The Widening Crusade

Bush's War Plan Is Scarier Than He's Saying

All this I don't understand. If it's a crisis—and global terrorism surely is—then why hasn't the president acted accordingly? What he did do, when he sent out those first tax rebate checks, was to tell us to go shopping. Buy clothes for the kids, tires for the car—this would get the economy humming. How does that measure up as a thoughtful, farsighted fiscal plan?

In effect, George Bush says, believe in me and I will lead you out of darkness. But he doesn't tell us any details. And it's in the details where the true costs are buried—human costs and the cost to our notion of ourselves as helpers and sharers, not slayers. No one seems to be asking themselves: If in the end the crusade is victorious, what is it we will have won? The White House never asked that question in Vietnam either.

For those who would dispute the assertion that the Bush Doctrine is a global military-based policy and is not just about liberating the Iraqi people, it's crucial to look back to the policy's origins and examine its founding documents.

illustration: Tim Jessell

The Bush Doctrine did get its birth push from Iraq—specifically from the outcome of the 1991 Gulf war, when the U.S.-led military coalition forced Saddam Hussein's troops out of Kuwait but stopped short of toppling the dictator and his oppressive government. The president then was a different George Bush, the father of the current president. The father ordered the military not to move on Baghdad, saying that the UN resolution underpinning the allied coalition did not authorize a regime change. Dick Cheney was the first George Bush's Pentagon chief. He said nothing critical at the time, but apparently he came to regret the failure to get rid of the Baghdad dictator.

A few years later, in June 1997, a group of neoconservatives formed an entity called the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) and issued a Statement of Principles. "The history of the 20th Century," the statement said, "should have taught us that it is important to shape circumstances before crises emerge, and to meet threats before they become dire." One of its formal principles called for a major increase in defense spending "to carry out our global responsibilities today." Others cited the "need to strengthen our ties to democratic allies and to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values" and underscored "America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity and our principles." This, the statement said, constituted "a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity."

Among the 25 signatories to the PNAC founding statement were Dick Cheney, I. Lewis Libby (Cheney's chief of staff), Donald Rumsfeld (who was also defense secretary under President Ford), and Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld's No. 2 at the Pentagon, who was head of the Pentagon policy team in the first Bush presidency, reporting to Cheney, who was then defense secretary). Obviously, this fraternity has been marinating together for a long time. Other signers whose names might ring familiar were Elliot Abrams, Gary Bauer, William J. Bennett, Jeb Bush, and Norman Podhoretz.

Three years and several aggressive position papers later—in September 2000, just two months before George W. Bush, the son, was elected president—the PNAC put military flesh on its statement of principles with a detailed 81-page report, "Rebuilding America's Defenses." The report set several "core missions" for U.S. military forces, which included maintaining nuclear superiority, expanding the armed forces by 200,000 active-duty personnel, and "repositioning" those forces "to respond to 21st century strategic realities."

The most startling mission is described as follows: "Fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars." The report depicts these potential wars as "large scale" and "spread across [the] globe."

Another escalation proposed for the military by the PNAC is to "perform the 'constabulary' duties associated with shaping the security environment in critical regions."

As for homeland security, the PNAC report says: "Develop and deploy global missile defenses to defend the American homeland and American allies, and to provide a secure basis for U.S. power projection around the world. Control the new 'international commons' of space and 'cyberspace,' and pave the way for the creation of a new military service—U.S. Space Forces—with the mission of space control."

Perhaps the eeriest sentence in the report is found on page 51: "The process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor."

Apparently for the neoconservative civilians who are running the Iraq campaign, 9-11 was that catalyzing event—for they are now operating at full speed toward multiple, simultaneous wars. The PNAC documents can be found online at newamericancentury.org.

In the end, the answers lie with this president—and later maybe with Congress and the American voters. Is he so committed to this imperial policy that he is unable to consider rethinking it? In short, is his mind closed? And if so, how many wars will he take us into?

These are not questions in a college debate, where the answers have no consequences. When a president's closest advisers and military planners are patrons of a policy that speaks matter-of-factly of fighting multiple, simultaneous, large-scale wars across the globe, people have a right to be told about it.

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