The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) was established in early 1997, and is, according to their website, "a non-profit educational organization whose goal is to promote American global leadership." It's an initiative of the New Citizenship Project, whose chairman is William Kristol and whose president is Gary Schmitt.
We can get a clearer idea of what "American global leadership" means, and what the aims of PNAC are, by reading their Statement of Principles - a mission statement signed by an impressive list of big names. This Statement is dated June 3, 1997, but the policy has been decades in the making, dating back through the years of the Reagan administration and possibly before, as those involved formed their views. Back then, they were known mostly as "liberals", but now most people know them as "neoconservatives".
The Statement of Principles begins with the pronouncement that "American foreign and defense policy is adrift" and continues to describe a perceived crisis in the American conservative vision of America's place in the world. The United States, they say, begins the 21st century as the world's pre-eminent power, having "led the West to victory in the Cold War", but is in danger of squandering this opportunity through indecisiveness and isolationism. They look back with nostalgia at the administration of Ronald Reagan, saying that he had a foreign policy that "boldly and purposefully promoted American interests abroad." Seemingly in the face of all evidence to the contrary, they go on to say that "America has a vital role in maintaining peace and security in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East" and proceed to lay out their fundamental guiding principles as to how this role should be acted out:
- we need to increase defense spending significantly if we are to carry out our global
responsibilities today and modernize our armed forces for the future;
- we need to strengthen our ties to democratic allies and to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values;
- we need to promote the cause of political and economic freedom abroad;
- we need to accept responsibility for America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.
Now, is it just me, or are there some problems with the above set of guidelines, which (presumably) were carefully thought out and worded before being published so openly? First of all, I don't see that the 2nd, 3rd and 4th items are very separate from each other. The 3rd one, particularly, is so vague that it seems to be covered by the others. Secondly, what is the difference, exactly, between the 2nd and the 4th items? How is "challenging regimes hostile to our interests and values" very different from "extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles"? Thirdly, the 4th one doesn't mean anything. It's a truism. Of course America has a "unique" role in preserving its own interests and security! Any country has a unique role in preserving and extending its own interests. It's a silly thing to say.
The 1st item is the important one because it is so specific, because all the others depend on it, and because it is also the one whose effects can be most readily seen since the neoconservative intellectual movement began to assert a powerful hold over the U.S. administration's policies at home and abroad. The U.S. defense budget was already enormously larger than that of any other country even before George W. Bush (and the co-writers of this Statement) came to power. In 2001 the U.S. percentage of the total worldwide military spending was 36%. The next largest amount was spent by Russia (6%), followed by France, Japan and the UK with about 5% each. However, since then, the U.S. defence budget has leapt dramatically, being increased in 2003 by 48 billion, an amount larger than the TOTAL amount spent by any other country. This increase is being mainly justified by the costs of major military operations in two, perhaps even three countries at a time around the world (currently Afghanistan and Iraq), not mentioning the many smaller-scale operations that are ongoing in places such as the Philippines.
Now would be an appropriate time to list the signatories of the Statement of Principles, after which we can investigate what their specific intentions are, at home in the U.S. and in the wider world. In alphabetical order:
Some of these names are more familiar to me than others, and it'll be amusing to anyone who remembers George Bush Senior's presidency to see the butt of so many jokes, Dan Quayle, in there, but what's clear is that these people now are the U.S. government, to all intents and purposes. They must have been waiting a long time for the right set of circumstances, and suddenly found themselves with a republican-dominated congress and a weak republican president who admitted even before he took office that he had so little political vision or understanding that he was making sure to surround himself with strong, intelligent people with a lot of vision of their own. Even George Bush Sr. balked at massive destabilization of the Middle East, presumably because his experience as head of the CIA had given him a realistic view of the world. Now his son is in power, surrounded and manipulated by people with a very specific agenda, which they are not ashamed to put in print, even if they are not quite brazen enough to come out with it in front of the TV cameras.
There are a great many articles and papers published on the PNAC website, covering a lot of ground, and I am not going to try reading them all before writing this article. However, it might be worthwhile to sum up what their intentions seem to be on a couple of topics, and list the URLs of the articles I've looked at in creating the summary.
One might be forgiven for assuming that the recent massive increases in military spending might have already satisfied the 1st item on their list of principles. Far from it, apparently. In an article dated March 5th, 2003, Gary Schmitt says that "the administration's budget request still falls short of what is needed to modernize our forces, replenish munitions stocks, and keep aging military equipment up and running." He quotes an article in the Wall Street Journal by Duncan Hunter, the House Armed Services Committee Chairman, who says that the recently requested defence budget increase needs to be maintained for several years. In other words, defence spending needs to increase by the same amount each year for several years. This would mean a defence budget of $431 billion in 2004, increasing to over half a trillion dollars by 2006. These are staggering figures, and where Hunter and Schmitt think the money is coming from is not clear, unless they know something we don't (about, for example, post-war revenues from conquered territories). The U.S. national debt is running at about $6.5 trillion, which means an annual interest payment of around half a trillion dollars. If it keeps going this way, there won't be anything left to defend.
Ruel Marc Gerecht, a "senior fellow" of PNAC, and Director of their Middle East Initiative, in an article called "A Necessary War", argues against the view that making war in Iraq destabilizes the Middle East region and undermines America's War on Terrorism. He says that "Self-interest and fear of American power, not feelings of fraternity and common purpose, are what will glue together any lasting international effort against terrorism." Again, we can clearly see that the view being expressed is not that of a lone thinker, but has in fact been adopted wholesale by the current U.S. administration. There's simply no other reason to explain why the U.S. seems to care so little about observing the will of the United Nations and/or preserving the international ties that were tentatively formed after September 11, 2001. To many observers, it seems obvious that it's not in the interest of the U.S. to destabilize the Middle East, because they are so heavily dependant on oil from that region, and on OPEC's use of the US dollar as the trading currency for oil, but the PNAC's logic, based on their recommendations of vastly increased defence spending, is that governments will be so afraid of the American military machine that they will do whatever the U.S. tells them to do. He is refreshingly clear and direct, saying that European reaction to American "unilateralism" is understandable, but that ultimately the Europeans will act out of self-interest, and that closer and closer ties will form between European and U.S. intelligence and national security agencies, even if governments and populations seem to be clashing.
In fact, this central point seems to me to be the key to understanding the direction in which the U.S. is moving. There is a wholesale, massive transfer of power and spending away from the democratically-controlled institutions and towards non-democratic institutions, where the real power is being concentrated. Gerecht's argument is based on the idea that the wishes of the populace and the rhetoric of the governments are not what really matters - what really matters is that the institutions and agencies which wield the real power are focused on the same objective.
In this way, Gerecht gives an alternative and compelling explanation for the war on Iraq
. We have been exposed to many different ideas from all sides, both pro and anti - for example, the "Liberate The Iraqi People
" idea, the "No Blood For Oil
" slogan, or the "Get Those Invisible Weapons
" argument. I have even seen a convincing argument that the war is happening because the U.S. is desperate to protect the U.S. dollar's monopoly
as the trading currency for oil (in 1999 Iraq switched to trading oil for Euro
s. See the URL given at the end of this article.) However, part of the reason that the pro-war arguments lack validity
and the anti-war arguments lack cohesion
may simply be that they lack the brutally direct reasoning of Gerecht's argument: U.S. power depends on making the rest of the world (and that includes the EU, whose revitalizing economy
is a big problem for the U.S.) scared. He says "without a militant America
to inspire (and worry) them, foreign liaison services
will act in their rulers' best interests, which when dealing with Bin Laden
-esque radicalism will mean ignoring the Americans as much as possible." In other words, this war is a way of keeping the military and intelligence agencies
of other countries focused on American interests, and also keeping U.S. internal resources flowing more and more to those sectors. Also, it is a way of forcing Middle Eastern governments to direct resources against the rise of Islamic radicalism
, which (if, presumably, they weren't terrified of the U.S. invading them) they would not otherwise be inclined to do. After all, better to have all that anger directed at the U.S. than places closer to home.
Gerecht's article is only one of many on the Iraq question located here: http://www.newamericancentury.org/iraqmiddleeast.htm
Now isn't this topical! Tensions are building between the U.S. and Iran and Syria in a carefully orchestrated sideshow to the Iraq war which began with "accidental" U.S. overflights of Iranian airspace and misdirected U.S. missiles, but which has its roots in a grand strategy for change across the Middle East which is outlined comprehensively by the PNAC. To those of us who became aware a little beforehand of this strategy, it is chilling to see it unfolding like clockwork under the cover of diplomatic rhetoric and public misinformation.
Ruel Marc Gerecht writes another article, called "Regime Change In Iran", which argues for U.S. intervention there, the grounds for which have already been laid by U.S. senate resolution no. 82 on March 12th 2003 (SRES 82 IS) in which George W. Bush said that "the people in Iran want the same freedoms, human rights, and opportunities as people around the world...America affirms...its commitment to helping those in captive nations achieve democracy." This rhetoric is stirring, but unfortunately starts to look horrific when placed alongside the actual record of the U.S. in intervening in the affairs of other states. In fact, in Venezuela, right now, the U.S. is working hard to undermine the democratically-elected government because to do so is in its own interests. I don't have the space to go into this right now, but it's easy to find out the facts. This is a good exercise to do with most official U.S. rhetoric - find out the facts, and place them beside the rhetoric, and think of George Orwell, and how he didn't quite go far enough. Or think of Africa, and the horrors going on there, the ruthless dictators in power in different countries across the continent who are destroying their own people and economies, and ask yourself why there has been no talk of a future U.S. intervention there. Hint: there are two answers. The first answer has 3 letters and starts with O, and there isn't much of it in Africa. The second answer has 6 letters and starts with I, and is a country whose agenda is deeply bound up with members of the current U.S. administration, like the recently-departed Richard Perle.
Gerecht makes fun of what he sees as the Clinton administration's policy of apology and appeasement with Iran, saying that this was regarded with contempt by Iran's rulers, who saw it as a show of weakness and moral degradation. He fully backs Bush's belligerent and aggressive stance, even to the point of recommending a military strike on Iran's nuclear programme, if it cannot be halted by diplomatic means.
The Real Story
It would be impossible to cover all the ground of what's expressed on the PNAC website, ranging as it does from internal policy on defense to global issues such as NATO and the Middle East, but it should be becoming clear that the actions of the current administration are not a mere response to the September 11th tragedy, but are part of a much grander scheme of global domination conceived by far smarter people than George W. Bush. What I fail to understand is why no one is confronting the U.S. diplomats publicly with the material on this website and challenging them to confirm or deny their connections to it. There are plenty of genuinely anti-war people out there who would love to be able to prove that the U.S. administration had planned its actions in Iraq and rest of the Middle East well in advance, and here it all is in black and white, not hidden at all. You don't sign your name to stuff like this, as Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush and the rest of them have, unless you are unashamed of it and prepared to defend it publicly. However, I have never once heard anyone on television, either for or against the war on Iraq, mention the Project For The New American Century. Perhaps the U.S. government is relying on the idea that most people do not use the Internet, and if they do, they won't find the site, because none of the major news networks talk about it. Someone once said that the best place to hide a secret is right out in the open, and that may be what's happening here.
There is a possible further layer to this debate. It has been observed by many people that there are two wars being fought over Iraq - the military one, and the war of ideas. The war of ideas seeks to establish a "moral high ground" to justify the military action. The neoconservatives behind PNAC clearly believe that Clinton's "liberal and peaceful" attitude to U.S. foreign policy had made so many inroads into conservative thinking, and so many concessions to non-U.S. cultures, that it was becoming difficult to marshall a convincing argument for war - and, as we can all see, without a convincing argument, the tide of world opinion will turn against any action in time, forcing it to stop. It is a possibility - just a possibility - that the neoconservative think tank behind PNAC conceived its arguments and ideas simply in order to provide a convincing justification for wars which would be fought for other reasons - most likely economic. I'm offering this possibility to give some idea of the levels of deception and misinformation and hidden motivation which are involved in world affairs - layer after layer comes off, and still you have the feeling that you're not at the centre.
For example, I did a search in Google on the New Citizenship Project, which is the organization of which PNAC is an "initiative". They provide funding for a number of initiatives, including books and social projects as well as PNAC, and I found a link on www.mediatransparency.org showing that a large amount of the funding coming through the New Citizenship Project to PNAC is from one organization, The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Inc. It turns out that this foundation is the largest and most influential right-wing foundation in the United States, with over $700 million in assets. It was a family company for a long time, but in 1985 it was bought by Rockwell International, who turned it into a major national player, which in addition to neoconservative projects like PNAC has also put large amounts of money into funding "welfare reform" (i.e. the scaling back, and ultimately abolition of, social welfare systems), the removal of restrictions on Big Business and the return of pure laissez-faire capitalism, and the privatization of education. Apparently, if you want to write a book smearing a high-profile liberal or Democrat figure, this foundation is the place to go for your funding. And what, I hear you ask, does the parent company, Rockwell International deal in? Defense and aerospace, of course. Chains of sub-companies and foundations like this are commonly used in the business world to hide the trail of money from public view. Another of PNAC's major funders, the John M. Olin Foundation, also emerged from a family business of chemicals and munitions.
There's a saying, which I'm going to paraphrase: if you want to know what's really going on, follow the money. Well, the chain of money that we are following here leads directly from weapons manufacturers, through the real (economic, not elected) right-wing policy-makers, through the neoconservative intellectual elite, to the White House. It's possible, therefore, that all the PNAC rhetoric and thought is a simple cover story for the flow of money out of the pockets of taxpayers and into the control of the rich and dangerous. Could it really be that simple?
I'm hoping that by writing this I can bring PNAC to a few more peoples' attention. I have an obvious bias in these matters. I am on the "anti-war" side when it comes to Iraq. I am not anti-American (my wife is American. She's very nice.) but I am scared of what is happening, and wondering why certain questions are not being asked of Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush et al by journalists. If just one journalist had the guts to ask Donald Rumsfeld about PNAC in a live interview, then even if he didn't respond, it could be all over the world by lunchtime the next day. Then at least everyone would have the ability to find out for themselves what we are really dealing with here, rather than having their attention diverted on to less relevant arguments about regime change and weapons of mass destruction which, while important, are not the issues driving the administration's actions.
Update: A few weeks after I wrote this, an article was published on Information Clearinghouse which goes into more detail about the Bradley foundation and its funding for the PNAC and other projects - it can be found at http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article3143.htm.
HongPong says i'd note that richard perle has also signed a lot of their declarations...and this all connects with neocon views towards Israel's role in the middle east, which is profoundly sketchy. fortunately i noded something about it.
jodrell says by the way, the Project for the New American Century has been brought up in a new program, by Terry Jones no less, who quoted from the website. It was a news program on BBC4, so probably I was the only one watching :-)
Omnidirectional Halo says like the BBC, the CBC's Fifth Estate also recently had a lengthy segment on PNAC.
Oolong says (*reads of "Clinton's "liberal and peaceful" attitude to U.S. foreign policy", thinks of that Sudanese pharmaceutical factory, and laughs ruefully*)
Cletus the Foetus says There's another problem with the proposed principles: The first is contradictory with the third and fourth. State defense spending is always centralized, taxed out of the private sector against the wills of those who must pay, and spent on projects that do not directly improve the material standard of living of the people involved, as private spending tends naturally to do. Expanding defense spending therefore entails a curtailment of domestic economic and civil freedom.
Cletus the Foetus says If taxation wrecks the economy, there's nothing left to tax, and *every* tax perturbs the economy to some (always negative) degree. There is that old myth that government spending (esp. defense spending) improves the economy by keeping money in circulation, but the fact is that money is used how its owners want it to be used in the private sector anyway, and when it does circulate it won't be to create materiel that's going to be blown up or will have no peacetime use. If, when the PNAC said "defense spending," they meant it in the abstract, then they may be right -- but they specifically mean state spending on standing military bodies, and this is in flat contradiction to their goals of preserving and expanding economic prosperity, abroad but also domestically.
Defence Spending: http://projects.sipri.org/milex/mex_trends.html
U.S. Senate Resolution on Iran, March 12 2003: http://www.rense.com/general36/IRAN2.HTM
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation: http://www.mediatransparency.org/funders/bradley_foundation.htm
Dollar versus Euro as oil trading currency: http://www.rumormillnews.com/cgi-bin/forum.cgi?read=30555