by Noah T. Winer, editor

MoveOn Bulletin Friday, May 9, 2003


The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) is a Washington-based neo-conservative think-tank founded in 1997 to "rally support for American global leadership." PNAC's agenda runs far deeper than regime change in Iraq. Its statement of principles begins with the assertion that "American foreign and defense policy is adrift" and calls for "a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity."

While their tone is high-minded, their proposal is unilateral military intervention to protect against threats to America's status as the lone global superpower. The statement is signed by such influential figures as Dick Cheney, Jeb Bush, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Dan Quayle, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz.

PNAC is not alone, nor did it arise from new wells of power. Most of the founding members of PNAC held posts in the Reagan or elder Bush administration and other neo-conservative think-tanks, publications, and advocacy groups.

The effect of PNAC's ideology is great on Bush -- the presidential candidate who promised a "humble," isolationist foreign policy. The events of September 11, 2001 provided a window of opportunity for furthering PNAC's agenda of American empire. Understanding that agenda can help us anticipate the Bush administration's next steps and organize accordingly.


ONE LINK If you only read one article in this bulletin, it should be this one. This article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel superbly covers the influence of PNAC in Bush's decision to go to war with Iraq. As the author writes, the goal is to transform the Middle East through a show of U.S. military might and "the obvious place to start is with Iraq, which was already in trouble with the United Nations, had little international standing and was reviled even by some Arab nations."


FORMING THE BUSH DOCTRINE The motivating event for the neo-conservatives who founded PNAC was the end of the 1991 Gulf War in Iraq. With Saddam's power weakened, the neo-conservatives believed he should be eliminated permanently. Instead, the elder President Bush encouraged the Iraqi opposition to rise up against the Ba'ath government. As their rebellion was put down by Iraqi troops, Bush ordered the U.S. military not to intervene, choosing instead a strategy of containment for Saddam.

In 1992, Paul Wolfowitz, then-Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, authored an internal policy brief on America's military posture in the post-Cold War era: to prevent the emergence of a new rival power through preemption rather than containment and acting unilaterally if necessary to protect U.S. interests. When a draft was leaked to the press, controversy erupted and the report had to be softened.

The web accompaniment to the PBS Frontline special "The War Behind Closed Doors" features an excellent chronology showing how Wolfowitz's draft would become the basis of the Bush Doctrine.


PAX AMERICANA An important step in PNAC's chronology is its major publication, "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century" (RAD), released in September, 2000. The report takes Wolfowitz's draft as a starting point, hailing it as "a blueprint for maintaining U.S. preeminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests."

RAD rejects cuts in defense spending, insisting that "Preserving the desirable strategic situation in which the United States now finds itself requires a globally preeminent military capability both today and in the future." Core missions for the U.S. military include the ability to "fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars" and to reposition permanent forces in Southeast Europe and Southeast Asia.

Other samples from RAD:

"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."

"At present the United States faces no global rival. America's grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible."

"[N]ew methods of attack -- electronic, 'non-lethal,' biological -- will be more widely available ... 'combat' likely will take place in new dimensions: in space, 'cyber-space,' and perhaps the world of microbes ... advanced forms of biological warfare that can 'target' specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool."

In this Atlanta Journal-Constitution opinion piece, Jay Bookman compares "Rebuilding America's Defenses" with the current Bush defense policy.

You can read the entire document on PNAC's website.


SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 In discussing changes to America's military strategy, the RAD report regretfully admits, "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."

Shortly after September 11, PNAC sent a letter to President Bush welcoming his call for "a broad and sustained campaign" and encouraging the removal of Saddam even if Iraq could not be directly linked to the attacks.


WHO'S STEERING THIS SHIP? "Most neo-conservative defense intellectuals have their roots on the left, not the right." Michael Lind argues in the New Statesman and Salon magazines that many were anti-Stalinist Trotskyists who became anti-communist liberals, then shifted to a "militaristic and imperial right with no precedents in American culture or political history."

PAUL WOLFOWITZ is Deputy Defense Secretary, second-in-command at the Pentagon. Wolfowitz was promoting regime change in Iraq and a strategy of preemptive attack in 1992, but the elder Bush rejected his views as too radical. This is an excellent brief from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

RICHARD PERLE was Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration and a foreign policy adviser in George W. Bush's presidential campaign. He accepted Rumsfeld's offer to chair the Defense Policy Board, transforming it from obscurity to influence. In March, Perle resigned as chairman after a controversial lobbying scandal, but remains on the Board as a member.

WILLIAM KRISTOL is editor of The Weekly Standard, a conservative political magazine with a small but elite readership, funded by Rupert Murdoch. The son of neo-conservative founding father Irving Kristol, he is the president of PNAC.

Other important participants are Vice-President Dick Cheney; Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; Iran-contra scandal convict Elliott Abrams, now Director of Middle East Affairs for the National Security Council; Washington Post columnist Robert Kagan; and special presidential envoy to Afghanistan and Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad.

A fairly complete list of PNAC participants can be found here:


WHO PAYS THE BILLS? The Bradley Foundation, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is the primary funder of PNAC through PNAC's parent New Citizenship Project, Inc. With the largest assets of any right-wing foundation, Bradley has focused its efforts on ending affirmative action, reforming welfare, and privatizing schools. This article describes Bradley's funding of neo-conservative think-tanks, magazines, and books like "The Bell Curve."


PAX ISRAELICA? Nearly all PNAC participants, whether Jewish or Christian, are right-wing Zionists who support Ariel Sharon's Likud Party. In 1996, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and others drafted a paper for incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging him to make "a clean break" from the Oslo peace process preferring "peace through strength," including the ouster of Saddam Hussein.

This essay describes many of the familiar neo-conservatives as having "dual loyalties," making policy decisions in the interests of the State of Israel as much as the United States.


POST-WAR IRAQ PNAC participants are backing Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress in his bid to run the interim government in Iraq. From The American Prospect, who is Chalabi and why is he so popular with the neo-conservatives?


NEO-CONSERVATISM PNAC is in the same Washington, D.C. office building as the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), another major neo-conservative think-tank. They share far more than an address: PNAC participants like Richard Perle, Thomas Donnelly, Jeane Kirkpatrick, William Schneider, Lynne Cheney (Dick Cheney's wife), and Irving Kristol (William Kristol's father) are all AEI scholars and fellows.

Similar overlap is found among all the neo-conservative think-tanks -- Hudson Institute, Center for Security Policy, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Middle East Forum, and Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs -- giving the agenda of a few political elites the appearance of widespread agreement.


WHAT NEXT -- SYRIA? This piece from Foreign Policy in Focus discusses a 2000 Middle East Forum study calling for military force against Syria. The report, "Ending Syria's Occupation of Lebanon: The U.S. Role," was signed by numerous PNAC participants.

IRAN? From the Washington Monthly, a smart article that compares the neo-conservative plan for the Middle East to "giving a few good whacks to a hornets' nest because you want to get them out in the open and have it out with them once and for all."


CHALLENGING THE PROJECT FOR THE NEW AMERICAN CENTURY The Peace Education Fund and California Peace Action have launched a national advertising campaign that features the infamous photo of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein. The ads ask the question: "Who Are We Arming Now?" The ad is part of Peace Action's Campaign for a New American Foreign Policy which is building political pressure for an alternative to the bleak vision of the Project for the New American Century.


CONCLUSION Beyond all the specifics presented in this bulletin and the linked resources, it's essential to remember how interlocked the neo-conservative organizations are. They represent the views and interests of only a tiny elite, not the popular sentiment in the United States. Most Americans would be horrified to learn how PNAC and others are shaping the Bush Doctrine -- both because of the ideology they describe and because they use money and media to gain disproportionate political influence.

Money makes it easy to organize networks and gain political influence; control of the media limits our ability to consider the various options America has for handling crises in the international community. The work we are doing as MoveOn members is organizing without massive wealth and educating without owning the media. Our work is to vocalize the love of democratic decision-making shared by all people, clearly and with the most complete information. Please let us know what information you need to do this work, and we will do our best to make it available through the bulletin.


CREDITS Research team: Leah Appet, Joanne Comito, Lita Epstein, Anna Gavula, Terry Hackett, Zaid Khalil, Kate Kressmann-Kehoe, Cameron McLaughlin , Janelle Miau, Sarah Parady, Kim Plofker, and Ora Szekely.

Editing team: David Taub Bancroft, Melinda Coyle, Nancy Evans, Eileen Gillan, and Rita Weinstein.


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