13 March 2008

McCain and PNAC

McCain has surrounded himself with the best and brightest from the now-defunct Project for the New American Century: Randy Scheunemann, one of its directors, is serving as McCain’s top foreign policy advisor. He is joined by PNAC’s founder, Bill Kristol, along with Gary Schmitt (President), Robert Kagan (director), and James Woolsey (signatory).

More than any other group, PNAC has exerted the greatest influence over the Bush administration with regard to foreign policy. In 1998, PNAC sent a letter to President Clinton (signed by the likes of Cheney, Rumsefeld, Wolfowitz, and others) urging him to effect regime change in Iraq because of Saddam Hussein’s so-called development of WMDs. Clinton responded by initiating Operation Desert Fox, bombing military targets over a period of several days to “degrade” Iraq’s ability to produce nuclear weapons.

A mere nine days after 9/11, PNAC sent a letter (signed again by many of the same luminaries) asking that President Bush attack Iraq even if no links to 9/11 were found. The Bush administration promptly proceeded to do just that: according to the testimony of ex-CIA and FBI, every intelligence agent in Iraq was tasked to discover links between Hussein and al-Qaeda. When they came up with nothing, they were ordered to look again. Despite the lack of credible links, the Bush administration proceeded to act as PNAC had requested.

PNAC is an intellectual thinktank founded in 1997 by Bill Kristol. Its purpose, as set forth on its website, is to “advance American interests in the new century” by asserting “American global leadership” through “a foreign policy that boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad.” This would involve “challeng[ing] regimes hostile to our interests and values” and “preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.” This would all be accomplished, of course, through the use of force, or by the threat of force.

PNAC makes no secret of its intent for American global hegemony (in Kristol’s own words, a ”benevolent global hegemony”): in a position paper published in 2000, PNAC advocated the nuclear strategic superiority of the United States, not simply over Russia, but over the world. One of the ways it would promote American military dominance is by “fight[ing] and decisively win[ning] multiple, simultaneous major theater wars.”

Can you say frightening? The only thing more bizarre than this plan for world dominance is that PNAC has been so overt and straightforward about it. And more frightening still, these are the men who have filled the Bush administration at its highest levels.

It was from PNAC that Bush became persuaded of the triple threat emanating from Iraq, Iran, and North Korea (borrowing David Frum’s famous “axis of evil” phrase). No sooner did PNAC indicate a so-called threat from Iran, then the administration began its saber-rattling. It was a heavy blow to PNAC’s interests when the NIE issued a finding that Iran had halted production of nuclear weapons in 2003 because of international pressure. Cheney, one of the strongest voices opposed to Iran and a PNAC member, is undeterred; he has turned his focus from nuclear weapons to ballistic missiles. If one recalls that the possible presence of a nuclear arsenal in Iraq was the only legitimate justification for a preemptive strike (side issues like the good of liberating Iraqis from Hussein’s oppression and the furtherance of democracy could never be justifications per se for a preemptive war) and that WMDs were never found, one surmises that any future administration controlled by PNAC (such as McCain’s, if elected) will hardly find it necessary to justify a strike based on the actual presence of nuclear weapons. Another excuse will do. One way or another, the plan for American empire will move forward.

Case in point: PNAC has proposed establishing permanent bases in Iran even if no real threat exists:
Over the long term, Iran may well prove as large a threat to U.S. interests in the Gulf as Iraq has. And even should U.S.-Iranian relations improve, retaining forward-based forces in the region would still be an essential element in U.S. security strategy given the longstanding American interests in the region.
If its members get their way, expect an increase in American troops in Iraq, and for a very long time:
[T]here is little reason to anticipate that the U.S. air presence in the region should diminish significantly as long as Saddam Hussein remains in power…. From an American perspective, the value of such bases would endure even should Saddam pass from the scene.
Though PNAC has since disintegrated due to internal conflict (there have been disagreements over the way the Iraq war is being waged and the government’s position towards Iran), its inner circle continues to do its work now advising the Republican nominee for president. McCain, with his talk of an occupying presence in Iraq for upwards of “10,000 years”, his recklessly aggressive attitude towards Russia, his glibness toward Iran, and his rock-solid belief that America must continue to be the world's policeman (a phrase, normally used pejoratively, employed in a complimentary fashion by him), McCain is PNAC’s dream candidate.