Dick Cheney's Song of America
by David Armstrong
Harper's Magazine, October 2002
Few writers are more ambitious than the
writers of government policy papers, and few policy papers are
more ambitious than Dick Cheney's masterwork. It has taken several
forms over the last decade and is in fact the product of several
ghostwriters (notably Paul Wolfowitz and Colin Powell), but Cheney
has been consistent in his dedication to the ideas in the documents
that bear his name, and he has maintained a close association
with the ideologues behind them. Let us, therefore, call Cheney
the author, and this series of documents the Plan.
The Plan was published in unclassified
form most recently under the title of Defense Strategy for the
1990s, (pdf) as Cheney ended his term as secretary of defense
under the elder George Bush in early 1993, but it is, like "Leaves
of Grass," a perpetually evolving work. It was the controversial
Defense Planning Guidance draft of 1992 - from which Cheney,
unconvincingly, tried to distance himself - and it was the somewhat
less aggressive revised draft of that same year. This June it
was a presidential lecture in the form of a commencement address
at West Point, and in July it was leaked to the press as yet
another Defense Planning Guidance (this time under the pen name
of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld). It will take its ultimate
form, though, as America's new national security strategy - and
Cheney et al. will experience what few writers have even dared
dream: their words will become our reality.
The Plan is for the United States to rule
the world. The overt theme is unilateralism, but it is ultimately
a story of domination. It calls for the United States to maintain
its overwhelming military superiority and prevent new rivals
from rising up to challenge it on the world stage. It calls for
dominion over friends and enemies alike. It says not that the
United States must be more powerful, or most powerful, but that
it must be absolutely powerful.
The Plan is disturbing in many ways, and
ultimately unworkable. Yet it is being sold now as an answer
to the "new realities" of the post-September 11 world,
even as it was sold previously as the answer to the new realities
of the post-Cold War world. For Cheney, the Plan has always been
the right answer, no matter how different the questions.
Cheney's unwavering adherence to the Plan
would be amusing, and maybe a little sad, except that it is now
our plan. In its pages are the ideas that we now act upon every
day with the full might of the United States military. Strangely,
few critics have noted that Cheney's work has a long history,
or that it was once quite unpopular, or that it was created in
reaction to circumstances that are far removed from the ones
we now face. But Cheney is a well-known action man. One has to
admire, in a way, the Babe Ruth-like sureness of his political
work. He pointed to center field ten years ago, and now the ball
is sailing over the fence.
Before the Plan was about domination it
was about money. It took shape in late 1989, when the Soviet
threat was clearly on the decline, and, with it, public support
for a large military establishment. Cheney seemed unable to come
to terms with either new reality. He remained deeply suspicious
of the Soviets and strongly resisted all efforts to reduce military
spending. Democrats in Congress jeered his lack of strategic
vision, and a few within the Bush Administration were whispering
that Cheney had become an irrelevant factor in structuring a
response to the revolutionary changes taking place in the world.
More adaptable was the up-and-coming General
Colin Powell, the newly appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff. As Ronald Reagan's national security adviser, Powell
had seen the changes taking place in the Soviet Union firsthand
and was convinced that the ongoing transformation was irreversible.
Like Cheney, he wanted to avoid military cuts, but he knew they
were inevitable. The best he could do was minimize them, and
the best way to do that would be to offer a new security structure
that would preserve American military capabilities despite reduced
Powell and his staff believed that a weakened
Soviet Union would result in shifting alliances and regional
conflict. The United States was the only nation capable of managing
the forces at play in the world; it would have to remain the
preeminent military power in order to ensure the peace and shape
the emerging order in accordance with American interests. U.S.
military strategy, therefore, would have to shift from global
containment to managing less-well-defined regional struggles and
unforeseen contingencies. To do this, the United States would
have to project a military "forward presence" around
the world; there would be fewer troops but in more places. This
plan still would not be cheap, but through careful restructuring
and superior technology, the job could be done with 25 percent
fewer troops. Powell insisted that maintaining superpower status
must be the first priority of the U.S. military. "We have
to put a shingle outside our door saying, 'Superpower Lives Here,'
no matter what the Soviets do," he said at the time. He also
insisted that the troop levels be proposed were the bare minimum
necessary to do so. This concept would come to be known as the
Powell's work on the subject proved timely.
The Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989, and five days later
Powell had his new strategy ready to present to Cheney. Even
as decades of repression were ending in Eastern Europe, however,
Cheney still could not abide even the force and budget reductions
Powell proposed. Yet he knew that cuts were unavoidable. Having
no alternative of his own to offer, therefore, he reluctantly
encouraged Powell to present his ideas to the president. Powell
did so the next day; Bush made no promises but encouraged him
to keep at it.
Less encouraging was the reaction of Paul
Wolfowitz, the undersecretary of defense for policy. A lifelong
proponent of the unilateralist, maximum-force approach, he shared
Cheney's skepticism about the Eastern Bloc and so put his own
staff to work on a competing plan that would somehow accommodate
the possibility of Soviet backsliding.
As Powell and Wolfowitz worked out their
strategies, Congress was losing patience. New calls went up for
large cuts in defense spending in light of the new global environment.
The harshest critique of Pentagon planning came from a usually
dependable ally of the military establishment, Georgia Democrat
Sam Nunn, chairman of the Senate Armed Services committee. Nunn
told fellow senators in March 1990 that there was a "threat
blank" in the administration's proposed $295 billion defense
budget and that the Pentagon's "basic assessment of the
overall threat to our national security" was "rooted
in the past." The world had changed and yet the "development
of a new military strategy that responds to the changes in the
threat has not yet occurred." Without that response, no
dollars would be forthcoming.
Nunn's message was clear. Powell and Wolfowitz
began filling in the blanks. Powell started promoting a Zen-like
new rationale for his Base Force approach. With the Soviets rapidly
becoming irrelevant, Powell argued, the United States could no
longer assess its military needs on the basis of known threats.
Instead, the Pentagon should focus on maintaining the ability
to address a wide variety of new and unknown challenges. This
shift from a "threat based" assessment of military
requirements to a "capability based" assessment would
become a key theme of the Plan. The United States would move
from countering Soviet attempts at dominance to ensuring its
own dominance. Again, this project would not be cheap.
Powell's argument, circular though it
may have been, proved sufficient to hold off Congress. Winning
support among his own colleagues, however, proved more difficult.
Cheney remained deeply skeptical about the Soviets, and Wolfowitz
was only slowly coming around. To account for future uncertainties,
Wolfowitz recommended drawing down U.S. forces to roughly the
levels proposed by Powell, but doing so at a much slower pace;
seven years as opposed to the four Powell suggested. He also built
in a "crisis response/reconstitution" clause that would
allow for reversing the process if events in the Soviet Union,
or elsewhere, turned ugly.
With these now elements in place, Cheney
saw something that might work. By combining Powell's concepts
with those of Wolfowitz, he could counter congressional criticism
that his proposed defense budget was out of line with the new
strategic reality, while leaving the door open for future force
increases. In late June, Wolfowitz, Powell, and Cheney presented
their plan to the president, and within as few weeks Bush was
unveiling the new strategy.
Bush laid out the rationale for the Plan
in a speech in Aspen, Colorado, on August 2, 1990. He explained
that since the danger of global war had substantially receded,
the principal threats to American security would emerge in unexpected
quarters. To counter those threats, he said, the United States
would increasingly base the size and structure of its forces
on the need to respond to "regional contingencies"
and maintain a peacetime military presence overseas. Meeting
that need would require maintaining the capability to quickly
deliver American forces to any "corner of the globe,"
and that would mean retaining many major weapons systems then
under attack in Congress as overly costly and unnecessary, including
the "Star Wars" missile-defense program. Despite those
massive outlays, Bush insisted that the proposed restructuring
would allow the United States to draw down its active forces
by 25 percent in the years ahead, the same figure Powell had
projected ten months earlier.
The Plan's debut was well timed. By a
remarkable coincidence, Bush revealed it the very day Saddam
Hussein's Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait.
The Gulf War temporarily reduced the pressure
to cut military spending. It also diverted attention from some
of the Plan's less appealing aspects. In addition, it inspired
what would become one of the Plan's key features: the use of
"overwhelming force" to quickly defeat enemies, a concept
since dubbed the Powell Doctrine.
Once the Iraqi threat was "contained,"
Wolfowitz returned to his obsession with the Soviets, planning
various scenarios involved possible Soviet intervention in regional
conflicts. The failure of the hard-liner coup against Gorbachev
in August 1991, however, made it apparent that such planning
might be unnecessary. Then, in late December, just as the Pentagon
was preparing to put the Plan in place, the Soviet Union collapsed.
With the Soviet Union gone, the United
States had a choice. It could capitalize on the euphoria of the
moment by nurturing cooperative relations and developing multilateral
structures to help guide the global realignment then taking place;
or it could consolidate its power and pursue a strategy of unilateralism
and global dominance. It chose the latter course.
In early 1992, as Powell and Cheney campaigned
to win congressional support for their augmented Base Force plan,
a new logic entered into their appeals. The United States, Powell
told members of the House Armed Services Committee, required
"sufficient power" to "deter any challenger from
ever dreaming of challenging us on the world stage." To
emphasize the point, he cast the United States in the role of
street thug. "I want to be the bully on the block,"
he said, implanting in the mind of potential opponents that "there
is no future in trying to challenge the armed forces of the United
As Powell and Cheney were making this
new argument in their congressional rounds, Wolfowitz was busy
expanding the concept and working to have it incorporated into
U.S. policy. During the early months of 1992, Wolfowitz supervised
the preparation of an internal Pentagon policy statement used
to guide military officials in the preparation of their forces,
budgets, and strategies. The classified document, known as the
Defense Planning Guidance, depicted a world dominated by the United
States, which would maintain its superpower status through a
combination of positive guidance and overwhelming military might.
the image was one of a heavily armed City on a Hill.
The DPG stated that the "first objective"
of U.S. defense strategy was "to prevent the re-emergence
of a new rival." Achieving this objective required that
the United States "prevent any hostile power from dominating
a region" of strategic significance. America's new mission
would be to convince allies and enemies alike "that they
need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive
posture to protect their legitimate interests."
Another new theme was the use of preemptive
military force. The options, the DPG noted, ranged from taking
preemptive military action to head off a nuclear, chemical, or
biological attack to "punishing" or "threatening
punishment of" aggressors "through a variety of means,"
including strikes against weapons-manufacturing facilities.
The DPG also envisioned maintaining a
substantial U.S. nuclear arsenal while discouraging the development
of nuclear programs in other countries. It depicted a "U.S.-led
system of collective security" that implicitly precluded
the need for rearmament of any king by countries such as Germany
and Japan. And it called for the "early introduction"
of a global missile-defense system that would presumably render
all missile-launched weapons, including those of the United States,
obsolete. (The United States would, of course, remain the world's
dominant military power on the strength of its other weapons
The story, in short, was dominance by
way of unilateral action and military superiority. While coalitions
- such as the one formed during the Gulf War - held "considerable
promise for promoting collective action," the draft DPG
stated, the United States should expect future alliances to be
"ad hoc assemblies, often not lasting beyond the crisis
being confronted, and in many cases carrying only general agreement
over the objectives to be accomplished." It was essential
to create "the sense that the world order is ultimately
backed by the U.S." and essential that America position
itself "to act independently when collective action cannot
be orchestrated" or in crisis situation requiring immediate
action. "While the U.S. cannot become the world's policeman,"
the document said, "we will retain the preeminent responsibility
for addressing selectively those wrongs which threaten not only
our interests, but those of our allies or friends." Among
the interests the draft indicated the United States would defend
in this manner were "access to vital raw materials, primarily
Persian Gulf oil, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
and ballistic missiles, [and] threats to U.S. citizens from
The DPC was leaked to the New York Times
in March 1992. Critics on both the left and the right attacked
it immediately. Then-presidential candidate Pat Buchanan portrayed
candidate a "blank check" to America's allies by suggesting
the United States would "go to war to defend their interests."
Bill Clinton's deputy campaign manager, George Stephanopoulos,
characterized it as an attempt by Pentagon officials to "find
an excuse for big defense budgets instead of downsizing."
Delaware Senator Joseph Biden criticized the Plan's vision of
a "Pax Americana, a global security system where threats
to stability are suppressed or destroyed by U.S. military power."
Even those who found the document's stated goals commendable
feared that its chauvinistic tone could alienate many allies.
Cheney responded by attempting to distance himself from the Plan.
The Pentagon's spokesman dismissed the leaked document as a "low-level
draft" and claimed that Cheney had not seen it. Yet a fifteen-page
section opened by proclaiming that it constituted "definitive
guidance from the Secretary of Defense."
Powell took a more forthright approach
to dealing with the flap: he publicly embraced the DPG's core
concept. In a TV interview, he said he believed it was "just
fine" that the United States reign as the world's dominant
military power. "I don't think we should apologize for that,"
he said. Despite bad reviews in the foreign press, Powell insisted
that America's European allies were "not afraid" of
U.S. military might because it was "power that could be
trusted" and "will not be misused."
Mindful that the draft DPG's overt expression
of U.S. dominance might not fly, Powell in the same interview
also trotted out a new rationale for the original Base Force
plan. He argued that in a post-Soviet world, filled with new
dangers, the United States needed the ability to fight on more
than one front at a time. "One of the most destabilizing
things we could do," he said, "is to cut our forces
so much that if we're tied up in one area of the world .....
and we are not seen to have the ability to influence another
area of the world, we might invite just the sort of crisis we're
trying to deter." This two-war strategy provided a possible
answer to Nunn's "threat blank." One unknown enemy
wasn't enough to justify lavish defense budgets, but two unknown
enemies might do the trick.
Within a few weeks the Pentagon had come
up with a more comprehensive response to the DPG furor. A revised
version was leaked to the press that was significantly less strident
in tone, though only slightly less strident in fact. While calling
for the United States to prevent "any hostile power from
dominating a region critical to our interests," the new
draft stressed that America would act in concert with its allies
- when possible. It also suggested the United Nations might take
an expanded role in future political, economic, and security
matters, a concept conspicuously absent from the original draft.
The controversy died down, and, with a
presidential campaign under way, the Pentagon did nothing to
stir it up again. Following Bush's defeat, however, the Plan
reemerged. In January 1993, in his very last days in office.
Cheney released a final version. The newly titled Defense Strategy
for the 1990s retained the soft touch of the revised draft DPG
as well as its darker themes. The goal remained to preclude "hostile
competitors from challenging our critical interests" and
preventing the rise of a new super-power. Although it expressed
a "preference" for collective responses in meeting
such challenges, it made clear that the United States would play
the lead role in any alliance. Moreover, it noted that collective
action would "not always be timely." Therefore, the
United States needed to retain the ability to "act independently,
if necessary." To do so would require that the United States
maintain its massive military superiority. Others were not encouraged
to follow suit. It was kinder, gentler dominance, but it was
dominance all the same. And it was this thesis that Cheney and
company nailed to the door on their way out.
The new administration tacitly rejected
the heavy-handed, unilateral approach to U.S. primacy favored
by Powell, Cheney, and Wolfowitz. Taking office in the relative
calm of the early post - Cold War era, Clinton sought to maximize
America's existing position of strength and promote its interests
through economic diplomacy, multilateral institutions (dominated
by the United States), greater international free trade, and
the development of allied coalitions, including American-led collective
military action. American policy, in short, shifted from global
dominance to globalism.
Clinton also failed to prosecute military
campaigns with sufficient vigor to satisfy the defense strategists
of the previous administration. Wolfowitz found Clinton's Iraq
policy especially infuriating. During the Gulf War, Wolfowitz
harshly criticized the decision - endorsed by Powell and Cheney
- to end the war once the U.N. mandate of driving Saddam's forces
from Kuwait had been fulfilled, leaving the Iraqi dictator in
office. He called on the Clinton Administration to finish the
job by arming Iraqi opposition forces and sending U.S. ground
troops to defense a base of operation for them in the southern
region of the country. In a 1996 editorial, Wolfowitz raised
the prospect of launching a preemptive attack against Iraq. "Should
we sit idly by," he wrote, "with our passive containment
policy and our inept cover operations, and wait until a tyrant
possessing large quantities of weapons of mass destruction and
sophisticated delivery systems strikes out at us?" Wolfowitz
suggested it was "necessary" to "go beyond the
Wolfowitz's objections to Clinton's military
tactics were not limited to Iraq. Wolfowitz had endorsed President
Bush's decision in late 1992 to intervene in Somalia on a limited
humanitarian basis. Clinton later expanded the mission into a
broader peacekeeping effort, a move that ended in disaster. With
perfect twenty-twenty hindsight, Wolfowitz decried Clinton's
decision to send U.S. troops into combat "where there is
no significant U.S. national interest." He took a similar
stance on Clinton's ill-fated democracy-building effort in Haiti,
chastising the president for engaging "American military
prestige" on an issue" of the little or no importance"
to U.S. interests. Bosnia presented a more complicated mix of
posturing and ideologics. While running for president, Clinton
had scolded the Bush Administration for failing to take action
to stem the flow of blood in the Balkans. Once in office, however,
and chastened by their early misadventures in Somalia and Haiti,
Clinton and his advisers struggled to articulate a coherent Bosnia
policy. Wolfowitz complained in 1994 of the administration's
failure to "develop an effective course of action.' He personally
advocated arming the Bosnian Muslims in their fight against the
Serbs. Powell, on the other hand, publicly cautioned against
intervention. In 1995 a U.S.-led NATO bombing campaign, combined
with a Croat-Muslim ground offensive, forced the Serbs into
negotiations, leading to the Dayton Peace Accords. In 1999, as
Clinton rounded up support for joint U.S.-NATO action in Kosovo,
Wolfowitz hectored the president for failing to act quickly enough.
After eight years of what Cheney et al.
regarded as wrong-headed military adventures and pinprick retaliatory
strikes, the Clinton Administration - mercifully, in their view
- came to an end. With the ascension of George W. Bush to the
presidency, the authors of the Plan returned to government, ready
to pick up where they had left off. Cheney of course, became
vice president, Powell became secretary of state, and Wolfowitz
moved into the number two slot at the Pentagon, as Donald Rumsfeld's
deputy. Other contributors also returned: Two prominent members
of the Wolfowitz team that crafted the original DPG took up posts
on Cheney's staff. I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who served
as Wolfowitz's deputy during Bush I, became the vice president's
chief of staff and national security adviser. And Eric Edelman,
an assistant deputy undersecretary of defense in the first Bush
Administration, became a top foreign policy adviser to Cheney.
Cheney and company had not changed their
minds during the Clinton interlude about the correct course for
U.S. policy, but they did not initially appear bent on resurrecting
the Plan. Rather than present a unified vision of foreign policy
to the world, in the early going the administration focused on
promoting a series of seemingly unrelated initiatives. Notable
among these were missile defense and space-based weaponry, long-standing
conservative causes. In addition, a distinct tone of unilateralism
emerged as the new administration announced its intent to abandon
the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia in order to pursue
missile defense; its opposition to U.S. ratification of an international
nuclear-test-ban pact; and its refusal to become a party to an
International Criminal Court. It also raised the prospect of
ending the self-imposed U.S. moratorium on nuclear testing initiated
by the President's father during the 1992 presidential campaign.
Moreover, the administration adopted a much tougher diplomatic
posture, as evidenced, most notably, by a distinct hardening
of relations with both China and North Korea. While none of this
was inconsistent with the concept of U.S. dominance, these early
actions did not, at the time, seem to add up to a coherent strategy.
It was only after September 11 that the
Plan emerged in full. Within days of the attacks, Wolfowitz and
Libby began calling for unilateral military action against Iraq,
on the shaky premise that Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network
could not have pulled off the assaults without Saddam Hussein's
assistance. At the time, Bush rejected such appeals, but Wolfowitz
kept pushing and the President soon came around. In his State
of the Union address in January, Bush labeled Iraq, Iran, and
North Korea an "axis of evil," and warned that he would
"not wait on events" to prevent them from using weapons
of mass destruction against the United States. He reiterated
his commitment to preemption in his West Point speech in June.
"If we wait for threats to fully materialize we will have
waited too long," he said. "We must take the battle
to the enemy, disrupt his plans and confront the worst threats
before they emerge." Although it was less noted, Bush in
that same speech also reintroduced the Plan's central theme.
He declared that the United States would prevent the emergence
of a rival power by maintaining "military strengths beyond
the challenge." With that, the President effectively adopted
a strategy his father's administration had developed ten years
earlier to ensure that the United States would remain the world's
preeminent power. While the headlines screamed "preemption,"
no one noticed the declaration of the dominance strategy.
In case there was any doubt about the
administration's intentions, the Pentagon's new DPG lays them
out. Signed by Wolfowitz's new boss, Donald Rumsfeld, in May
and leaked to the Los Angeles Times in July, it contains all
the key elements of the original Plan and adds several complementary
features. The preemptive strikes envisioned in the original draft
DPG are now "unwarned attacks." The old Powell-Cheney
notion of military "forward presence" is now "forwarded
deterrence." The use of overwhelming force to defeat an enemy
called for in the Powell Doctrine is now labeled an "effects
Some of the names have stayed the same.
Missile defense is back, stronger than ever, and the call goes
up again for a shift from a "threat based" structure
to a "capabilities based" approach. The new DPG also
emphasizes the need to replace the so-called Cold War strategy
of preparing to fight two major conflicts simultaneously with
what the Los Angeles Times refers to as "a more complex
approach aimed at dominating air and space on several fronts."
This, despite the fact that Powell had originally conceived -
and the first Bush Administration had adopted - the two-war strategy
as a means of filling the "threat blank" left by the
end of the Cold War.
Rumsfeld's version adds a few new ideas,
most impressively the concept of preemptive strikes with nuclear
weapons. These would be earth-penetrating nuclear weapons used
for attacking "hardened and deeply buried targets,"
such as command-and-control bunkers, missile silos, and heavily
fortified underground facilities used to build and store weapons
of mass destruction. The concept emerged earlier this year when
the administration's Nuclear Posture Review leaked out. At the
time, arms-control experts warned that adopting the NPR's recommendations
would undercut existing arms-control treaties, do serious harm
to nonproliferation efforts, set off new rounds of testing, and
dramatically increase the prospectus of nuclear weapons being
used in combat. Despite these concerns, the administration appears
intent on developing the weapons. In a final flourish, the DPG
also directs the military to develop cyber-, laser-, and electronic-warfare
capabilities to ensure U.S. dominion over the heavens.
Rumsfeld spelled out these strategies
in Foreign affairs earlier this year, and it is there that he
articulated the remaining elements of the Plan; unilateralism
and global dominance. Like the revised DPG of 1992, Rumsfeld
feigns interest in collective action but ultimately rejects it
as impractical. "Wars can benefit from coalitions,"
he writes, "but they should not be fought by committee."
And coalitions, he adds, "must not determine the mission."
The implication is the United States will determine the missions
and lead the fights. Finally, Rumsfeld expresses the key concept
of the Plan: preventing the emergence of rival powers. Like the
original draft DPG of 1992, he states that America's goal is
to develop and maintain the military strength necessary to "dissuade"
rivals or adversaries from "competing." with no challengers,
and a proposed defense budget of $379 billion for next year,
the United States would reign over all its surveys.
Reaction to the latest edition of the
Plan has, thus far, focused on preemption. Commentators parrot
the administration's line, portraying the concept of preemptory
strikes as a "new" strategy aimed at combating terrorism.
In an op-ed piece for the Washington Post following Bush's West
Point address, former Clinton adviser William Galston described
preemption as part of a "brand-new security doctrine,"
and warned of possible negative diplomatic consequences. Others
found the concept more appealing. Loren Thompson of the conservative
Lexington Institute hailed the "Bush Doctrine" as "a
necessary response to the new dangers that America faces"
and declared it "the biggest shift in strategic thinking
in two generations." Wall Street Journal editor Robert Bartley
echoed that sentiment, writing that "no talk of this ilk
has been heard from American leaders since John Foster Dulles
talked of rolling back the Iron Curtain."
Preemption, of course, is just part of
the Plan, and the Plan is hardly new. It is a warmed-over version
of the strategy Cheney and his coauthors rolled out in 1992 as
the answer to the end of the Cold War. Then the goal was global
dominance, and it met with bad reviews. Now it is the answer
to terrorism. The emphasis is on preemption, and the reviews
are generally enthusiastic. Through all of this, the dominance
motif remains, though largely undetected.
This country once rejected "unwarned"
attacks such as Pearl Harbor as barbarous and unworthy of a civilized
nation. Today many cheer the prospect of conducting sneak attacks
- potentially with nuclear weapons - on piddling powers run by
We also once denounced those who tried
to rule the world. Our primary objection (at least officially)
to the Soviet Union as its quest for global domination. Through
the successful employment of the tools of containment, deterrence,
collective security, and diplomacy - the very methods we now
reject - we rid ourselves and the world of the Evil Empire. Having
done so, we now pursue the very thing for which we opposed it.
And now that the Soviet Union is gone, there appears to be no
one left to stop us.
Perhaps, however, there is. The Bush Administration
and its loyal opposition seem not to grasp that the quests for
dominance generate backlash. Those threatened with preemption
may themselves launch preemptory strikes. And even those who
are successfully "preempted" or dominated may object
and find means to strike back. Pursuing such strategies may,
paradoxically, result in greater factionalism and rivalry, precisely
the things we seek to end.
Not all Americans share Colin Powell's
desire to be "the bully on the block." In fact, some
believe that by following a different path the United States
has an opportunity to establish a more lasting security environment.
As Dartmouth professors Stephen Brooks and William Woblforth
wrote recently in Foreign Affairs, "Unipolarity makes it
possible to be the global bully - but it also offers the United
States the luxury of being able to look beyond its immediate
needs to its own, and the world's, long-term interests. .....
Magnanimity and restraint in the face of temptation are tenets
of successful statecraft that have proved their worth."
Perhaps, in short, we can achieve our desired ends by means other
than global domination.
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