by Gregory Elich (March 17, 2003)
Time and again since the Second World War the United States has resorted to warfare. When viewed from that aspect, the looming attack against Iraq is not a unique endeavor for US policy-makers, as many nations targeted in the past could attest. Yet, something has altered. At one time, diplomacy might occasionally be mixed with threats and violence. Once in a while there would be a short respite between wars or covert operations. But with the advent of the Bush Administration, the U.S. has become increasingly associated with unremitting war and threats. Imperial arrogance has reached an astonishing level, and those who stand in the way of US interests can expect to be crushed more ruthlessly than ever before. There is every indication that this pattern will continue, with the U.S. launching one war after another. This is not happenstance. The Bush Administration's approach to international affairs was planned well before George W. Bush ever stepped into the White House. A right-wing militarist think tank named the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) wields enormous influence and control over policy-making in the Bush Administration. A relatively new organization, the Project for the New American Century was established in 1997 with the stated "aim to make the case and rally support for American global leadership." What was needed, the PNAC averred, was a return to a "Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity," and it worked tirelessly to achieve those aims. That the PNAC has succeeded beyond its wildest dreams cannot be doubted, as President Bush has adopted nearly its entire program.
The centerpiece of the Project's efforts was its report of September 2000 entitled "Rebuilding America's Defenses." This lengthy document presents the PNAC's vision of a more aggressive American approach to international relations, based on threats and violence. In its introduction, the report points out that it was being published in a presidential election year. "We hope that the Project's report will be useful as a road map for the nation's immediate and future defense plans." They were not disappointed in that hope. Not only did Rebuilding America's Defenses serve as a virtual blueprint for President Bush's foreign policy; several offices within the new administration were filled from the ranks of the PNAC, including three of the administration's fiercest hawks, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of State John Bolton. Another member of the PNAC, right-wing extremist Richard Perle, renowned for his passion for military violence, now heads the Defense Policy Board. Joining him on the Board were two more members of the PNAC, Eliot Cohen and Devon Cross, while Stephen Cambone was appointed as Director of the Defense Department's Office of Program, Analysis and Evaluation. Vice President Dick Cheney, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Chief of Staff for the Vice President Lewis Libby and Undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller) Don Zakheim all came from the ranks of the PNAC, while the Project's chairman, William Kristol, serves as an advisor to President Bush. The PNAC doesn't merely influence or guide the Bush Administration. To a significant degree, it is the Bush Administration.
Rebuilding America's Defenses argues for a sharp boost in military spending and an expansion of US military presence around the globe. While economic interests play an important role in the Bush Administration's decision to attack Iraq, Administration planners are motivated primarily by long-range objectives. Following Iraq's defeat, the U.S. and Great Britain plan to establish military bases there to support a long-term presence, just as they've done in the Balkans and Central Asia. With a significant military presence in Iraq, Western officials expect to be able to dominate, shape and control events in the Middle East in the years to come to suit Western interests. "While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein," admits the PNAC report. "Over the long term, Iran may well prove as large a threat to US interests in the Gulf as Iraq has. And even should U.S.-Iranian relations improve, retaining forward-based forces in the region would still be an essential element in U.S. security strategy given the longstanding American interests in the region." US forces stationed in Iraq, therefore, would be ideally situated to launch a war of aggression against Iran. It should be recalled that the Iraqi invasion of Iran in the 1980s was met with open arms by the U.S., which supported the invasion through arms shipments and satellite reconnaissance photos. Unlike current US bases in Saudi Arabia, there would be no constraints on the extent and nature of US bases in occupied Iraq, allowing Washington to more freely threaten and bully other states in the region such as Syria. Once under US military occupation, the people of Iraq will have no input in how their new colonial masters choose to use their territory.
Similarly, the PNAC report points out that US forces stationed in South Korea serve a larger purpose than commonly supposed. If the two Koreas were to reunite, it says, US troops would continue their mission in Korea. Presumably, Koreans would have little say in the matter, and the report indicates that "in any realistic post-unification scenario, US forces are likely to have some role in stability operations in North Korea." Clearly then, the PNAC envisions the eventual military occupation of North Korea. "It is premature to speculate on the precise size and composition of a post-unification U.S. presence in Korea, but it is not too early to recognize that the presence of American forces in Korea serves a larger and longer-range strategic purpose." That purpose is to squeeze China. "Raising U.S. military strength in East Asia is the key to coping with the rise of China to great-power status." It is not intended that US troops would just sit in East Asia. Their presence would be a tool to apply pressure on China and back up Western meddling in internal Chinese affairs. "Indeed, in time," the report continues, "American and allied power in the region may provide a spur to the process of democratization" -- a euphemism for turning the economy over to serve Western corporate interests -- "inside China itself." Seeking "regional leadership" for the U.S. in Asia at the expense of the Chinese, the PNAC calls for increasing "the presence of American forces in Southeast Asia," as well, which would help to ensure "access to rapidly growing economies" for exploitation by Western corporations.
A key component of the PNAC plan is the transformation of US military might to ensure that the United States retains its position "as the world's preeminent power." This, the PNAC feels, would require the deployment of "effective ballistic missile defenses" which "will be the central element in the exercise of American power and the projection of U.S. military forces abroad. Without it, weak states operating small arsenals of crude ballistic missiles, armed with basic nuclear warheads or other weapons of mass destruction, will be in a strong position to deter the United States from using conventional force, no matter the technological advantages we may enjoy." This could hardly have been stated more clearly. President Bush's abrogation of the ABM treaty and his program to establish an anti-missile system have nothing to do with defense. The goal is nothing less than to expose the entire globe to the threat of US aggression while depriving relatively well-armed nations of the means of defense against attack by the war mongers in Washington.
The report ruefully notes that the desired hyperinflation of US military power "is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event -- like a new Pearl Harbor." Just such an event took place when planes piloted by Muslim extremists steered into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and the Bush Administration wasted no time in capitalizing on the opportunity, bringing war and military occupation to Central Asia and escalating military spending to obscene levels. In fiscal year 2003, military spending was increased by $45 billion, and President Bush has requested an additional $35 billion more for fiscal year 2004, which would bring the total to a staggering $400 billion. This amount surpasses the combined amount of the nations with the next 15 largest military expenditures. Even this wasn't enough for the ideologues at the PNAC, and their letter of January 23, 2003 to President Bush urges him to increase military spending "by an additional $70 to $100 billion." The true total is likely to soar much higher, as the US military budget doesn't account for the anticipated $100 billion for Washington's war against Iraq nor does it include the billions more that would be required to support the occupation of that nation. Coupled with tax cuts for the wealthy, the White House calculates a budget deficit exceeding $1 trillion over the next five years. For the people of Iraq as well as those in other nations yet to be targeted by Western militarism, the price will be unimaginably higher. Tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, will pay with their lives. Few in the West will notice or care, for the merciless slaughter of multitudes of civilians in a far-off land elicits no more concern than stepping on an insect.
The violent removal of Saddam Hussein from power has been a long-standing goal of the PNAC. On January 26, 1998, the PNAC sent a letter to President Clinton urging that this "become the aim of American foreign policy." At least half of those signing the letter now occupy high-ranking positions within the Bush Administration, placing them in a position to implement that strategy. In that letter the PNAC advocated taking "the necessary steps, including military steps, to protect our vital interests in the Gulf," but that "American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council." The assault on Iraq is the culmination of the long-cherished hopes of those who now occupy positions within the Bush Administration, completely unrelated to anything Iraq says or does. September 11 created an environment where the Bush Administration felt it had carte blanche to engage in any military action of its choosing, with the expectation of public acquiescence. Once the occupation of Iraq has been secured, the Bush Administration will seek to expand its control over the region. In February 2003, Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle revealed US intentions towards Iran, Libya and Syria. "Change is needed in all those three countries, and a few others besides," he said. Perle indicated that Middle Eastern governments will be toppled "without direct U.S. intervention." Instead, "democratic reform movements," that is, groups controlled by and acting for the benefit of Washington, would be given aid and financing by the U.S. Failing that, it can be expected that the proximity of US troops stationed in Iraq would be well positioned to implement the military option. This war is about much more than control of Iraqi oil deposits. The defeat and occupation of Iraq will be the foundation for a long-term plan to dominate the entire region of the Middle East, allowing the U.S. to influence, threaten, pressure and even topple governments either through covert operations or invasion.
Next on the PNAC's wish list for destruction is North Korea. On March 19, 2002, PNAC Executive Director Gary Schmitt issued a memorandum to elected officials and the media, in which he claimed that "the only lasting solution" for North Korea "is to remove Kim Jong Il's regime from power." Schmitt urged "the United States and its allies" to "adopt a series of specific policies designed to undermine the regime," as outlined in an attached copy of an article from PNAC Chairman William Kristol's Weekly Standard, entitled 'Axis of Evil, Asian Division.' In that article, author James Doran, a staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for an end to negotiation and diplomacy with North Korea. He recommended that the U.S. implement what he termed "public diplomacy," by which he meant issuing hostile statements towards North Korea and expanding the broadcast hours of Radio Free Asia. These steps have already been taken by the Bush Administration, which in October 2002 deliberately smashed the 1994 Agreed Framework between the two nations by falsely accusing North Korea of having admitted to pursuing a nuclear weapons program. That no North Korean official ever said this was beside the point, as were several specific North Korean assurances that they had no intention of launching a nuclear weapons program, although they had the right to do so. By spreading this intentional falsehood, the Bush Administration gave itself the pretext to kill the Agreed Framework and end contacts with North Korea. Up until that point in time, North Korea had honored every provision of the Agreed Framework, while the United States had violated all but one of its obligations, the monthly supply of fuel to partially and inadequately compensate North Korea for shutting down its nuclear power plants.
By forcing North Korea to abandon construction of graphite-moderated nuclear power plants in 1994, the U.S. had effectively killed any prospect that nation had of meeting its energy needs, thus adversely affecting its energy supply and greatly contributing to a dire food shortage. Doran advocated giving North Korea an ultimatum that aid would be contingent upon its acceptance of the demand that US inspectors be permitted to roam at will throughout the country. Failing that, he writes, "the aid should be cut off." This, too, the Bush Administration has done, eliminating food aid just as winter approached, and ending fuel shipments. Doran urged Bush to "promote internal opposition" to the government of North Korea. "This can be pursued through both overt and covert means," including establishing "contact with potential allies within the North Korean government." The U.S. has long experience with such methods, and it may be surmised that the Bush Administration has already begun to implement covert operations, while overtly it continues to ratchet up the pressure while refusing to even talk with North Korea. Already the Bush Administration is contemplating war in Northeast Asia, a reckless action that could potentially result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands or even millions of Koreans. On March 3, 2003, President Bush said in regard to US efforts in regard to North Korea, "If they don't work diplomatically, they'll have to work militarily." Such a statement could only be viewed ironically, given that the Bush Administration not only hasn't made any diplomatic effort, it refuses to. Continual requests from North Korea for face-to-face talks with the U.S. are steadfastly rejected by the Bush Administration, which instead seeks new ways to increase tension. This is an administration that wants war.
For the PNAC, the ultimate prize is China. "China has made no secret of its long-term goal of creating in East Asia a new security order which would no longer rest on American military and economic power," opined Gary Schmitt in 1997. Such an outcome was seen as intolerable. "Whether we admit to it or not, there is a competition between the U.S. and China," and "the U.S. should address it directly and firmly." Five years later, with the PNAC firmly ensconced in the Bush Administration, Schmitt pointed out that the September 11 "attacks and their aftermath have created a new dynamic that may work to the advantage of the United States in its competition with China for regional leadership." At the urging of the U.S., Japan had authorized its military to operate outside of its territory for the first time since the Second World War and the U.S. had greatly expanded its presence throughout Central and East Asia. "The United States now had troops and bases at China's backdoor," Schmitt points out. "Add to this the new military-to-military ties between the United States and the Philippines, and the growing cooperation between Washington and New Delhi, and Chinese strategic thinkers had to wonder whether America's war on terrorism wasn't just an excuse to tighten the security noose around Beijing's neck." It's not only Chinese strategic thinkers who may wonder. It surely was a primary motivation for this bogus "war on terrorism." Not surprisingly, the PNAC craves an aggressive posture. "The truth is that the United States can put off competition with China only so long," continues Schmitt. "At the end of the day, China's ambitions make a contest inevitable. For that reason, the United States should be taking advantage of China's current preoccupation with its internal affairs to strengthen our hand in the region. Washington should so conduct relations as to leave no room for the Chinese to doubt that the United States is able and willing to turn aside any challenge they pose." The PNAC has sketched out an alarming future for the world. The destruction of Iraq is only a stepping stone pointing the way to a series of wars, covert operations, threats and colonial-style occupations. Once smaller targets have been disposed of, the U.S. will take an increasingly confrontational approach towards China. As long as the PNAC crowd holds sway in the White House, the possibility of a major war cannot be excluded, for China is a more formidable opponent than the U.S. usually takes on. Preparation for potential future conflict with China is one aspect driving the Bush Administration's ambition to build an anti-ballistic missile system.
From the standpoint of the PNAC, military might and the willingness to wage war are essential components of foreign policy. Yale University historian Donald Kagan and his son, Frederick Kagan of the West Point Military Academy, both prominent members of the PNAC, explicate this philosophy in their book, While America Sleeps. Deploring what they see as American weakness, they advocate a much greater reliance on military power. America is indeed in danger, as the Kagans contend. But the danger lies not with foreign military threats. It lies with the manifestation of the extreme right-wing ideology driving Washington. The book quotes approvingly Colin Powell's reference to the U.S. as "the preeminent force for stability in the world." Donald Kagan once said, "[T]he world is safest when nations like the U.S. have a very strong preponderance of power of every kind -- because we're the least likely to use it." Just how unlikely is the United States to use that power can be gauged by examining recent history. This "preeminent force for stability in the world" waged war against Vietnam at the cost of over two million dead, bombed Cambodia, invaded Grenada and Panama, bombed Libya, sponsored an invasion of Cuba and brought war to Nicaragua through proxy forces. It engaged in the largest covert operation in history in its support for Muslim extremists in Afghanistan, casting that nation into medieval barbarity -- a policy which recently redounded against the American people. It provided aid and arms to the Khmer Rouge as they waged guerrilla war following their ouster from power in Cambodia. It fueled the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo by sending arms to secessionist forces. It bombed Yugoslavia, killing thousands and utterly destroying its economic structure. It killed a quarter of a million Iraqis during the Gulf War, and untold thousands more through the imposition of sanctions. It supported a military coup in Indonesia and encouraged the subsequent slaughter of over half a million people. By no means is this list exhaustive, but for the Kagans as well as for their colleagues in the PNAC, all this is mere "timidity," exhibiting weakness rather than the requisite escalation of military aggression. From the viewpoint of the PNAC, the problem with US foreign policy is that it hasn't been aggressive and violent enough! A major tenet of the PNAC philosophy is that the "United States must retain sufficient forces able to rapidly deploy and win multiple simultaneous large-scale wars." This capability is not desired for its own sake; it is expected to be employed, as the PNAC indicated in Rebuilding America's Defenses. "American landpower remains the essential link in the chain that translates US military supremacy into American geopolitical preeminence." What is sought is nothing less than US global dominance, in which no nation will be permitted to chart a course independent of US corporate and geopolitical interests. The years ahead promise to be very bleak indeed.