The new Cold War that Raimondo (among others) delineates has absolutely nothing to do with Vladimir Putin's domestic policies: his curtailment of Russian political freedoms (such as they were under the U.S.-backed kleptocracy of the Yeltsin era), his savage and murderous destruction of Chechnya, his consolidation of authoritarian powers, and so forth. The new Cold Warriors (most of whom are unregenerate old Cold Warriors) don't care about any of these things; on the contrary, they have all been hallmarks of the Bush Administration itself. The Bushists can only envy Putin's somewhat freer use of the iron rod. (Except in the savage and murderous destruction department; the Bushists are way ahead in that regard.)
You want to know how it really goes down at the summits like the one Bush will hold this weekend with Putin? Forget the earnest disquisitions from the Council on Foreign Relations or the interminable "process pieces" from the New York Times. Here's how it goes:
Bush: You ought to let our ole boys wet their beaks a little bit in that good stuff you got there, Vladimir. Cut us in on some of them oilfields and pipelines and all.
Putin: Naw, ain't gonna do it. Me and my ole boys are keeping it for our own selves.
Bush: That dawg won't hunt, son. You need to get your mind right on this. What if we was to stick us a big bunch of NATO ordnance down there in the Ukraine and Georgia?
Putin: You got it to do, hoss.
This is, without exaggeration, the precise moral, emotional and intellectual level at which relations between the world's two largest nuclear powers are being conducted. And as Raimondo notes, it will only degenerate further if John McCain -- a man who is perhaps even more ignorant and juvenile than George W. Bush, if such a thing can be imagined -- becomes president.
The only level of sophistication in the relationship is the cynical realization on both sides that all this renewed tension and tough talk strengthens the authoritarian, militarist, war-profiteering faction in each country. Putin can portray the continuing NATO expansion -- quite rightly -- as a strategic and military threat to Russia, and thus justify his military build-up and authoritarian policies as necessary "national security" measures. Likewise, the American militarists can point to the Russian build-up and crack-downs as justifications for "protecting" more nations from the big bad bear by bringing them under the NATO umbrella.
The immediate aim in expanding NATO, of course, is monetary: the militaries of new members must be made compatible with the rest of the alliance -- and that means large-scale purchases of military hardware from the West's arms merchants, particularly the American masters of war. Most of the money for these upgrades actually comes from the American taxpayer: the U.S. government "loans" the new member the money to buy, say, a fleet of warplanes; then the member hands the money straight to Boeing or Lockheed-Martin. (Who will then kick back a bit of the swag to the campaigns and causes of the politicians who engineered the deal.)
The longer-term aim is indeed to pressure Russia -- one way or another, with "all options on the table," as our progressive Democratic candidates like say -- into general compliance with American geopolitical hegemony. There is nothing secret about this desire. As long ago as 1992, during the first Bush Administration, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and jailbird Scooter Libby were drawing up official strategies for the U.S. government that declared that all other nations must be "discouraged...from challenging our leadership or even aspiring to a larger regional or global role." This goal has been the guiding star of their foreign policy philosophy since that time.
And note that the adovcates of "unipolar dominance" are not only concerned to prevent the rise of another global superpower to put a crimp in Washington's and Wall Street's style; they are also to determined to prevent any nation from achieving -- or even aspiring to -- a "regional" role. All the helots must be kept down on the same low level, so that in every region of the world -- the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East -- there is only one hegemon, one dominant power, one master: the United States. Yes, this is madness; but it also happens to be ruling philosophy of our "bipartisan foreign policy community."
If Putin would play ball on oil, then overnight he would no longer be the "New Stalin" of Western policymakers -- and media opinionmakers. But of course, if he did that -- if he gave away or diluted the source of Russia's economic independence -- then he'd be just another helot of the hegemon. And no Russian leader -- however democratic or authoritarian -- will ever submit to that role again, as Yeltsin was forced to do during shattering aftermath of the Soviet Union's collapse.
One need hold no brief for the grim, ruthless KGB thug in the Kremlin and the harsh system he has created to see the dangerous lunacy and rapacious greed behind the pointless expansion of NATO deep into Eastern Europe, and the whole Cold War re-run that the American militarists are now staging. The current situation has nothing to do with the well-being of ordinary Russian people -- for which neither Putin nor the NATOniks show any great concern -- or with the "security" of former Soviet states, or the security of the United States, for that matter. It has to do with the rampant lust of our elites for unearned riches and unrestrained power. And unfortunately, that dawg does hunt -- and keeps on hunting, stalking and devouring prey, year after year, decade after decade.
From Dark Passage: PNAC's Blueprint for Empire, originally written in September 2002, and expanded in February 2003:
An attack on Iraq. Vast increases in military spending. Planting new American bases all over the world, from the jungles of South America to the steppes of Central Asia. Embracing the concept of "pre-emptive war" and unilateral action as cornerstones of national strategy.
These policies may seem like reactions to the "changed world" confronting America after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But in fact, each one of them – and many other policies now being advanced by the Bush Administration – was planned long before the first plane ever struck the doomed Twin Towers. They are the handiwork of an obscure but influential conservative group called Project for the New American Century (PNAC), whose members – including Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld – now sit in the highest reaches of power.....
Not surprisingly, the roots of PNAC go back to the first Bush Administration. In 1992, then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney asked two of his top aides, Paul Wolfowitz (now assistant secretary of Defense) and Lewis Libby (now Cheney's chief of staff), to draw up a "Defense Guidance Plan" to shape American strategy in the post-Cold War world. They produced an aggressive, ambitious document calling for the unilateral use of American military might to "discourage advanced industrial nations from challenging our leadership or even aspiring to a larger regional or global role." Military intervention would be "a constant fixture" of what Wolfowitz and Libby called a "new order" which the United States – not the United Nations – would "establish and protect."
The goal was to seize the opportunity offered by the collapse of the Soviet Union – which left the United States without a serious international rival – and extend this "unipolar moment" of American dominance for decades to come; indeed, into a "New American Century."
....During the 1990s, it was refined and expanded in a number of conservative think tanks – the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Hudson Institute, the Center for Security Policy and others – whose memberships often overlapped. And now that they were out of office, the advocates of dominance could speak more freely.
One former member of Cheney's Defense Department team, Zalmay Khalilzad (now Bush's special emissary to Afghanistan), wrote openly that the U.S. must "be willing to use force" to express its "global leadership" and preclude the rise of potential rivals. Others, such as former Reagan official and AEI stalwart Richard Perle (now head of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board) and Douglas Feith (now assistant secretary of Defense), worked with Israel's Likud Party, drawing up plans calling for American-led "regime change" efforts in Iraq, Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Finally, in 1997, Project for the New American Century was formed as a focal point for disseminating the dominance ideal. It was a "big tent" of Great Power adherents: Beltway players like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, former Vice President Dan Quayle, and former Reagan education secretary turned public scold, William Bennett; Christian "social conservatives" like Gary Bauer; and the so-called "neoconservatives" (often former Democrats whose staunch anti-communism had led them to the Reagan Right), including Elliot Abrams, who'd been convicted of lying to Congress in the Iran-Contra scandal but was pardoned by George Bush Sr. (and now serves on the White House director of Middle East policy). Other notable figures joining PNAC included the Afghan-born Khalilzad, publisher and presidential candidate Steve Forbes, and Jeb Bush, younger brother of the president-to-be.
PNAC fired its first shot across the bow in 1998, with letters to President Clinton and Congressional leaders calling for "regime change" in Iraq, by force if necessary, and the establishment of a "strong U.S. military presence in the region." Then in September 2000, just months before the disputed election that brought George W. Bush to power, the group published a highly detailed, 90-page "blueprint" for transforming America's military – and the nation's role on the world stage. The document, "Rebuilding America's Defenses," acknowledged its adherence to the "basic tenets" of the controversial 1992 Wolfowitz-Libby report, and advocated a series of "transformations" in national defense and foreign affairs. These included:
- Projecting American dominance with a "worldwide network of forward operating bases" – some permanent, others "temporary access arrangements" as needed for various military interventions – in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. These additions to America's already-extensive overseas deployments would act as "the cavalry on the new American frontier" – a frontier that PNAC declared now extended throughout the world.
- Withdrawing from arms control treaties to allow for the development of a global missile shield, the deployment of space-based weapons and the production of a new generation of "battlefield nuclear weapons," especially "bunker-busters" for penetrating underground fortifications.
- Raising the U.S. military budget to at least 3.8 percent of gross domestic product, with annual increases of tens of billions of dollars each year.
- Developing sophisticated new technologies to "control the global commons of cyberspace" by closely monitoring communications and transactions on the Internet.
- Pursuing the development of "new methods of attack – electronic, 'non-lethal, biological...in new dimensions, in space, cyberspace and perhaps the world of microbes." Just this month, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was complaining to Congress about long-standing international chemical weapons treaties which have "tangled us up so badly" and prevented the use of non-lethal chemical arms in subduing enemy armies – and enemy populations.
- Developing the ability to "fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars." This means moving beyond the "two-war standard" of preparedness which has guided U.S. strategy since World War II in order to account for "new realities and potential new conflicts." It lists countries such as Iraq, Iran, Syria, North Korea and Libya as targets for those potential new conflicts, and urges Pentagon warplanners to consider not merely containing them or defeating them in battle, but "changing their regimes."
Oddly enough, although "regime change" in Iraq was still clearly a priority for PNAC, it had little to do with Saddam Hussein and his brutal policies or his aggressive tendencies. Instead, removing Saddam was tied to the larger goal of establishing a permanent U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf in order to "secure energy supplies" and preclude any other power from dominating the vital oil regions of the Middle East and Central Asia. The PNAC report puts it quite plainly:
"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."
This is why the Bush Regime has offered a constantly shifting menu of rationales for the impending attack on Iraq: because the decision to remove Saddam was taken long ago, as part of a larger strategic plan, and has little to do with any imminent threat from the broken-backed Iraqi regime, which is constantly bombed, partially occupied (with U.S. forces already working in the autonomous Kurdish territories) and now swarming with UN inspectors. If the strategic need for the attack "transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein," then almost any rationale will do.
Perhaps due to the presence of Washington heavyweights like Cheney and Rumsfeld, the PNAC report recognized that thorny political difficulties could stand in the way of implementing the group's radical designs. Indeed, in one of the most striking and prescient passages in the entire 90-page document, PNAC acknowledged that the "revolutionary" changes it envisaged could take decades to bring about – unless, that is, the United States was struck by "some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor."
That "new Pearl Harbor" did come, of course, in the thunderclap of September 11, 2001. And the PNAC alumni now in government were quick to capitalize on this "catalyzing event." All of the PNAC recommendations listed above were put into place, with almost no debate from a shellshocked Congress and a populace reeling from the unprecedented assault on American security....
The existence of PNAC and its influence on the Bush Administration is not some "conspiracy theory." It follows a pattern frequently seen in American history: a group of like-minded people band together in think tanks, foundations, universities and other institutions, where they lay out their vision for America's future. And when they at last have access to the levers of power, they try to make that vision a reality.
What is different now is that the September 11 attacks have given this particular group an unprecedented amount of political capital – not to mention cold, hard federal cash – to put their long-held dreams into practice, virtually without opposition. (In contrast, consider the bitterly partisan political struggles between Congress and Lincoln during the Civil War.) What is also different is the essential content of that vision: the establishment – by force – of an American Empire.....
But there will be costs to taking up what Thomas Donnelly, the principal author of the PNAC blueprint, calls "the free man's burden." Donnelly, a former journalist and legislative aide, wrote in the journal Foreign Affairs last year that America should look to its "imperial past" as a guide to its future. Reviewing The Savage Wars of Peace, a pro-Empire book by journalist Max Boot, Donnelly cites approvingly the "pacification" of the Philippines by American forces in 1898-1900, in which at least 100,000 Filipinos were killed in a bid for independence. He also points to the U.S. Army's success in subduing the Native American tribes in a series of small wars, and, closer to our time, the efficient "constabulatory operation" in Panama, which was invaded by the first President Bush in 1989. Similar "savage wars of peace" – pacifications, counterinsurgencies, police actions, invasions – will be required to maintain the new American Empire, says Donnelly.
And here too, George W. Bush has clearly echoed the thinking of the PNAC members who now surround him in the White House. Speaking at a Republican fundraiser last August, the President seemed keenly aware of the heavy price in blood and treasure the nation will have to pay to maintain its imperium in the New American Century: "There's no telling how many wars it will take to secure freedom in the homeland."....
These texts spring from the Dominators' quasi-religious cult of "American exceptionalism," the belief in the unique and utter goodness of the American soul – embodied chiefly by the nation's moneyed elite, of course – and the irredeemable, metaphysical evil of all those who would oppose or criticize the elite's righteous (and conveniently self-serving) policies....The Dominators dream of empire. Not only will it extend their temporal power, they believe it will also give them immortality. Indeed, one of their chief gurus, Reaganite firebreather Michael Ledeen, says that if the Dominators have the courage to reject "clever diplomacy" and "just wage total war" to subjugate the Middle East, "our children will sing great songs about us years from now."* This madness, this bin Laden-like megalomania is now driving the hijacked American republic – and the world – to murderous upheaval.
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This story was published on April 3, 2008.