Resources by Michael Klare,
Military by William Hartung

excerpted from the book

Power Trip

U.S. Unilateralism and Global Strategy After September 11

edited by John Feffer

Seven Stories Press, 2003, paper


by Michael Klare

The administration's first major priority, the acquisition of additional petroleum supplies from foreign sources, was spelled out in the report of the National Energy Policy Development Group, released on May 17, 2001. Known as the Cheney report, after its principal author Vice President Dick Cheney, this document purports to provide the United States with a comprehensive blueprint for satisfying its growing energy needs over the next quarter century. This blueprint incorporates some measures for increased energy conservation, but most of the proposals in the report are aimed at expanding America's overall supply of energy.

According to the Cheney report, U.S. reliance on imported petroleum will rise from 52 percent of total consumption in 2001 to an estimated 66 percent in 2020. Because total petroleum use is also rising, the United States will have to import 60 percent more oil in 2020 than it does today. In concrete terms, U.S. oil imports will have to rise from their current rate of 10.4 million barrels per day to an estimated 16.7 million barrels per day in 2020. The only way to accomplish this is to persuade foreign suppliers to increase their production of oil and to sell more of their output to the United States. However, many supplying countries lack the capital to make the necessary investments in production infrastructure and/or are reluctant to allow American firms to dominate their energy sector. The Cheney report therefore calls on the White House to make the pursuit of increased oil imports "a priority of our trade and foreign policy."

In particular, the report calls on the president and other top officials to pursue a two-pronged strategy to satisfy America's growing requirement for petroleum. The first goal of this strategy is to increase imports from the Persian Gulf countries, which together possess about two-thirds of the world's known oil reserves. Recognizing that no other region can increase production as rapidly or as substantially, the report advocates a vigorous U.S. diplomatic effort to persuade the governments of Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing countries in the Gulf region to allow American firms to undertake substantial infrastructure enhancements in their countries.

The second goal of the strategy is to increase the geographic diversity of U.S. imports so as to reduce the economic damage that would be caused by future supply interruptions in the ever-turbulent Middle East. To promote such diversity, the report calls on the president and other top officials to work with U.S. energy firms in increasing American oil imports from the Caspian Sea basin (especially Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan), sub-Saharan Africa (especially Angola and Nigeria), and Latin America (especially Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela).

The Cheney report does not state the obvious: namely, that virtually all of the areas identified as potential sources of increased oil supplies are chronically unstable, harbor anti-American sentiments, or both. While it is true that various elites in these countries may favor increased economic cooperation with the United States, other sectors of the population oppose such ties for nationalist, economic, or ideological reasons. Hence, U.S. efforts to obtain more petroleum from these countries are almost certain to provoke resistance, including, in some cases, terrorism and other forms of violent behavior. There is, then, an unacknowledged security dimension to the Cheney plan, with considerable significance for U.S. military policy. An energy policy favoring increased U.S. access to oil reserves located in chronically unstable areas such as the Persian Gulf, the Caspian Sea basin, Latin America, and sub-Saharan Africa will prove far more tenable if accompanied by a military I strategy favoring a significant enhancement in America's capacity to project military power into these areas.


 Top 10 Suppliers of Imported Oil to the U.S. - 2002



  Net Imports (mbd)

  % of Total Imports


 Canada  1.94  17


 Saudi Arabia  1.55  13


 Mexico  1.53  13


 Venezuela  1.38  12


 Nigeria  0.60  5


 UK  0.48  4


 Iraq  0.44  4


 Norway  0.38  3


 Angola  0.33  3


 Algeria  0.27  2

 8.9 mbd - total oil imported

 77% of total U.S. oil imports

President Bush spelled out the broad outlines of the administration's war against terrorism, in his address to a joint session of Congress on September 20, nine days after the terror bombings in New York and Washington.

"Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda," he declared, but "it will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated."

... the war on terrorism has(also)been merged with U.S. efforts to safeguard the flow of Caspian oil and natural gas to markets in the West. These efforts began on a modest scale during the Clinton administration, when the Department of Defense established links with the armed forces of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan and began to provide them with military aid and training. But now, in the wake of September 11, these efforts have been significantly expanded. Hence, the temporary U.S. bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are being transformed into semipermanent installations, while U.S. aid will be provided "for the refurbishment of a strategically located air base" in Kazakhstan. According to the State Department, this move is intended to "improve U.S.-Kazakh military cooperation while establishing a U.S.-interoperable base along the oil-rich Caspian." Azerbaijan will use American aid to establish a maritime defense capability in the Caspian Sea-the site of several recent encounters between Azerbaijani oil-exploration vessels and Iranian gunboats. While facilitating these countries' participation in the war against terrorism, these initiatives are also linked to U.S. efforts to provide a safe environment for the production and transport of petroleum.

Whatever the original intent of American policy makers, the three key strands of the administration's foreign security policy-the pursuit of imported petroleum, the enhancement of U.S. "power projection" capabilities, and the war against terrorism-have now merged into a single strategic enterprise. Attempts to analyze these initiatives as separate phenomena will prove increasingly difficult as the three strands become more and more intertwined. The only way to accurately depict the overall thrust of U.S. security policy today is to speak of a unified campaign-"the war for American supremacy"-combining significant elements of all three strands.

It is probably much too early to gauge the long-term significance of this fusing of strategic priorities. But several preliminary observations can be offered. First, since it is very difficult to question a strategy that integrates so many key aspects of national security in a single unified campaign, the combined policy appears to possess more vigor and momentum than any of its constituent parts. It might be possible to impose limits on one aspect of the campaign, for example, reducing military procurement levels or U.S. troop deployments in certain oil regions. When these measures are combined with anti-terrorism, however, it is almost impossible to advocate such limitations. It is highly likely, therefore, that the combined campaign will secure considerable support from Congress and the American people.

By the same token, however, this enterprise harbors a very significant risk of "mission creep" and "overstretch." That is, it could lead to a series of open-ended overseas military operations that become more complex and dangerous over time and require ever-growing commitments of American resources and personnel. George W. Bush warned against precisely this sort of behavior during the 2000 election campaign, but now seems to have embraced it fully. Certainly, this appears to be the case in the Persian Gulf, Central Asia, and Colombia, where the U.S. military presence is steadily being expanded. In each case, it is the combined impact of the three policy strands that makes it so difficult to establish prudent limits.

At this point, the greatest test of the Administration's overarching strategic design has come in Iraq. President Bush overthrew Saddam Hussein, after the Department of Defense spent months planning for the American invasion. Many Arab leaders warned the United States that such an invasion would trigger disorder and violence throughout the Middle East. Senior Pentagon officials also voiced concern over the costs and risks of maintaining a large American military presence in Iraq after Hussein has been ousted. But none of these warnings seem to have had any effect on the White House.

For those who worry about the long-term implications of the administration's strategic plan, the integration of these three strands of policy will pose a significant impediment to criticism. While it might be possible to convince some Americans and some members of Congress that U.S. military spending is too high or that energy consumption should be reduced, it will be very difficult to gain widespread support for this view while the war on terrorism is in full swing and the United States is becoming increasingly dependent on imported petroleum. Ultimately, it will be necessary to confront the "whole ball of wax"-that is, to question the desirability of the United States relying on military force to control the world's oil supply and to suppress all foreign challenges to American domination. The war for American supremacy will prove extremely costly in blood and treasure, and it will require ever more severe restrictions on civil liberties at home. In the final analysis, American democracy itself is put at the greatest risk by this strategy of perpetual intervention abroad.


by William Hartung

Contrary to his campaign pledge to be more "humble" in pursuit of U.S. interests, George W. Bush has adopted an aggressive, unilateralist foreign policy that reflects unbridled imperial attitudes not seen since the peak period of direct U.S. interventionism in Latin America in the early decades of the twentieth century. But this time around, the overriding U.S. policy objective is to establish dominance on a global rather than a regional scale, and it is being pursued in a nuclear-armed world in which unchecked escalation or military miscalculation could lead to unprecedented destruction.

Under the guise of "modernizing" U.S. military forces and strategy, Bush policy makers have launched an undeclared war on international norms and the U.S. Constitution. From junking the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to clear the way for missile defense and the militarization of space to declaring a doctrine of preemption to overthrow regimes the U.S. president deems threatening, the administration has moved relentlessly to destroy any and all obstacles to U.S. military intervention.

The Bush administration's military buildup has been a bonanza for major defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman, which were already receiving a total of $30 to $35 billion per year in Pentagon contracts. Not only will these major arms manufacturers be able to build lucrative Cold War-era systems, but they will benefit from new Pentagon investments in UAVs, long-range strike systems, and ballistic missile defense. And these same companies have received multibillion contracts for security work funded by other U.S. government agencies, such as the $11 billion Lockheed Martin-Northrop Grumman contract to re-arm and revitalize the U.S. Coast Guard and the major contracts that Boeing and Lockheed Martin have received for airport security systems.

In September 2002, the aggressive strategy set out in the QDR [Quadrennial Defense Review report of September 2001] was reinforced by the release of "The National Security Strategy of the United States," a popularized, thirty-one-page statement of the Bush administration's foreign policy priorities. Although the strategy document is filled with user-friendly rhetoric about the need to take "cooperative action" with other nations, the core message is even more ruthlessly unilateral than that of the QDR. The main thrust of the strategy document is that the Bush administration intends to exploit the "unprecedented-and unequaled-strength and influence of the United States" to implement a first strike military strategy.

The Bush administration's nuclear doctrine, unveiled at the end of 2001 in the highly charged post-September 11 political climate, represents an abrupt departure from the policies of prior post-Cold War administrations, Republican and Democratic alike. These views are set out in the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which independent defense analyst William Arkin has described as "an integrated, significantly expanded planning doctrine for using nuclear weapons against a wide range of potential adversaries" that "reverses an almost two-decades-long trend of relegating nuclear weapons to the category of weapons of last resort."

There are three particularly troubling aspects of the Bush nuclear doctrine. First, it expands the Pentagon's nuclear hit list by calling for detailed contingency plans for attacking a wide range of potential adversaries, whether or not those nations possess nuclear weapons. The Posture Review explicitly mentions China, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Russia, and Syria, but they aren't necessarily the only targets. Second, the Bush approach expands the circumstances under which the use of nuclear weapons will be considered far beyond situations in which the national survival of the United States is at risk to include retaliation for a chemical or biological attack, an attack by Iraq on Israel or one of its neighbors, a North Korean attack on South Korea, a military conflict over the status of Taiwan, and even in response to "surprising military developments." Third, the administration is considering the creation of a new generation of more "usable" nuclear weapons, ranging from low-yield systems to use against hardened underground bunkers to nuclear warheads that can be fitted onto land-based missile interceptors as part of the administration's missile defense system.

As early as the mid-1990s, the U.S. Space Command's "Vision for 2020" spoke openly of "dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect U.S. interests and investments," with the ultimate goal of achieving "full spectrum dominance" on land, at sea, in the air, and in space. The report suggests that the United States is "unlikely to be challenged by a global peer competitor," but that it should boost its military capabilities nonetheless, to deal with regional challenges spurred in part by "a widening between the 'haves' and 'have-nots"' driven by the "globalization of the world economy." This bald-faced expression of celestial imperialism was questioned by many key leaders in the three traditional military services, who feared that it might undermine funding for more mundane forms of military power.

The Bush administration's preference for unilateral solutions-or at best, ad hoc multilateral coalitions in which the United States makes all the key decisions-poses a serious challenge to its ambitious global strategy: How can the United States exert influence in every corner of the globe without resort to a massive increase in military personnel? So far, the solution has been to lavish arms, aid, and training on the allies of the moment in return for help in achieving U.S. objectives. Toward that end, in the early days of the war on terrorism, the administration floated a proposal that would have allowed the president to suspend for up to five years legislative restrictions on the provision of arms, aid, or training to any nation deemed an important partner in the war on terrorism. Congress quickly rebuffed this across-the board approach, which would have bypassed restrictions based on human rights abuses, subversion of democracy, sponsorship of terrorism, proliferation of nuclear weapons, or any other reason. But the administration was able to win support for a bill lifting most of the sanctions against India and Pakistan based on their potential roles as key players in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

In the first year after September 11, the United States offered arms and training to India, Pakistan, Yemen, Qatar, the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, the Philippines, and Indonesia based on their potential roles in fighting terrorism in their own nations or in neighboring countries. As a result, U.S. military aid spending increased by 28 percent from FY 2001 to FY 2002, while funds for training of foreign military forces have increased by more than one-third. In the majority of cases, this U.S. aid has more than one purpose. In addition to whatever value a particular arms deal or training mission may have in combating al-Qaeda or other "terror networks of global reach" as President Bush has described them, it may also serve as a way to secure access to military facilities (the Philippines, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Qatar) or to develop relationships with military forces in regions of interest (Yemen, Georgia) as a way to facilitate U.S. intervention.

Power Trip

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