Archive for the ‘PNAC’ category

Toxic Thinking

January 11, 2020

Section I – The Birth of an Idea

During the George W Bush Administration, America was introduced to “Neoconservative” thinking.  This oxymoron was intended to reflect an updated version of good old Republican values most Americans recognized if not loved.  Neoconservatives argued that the United States represented the zenith of civilization offering a vibrant economy, military strength, and wholesome values which others would do well to emulate.  A “think tank” named “Project for the New American Century” boasted a foreign policy designed to ensure the 21st century was made in America’s image.  Hmmm.

“W” was not much of a thinker although IMO he eventually realized there was something fishy about his hubris filled, swaggering staff when they preached how America was right and others were not.  “W” was more comfortable wearing nice suits and getting his picture taken then squaring up what his Vice President, Defense Secretary and others were saying with laws and the Constitution.  So “W” side tracked his “compassionate conservative” label and read the scripts subordinates like Dick Cheney gave him.

And then there was 9/11.

The neoconservatives threw open doors and windows, and shouted from roof tops about the exceptionalism of America (google PNAC -Project For A New American Century) and how it was their duty to spread this thinking throughout the world but especially in the Muslim world. 

No sooner had US forces ousted the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan than the neoconservatives set their sights on “nation building”.  “We can’t allow terrorists to highjack Afghanistan again”, the neoconservatives said thumping their chests.

But that wasn’t enough.  Cheney, Rumsfeld, Libby, Wolfowitz, etc pointed at Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and falsely connected him to 9/11.  The Cheney cabal beat and beat war drums until the US invaded and occupied a sovereign country on trumped (pun) charges. 

Black sites, enhanced interrogation (think Nazi Gestapo techniques), and Guantanamo Bay Detention center (created to be outside the jurisdiction of US courts!!!) were products of neoconservative thinking.  Hmmm.

Section II – Rebirth

Fast forward.  Following 8 years under President Barack Obama where logic and reason prevailed, the country elected Donald Trump.  President Trump has turned out to govern in ways lacking logic or reason.  The stage has been set for neoconservatism to return.

The decision to assassinate the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani smacks of Dick Cheney-esq foreign policy.  (If you got the bigger stick, use it.) President Trump breathlessly raced to center stage in order to proclaim the assassination was on his order.  Trump thinks he is a tough guy despite having had bone spurs when he had the chance to go to Vietnam.

One must be careful, however, in assigning credit or blame to President Trump with respect to the assassination.  The President is an opportunist’s opportunist.  One should instead look to those advising the President, who would gladly hand the President a loaded gun in a crowded room.

Neoconservatives are paternalistic ideologues who exemplify “father knows best”.  Issues are reduced to black or white decisions which of course the neoconservative knows the best path forward.  Regrettably, the world is not a dichotomy of choices where one path is clearly superior to the other.  But authoritarian, paternalistic thinkers do not handle this possibility very well.

Iran is from an American’s perspective an opaque place where theocracy rules, women are subjugated, and free speech does not exist.  Iran, however, is not illogical, and like Russia, has adopted a foreign policy which buffers the homeland with client organizations operating in neighboring countries.  Iran does not want another Saddam Hussein ruling a neighboring country and subsequently invading Iran.  Hence General Soleimani’s work as a Middle East “trouble maker” is not likely to end with his death.

Assassinating the General will not change Iran’s foreign policy, it will simply change who is pursuing that policy.  Neoconservatives do not seem to recognize this subtlety and when confronted with more “bad behavior”, neocons will most likely reach for the hammer over using their words.

Section III – Teaching Points

There are ample reasons why President Trump ought be a one term President which have nothing to do with this recent assassination.  With respect to Iran, however, the President has willingly become a tool of neocons.  Judgement?  While the buck stops with the President, voters would do well to realize there are neoconservatives behind many bushes and trees, poised to jump out and take control of a putty-like President.  

In a strange way, the combination of President Trump and Neoconservative backers combines the worst of two dangerous forces.  One must assume that neocon motivation is at least in part founded upon energy sector driven economics.  The President has demonstrated a fondness for energy companies already and his America First motto fits Neoconservative rhetoric like a glove.  

President Trump has tried anti-globalism, embraced trade wars, and championed xenophobia.  Is neoconservatism next?


Dick and Liz, Truly Exceptional

August 30, 2015

Saturday’s Wall Street Journal carries a half page op-ed column by Liz and Dick Cheney. The father daughter team went way beyond attempting to rewrite history in their piece. One is tempted to believe their column was really an attempt to hawk their new book due out in September. Seeing it in any other light would either bring further discredit to former Vice President Dick Cheney’s long years of public service, or more cynically, underscore the failings of those who cannot bridge world changes and insist upon living in the past.

The Cheney’s column, titled “Restoring American Exceptionalism”, is roughly constructed in three parts. They open with a claim that American Exceptionalism has its roots in the founding days of our Country. Hmmm. The Cheneys do not belabor this claim and immediately move on to slamming President Obama for abandoning Iraq and making a “bad” deal with Iran.

The Cheneys omit any explanation why President Obama was in a position to remove US troops from Iraq in the first place, and say nothing about what a mess Iraq became after President George W Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney invaded and occupied Iraq, thereby opening Pandora’s Box. Probably just a minor detail in Dick and Liz’s opinion (or an inconvenient truth in many other’s minds).

By this point, Dick and Liz are full throated in their denunciation of President Obama over the Iran nuclear deal. Their argument reads like the words were from AIPAC or maybe even Prime Minister Netanyahu. As you might guess, the Cheneys offer no alternative path or explanation why no agreement does not lead to war while an agreement does. Hmmm.

After making a “President Obama – Neville Chamberlain” comparison, the Cheney’s catch their breath on reminisce over the successes of WWII and post war recovery, and of course, the winning of the cold war. I guess these are things “exceptionalsim” is made of.

It is doubtful any one can accuse the Cheneys of being unsure of their visions nor hampered with too many facts. Simply check out PNAC (Project for the New American Century) begun in 1997.  Cheney’s view of the world (especially the Middle East) and the unbridled use of American military power is on display. What’s so wrong with using other people’s children to fight on the ground? It’s called an all volunteer Army and a great thing when there are not so many other civilian jobs.

The kindest light that can be put on this column is it represents a crass attempt to merchandize a book. The Cheneys show complete ignorance of true American Exceptionalism and instead attempt to conceal America’s foremost foreign policy failure (Iraq War) with shameful comparisons to former great Americans. George Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower, and Harry Truman would spin in their graves if they could read this column.

The Middle East (especially Iran), China, and Russia all represent complex challenges for America foreign policy. One foreign policy approach is unlikely to work for all. Selecting the best approach for each will be both difficult but critical to maintaining a peaceful world. Negotiating by laying down ultimatums is the quickest way to failure. Negotiating in good faith may not always produce desired results also but good faith is the only way win-win outcomes can be forged.

The Cheneys don’t recognize this alternative.

You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide

April 17, 2015

Yesterday, so early in the 2016 Presidential nomination process, Jeb Bush’s claim to be his own man was put in question. Thanks to Jeb Bush’s truthful and candid answers to reporters questions, voters now know that a Jeb Bush Presidency will follow a foreign policy similar if not identical to that of George W Bush.

Gaining this confirmation, so early in the nomination process, will provide voters with a clear warning about what to expect if Jeb Bush becomes the nominee and eventually wins the election.

The issue at hand is described as “America taking a lead in world affairs”. What does he mean? According to the Washington Post, Jeb Bush would not be on speaking terms with Cuba, tighten sanctions on Iran, and partner more closely with Israel. Bush would deploy more NATO assets in Eastern Europe and would use the military to root out “barbarians” and “evil doers” around the globe. Sound like the “axis of evil” speech by “W”?

This foreign policy view has a very rational sound. When the US acts preemptively and with force, adversaries are put on the defense, and potential adversaries think twice before acting provocatively. So, if ones view is that the US is a basically “good” nation which should serve as a model for other nations to follow, then what better way to conduct foreign affairs than to lead?

Bush’s views are not new or unique to him. The “neoconservative” movement which propelled the George W Bush Administration into the Iraq invasion and occupation documented their foreign policy views before “W” was elected in a document (PNAC – Project for the New American Century). PNAC was signed by among others Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Elliott Abrams, Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby, and yes, Jeb Bush).

In considering this “preemptive” foreign policy, voters would do well to remember the disastrous outcome of the Iraq invasion and occupation. Even if one ascribes only the noblest of intentions, the Iraq regime change has unlocked the Middle East pandora’s box of unintended consequences. Also, the expansion of NATO has spooked Russian conservatives and facilitated Russia President Putin to foreign interventions under the guise of protecting the motherland. And, with this view of preemptive action, what does one think a “no deal” with Iran on nuclear weapons will mean?

On a separate basis, the Jeb Bush’s foreign policy does not come cheap. What does one think will happen when a Jeb Bush Administration has to pay for the military size necessary to carry off such a foreign policy (assuming it would be possible in the first place)? Will it be more debt like “W” chose, reductions in all other non-defense government spending, or higher taxes?

Bush and the GOP will target President Obama’s foreign policy, sometimes referred to as “leading from behind”. The President’s policies will be labeled “weak”, “naive”, and “misdirected” whereas a preemptive policy will be billed as “bold”, assertive, and above all, based upon what is right (Americans want to be right).

These are just a war of words which conceal the reality that Bush’s policies are no longer affordable nor do they make sense with global nature of world economics. The US simply can’t confront every threat every place in the world and could not afford to pay the bill if it were possible.

Jeb Bush may continue to say he is his own man but his words suggest something quite similar to his brother.  Jeb can run but he can’t hide from “W’s” recent history and foreign policy failures.

Bush’s words, of course, may seem strong and may harken back to America’s pride emanating from our WWII and Cold War strength, but that simply is not 21st century reality.

For Democrats, however, how will they describe their foreign policy?