The Malleable World of the Neocons

The Neocons have been rudely awakened from their imperial dreams by the catastrophic failure of their Iraq ambitions.

“A hegemon is nothing more or less than a leader with preponderant influence and authority over all others in its domain. That is America's position in the world today….  [P]eace and American security depend on American power and the will to use it… American hegemony is the only reliable defense against a breakdown of peace and international order. The appropriate goal of American foreign policy, therefore, is to preserve that hegemony as far into the future as possible.”
William Kristol and Robert Kagan

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. — Lord Acton

With the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States became the sole remaining super-power. Many saw this extraordinary situation as an opportunity at last for world disarmament, a concerted attack on poverty and disease, and global harmony under a rule of international law.

Not the Neoconservatives.

Instead, they announced, this was to be “The American Century” – a “benevolent global hegemony” imposed upon the world by the sole remaining super-power, the United States. In this new world order, the United States would renounce treaties and international law at will if they were found to be contrary to the interests of the “hegemon.” Military action by the super power would be taken “preventatively” if there was a perceived possibility that an upstart nation might resist the “order” with force. Aggressive initiatives would be taken to assure that no rival super power would arise to challenge the global hegemony.

The United States would, in short, become the kind of world empire we claimed that we were struggling, throughout the cold war, to prevent the Soviet Union from becoming.

Much of this Neocon program has been implemented by the Bush administration. The test-ban and anti-ballistic missile treaties have been abrogated, along with the Geneva Conventions against torture and the Nuremberg Accords forbidding unprovoked war. The United States has refused to allow its citizens to be tried in the international criminal courts. The military budget has been expanded so that it now equals the combined military budgets of all other nations.

But in Iraq, the Neocons have been rudely awakened from their imperial dreams.

In August 2002, General Tommy Franks gathered a few of his senior officers, and together they predicted what Iraq might look like four years after an invasion and the fall of Saddam Hussein. These projections, assembled in a PowerPoint presentation, were recently obtained by the National Security Archives (a non-governmental research organization) through a Freedom of Information Act request. There we find that had the prophecies of Franks group proved true, today there would be only 5,000 American troops remaining in Iraq, while a representative government would be in place and the Iraqi army would be keeping the peace throughout the country.

But the spectacular failure of these rosy predictions should not surprise us. For at about the same time, Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney were assuring us that the overthrow of Saddam would be a “cakewalk,” and that we would be “greeted as liberators,” with flowers and sweets. The cost of “Operation Iraqi Liberation” (O.I.L.) (oops, make that “Operation Iraqi Freedom”), we were told, would be paid for by oil revenues.

Well, it didn’t quite turn out that way, did it? And why not? Many explanations have been offered. Among these: incredibly poor management by unqualified party hacks, failure to plan for the post-war occupation, failure to involve the Iraqis in the reconstruction. To be sure, all these factors and more have led to the appalling mess that is Iraq today. Underlying all these factors, perhaps, is a mind set of the Neoconservatives who successfully urged Bush and Cheney to launch the war and who, before that, drew up and signed the Neocon manifesto of 1997: “The Project for the New American Century” (PNAC).

By a “mind set” I mean assumptions that might be so far in the background of the Neocons thinking and planning that they are scarcely aware of them. These assumptions become apparent, not in what the Neocons say, but in how they act.

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