American Dominance

By Chris Floyd  -
Febuary 23, 2003.

AN ATTACK ON IRAQ. Vast increases in military spending. Planting new American bases all over the world, from the jungles of South America to the steppes of Central Asia. Embracing the concept of preemptive war and unilateral action as cornerstones of national strategy.

"The rule of law is dead. "

These policies may seem like reactions to the changed world confronting America after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But in fact, each one of them -and many other policies now being advanced by the Bush administration -was planned years before the first plane ever struck the doomed Twin Towers.

They are the handiwork of an obscure but influential conservative group called Project for the New American Century , whose members - including Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - now sit at the highest reaches of power. The papers they produced during the 1990s are like a roadmap of the course that America is following - a course that PNAC hopes will lead to an utterly dominant America in world affairs.

PNAC was formed in 1997, with a roster of conservative heavy-hitters, many of whom are now major players in the Bush administration. In addition to Cheney and Rumsfeld, the lineup included Paul Wolfowitz (now deputy defense secretary), Lewis Libby (Cheney's chief of staff), Zalmay Khalilzad (special emissary to Afghanistan), John Bolton (undersecretary of state for arms control), and Elliot Abrams, who was convicted of lying to Congress in the Iran-Contra scandal but was pardoned by George H. W. Bush (now White House director of Middle East policy).

Other influential participants included publisher Steve Forbes, conservative Christian activist Gary Bauer, former Secretary of Education William Bennett, former Vice President Dan Quayle, and Jeb Bush, brother of the president-to-be and now governor of Florida.

PNAC fired its first shot across the bow in 1998, with letters to President Clinton and congressional leaders calling for regime change in Iraq, by force if necessary, and the establishment of a strong U.S. military presence in the region. Then in September 2000, just months before the disputed election that brought George W. Bush to power, the group published a highly detailed, 90-page blueprint for transforming America's military -and the nation's role on the world stage.

The document, "Rebuilding America's Defenses," advocated a series of "revolutions" in national defense and foreign affairs - all of which have come to pass, in a very short time, since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The measures proposed in PNAC's 2000 report included:

•Projecting American dominance with a "worldwide network of forward operating bases" - some permanent, others "temporary access arrangements" as needed for various military interventions - in the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. These additions to America's already-extensive overseas deployments would act as "the cavalry on the new American frontier" - a frontier that PNAC declared now extends throughout the world.

•Withdrawing from arms control treaties to allow for the development of a global missile shield, the deployment of space-based weapons, and the production of a new generation of battlefield nuclear weapons, especially so-called "bunker-busters" for penetrating underground fortifications.

•Raising the U.S. military budget to at least 3.8 percent of gross domestic product, with annual increases of tens of billions of dollars each year.

•Developing sophisticated new technologies to "control the global commons of cyberspace" by closely monitoring communications and transactions on the Internet.

•Pursuing the development of "new methods of attack - electronic, non-lethal, biological ... in new dimensions, in space, cyberspace, and perhaps the world of microbes."

•Developing the ability to "fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars." This means moving beyond the two-war standard of preparedness that has guided U.S. strategy since World War II in order to account for "new realities and potential new conflicts." It lists countries such as Iraq, Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Libya as targets for those potential new conflicts, and urges Pentagon war planners to consider not merely containing them or defeating them in battle, but "changing their regimes."

Oddly enough, although regime change in Iraq was still clearly a priority for PNAC, it had little to do with Saddam Hussein and his brutal policies or his aggressive tendencies. Instead, removing Hussein was tied to the larger goal of establishing a permanent U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf in order to secure energy supplies and preclude any other power from dominating the vital oil regions of the Middle East and Central Asia.

The PNAC report puts it quite plainly: "The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. 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."

Many critics say this is why the Bush administration has offered a constantly shifting menu of rationales for the impending attack on Iraq: because the decision to remove Hussein was taken long ago as part of a larger strategic plan, and has little to do with any imminent threat from the crippled Iraqi regime, which is constantly bombed, partially occupied (with U.S. forces already working in the autonomous Kurdish territories), and now swarming with United Nations inspectors. If the strategic need for the attack "transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein," then almost any rationale will do.

Perhaps due to the presence of Washington insiders like Cheney and Rumsfeld, the PNAC report recognized that thorny political difficulties could stand in the way of implementing the group's far-reaching designs. Indeed, in one of the most striking and prescient passages in the entire 90-page document, PNAC acknowledged that the revolutionary changes it envisaged could take decades to bring about - unless, that is, the United States was struck by "some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor."

That new Pearl Harbor did come, of course, in the thunderclap of Sept. 11, 2001. And the PNAC alumni now in government were quick to capitalize on this catalyzing event.

All of the PNAC recommendations listed above were put into place, with almost no debate from a shellshocked Congress and a populace reeling from the unprecedented assault on American security.

In the very first days following the attack, Rumsfeld urged the Bush Cabinet to make "Iraq a principal target of the first round in the war against terrorism," despite the lack of any proof connecting Baghdad to the terrorist atrocity, according to Bob Woodward's insider account, "Bush at War."

But Rumsfeld was overruled by Colin Powell, who counseled that "public opinion has to be prepared before a move against Iraq is possible."

The "war on terrorism" was launched initially against Afghanistan, where the Taliban regime was harboring the Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden and his band of international extremists. The attack on Afghanistan was accompanied by the construction of new American bases and "temporary access arrangements" throughout Central Asia, giving America a military "footprint" in the strategically vital region for the first time.

At the same time, new U.S. forces were dispatched to East Asia, to the Philippines, for example, where just last week American troops were ordered into direct combat against Muslim insurgents, and to South America, to help Colombia fight "narco-terrorists" and to protect that nation's vital oil pipelines.

Meanwhile, at home, military budgets skyrocketed to deal with the "new realities and potential new conflicts." As it had earlier indicated it would, the Bush administration withdrew from the landmark ABM arms control treaty and began construction of missile defense facilities. It provided new funds for the militarization of outer space (dubbed "Full Spectrum Dominance"), and the development of "non-lethal" biochemical weapons. Pentagon technicians, led by another convicted Iran-Contra figure, John Poindexter, began the development of Internet data-mining and monitoring technology (which, despite some recent congressional restrictions, continues today).

And the U.S. announced a new nuclear strategy, including the willingness to use tactical nuclear weapons - a move supported by the Republican-led House of Representatives, which approved Pentagon plans to develop the bunker-buster nukes specifically recommended by PNAC. And just this month, Rumsfeld told Congress that he has asked the president for a special waiver that will allow American forces to use non-lethal chemical arms in subduing enemy armies - and enemy populations. The long-standing international treaties banning combat use of chemical weapons have "tangled us up so badly," Rumsfeld testified.

Finally, much of the PNAC philosophy was enshrined as official U.S. policy last September when Bush proclaimed a new National Security Strategy. Bush even adopted some of the same language found in the PNAC reports. He stated that no global rival would be allowed even the "hope of surpassing or equaling the power of the United States" and pledged that America would maintain its "global leadership" through "the unparalleled strength of the United States armed forces and their forward presence" around the world.

Bush pledged the United States to PNAC's cherished principle of preemptive war, saying the nation will act not only against imminent threats but also "against emerging threats before they are fully formed." Bush called this "the path of action - the only path to peace and security." He declared that America would use its power of global leadership to promote the "single sustainable model of national success" - a free enterprise system that Bush describes in some detail, including low taxes, little government regulation of business, and open markets for international investors.

The existence of PNAC and its influence on the Bush administration is not some sinister conspiracy theory. It follows a pattern frequently seen in American history: A group of like-minded people band together in think tanks, foundations, universities, and other institutions, where they lay out their vision for America's future. And when they at last have access to the levers of power, they try to make that vision a reality. In that sense, the PNAC group is not so different from the academics and activists behind Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs, for example.

What is different now is that the Sept. 11 attacks have given this particular group an unprecedented amount of political capital - not to mention cold, hard federal cash - to put their long-held dreams into practice, virtually without opposition. What is also different is the essential goal of that vision: the establishment of what might almost amount to an American empire.

This empire would be different from the old Roman or British models, of course. It would not entail direct occupation of foreign lands, but instead offer paternal protection and guidance - albeit backed up with strategically plaaced military bases and "temporary access arrangements" for the inevitable "constabulatory duties" required to enforce PNAC's longed-for "Pax Americana."

However, the intent is not conquest or plunder, but the chance to bring "the single sustainable model of national success" to all the world, to set people, and their markets, free - as long as no "regional or global challenges to America's leadership" arise, of course.

But there will be costs to taking up what Thomas Donnelly, the principal author of the PNAC blueprint, calls "the free man's burden." Donnelly, a former journalist and legislative aide, wrote in the journal Foreign Affairs last year that America should look to its "imperial past" as a guide to its future.

Reviewing "The Savage Wars of Peace," a pro-American dominance book by journalist Max Boot, Donnelly cites approvingly the "pacification" of the Philippines by American forces in 1898-1900, in which at least 100,000 Filipinos were killed in a bid for independence. He also points to the U.S. Army's success in subduing the Native American tribes in a series of small wars, and, closer to our time, the efficient "constabulatory operation" in Panama, which was invaded by the first President Bush in 1989.

Similar "savage wars of peace" - pacifications, counterinsurgencies, police actions, invasions - will be required to maintain American dominance, says Donnelly.

And here too, George W. Bush has clearly echoed the thinking of the PNAC members who now surround him in the White House. Speaking at a Republican fund-raiser last August, the president seemed keenly aware of the heavy price in blood and treasure the nation will have to pay to maintain its imperium in the New American Century:

"There's no telling how many wars it will take to secure freedom in the homeland."

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