The ominously named Project for the New American Century (PNAC) desires and demands one thing – the establishment of a global US empire to bend the will of all nations. Created in 1997, the Washington-based think-tank chafes at the idea that the US, the last remaining superpower, does not do more by way of its economic and military force to bring the rest of the world under the umbrella of a new socio-economic Pax Americana.
The essence of PNAC’s ideology can be found in a report it produced in September 2000 entitled Rebuilding America’s Defenses: strategy, forces and resources for a new century. The report outlined what is required of the US to create the global empire of the think-tank’s dreams. According to PNAC, the US must:
• reposition permanently based forces to southern Europe, south-east Asia and the Middle East;
• modernise US armed forces by (among other things) enhancing its fighter-aircraft, submarine and surface-fleet capabilities;
• develop and deploy a global missile defence system, and develop a strategic dominance of space;
• control the ‘international commons’ of cyberspace; and
• increase defence spending to a minimum of 3.8 per cent of the country’s GDP – up from the 3 per cent currently spent.
Most ominously, PNAC’s document described four ‘core missions’ for the US military. The two central requirements are for US forces to ‘fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theatre wars’ and for them to ‘perform the “constabulary” duties associated with shaping the security environment in critical regions’. One way or another, US armed forces must establish American dominance for all to see.
Why is all this important? After all, wacky think-tanks are a cottage industry in Washington. They are a dime a dozen. In what way does PNAC stand above all the other groups that would set US foreign policy if they could?
The making of the US’s far-right establishment
Two events brought PNAC into the mainstream of US government: the disputed election of George W Bush, and the attacks of September 11. When Bush assumed the presidency, the men who had – over decades – created and nurtured the imperial dreams of PNAC became the men who now run the Pentagon, the US Defense Department and the White House. The ideological father of PNAC is Paul Wolfowitz – Bush’s deputy defence secretary. Wolfowitz, vice-president Dick Cheney, defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the president’s brother Jeb, his special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad (as well as convicted perjuror and Iran-Contra veteran) Eliot Abrams are all signatories of PNAC’s statement of principles. Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle is another PNAC founding member, and PNAC director Bruce Jackson served as a Pentagon official for Ronald Reagan before leaving government service to take a leading position with the weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin.
PNAC is staffed by men who previously served with groups like Friends of the Democratic Center in Central America (which supported the US’s bloody gamesmanship in Nicaragua and El Salvador) and the Committee for the Present Danger, which spent years advocating that a nuclear war with the Soviet Union was ‘winnable’.
And PNAC has recently given birth to a new group, the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI), which met with national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to formulate a plan to ‘educate’ the US populace about the need for war in Iraq. CLI has funnelled millions of taxpayer dollars into supporting the Iraqi National Congress and the Iraqi heir presumptive Ahmed Chalabi. (In 1992 Chalabi was sentenced in absentia by a Jordanian court to 22 years in prison for bank fraud after the collapse of Petra Bank, which he founded in 1977. Chalabi has not set foot in Iraq since 1956, but his Enron-like business credentials apparently make him a good match for the Bush administration’s plans.)
The desire of PNAC’s freshly empowered members to extend US hegemony by force of arms across the globe has been there since day one of the Bush administration, and is in no small part a central reason for the Florida electoral battle in 2000. (Note that while many have said that Gore and Bush are ideologically identical, Gore had no ties whatsoever to the fellows at PNAC). Bush had to win that election by any means necessary, and his brother Jeb was in the perfect position to ensure the rise to prominence of his fellow imperialists. Desire for such action, however, is by no means easily translatable into workable policy. Americans enjoy their comforts, but don’t necessarily take to the idea of being some sort of new Rome.
When the World Trade Centre collapsed, the fellows from PNAC saw a door of opportunity open wide before them, and stormed right through it. On 20 September, 2001, Bush released the ‘National Security Strategy of the United States of America’. The strategy is an ideological match to PNAC’s Rebuilding America's Defenses. In many places, it uses exactly the same language to describe the US’s new place in the world. Recall that PNAC demanded an increase in defence spending to at least 3.8 per cent of the US’s GDP. Bush’s proposed budget for next year asks for $379 billion in defence spending – almost exactly 3.8 per cent of GDP.
Last August Richard Perle heard, in his capacity as Defense Policy Board chairman, a policy briefing from the Rand Corporation think-tank. According to The Washington Post and The Nation, the final slide of the presentation described ‘Iraq as the tactical pivot, Saudi Arabia as the strategic pivot, and Egypt as the prize’ in a war that would purportedly be about ridding the world of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. So far Bush has deployed massive forces in the Middle East, while at the same time engaging US forces in the Philippines and playing nuclear chicken with North Korea. Somewhere in all this lurks at least one of the ‘major theatre wars’ advocated by PNAC in Rebuilding America’s Defenses.
Iraq is but the beginning, a pretence for a wider conflict. Central PNAC member Donald Kagan sees the US establishing permanent military bases in Iraq after the war. This would be billed as a measure to defend the peace in the Middle East, and to make sure the oil flows. The nations in that region, however, would see it for what it was: a jump-off point for US forces to invade any Middle East nation they chose. The US people, anxiously awaiting some sort of exit plan after the US defeats Iraq, will see too late that no exit is planned.
All of the horses are travelling together at speed here. The defence contractors who sup on US tax revenue will be handsomely paid for arming this new US empire. The corporations that own the news media will sell this endless state of war at a profit, as viewer figures go through the stratosphere when there is combat to be seen. Those within the administration who believe that the defence of Israel is contingent upon laying waste to every possible aggressor in the Middle East will have their dreams fulfilled. The PNAC men who wish for a global Pax Americana imposed at gunpoint will also see their plans come true. Through it all, the bankrollers from the World Trade Organisation and the International Monetary Fund will be able to dictate financial terms to the entire planet. (This last aspect is pivotal, and is best described in the newly revised version of Greg Palast’s masterpiece The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.)
There will, of course, be adverse side effects. The siege mentality that average Americans are suffering as they smother behind yards of plastic sheeting and duct tape will increase by orders of magnitude as US aggressions bring forth new terrorist attacks against the homeland. These attacks will require the implementation of the newly drafted Patriot Act II, an augmentation of a previous act that has profoundly sharper teeth. The sun will set on the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Financially, the US economy will be ravaged by the need for increased defence spending, and by the aforementioned ‘constabulary’ duties in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Former allies will turn on the US. Germany, France and the other nations resisting war in Iraq are fully aware of the overall game plan. They are not acting out of cowardice or because they love Saddam Hussein, but because they mean to resist this rising US empire, lest they face economic and military serfdom at the hands of George W Bush. Perle has already stated that France is no longer an ally of the US. As the eagle spreads its wings, US rhetoric and critical nations’ resistance will become more agitated and dangerous.
Many people, of course, will die. They will die from war and from want, from famine and disease. At home in the US the social fabric will be torn in ways that will make the Reagan nightmares of crack addiction, homelessness and AIDS seem tame by comparison.
All this is the price of empire, and the men of PNAC who now control the fate and future of the US are more than willing to pay it. For them, the benefits far outweigh the liabilities.
William Rivers Pitt is the co-author of War On Iraq (Context Books, 2001; the book was jointly written by former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter) and The Greatest Sedition is Silence, which will be available next month from Pluto Press. He teaches at a high school in Boston, Massachusets. Scott Lowery contributed research to this report.
This article first appeared in the Ecologist April 2003