Cold War doctrine – a policy of U.S. global domination. Bush’s hawkish defense team (many of whom are former Reagan Cold Warriors) could not have created credibility for this doctrine without the events of September 11.  But the new doctrine, in synergistic combination with September 11, seems to have opened public opinion to the ultra-militaristic worldview in which the U.S. controls the world by invading and overthrowing governments it deems a threat to U.S. security.  Colin Powell most likely will not be able to stop this war train.  In fact, both he and Condoleezza Rice seem to be climbing aboard.

The new doctrine has been more than a decade in the making. As early as 1990, when Dick Cheney was Secretary of Defense, he saw the need for a grand, strategic plan for the role of the U.S. in the post-Cold War world and called for a quiet exploration of such a plan. Two strategies were formulated: one by Colin Powell and a second by Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff, and Eric Edelman, a senior foreign-policy advisor to Cheney.  Cheney was more receptive to the Wolfowitz plan, but a discussion of its ideas was superseded by Kuwait’s invasion of Iraq. When the Wolfowitz strategy was leaked to the press two years later, it was characterized by reporters as envisioning a future in which the U.S. blocked any other competitor nation from challenging its dominance as the world’s single great power.

In 1997, concerned that Clinton Administration was not articulating a coherent post-Cold War policy for the U.S. internationally, a think tank called the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) met quietly to formulate a competing doctrine. The resulting 1997 document built on the conclusions of Wolfowitz’s 1990 “think tank.” It called for the U.S. to take its place in history as the dominant global force and achieve greatness by being bold and purposeful. Signers of the statement of principles included Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Elliot Abrams of the Reagan State Department, who repeatedly misled Congress about the abuses of the Salvadoran military during the Contra War in Central America, Jeb Bush, and Frank Gaffney, president of the right-wing Center for Security Policy.

Now, in the second year of Bush’s presidency, a little-known group called the Defense Policy Board, a shadowy military/foreign policy think tank, is promoting the same doctrine inside the Pentagon. Appointed by Secretary Rumsfeld, its members report to Douglas Feith, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and yet another former official of the Reagan Defense Department. The informal nature of the Defense Policy Board gives the Pentagon plausible deniability, but high-level Pentagon officials brief its members frequently.  The Board is chaired by Richard Perle, Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan Administration, and its members include hard-right conservatives of the Wolfowitz/Cheney school: former CIA head James Woolsey, Daniel Pipes, an author and columnist who accuses Muslims in the U.S. of wanting to establish Islamic law here, and former right-wing politicians such as Newt Gingrich and Dan Quayle.

One component of the new doctrine is the idea of “limited sovereignty,” which asserts that a country only enjoys sovereignty if those governing it do not harbor or aid terrorists. Thus, soon after September 11, the Defense Policy Board dispatched James Woolsey to England to search out a connection between 9/11 and Iraq. Another component if the doctrine is that when the U.S. decides to act militarily, it will assemble “a coalition of the willing.”  That is, those who are with us are welcome to join; those who are not are of no consequence.

Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, Frank Gaffney, James Woolsey, and William Bennett, former Secretary of Education in the Reagan Administration, all play prominent roles in domestic suppression of criticism of the War on Terrorism. A group founded by Lynne Cheney, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, recently released a report titled “Defending Civilization.”  It listed 127 “unpatriotic” statements made on U.S. college campuses since September 11.  William Bennett created a new organization known as Americans for Victory Over Terrorism (AVOT) to “take to task those groups and individuals who fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the war we are facing,” blasting those who are “attempting to use this opportunity to promulgate their agenda of ‘blame American First.’” Such individuals include former President Jimmy Carter and Lewis Lapham, editor of Harper’s magazine. AVOT board members include Frank Gaffney and James Woolsey.

Bush Administration foreign and military policy looks alarmingly disorganized at the moment. Embarrassments such as the short-lived coup in Venezuela, in which the Reagan Administration contra operative Otto Reich, now at the Bush State Department, was complicit, give the impression of an administration that does not have a coherent plan.  More accurately, the foreign policy doctrine gaining ascendance inside the administration is frighteningly coherent.  But it can be stopped if public opinion strongly opposes it. Mobilizing that opposition public opinion is crucially important work in the coming six months. In the short term, opposing an invasion of Iraq may be the most urgent task.

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