Location: United States

I am a graduate student at the State University of New York at Binghamton studying education and history.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Neoconservatives: Who Really Dictates US Foreign Policy?

In the disputed presidential election in 2000, George W. Bush defeated Al Gore to become the 43rd President of the United States. In the spring of 2000, Bush had selected Richard Cheney, CEO of Halliburton and former Secretary of Defense, to head his Vice-Presidential search committee. In what historians might very well determine to be a crucial turning point in American foreign policy, ranking with the turn from isolationism following Pearl Harbor and the strategy of containment articulated by the Truman Doctrine; Bush selected Cheney himself, as his running mate on the Republican ticket. Following the election Cheney would consolidate his power and surround himself with his allies of the neoconservative movement, flooding the Department of “Defense” with unelected neoconservative ideologues and promoting their long articulated agenda by playing on the fear of the American populace in the wake of 9/11.
Discussing a small cross-section of the neoconservative movement - Vice President Dick Cheney; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Deputy Secretary of Defense from 2001-2005 Paul Wolfowitz; Undersecretary of Defense from 2001-2005 Douglass Feith, who also headed the OSP (Office of Special Planning) in the Pentagon; and Richard Pearle who served on the advisory committee for the Defense Policy Board from 1987-2004 and served as chairman from 2001-2003 – will illustrate who the neoconservatives are, what their philosophy is and how they were able to consolidate power following the September 11 attacks.

Historical Context:

Following World War II, President Harry S. Truman, in March 1947 announced that the US government would provide aid to Turkey and Greece, to prevent the nations from falling under Soviet influence. The doctrine articulated the policy of containment, building a wall of allied nations surrounding the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc to stop the potential spread of communism. In 1969 Richard Nixon, continuing with the policy of containment, announced that US allies would be responsible to provide the manpower for their defense, however, the US would provide them with economic and military assistance.
The announcement outlined the policies of the Nixon Doctrine, which opened floodgates of aid to Saudi Arabia and Iran among others, whose corrupt leaders used the money to suppress popular uprisings and support their frail support bases through unprecedented military might, all while accumulating billions in personal wealth. The corrupt Middle Eastern dictatorships, armed with stockpiles of American weaponry and state of the art technology not only suppressed domestic threats, but also policed the area for activities that might undermine their US supporters and hence, their own interests.
These “local cops on the beat” were joined by Israel, whose lobby in Washington would evolve synonymously with much of the neoconservative movement, a point to which I will later return. US aid to Israel was dramatic; from 1949 to 1965, US aid to Israel averaged $63 million per year, 5 percent of which was direct military aid; from 1966-1970 the average aid per year had risen to $102 million, 50 percent of which was now military; beginning in 1970, one year after the pronouncement of the Nixon Doctrine, US aid rose dramatically, from 1970- present US aid to Israel per year, averages at $2 billion, two thirds of which is military in nature. Israel’s military has evolved into a high-tech offshore US military base, many commentators note. The awesome, state of the art power allowed Israel to gain military supremacy over the entire region combined, and they used the power to join in policing the region for the US, as well as to hasten their illegal annexation of historic Palestine.
The corrupt and oppressive Middle Eastern regimes violently struck down communist, socialist and nationalist elements throughout society, many of whom were secular. The destruction of various dissenting organizations led to religion, overwhelmingly Islam, becoming the rallying point for the opposition movement. The people became increasingly fundamental and militant in opposition to the decay that had befallen their once great and powerful region. They attributed the decay to the European powers and increasingly the US, who directly funded the harsh dictatorships, against the interests of an overwhelming majority of the population. The fundamentals of Islam stand in sharp contrast to the relatively liberal values of the western world. The rise in fundamentalism was coupled with a rise in militarism, both of which were a reaction to US policy through the 70s and 80s, as it fought so desperately to strangle the Soviet Union.

*(Please note: US policies throughout the Cold War were by no means exclusive to the Middle East, however the neoconservatives became obsessed with the oil-rich region more so than any other in the world.)

By the early 1980s, however, it became increasingly apparent that the Soviet Union was doomed to fail. Opposition to Soviet rule had grown strong throughout the Eastern bloc, and a series of liberal Soviet leaders attempted frail economic reforms toward market capitalism. The Department of Defense, which evolved in the late 1940s to place direct control of the army, navy and air-force under pentagon control, had grown dramatically throughout the Cold War. As the collapse of the Soviet Union became inevitable, commentators and politicians in the US began to talk about a peace dividend, the theory that: following the collapse of the Soviet Union the US would be able to dramatically cut military, hence Department of Defense, spending and reinvest the money into social programs. At the same time a group of ideologues in the pentagon, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and Richard Pearle among countless others began a campaign to assure that no such diversion of funding would take place. They evolved in the Department of Defense of the Reagan administration and although they had a somewhat wide variety of goals, values and ideologies; they formed a cohesive movement to assure that following the collapse of the rival superpower, US hegemony would not only be assured, but would be enforced and preserved by an ever expanding Department of “Defense”.

The End of the Cold War and the Rise of the Neoconservatives:

As the Department of Defense had grown, so too had executive powers, as the entire department was under the Secretary of Defense, the position of whom was directly responsible to, as well as appointed by, the President. Thus, while the neoconservatives in the Department of Defense became increasingly powerful, they still had to act within the limits of the democratically elected president. Their activities throughout the Reagan administration in the Middle East, South American and Indochina, to name only the major cases, came under the guise of a “war on terrorism”. The US Department of Defense and allied regimes used the purported war on terrorism to unleash their own terrorist campaigns throughout the world, drawing condemnation in many instances from such international institutions as the United Nations, the World Court, the International Red Cross and the high contracting parties of the Geneva Conventions. The policies nevertheless, continued throughout the administration of George H. W. Bush (I).
On 11/9, 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, marking the symbolic fall of communism and the emergence of the United States as the world’s sole superpower. Bush I used the opportunity to illustrate the United States grand power, launching a full scale assault on Iraq with 40 days and nights of bombing which permanently destroyed much of Iraq’s infrastructure in a campaign which saw more bombs dropped than all of the conventional bombs dropped on Europe throughout World War II. Middle East historian Robert Frisk estimates that 86,000 Iraqi men, 40,000 women and 32,000 children died as a direct result of the bombing. The US news giant CNN also emerged during the Gulf War, projecting the awesome power of the US arsenal on display to the world. Nevertheless, the massive shelling of Iraq did cause the Iraqi army to retreat from its occupation of Kuwait, and the American attack was treated as liberation. The media and politicians alike were quick to pat one another on the back for their liberation of the Kuwaiti people and their altruistic moral fervor. The peace dividend was forgotten and the US military, under the Bush I and Clinton administrations continued to exert its power, justifying its existence and increased funding by proclaiming itself a peace keeping force throughout the world. It was throughout this period that the neoconservatives in the pentagon began to define their vision for what the post Cold War, US dominated world should look like.

Neoconservative Doctrine:

The first neoconservative document that emerged from the pentagon was the Defense Policy Guidance Paper, which was penned in March 1992 by then Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney, and his Undersecretary of Policy, Paul Wolfowitz. The document said that the post Cold War world would be a new kind of world, with the US as a benevolent world hegemon. Policy then, would focus on preserving the United States newly acquired status and the Department of Defense would work to “deter any nation or group of nations (from challenging) American primacy,” hence, use preemptive force when necessary to protect US interests. The document thus proposed that the US should stop other nations from overturning US political and economic interests as such actions would constitute a threat to US primacy and would therefore warrant retribution. The document also called for the overturn of the principle of multilateralism, toward a unilateral foreign policy which would ultimately end international collectivism – such organizations as the United Nations and the World Court, who would no doubt condemn many of the neoconservative policies, as they later did in the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan. Cheney planned for the document to become official policy, however when it was leaked to the New York Times and subsequently published under the title “U.S. Strategy Plan Calls For Ensuring No Rivals Develop,” it was met with such domestic and international opposition that Cheney and Wolfowitz scrapped the document, playing down their agendas to save face.
The second major neoconservative document on the 1990’s was the Clean Break document, published in June 1996 by the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, an Israeli think-tank based in Washington authored by Richard Pearle and Douglass Feith, both of whom simultaneously worked just below the undersecretary of the Department of Defense. The report, entitled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” dealt primarily with the Middle East, an area vital to the neoconservative plans, not only because of the unprecedented wealth circulated throughout the US economy by it’s virtual monopoly of the regions vital resource, but also because of Israel, the United States most functional offshore military base, whose lobby had become one of the most influential in Washington. The policies were written for Benjamin Netanyahu’s right wing Israeli government and there counterparts in the US Department on Defense. The authors called for a total rebirth of Zionism, and a new Middle East, where US-Israeli power would work to reshape the region and protect mutual interests in the post Cold War world. The four main policy recommendations were as follows: Israel should retain the occupied territories (in violation of international law including UN charters, World Court rulings and Geneva Convention rules for occupying armies), while marginalizing Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority as well as linking them to acts of terrorism, even by their rivals in Hammas; the United States was to shift foreign policy toward the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq (possibly to be replaced by a relative of King Hussein, the Hashemite king of Jordan and an ally to the US and Israel); the US-Israel alliance should attack and overthrow hostile regimes in Syria and Lebanon; and finally a full “democratization” of the entire Arab world as well as Iran. Although the plans were not directly implemented, they provide insight to the neoconservative movement and their plans, particularly those of Feith and Pearle, who would emerge as key players in the Administration of George W. Bush (Jr.).
The third neoconservative document came in 1997 in the form of two open letters to President Bill Clinton. The letters were followed by the formation of a Washington based think-tank, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which became a neoconservative haven. The PNAC reiterated the policy outlined in the Defense Policy Guidance Paper and the Clean Break Document, however the members had become increasingly concerned with Iraq. In one of the open letters dated January 26, 1998 the signatories, including Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Pearle, wrote:

"We are writing you because we are convinced that current American policy toward Iraq is not succeeding, and that we may soon face a threat in the Middle East more serious than any we have known since the end of the Cold War."

They claimed that if Saddam were allowed to continue on his present course:

"The safety of American troops in the region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil will all be put at hazard."

They concluded by reiterating calls for unilateralism in foreign policy, as well as describing what would later become the Bush Doctrine, that the United States has the right as a sovereign state to take measures, by military force if necessary, to protect its vital interests:

"We believe the U.S. has the authority under existing UN resolutions to take the necessary steps, including military steps, to protect our vital interests in the Gulf. In any case, American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council."

The 2000 Presidential Elections: Cheney the Neoconservatives and Implementation:

Anyone who recalls the rhetoric of the Bush administration, leading up to the war with Iraq in 2003 should find the similarities striking. The PNAC outlined what would in fact become official policy under the Bush Administration, a policy of preemption to thwart perceived threats, before they showed up on our doorstep. The remaining problem for the neoconservatives (pre-9/11) was convincing the people of a serious threat to American security.
The members of the PNAC included such men who would become prominent members of the Bush White House as Elliott Abrams – Representative for Middle Eastern Affairs, Richard Arbitrage – Deputy Secretary of State, John Bolton – US Ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad – US Ambassador to Iraq, Lewis “scooter” Libby – Chief of Staff for the Vice President, Paul Wolfowitz – Deputy Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld – Secretary of Defense and Richard Cheney – Vice President. The group also included Douglas Feith, who ran the Office of Special Plans (OSP) in the pentagon, described by party moderate and former Secretary of State Colin Powell as the “Gestapo” office because of its separate and unchecked governing authority. The OSP was set up as an intelligence gathering agency, directly under Rumsfeld and Feith, which gathered much of the faulty intelligence that justified the invasion of Iraq. Much of the information has since been proven completely false, as the CIA and other top intelligence gathering agencies had maintained from the start. In addition PNAC members include Jed Bush – Governor of Florida, William Kristol – editor of the conservative publication the Weekly Standard, Richard Pearle – chairman of the Defense Policy Board from 2001-2003, Dan Quayle – former Vice President, Steve Forbes – multi-billionaire and publisher of Forbes Magazine, and Rupert Murdoch – chairman of the neo-fascist (opinion) Fox News Channel.
Before the 2000 elections, very few neoconservatives supported George W. Bush, fearing that “liberal” Republicans in the vein of Secretary of State Colin Powell would continue to dictate foreign policy. The surprise appointment of Richard Cheney as Vice President, however, opened a floodgate of support from the neocon movement, many of whom were rewarded with high-level positions in the administration, as aforementioned. This historical turning point in foreign policy, following the most narrow election win in US history, went from planning to implementation following the September 11 attacks. The culmination of the flood of neoconservative thinkers into the administration and the September 11 attacks - which instilled the fear into the American populace that was necessary to exploit in order to carry out the plans that the neoconservatives had been sketching for nearly a decade – was the pronouncement of the Bush Doctrine in 2002. On September 20, 2002 the Bush Doctrine was officially announced, titled “The National Security Strategy for the United States of America.” The Doctrine outlined policy that would justify preemptive war against potential aggressors. The President declared that the US would make “no distinction between the terrorists who committed these attacks and those who harbor them.” Thus, the intelligence community, especially Feith’s OSP, began fervently looking for ties between Al-Qaeda and Iraq, although most concluded that no such connection existed and that Bin Laden and his organization had long been at odds with, and a threat to, Saddam himself. Nevertheless, the OSP was able to string together partially as well as totally fabricated facts to justify a war, despite overwhelming international condemnation, including that of the United Nations.
It is fascinating to observe the way in which policy that various neoconservatives penned throughout the 1990’s came to be implemented almost to a key. The connection between policy and past implementation does not, however, rival the grave importance of what might happen if neoconservative policy - particularly preemptive attacks and isolation from the international community - is allowed to continue on it's present course.


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