A September 2002 document known as The National Security Strategy of the United States outlined U.S. President George W. Bush’s national security policy to guide the U.S. military, known as the Bush doctrine.
This was said to be in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and new threats of international terrorism. Bush argued that the strategy of deterrence, and mutually assured destruction of states that prevented the Soviet Union and the U.S. from annihilating each other, was now outdated, for fear of stateless terrorists getting hold of weapons of mass destruction.
However, this has proven controversial in many ways. For example:
This approach has been seen as a violation of current international obligations and treaties.
In line with this doctrine, the U.S. pulled out of the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty, one of the corner stones to international peace and stability. But this was met with much criticism of another power, this time global and almost unchallenged, to be able to get away with such things in a unilateral manner, rather than going through such changes with the international community and the United Nations. Side NoteMaybe there was, as the U.S’s arguments made, a reason to consider it outdated, but the manner in which they pulled out was seen as threatening by other states. At a time when American citizens are more and more threatened due to the policies of their leaders in the international arena, such acts when combined with many other examples of hostility to international agreements, risks fueling anger that might be directed at ordinary American citizens.
In addition, and in line with the above-mentioned report, the U.S. has also in its March 2002 Pentagon Nuclear Posture documents described possible nuclear options at named countries fueling the criticisms. (This is detailed further in the previous link.)
Throughout history, larger nations have been able to exert their desires more effectively than others. Military power has often been the final arbiter of law. We recall gun boat diplomacy tactics of various imperial powers in the past to ensure unwilling nations bent to their demands. The U.S.’s political and military power is unrivalled today. In terms of historical pattern, many in the third world see this as a continued pattern of projecting power and signs of a new form of imperialism as the Iraq crisis has shown.
Furthermore, the actions of the more powerful nations in the international arena, away from home, have contributed to such resentment and hatred, that it is sometimes not recognized that their own policies could be contributing to these terrible acts and threats of terrorism. Any such consideration is met with being labeled as soft (for the implication is to adapt and change foreign policy and to stand down the threatening armies, etc), or not even entertained as a possibility for it would affect the economy and way of life for those nations that benefit from this arrangement. It has appeared challenging for the mainstream and elite establishment in the powerful nations to accept that their own leaders may be acting undemocratically in the international arena even though they provide democracy at home.
But one other controversial thing about the Bush doctrine is its timing and originality. That is, the claim has been that the National Security document came out of the need to respond to the threats that September 11 had posed. However, in 2000 a report from a neo-conservative organization, New American Century, called Rebuilding America’s Defenses , outlines the ideas behind global dominance and empire in the form of a global Pax Americana.
In that document, amongst various other things, some of the following were highlighted or stressed in key areas or boxes. (Formatting is slightly adapted to facilitate reading on this page, but the words are all original. Emphasis in bold is original. In some places bold replaces the original emphases via capitalization of words):
Perhaps on an initial reaction, such documents could be ignored as extremist, were it not for the authors, contributors and the audience of the document. Many include those that serve in the current Bush Administration, at least one who also worked in the former Clinton Administration, and many who served in the previous Bush Administration (some who also serve in the current Bush Administration). The Scottish Paper, the Sunday Herald broke this story and is quoted at length, which also has more details about some people involved:
Indications such as that American leadership should be preferred over an international body such as the United Nations and that targetting specific genotypes as a politically useful tool could sound very alarming and threatening to people around the world. Even European allies are to be managed the authors would suggest.
William Rivers Pitt, teacher, and New York Times bestselling author on two books related to the Iraq crisis also adds:
The PNAC’s own web site, in their statement of principles, lists the people that have agreed to their principles. As well as the people listed above, from Rumsfled, Cheney and so on, are also people like John Bolton (Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security), Steve Forbes (former U.S. presidential candidate and founder/CEO/chief editor of Forbes a leading business magazine), Francis Fukayama (author of the controversial End of History) and Zalmay Khalilzad (appointed by the Bush Administration as the special envoy to Afghanistan and Iraq).
Jay Bookman, an editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper highlights how many key themes in the 2000 report are similar to the National Security Strategy document of September 2002, and how various policies have fallen in line with these suggestions:
(The above Atlantic Journal-Constitution article also has more information on some of these key people as well. Note also that at least one person, Eliot Cohen, was a former policy advisor to the US Defence department during the Clinton Administration.)
Inter Press Service also notes (July 1, 2003) an example of where influential ideas come from a narrow range of sources. When The Washington Post published a list of the people who Karl Rove, President George W. Bush’s closest adviser, regularly consults for advice outside the administration, foreign-policy veterans were shocked when Michael Ledeen popped up as the only full-time international-affairs analyst. Ledeen, IPS noted, has been active in the neo-conservative community for 20 years, and works closely with one of the more famous members, Dr. Richard Perle, former chairman of the Defense Policy Board, at the right wing think tank, the American Enterprise Institue (AEI) where George Bush has occassionally appeared to make speeches.
One of the tasks the report highlighted was to increase military spending to preserve the U.S.’s dominance.
To preserve American military preeminence in the coming decades, the [U.S.] Department of Defense must move more aggressively to experiment with new technologies and operational concepts, and seek to exploit the emerging revolution in military affairs, the report mentions (p. 50).
Changes in information technology, which is also transforming the larger world, should be taken advantage of.
The effects of this military transformation the report continues, will have profound implications for how wars are fought, what kinds of weapons will dominate the battlefield and, inevitably, which nations enjoy military preeminence. With such military preeminence, this can be read as global domination and ultimate power. (As J.W. Smith and the Institute for Economic Democracy’s research highlights, military power is often the final arbiter of law in international affairs and this has been the case throughout history.)
All this of course would take some time to put into place, depending on current events. As the report notes (p. 51): Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor.
Award-winning journalist John Pilger notes that the terrorist attacks of September 11 was that new Pearl Harbor that was needed. (He also suggests that extreme right wing think tanks have been stuck in a mind-set of war and conflict from the Cold War era.)
The National Security Strategy document, in its introduction for example, states that as a matter of common sense and self-defense, America will act against such emerging threats [of weapons of mass destruction proliferation] before they are fully formed. We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. So we must be prepared to defeat our enemies’ plans, using the best intelligence and proceeding with deliberation. History will judge harshly those who saw this coming danger but failed to act. In the new world we have entered, the only path to peace and security is the path of action.
This sounds proactive and positive from the American government’s standpoint. However,
Other nations have feared that this is a polite way of saying that they will use their abilities whenever they want.
The most recent example, the way the Iraq case was made, is notable, for all the intelligence and proceedings did not convince even many allies or most nations around the world of a credible threat. Yet, the U.S. and a few coalition forces still decided to invade Iraq. (See this site’s section on building the case for a war in Iraq.) Noam Chomsky notes that this was not a failure in diplomacy, but a failure of coercion as the U.S. did not succeed in getting the international community to bend to its will.
On Iraq, the PNAC report also notes (page 14) that 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.
In other words, the Iraq crisis could be more than just about oil, which a lot of critics suggest. Or, as Michael Klare, professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and author of Resource Wars suggests in Mother Jones magazine, Controlling Iraq is about oil as power, rather than oil as fuel. Control over the Persian Gulf translates into control over Europe, Japan, and China. It’s having our hand on the spigot.
The international fury and concern this has caused for bypassing international processes and treaty obligations has caused nations to worry about the intent and nature of U.S. power even more. North Korea for example, has become even more frightened threatening to increase its nuclear weapons capabilities (whether North Korea is just trying to act frightening or if it is dead serious is hard to tell right now. Intelligence over time will perhaps confirm the nature of the threat.)
As described in the nuclear weapons section on this site, and many other geopolitics pages on this site, a result is that both rogue states and the use and abuse of power by the most powerful nations contribute to these concerns, and we risk having a self-fulfilling prophecy, whereby
concerns are raised about rogue states;
increased military expenditure is increased to address the concerns by nations such as the U.S.;
rogue states (and others not deemed rogue), concerned about their own security increase military spending and such priorities;
powerful nations such as the U.S. can then point to the need to increase their military abilities in various ways as being justified.
A vicious spiral is a big risk.
Mother Jones magazine is quite blunt in what the National Security Strategy document represents:
France, Germany and Russia in particular, have been vocally opposed to a U.S.-led war in Iraq outside the U.N. Some have wondered why these nations, considered allies of the U.S. would dare to oppose it. Perhaps the PNAC 2000 report gives a hint: In Europe it says, a requirement to station U.S. forces in northern and central Europe remains. The region is stable, but a continued American presence helps to assure the major European powers, especially Germany, that the United States retains its longstanding security interest in the continent. This is especially important in light of the nascent European moves toward an independent defense identity and policy; it is important that NATO not be replaced by the European Union, leaving the United States without a voice in European security affairs (page 16). This reiterates a concern by the Pentagon’s 1994-1999 Defense Planning Guidance report, mentioned briefly further below.
Various mainstream newspapers and outlets have reported on this too to varying degrees. The following is just a sampling. More will be added over time.
A German newspaper, Der Spiegel reported this (March 4, 2003) and was translated into English by the Australian daily, the Sydney Morning Herald (March 7, 2003).
This issue has been quite prominent, for ABC’s Nightline to air a piece on this (March 5, 2003). In it, it did point out though that The group was never secret about its aims. In its 1998 open letter to Clinton, the group openly advocated unilateral U.S. action against Iraq because we can no longer depend on our partners in the Gulf War coalition to enforce the inspections regime. That letter, and the focus of the ABC Nightline program was only about the Iraq crisis, yet, the general thrust of the PNAC has a wider geopolitical ramification.
Shortly after the Iraq war ended, the U.S. announced that it was going to pull its troops out of Saudi Arabia. Jim Lobe, writing for Inter Press Service (June 10, 2003), also notes that as well as there, there are planned sharp reduction of forces in Germany and Turkey (also two nations whose populations were openly hostile to a war on Iraq, incidentally), but at the same time, the U.S. still plans a military expansion.
As Lobe mentions in the June 10 article above, U.S. military planners are talking about establishing semi-permanent or permanent bases along a giant swathe of global territory—increasingly referred to as the arc of instability—from the Caribbean Basin through Africa to South and Central Asiaa[sic] and across to North Korea.
Safeguard U.S. interests and promote American values
And, if necessary, the United States must be prepared to take unilateral action
When this was leaked to the U.S. mainstream, then Defense Secretary, Dick Cheney, was ordered by the White House (of the Bush Sr. Administration) to rewrite it, but this draft revealed some of the truer intentions.
Noting a parallel to this controversial document, and now mostly codified in the September 2002 National Security Strategy of the USA, Lobe also notes that the arc of instability corresponds well to regions of great oil, gas and mineral wealth, a reminder again of Wolfowitz’s 1992 draft study. It asserted that the key objective of U.S. strategy should be to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.
On the issue of Wolfowitz suggesting that the U.S. should prevent other powers from dominating a region or resources, Research Unit for Political Economy (RUPE), a research organization in India also notes that those other powers could also include allies that might be rivals in these great games. As such, some aspects of U.S. foreign policies are to challenge rivals such as Europe, China and others that might be alternative centers of power that could undermine the influence of the U.S.
Writing just before the Iraq war commenced, RUPE offers insights into why allies such as France and Germany would have been so against the U.S. actions this time. This arc of instability would seem to overlap with these additional geopolitical concerns raised by Wolfowitz:
These differences between the U.S. and a supposed France/German-centered Europe in the context of the U.S. invasion of Iraq is, as RUPE says, the attempt by each imperialist power to exclude others from the prize (p.20) which they also further detail in their above-mentioned book.
Writing in another Inter Press Service article (June 6, 2003), Jim Lobe discussed the ramifications of a Pew survey that revealed many people around the world feared the U.S. power. Polls and surveys are of course frought with many problems, and the issue here is not whether the poll captured the correct proportion of feelings and attitudes, but instead, as Lobe noted, the reactions to this. Lobe noted that Some analysts said they were pleased that Washington now evokes fear, particularly in the Muslim world. World leadership is not about popularity, Danielle Pletka, a neo-conservative analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, told Newhouse News Service. The right thing is not always the popular thing. Quoting another analyst, I think there’s new-found respect for American power, said Max Boot, a neo-conservative commentator at the Council on Foreign Relations. I’d rather be respected than look weak and helpless as we did on Sep. 12 when most of the rest of the world rallied to Washington’s side. Even former U.S. Secretary of State, Madeline Albright reacted to the poll saying, Something I never, ever thought I would see is the fear of American power.
Debating the above poll, and other related issues about U.S. nationalism, Lobe detailed a debate between a scholar at Carnegie, Minxin Pei, and Francis Fukuyama, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School for advanced International Studies and author of the famous End of History published a decade ago. An interesting observation which Lobe noted, was that the unique and universal qualities of U.S. nationalism, according to Pei, make Americans uniquely insensitive to the nationalisms of other countries, and also imbues it with both a missionary spirit and a short collective memory—a combination that can be particularly irritating to other countries when Washington asserts itself aggressively on the world scene, particularly in pursuit of its own interests. American nationalism is based on universal values, but when it pursues narrow national interests, it looks hypocritical, said Pei, who noted that anti-Americanism is in large part generated by people who admire American values. In addition, Fukuyama agreed with most of that analysis, but added another element to the uniqueness of U.S. nationalism: the notion that the creed at the core of U.S. identity has historically taken on some of the attributes of a religion, in part because of the absence of a state religion, as well as a legacy of sectarian factionalism among Protestant groups here…. The result is that U.S. nationalism has a strong moralistic flavour that not only tends to cast foreign policy issues in terms of good and evil and confuses U.S. national interest with the universal good, but also, as Pei argued, invites charges of hypocrisy when Washington’s policy fails to adhere to its basic values.
On the one hand, people may argue that the U.S. is only doing what anyone else in their position of power would do: preserve and expand it where possible. That may be so. One concern though is what the geopolitical strategies are, and how it is spun and delivered to the American citizens and others around the world.
Consider the following, quoted at length, which highlights geopolitical concerns in a longer historical context that empires and powers have of rivals and others, and note the similarity with RUPE’s assessment above, and that of Wolfowitz and PNAC:
One of the key justifications for war in Iraq for example, was based on getting rid of the tyrant, Saddam Hussein. A large number of American citizens support the removal of that dictator (as do most people, even war protestors). However, the above highlights that Saddam Hussein’s brutality is not necessarily the real concern, though it is the one used and stated to the public to arouse their support. In that context then, it might be harder to see how U.S. international policies, rather than addressing the root causes of terrorism, may be fueling more hatred, while a U.S. drive towards hegemony and Empire hardly enters mainstream discourse. Such dangerous policies would perhaps not receive so much support even from most American citizens if spoken in such terms.