The president's real goal in Iraq

By Jay Bookman

Atlanta Journal-Constitution Sept 29, 2002

The official story on Iraq has never made sense. The connection that the Bush administration has tried to draw between Iraq and al-Qaida has always seemed contrived and artificial. In fact, it was hard to believe that smart people in the Bush administration would start a major war based on such flimsy evidence.

The pieces just didn't fit. Something else had to be going on; something was missing.

In recent days, those missing pieces have finally begun to fall into place. As it turns out, this is not really about Iraq. It is not about weapons of mass destruction, or terrorism, or Saddam, or U.N. resolutions.

This war, should it come, is intended to mark the official emergence of the United States as a full-fledged global empire, seizing sole responsibility and authority as planetary policeman. It would be the culmination of a plan 10 years or more in the making, carried out by those who believe the United States must seize the opportunity for global domination, even if it means becoming the "American imperialists" that our enemies always claimed we were.

Once that is understood, other mysteries solve themselves. For example, why does the administration seem unconcerned about an exit strategy from Iraq once Saddam is toppled?

Because we won't be leaving. Having conquered Iraq, the United States will create permanent military bases in that country from which to dominate the Middle East, including neighboring Iran.

In an interview Friday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld brushed aside that suggestion, noting that the United States does not covet other nations' territory. That may be true, but 57 years after World War II ended, we still have major bases in Germany and Japan. We will do the same in Iraq.

And why has the administration dismissed the option of containing and deterring Iraq, as we had the Soviet Union for 45 years? Because even if it worked, containment and deterrence would not allow the expansion of American power. Besides, they are beneath us as an empire. Rome did not stoop to containment; it conquered. And so should we.

Among the architects of this would-be American Empire are a group of brilliant and powerful people who now hold key positions in the Bush administration: They envision the creation and enforcement of what they call a worldwide "Pax Americana," or American peace. But so far, the American people have not appreciated the true extent of that ambition.

Part of it's laid out in the National Security Strategy, a document in which each administration outlines its approach to defending the country. The Bush administration plan, released Sept. 20, marks a significant departure from previous approaches, a change that it attributes largely to the attacks of Sept. 11.

To address the terrorism threat, the president's report lays out a newly aggressive military and foreign policy, embracing pre-emptive attack against perceived enemies. It speaks in blunt terms of what it calls "American internationalism," of ignoring international opinion if that suits U.S. interests. "The best defense is a good offense," the document asserts.

It dismisses deterrence as a Cold War relic and instead talks of "convincing or compelling states to accept their sovereign responsibilities."

In essence, it lays out a plan for permanent U.S. military and economic domination of every region on the globe, unfettered by international treaty or concern. And to make that plan a reality, it envisions a stark expansion of our global military presence.

"The United States will require bases and stations within and beyond Western Europe and Northeast Asia," the document warns, "as well as temporary access arrangements for the long-distance deployment of U.S. troops."

The report's repeated references to terrorism are misleading, however, because the approach of the new National Security Strategy was clearly not inspired by the events of Sept. 11. They can be found in much the same language in a report issued in September 2000 by the Project for the New American Century, a group of conservative interventionists outraged by the thought that the United States might be forfeiting its chance at a global empire.

"At no time in history has the international security order been as conducive to American interests and ideals," the report said. stated two years ago. "The challenge of this coming century is to preserve and enhance this 'American peace.' "

Familiar themes

Overall, that 2000 report reads like a blueprint for current Bush defense policy. Most of what it advocates, the Bush administration has tried to accomplish. For example, the project report urged the repudiation of the anti-ballistic missile treaty and a commitment to a global missile defense system. The administration has taken that course.

It recommended that to project sufficient power worldwide to enforce Pax Americana, the United States would have to increase defense spending from 3 percent of gross domestic product to as much as 3.8 percent. For next year, the Bush administration has requested a defense budget of $379 billion, almost exactly 3.8 percent of GDP.

It advocates the "transformation" of the U.S. military to meet its expanded obligations, including the cancellation of such outmoded defense programs as the Crusader artillery system. That's exactly the message being preached by Rumsfeld and others.

It urges the development of small nuclear warheads "required in targeting the very deep, underground hardened bunkers that are being built by many of our potential adversaries." This year the GOP-led U.S. House gave the Pentagon the green light to develop such a weapon, called the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, while the Senate has so far balked.

That close tracking of recommendation with current policy is hardly surprising, given the current positions of the people who contributed to the 2000 report.

Paul Wolfowitz is now deputy defense secretary. John Bolton is undersecretary of state. Stephen Cambone is head of the Pentagon's Office of Program, Analysis and Evaluation. Eliot Cohen and Devon Cross are members of the Defense Policy Board, which advises Rumsfeld. I. Lewis Libby is chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Dov Zakheim is comptroller for the Defense Department.

'Constabulary duties'

Because they were still just private citizens in 2000, the authors of the project report could be more frank and less diplomatic than they were in drafting the National Security Strategy. Back in 2000, they clearly identified Iran, Iraq and North Korea as primary short-term targets, well before President Bush tagged them as the Axis of Evil. In their report, they criticize the fact that in war planning against North Korea and Iraq, "past Pentagon wargames have given little or no consideration to the force requirements necessary not only to defeat an attack but to remove these regimes from power."

To preserve the Pax Americana, the report says U.S. forces will be required to perform "constabulary duties" -- the United States acting as policeman of the world -- and says that such actions "demand American political leadership rather than that of the United Nations."

To meet those responsibilities, and to ensure that no country dares to challenge the United States, the report advocates a much larger military presence spread over more of the globe, in addition to the roughly 130 nations in which U.S. troops are already deployed.

More specifically, they argue that we need permanent military bases in the Middle East, in Southeast Europe, in Latin America and in Southeast Asia, where no such bases now exist. That helps to explain another of the mysteries of our post-Sept. 11 reaction, in which the Bush administration rushed to install U.S. troops in Georgia and the Philippines, as well as our eagerness to send military advisers to assist in the civil war in Colombia.

The 2000 report directly acknowledges its debt to a still earlier document, drafted in 1992 by the Defense Department. That document had also envisioned the United States as a colossus astride the world, imposing its will and keeping world peace through military and economic power. When leaked in final draft form, however, the proposal drew so much criticism that it was hastily withdrawn and repudiated by the first President Bush.

Effect on allies

The defense secretary in 1992 was Richard Cheney; the document was drafted by Wolfowitz, who at the time was defense undersecretary for policy.

The potential implications of a Pax Americana are immense.

One is the effect on our allies. Once we assert the unilateral right to act as the world's policeman, our allies will quickly recede into the background. Eventually, we will be forced to spend American wealth and American blood protecting the peace while other nations redirect their wealth to such things as health care for their citizenry.

Donald Kagan, a professor of classical Greek history at Yale and an influential advocate of a more aggressive foreign policy -- he served as co-chairman of the 2000 New Century project -- acknowledges that likelihood.

"If [our allies] want a free ride, and they probably will, we can't stop that," he says. But he also argues that the United States, given its unique position, has no choice but to act anyway.

"You saw the movie 'High Noon'? he asks. "We're Gary Cooper."

Accepting the Cooper role would be an historic change in who we are as a nation, and in how we operate in the international arena. Candidate Bush certainly did not campaign on such a change. It is not something that he or others have dared to discuss honestly with the American people. To the contrary, in his foreign policy debate with Al Gore, Bush pointedly advocated a more humble foreign policy, a position calculated to appeal to voters leery of military intervention.

For the same reason, Kagan and others shy away from terms such as empire, understanding its connotations. But they also argue that it would be naive and dangerous to reject the role that history has thrust upon us. Kagan, for example, willingly embraces the idea that the United States would establish permanent military bases in a post-war Iraq.

"I think that's highly possible," he says. "We will probably need a major concentration of forces in the Middle East over a long period of time. That will come at a price, but think of the price of not having it. When we have economic problems, it's been caused by disruptions in our oil supply. If we have a force in Iraq, there will be no disruption in oil supplies."

Costly global commitment

Rumsfeld and Kagan believe that a successful war against Iraq will produce other benefits, such as serving an object lesson for nations such as Iran and Syria. Rumsfeld, as befits his sensitive position, puts it rather gently. If a regime change were to take place in Iraq, other nations pursuing weapons of mass destruction "would get the message that having them . . . is attracting attention that is not favorable and is not helpful," he says.

Kagan is more blunt.

"People worry a lot about how the Arab street is going to react," he notes. "Well, I see that the Arab street has gotten very, very quiet since we started blowing things up."

The cost of such a global commitment would be enormous. In 2000, we spent $281 billion on our military, which was more than the next 11 nations combined. By 2003, our expenditures will have risen to $378 billion. In other words, the increase in our defense budget from 1999-2003 will be more than the total amount spent annually by China, our next largest competitor.

The lure of empire is ancient and powerful, and over the millennia it has driven men to commit terrible crimes on its behalf. But with the end of the Cold War and the disappearance of the Soviet Union, a global empire was essentially laid at the feet of the United States. To the chagrin of some, we did not seize it at the time, in large part because the American people have never been comfortable with themselves as a New Rome.

Now, more than a decade later, the events of Sept. 11 have given those advocates of empire a new opportunity to press their case with a new president. So in debating whether to invade Iraq, we are really debating the role that the United States will play in the years and decades to come.

Are peace and security best achieved by seeking strong alliances and international consensus, led by the United States? Or is it necessary to take a more unilateral approach, accepting and enhancing the global dominance that, according to some, history has thrust upon us?

If we do decide to seize empire, we should make that decision knowingly, as a democracy. The price of maintaining an empire is always high. Kagan and others argue that the price of rejecting it would be higher still.

That's what this is about.

Some contributors to the 2000 Pax Americana Report [finished before Bush took office and two years before September 11, which now appears to be the justification of its implementation].

"Rebuilding America's Defenses," a 2000 report by the Project for the New American Century, listed 27 people as having attended meetings or contributed papers in preparation of the report. Among them are six who have since assumed key defense and foreign policy positions in the Bush administration. And the report seems to have become a blueprint for Bush's foreign and defense policy.

Paul Wolfowitz
Political science doctorate from
University of Chicago and dean of the international relations program at Johns Hopkins University during the 1990s. Served in the Reagan State Department, moved to the Pentagon during the first Bush administration as undersecretary of defense for policy. Sworn in as deputy defense secretary in March 2001.

John Bolton
Yale Law grad who worked in the Reagan administration as an assistant attorney general.
Switched to the State Department in the first Bush administration as assistant secretary for international organization affairs. Sworn in as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, May 2001.


Eliot Cohen
Harvard doctorate in government who taught at Harvard and at the
Naval War College. Now directs strategic studies at Johns Hopkins and is the author of several books on military strategy. Was on the Defense Department's policy planning staff in the first Bush administration and is now on Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board.


Lewis Libby
Law degree from
Columbia (Yale undergrad). Held advisory positions in the Reagan State Department. Was a partner in a Washington law firm in the late '80s before becoming deputy undersecretary of defense for policy in the first Bush administration (under Dick Cheney). Now is the vice president's chief of staff.


Dov Zakheim

Doctorate in economics and politics from Oxford University. Worked on policy issues in the Reagan Defense Department and went into private defense consulting during the 1990s. Was foreign policy adviser to the 2000 Bush campaign. Sworn in as undersecretary of defense (comptroller) and chief financial officer for the Pentagon, May 2001.


Stephen Cambone
Political science doctorate from
Claremont Graduate School. Was in charge of strategic defense policy at the Defense Department in the first Bush administration. Now heads the Office of Program, Analysis and Evaluation at the Defense Department.


The National Security Strategy of the United States of America Sept 2002, by George W. Bush


"Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century," September 2000. A Report of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC).


  the following is from:


Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy

by William Kristol and Robert Kagan

Reprinted by permission of Foreign Affairs, July/August 1996.

Copyright 1996 by the Council on Foreign Relations, Inc.



IN FOREIGN policy, conservatives are adrift. They disdain the Wilsonian multilateralism of the Clinton administration; they are tempted by, but so far have resisted, the neoisolationism of Patrick Buchanan; for now, they lean uncertainly on some version of the conservative "realism" of Henry Kissinger and his disciples. Thus, in this year's election campaign, they speak vaguely of replacing Clinton's vacillation with a steady, "adult" foreign policy under Robert Dole. But Clinton has not vacillated that much recently, and Dole was reduced a few weeks ago to asserting, in what was heralded as a major address, that there really are differences in foreign policy between him and the president, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. But the fault is not Dole's; in truth, there has been little attempt to set forth the outlines of a conservative view of the world and America's proper role in it.

Is such an attempt necessary, or even possible? For the past few years, Americans, from the foreign policy big-thinker to the man on the street, have assumed it is not. Rather, this is supposed to be a time for unshouldering the vast responsibilities the United States acquired at the end of the Second World War and for concentrating its energies at home. The collapse of the Soviet Empire has made possible a "return to normalcy" in American foreign and defense policy, allowing the adoption of a more limited definition of the national interest, with a commensurate reduction in overseas involvement and defense spending.

Republicans and conservatives at first tended to be wary of this new post-Cold War consensus. But they joined it rapidly after 1992, in the wake of the defeat of the quintessential "foreign policy president" by a candidate who promised to focus "like a laser" on the domestic economy. Now conservatives tailor their foreign and defense policies to fit the presumed new political reality: an American public that is indifferent, if not hostile, to foreign policy and commitments abroad, more interested in balancing the budget than in leading the world, and more intent on cashing in the "peace dividend" than on spending to deter and fight future wars. Most conservatives have chosen to acquiesce in rather than challenge this public mood.

In a way, the current situation is reminiscent of the mid-1970s. But Ronald Reagan mounted a bold challenge to the tepid consensus of that era a consensus that favored accommodation to and coexistence with the Soviet Union, accepted the inevitability of America's declining power, and considered any change in the status quo either too frightening or too expensive. Proposing a controversial vision of ideological and strategic victory over the forces of international communism, Reagan called for an end to complacency in the face of the Soviet threat, large increases in defense spending, resistance to communist advances in the Third World, and greater moral clarity and purpose in U.S. foreign policy. He championed American exceptionalism when it was deeply unfashionable. Perhaps most significant, he refused to accept the limits on American power imposed by the domestic political realities that others assumed were fixed.

Many smart people regarded Reagan with scorn or alarm. Liberal Democrats still reeling from the Vietnam War were, of course, appalled by his zealotry. So were many of Reagan's fellow Republicans, especially the Kissingerian realists then dominant in foreign affairs. Reagan declared war on his own party, took on Gerald Ford for the 1976 Republican presidential nomination (primarily over issues of foreign policy), and trained his guns on Kissinger, whose stewardship of U.S. foreign policy, he charged, had "coincided precisely with the loss of U.S. military supremacy." Although Reagan lost the battle to unseat Ford, he won the fight at the Republican convention for a platform plank on "morality in foreign policy." Ultimately, he succeeded in transforming the Republican party, the conservative movement in America, and, after his election to the presidency in 1980, the country and the world.


TWENTY YEARS later, it is time once again to challenge an indifferent America and a confused American conservatism. Today's lukewarm consensus about America's reduced role in a post-Cold War world is wrong. Conservatives should not accede to it; it is bad for the country and, incidentally, bad for conservatism. Conservatives will not be able to govern America over the long term if they fail to offer a more elevated vision of America's international role.

What should that role be? Benevolent global hegemony. Having defeated the "evil empire," the United States enjoys strategic and ideological predominance. The first objective of U.S. foreign policy should be to preserve and enhance that predominance by strengthening America's security, supporting its friends, advancing its interests, and standing up for its principles around the world.

The aspiration to benevolent hegemony might strike some as either hubristic or morally suspect. But a hegemon is nothing more or less than a leader with preponderant influence and authority over all others in its domain. That is America's position in the world today. The leaders of Russia and China understand this. At their April summit meeting, Boris Yeltsin and Jiang Zemin joined in denouncing "hegemonism" in the post-Cold War world. They meant this as a complaint about the United States. It should be taken as a compliment and a guide to action.

Consider the events of just the past six months, a period that few observers would consider remarkable for its drama on the world stage. In East Asia, the carrier task forces of the U.S. Seventh Fleet helped deter Chinese aggression against democratic Taiwan, and the 35,000 American troops stationed in South Korea helped deter a possible invasion by the rulers in Pyongyang. In Europe, the United States sent 20,000 ground troops to implement a peace agreement in the former Yugoslavia, maintained 100,000 in Western Europe as a symbolic commitment to European stability and security, and intervened diplomatically to prevent the escalation of a conflict between Greece and Turkey. In the Middle East, the United States maintained the deployment of thousands of soldiers and a strong naval presence in the Persian Gulf region to deter possible aggression by Saddam Hussein's Iraq or the Islamic fundamentalist regime in Iran, and it mediated in the conflict between Israel and Syria in Lebanon. In the Western Hemisphere, the United States completed the withdrawal of 15,000 soldiers after restoring a semblance of democratic government in Haiti and, almost without public notice, prevented a military coup in Paraguay. In Africa, a U.S. expeditionary force rescued Americans and others trapped in the Liberian civil conflict.

These were just the most visible American actions of the past six months, and just those of a military or diplomatic nature. During the same period, the United States made a thousand decisions in international economic forums, both as a government and as an amalgam of large corporations and individual entrepreneurs, that shaped the lives and fortunes of billions around the globe. America influenced both the external and internal behavior of other countries through the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Through the United Nations, it maintained sanctions on rogue states such as Libya, Iran, and Iraq. Through aid programs, the United States tried to shore up friendly democratic regimes in developing nations. The enormous web of the global economic system, with the United States at the center, combined with the pervasive influence of American ideas and culture, allowed Americans to wield influence in many other ways of which they were entirely unconscious. The simple truth of this era was stated last year by a Serb leader trying to explain Slobodan Milosevic's decision to finally seek rapprochement with Washington. "As a pragmatist," the Serbian politician said, "Milosevic knows that all satellites of the United States are in a better position than those that are not satellites."

And America's allies are in a better position than those who are not its allies. Most of the world's major powers welcome U.S. global involvement and prefer America's benevolent hegemony to the alternatives. Instead of having to compete for dominant global influence with many other powers, therefore, the United States finds both the Europeans and the Japanese -- after the United States, the two most powerful forces in the world -- supportive of its world leadership role. Those who anticipated the dissolution of these alliances once the common threat of the Soviet Union disappeared have been proved wrong. The principal concern of America's allies these days is not that it will be too dominant but that it will withdraw.

Somehow most Americans have failed to notice that they have never had it so good. They have never lived in a world more conducive to their fundamental interests in a liberal international order, the spread of freedom and democratic governance, an international economic system of free-market capitalism and free trade, and the security of Americans not only to live within their own borders but to travel and do business safely and without encumbrance almost anywhere in the world. Americans have taken these remarkable benefits of the post-Cold War era for granted, partly because it has all seemed so easy. Despite misguided warnings of imperial overstretch, the United States has so far exercised its hegemony without any noticeable strain, and it has done so despite the fact that Americans appear to be in a more insular mood than at any time since before the Second World War. The events of the last six months have excited no particular interest among Americans and, indeed, seem to have been regarded with the same routine indifference as breathing and eating.

And that is the problem. The most difficult thing to preserve is that which does not appear to need preserving. The dominant strategic and ideological position the United States now enjoys is the product of foreign policies and defense strategies that are no longer being pursued. Americans have come to take the fruits of their hegemonic power for granted. During the Cold War, the strategies of deterrence and containment worked so well in checking the ambitions of America's adversaries that many American liberals denied that our adversaries had ambitions or even, for that matter, that America had adversaries. Today the lack of a visible threat to U.S. vital interests or to world peace has tempted Americans to absentmindedly dismantle the material and spiritual foundations on which their national well-being has been based. They do not notice that potential challengers are deterred before even contemplating confrontation by their overwhelming power and influence.

The ubiquitous post-Cold War question -- where is the threat? -- is thus misconceived. In a world in which peace and American security depend on American power and the will to use it, the main threat the United States faces now and in the future is its own weakness. American hegemony is the only reliable defense against a breakdown of peace and international order. The appropriate goal of American foreign policy, therefore, is to preserve that hegemony as far into the future as possible. To achieve this goal, the United States needs a neo-Reaganite foreign policy of military supremacy and moral confidence.


SETTING FORTH the broad outlines of such a foreign policy is more important for the moment than deciding the best way to handle all the individual issues that have preoccupied U.S. policymakers and analysts. Whether or not the United States continues to grant most-favored-nation status to China is less important than whether it has an overall strategy for containing, influencing, and ultimately seeking to change the regime in Beijing. Whether NATO expands this year or five years from now is less important than whether NATO remains strong, active, cohesive, and under decisive American leadership. Whether America builds 20 B-2 bombers or 3 is less important than giving its military planners enough money to make intelligent choices that are driven more by strategic than by budget requirements. But it is clear that a neo-Reaganite foreign policy would have several implications.

The defense budget. Republicans declared victory last year when they added $ 7 billion to President Clinton's defense budget. But the hard truth is that Washington -- now spending about $ 260 billion per year on defense -- probably needs to spend about $ 60-$ 80 billion more each year in order to preserve America's role as global hegemon. The United States currently devotes about three percent of its GNP to defense. U.S. defense planners, who must make guesses about a future that is impossible to predict with confidence, are increasingly being forced to place all their chips on one guess or another. They are being asked to predict whether the future is likely to bring more conflicts like the Gulf War or peacekeeping operations like those in Bosnia and Haiti, or more great-power confrontations similar to the Cold War. The best answer to these questions is: who can tell? The odds are that in the coming decades America may face all these kinds of conflict, as well as some that have yet to be imagined.

For the past few years, American military supremacy has been living off a legacy, specifically, the legacy of Ronald Reagan. As former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell once noted, it was Reagan's military, built in the 1980s to deter the Soviet Union, that won the war against Iraq. No serious analyst of American military capabilities today doubts that the defense budget has been cut much too far to meet America's responsibilities to itself and to world peace. The United States may no longer have the wherewithal to defend against threats to America's vital interests in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, much less to extend America's current global preeminence well into the future.

The current readiness of U.S. forces is in decline, but so is their ability to maintain an advantage in high-technology weapons over the coming decades. In the search for some way to meet extensive strategic requirements with inadequate resources, defense planners have engaged in strategic fratricide. Those who favor current readiness have been pitted against those who favor high-tech research and development; those who favor maintaining American forward deployment at bases around the world have been arrayed against those who insist that for the sake of economizing the job be accomplished at long range without bases. The military is forced to choose between army combat divisions and the next generation of bombers, between lift capacities and force projection, between short-range and long-range deterrence. Constructing a military force appropriate to a nation's commitments and its resources is never an easy task, and there are always limits that compel difficult choices. But today's limits are far too severe; the choices they compel are too dramatic; and because military strategy and planning are far from exact sciences, the United States is dangerously cutting its margin for error.

The defense budget crisis is now at hand. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General John Shalikashvili has complained that the weapons procurement budget has been reduced to perilously low levels, and he has understated the problem. Since 1985, the research and development budget has been cut by 57 percent; the procurement budget has been cut 71 percent. Both the Clinton administration and the Republican Congress have achieved budget savings over the next few years by pushing necessary procurement decisions into the next century. The Clinton administration's so-called "Bottom-Up Review" of U.S. defense strategy has been rightly dismissed by Democrats like Senate Armed Services Committee member Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) as "already inadequate to the present and certainly to the future." Both the General Accounting Office and the Congressional Budget Office have projected a shortfall of $ 50 billion to $ 100 billion over the next five years in funding just for existing force levels and procurement plans.

These shortfalls do not even take into account the development of new weapons, like a missile defense system capable of protecting American territory against missiles launched from rogue states such as North Korea or shielding, say, Los Angeles from nuclear intimidation by the Chinese during the next crisis in the Taiwan Strait. Deployment of such a system could cost more than $ 10 billion a year.

Add together the needed increases in the procurement budget called for by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the justifiable increases in funding for existing forces to make up the shortfalls identified by the GAO and the CBO, and it becomes obvious that an increase in defense spending by $ 60 billion to $ 80 billion is not a radical proposal. It is simply what the United States will require to keep the peace and defend its interests over the coming decades. If this number sounds like a budget-buster, it should not. Today, defense spending is less than 20 percent of the total federal budget. In 1962, before the Vietnam War, defense spending ran at almost 50 percent of the overall budget. In 1978, before the Carter-Reagan defense buildup, it was about 23 percent. Increases of the size required to pursue a neo-Reaganite foreign policy today would require returning to about that level of defense spending -- still less than one-quarter of the federal budget.

These days, some critics complain about the fact that the United States spends more on defense than the next six major powers combined. But the enormous disparity between U.S. military strength and that of any potential challenger is a good thing for America and the world. After all, America's world role is entirely different from that of the other powers. The more Washington is able to make clear that it is futile to compete with American power, either in size of forces or in technological capabilities, the less chance there is that countries like China or Iran will entertain ambitions of upsetting the present world order. And that means the United States will be able to save money in the long run, for it is much cheaper to deter a war than to fight one. Americans should be glad that their defense capabilities are as great as the next six powers combined. Indeed, they may even want to enshrine this disparity in U.S. defense strategy. Great Britain in the late 19th century maintained a "two-power standard" for its navy, insisting that at all times the British navy should be as large as the next two naval powers combined, whoever they might be. Perhaps the United States should inaugurate such a two- (or three-, or four-) power standard of its own, which would preserve its military supremacy regardless of the near-term global threats.

Citizen involvement. A gap is growing, meanwhile, between America's professional military, uncomfortable with some of the missions that the new American role requires, and a civilian population increasingly unaware of or indifferent to the importance of its military's efforts abroad. U.S. military leaders harbor justifiable suspicions that while they serve as a kind of foreign legion, doing the hard work of American-style "empire management," American civilians at home, preoccupied with the distribution of tax breaks and government benefits, will not come to their support when the going gets tough. Weak political leadership and a poor job of educating the citizenry to the responsibilities of global hegemony have created an increasingly distinct and alienated military culture. Ask any mechanic or mess boy on an aircraft carrier why he is patrolling the oceans, and he can give a more sophisticated explanation of power projection than 99 percent of American college graduates. It is foolish to imagine that the United States can lead the world effectively while the overwhelming majority of the population neither understands nor is involved, in any real way, with its international mission.

The president and other political leaders can take steps to close the growing separation of civilian and military cultures in our society. They can remind civilians of the sacrifices being made by U.S. forces overseas and explain what those sacrifices are for. A clear statement of America's global mission can help the public understand why U.S. troops are deployed overseas and can help reassure military leaders of public support in difficult circumstances. It could also lay the groundwork for reasserting more comprehensive civilian control over the military.

There could be further efforts to involve more citizens in military service. Perhaps the United States has reached the point where a return to the draft is not feasible because of the high degree of professionalization of the military services. But there are other ways to lower the barriers between civilian and military life. Expanded forms of reserve service could give many more Americans experience of the military and an appreciation of military virtues. Conservatives preach that citizenship is not only about rights but also about responsibilities. There is no more profound responsibility than the defense of the nation and its principles.

Moral clarity. Finally, American foreign policy should be informed with a clear moral purpose, based on the understanding that its moral goals and its fundamental national interests are almost always in harmony. The United States achieved its present position of strength not by practicing a foreign policy of live and let live, nor by passively waiting for threats to arise, but by actively promoting American principles of governance abroad -- democracy, free markets, respect for liberty. During the Reagan years, the United States pressed for changes in right-wing and left-wing dictatorships alike, among both friends and foes -- in the Philippines, South Korea, Eastern Europe and even the Soviet Union. The purpose was not Wilsonian idealistic whimsy. The policy of putting pressure on authoritarian and totalitarian regimes had practical aims and, in the end, delivered strategic benefits. Support for American principles around the world can be sustained only by the continuing exertion of American influence. Some of that influence comes from the aid provided to friendly regimes that are trying to carry out democratic and free market reforms. However strong the case for reform of foreign aid programs, such programs deserve to be maintained as a useful way of exerting American influence abroad. And sometimes that means not just supporting U.S. friends and gently pressuring other nations but actively pursuing policies in Iran, Cuba, or China, for instance -- ultimately intended to bring about a change of regime. In any case, the United States should not blindly "do business" with every nation, no matter its regime. Armand Hammerism should not be a tenet of conservative foreign policy.


FROM NSC-68 TO 1996

THIS SWEEPING, neo-Reaganite foreign policy agenda may seem ambitious for these tepid times. Politicians in both parties will protest that the American people will not support the burdens of such a policy. There are two answers to this criticism.

First, it is already clear that, on the present course, Washington will find it increasingly impossible to fulfill even the less ambitious foreign policies of the realists, including the defense of so-called "vital" interests in Europe and Asia. Without a broad, sustaining foreign policy vision, the American people will be inclined to withdraw from the world and will lose sight of their abiding interest in vigorous world leadership. Without a sense of mission, they will seek deeper and deeper cuts in the defense and foreign affairs budgets and gradually decimate the tools of U.S. hegemony.

Consider what has happened in only the past few years. Ronald Reagan's exceptionalist appeal did not survive the presidency of George Bush, where self-proclaimed pragmatists like James Baker found it easier to justify the Gulf War to the American people in terms of "jobs" than as a defense of a world order shaped to suit American interests and principles. Then, having discarded the overarching Reaganite vision that had sustained a globally active foreign policy through the last decade of the Cold War, the Bush administration in 1992 saw its own prodigious foreign policy successes swept into the dustbin by Clinton political adviser James Carville's campaign logic: "It's the economy, stupid." By the time conservatives took their seats as the congressional opposition in 1993, they had abandoned not only Reaganism but to some degree foreign policy itself.

Now the common wisdom holds that Dole's solid victory over Buchanan in the primaries constituted a triumphant reassertion of conservative internationalism over neoisolationism. But the common wisdom may prove wrong. On the stump during the Republican primaries this year, what little passion and energy there was on foreign policy issues came from Buchanan and his followers. Over the past four years Buchanan's fiery "America First" rhetoric has filled the vacuum among conservatives created by the abandonment of Reagan's very different kind of patriotic mission. It is now an open question how long the beleaguered conservative realists will be able to resist the combined assault of Buchanan's "isolationism of the heart" and the Republican budget hawks on Capitol Hill.

History also shows, however, that the American people can be summoned to meet the challenges of global leadership if statesmen make the case loudly, cogently, and persistently. As troubles arise and the need to act becomes clear, those who have laid the foundation for a necessary shift in policy have a chance to lead Americans onto a new course. In 1950, Paul Nitze and other Truman administration officials drafted the famous planning document NSC-68, a call for an all-out effort to meet the Soviet challenge that included a full-scale ideological confrontation and massive increases in defense spending. At first, their proposals languished. President Truman, worried about angering a hostile, budget-conscious Congress and an American public which was enjoying an era of peace and prosperity, for months refused to approve the defense spending proposals. It took the North Korean invasion of South Korea to allow the administration to rally support for the prescriptions of NSC-68. Before the Korean War, American politicians were fighting over whether the defense budget ought to be $ 15 billion or $ 16 billion; most believed more defense spending would bankrupt the nation. The next year, the defense budget was over $ 50 billion.

A similar sequence of events unfolded in the 1970s. When Reagan and the "Scoop" Jackson Democrats began sounding the alarm about the Soviet danger, the American public was not ready to listen. Then came the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the seizure of American hostages in Iran. By the time Jimmy Carter professed to have learned more about the Soviet Union than he had ever known before, Reagan and his fellow conservatives in both parties had laid the intellectual foundation for the military buildup of the 1980s.


IN THEORY, either party could lay the groundwork for a neo-Reaganite foreign policy over the next decade. The Democrats, after all, led the nation to assume its new global responsibilities in the late 1940s and early 1950s under President Truman and Secretary of State Dean Acheson. It is unlikely, however, that they are prepared to pursue such a course today. Republicans may have lost their way in the last few years, but the Democrats are still recovering from their post-Vietnam trauma of two decades ago. President Clinton has proved a better manager of foreign policy than many expected, but he has not been up to the larger task of preparing and inspiring the nation to embrace the role of global leadership. He, too, has tailored his internationalist activism to fit the constraints of a popular mood that White House pollsters believe is disinclined to sacrifice blood and treasure in the name of overseas commitments. His Pentagon officials talk more about exit strategies than about national objectives. His administration has promised global leadership on the cheap, refusing to seek the levels of defense spending needed to meet the broad goals it claims to want to achieve in the world. Even Clinton's boldest overseas adventures, in Bosnia and Haiti, have come only after strenuous and prolonged efforts to avoid intervention.

Republicans are surely the genuine heirs to the Reagan tradition. The 1994 election is often said to have represented one last victory for Ronald Reagan's domestic agenda. But Reagan's earlier successes rested as much on foreign as on domestic policy. Over the long term, victory for American conservatives depends on recapturing the spirit of Reagan's foreign policy as well. Indeed, American conservatism cannot govern by domestic policy alone. In the 1990s conservatives have built their agenda on two pillars of Reaganism: relimiting government to curtail the most intrusive and counterproductive aspects of the modern welfare state, and reversing the widespread collapse of morals and standards in American society. But it is hard to imagine conservatives achieving a lasting political realignment in this country without the third pillar: a coherent set of foreign policy principles that at least bear some resemblance to those propounded by Reagan. The remoralization of America at home ultimately requires the remoralization of American foreign policy. For both follow from Americans' belief that the principles of the Declaration of Independence are not merely the choices of a particular culture but are universal, enduring, "self-evident" truths. That has been, after all, the main point of the conservatives' war against a relativistic multiculturalism. For conservatives to preach the importance of upholding the core elements of the Western tradition at home, but to profess indifference to the fate of American principles abroad, is an inconsistency that cannot help but gnaw at the heart of conservatism.

Conservatives these days succumb easily to the charming old metaphor of the United States as a "city on a hill." They hark back, as George Kennan did in these pages not long ago, to the admonition of John Quincy Adams that America ought not go "abroad in search of monsters to destroy." But why not? The alternative is to leave monsters on the loose, ravaging and pillaging to their hearts' content, as Americans stand by and watch. What may have been wise counsel in 1823, when America was a small, isolated power in a world of European giants, is no longer so, when America is the giant. Because America has the capacity to contain or destroy many of the world's monsters, most of which can be found without much searching, and because the responsibility for the peace and security of the international order rests so heavily on America's shoulders, a policy of sitting atop a hill and leading by example becomes in practice a policy of cowardice and dishonor.

And more is at stake than honor. Without a broader, more enlightened understanding of America's interests, conservatism will too easily degenerate into the pinched nationalism of Buchanan's "America First," where the appeal to narrow stir-interest masks a deeper form of stir-loathing. A true "conservatism of the heart" ought to emphasize both personal and national responsibility, relish the opportunity for national engagement, embrace the possibility of national greatness, and restore a sense of the heroic, which has been sorely lacking in American foreign policy -- and American conservatism in recent years. George Kennan was right 50 years ago in his famous "X" article: the American people ought to feel a "certain gratitude to a Providence, which by providing [them] with this implacable challenge, has made their entire security as a nation dependent on pulling themselves together and accepting the responsibilities of moral and political leadership that history plainly intended them to bear." This is as true today -- if less obviously so -- as it was at the beginning of the Cold War.

A neo-Reaganite foreign policy would be good for conservatives, good for America, and good for the world. It is worth recalling that the most successful Republican presidents of this century, Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, both inspired Americans to assume cheerfully the new international responsibilities that went with increased power and influence. Both celebrated American exceptionalism. Both made Americans proud of their leading role in world affairs. Deprived of the support of an elevated patriotism, bereft of the ability to appeal to national honor, conservatives will ultimately fail in their effort to govern America. And Americans will fail in their responsibility to lead the world.

The Full PNAC text in PDF form

The Invasion of Iraq: Playing into the Hands of the Devil or "Being There" for the Seventh Generation -- Includes an analysis of the PNAC (Paux Americana Report from Scotland's Sunday Herald. (OCT 7, 2002)

The US Plan for World Domination an article by Anatol Lieven of the Carnegie Institiute at the London review of Books

More on the PNAC an article by John Pilger. The men who now surround George W Bush said what America needed was "a new Pearl Harbor" (Dec 2002)

Richard Perle, Rumsfeld aide, pentagon advisor, and one of the founders of the PNAC embrolied in potential scandal which eventually lead to his resignation. (Mar 2003)

Richard Perle Resigns (Reuters March 27, 2003)

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