The Malleable World of the Neo Cons.
The Crisis Papers.
February 20, 2007
“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
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
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 neo conservatives.
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 imposed global order.
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 neo con 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 neo cons have been rudely awakened from their imperial
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.
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 neo
conservatives who successfully urged Bush and Cheney to launch the war and
who, before that, drew up and signed the neo con manifesto of 1997:
“The Project for the New American
By a “mind set” I mean assumptions that might be so far in the background of
the neo cons thinking and planning that they are scarcely aware of them.
These assumptions become apparent, not in what the neo cons say, but in how
Three of these “mind set assumptions,” I suggest, are especially
The world beyond the US borders is essentially passive. Nations and
peoples can be acted upon, but they will not react unexpectedly or resist
effectively. In a sense, then, the “outside world” is like a sculptor's clay,
a painter’s canvas, or a writer’s sheet of paper. Action without reaction.
(The neo cons appear to have the same attitude toward the American public.
But that must be the topic of another paper).
We American elites know what’s best for the peoples of the world beyond our
borders. And what is best for them is that they be just like us. Thus
they should gratefully accept our bestowal of “truth, justice and The
American Way.” The neo cons see themselves as “missionaries to the heathen”
– the “little people” desperately in need of enlightenment and salvation,
whether they want it or not. (Perhaps this is what Bush had in mind when he
carelessly called the “war on terror” a “crusade”). Thus we find “Viceroy”
Paul Bremer imposing a pre-formed libertarian “paradise” upon the Iraqis,
complete with unregulated free markets, the privatization of public
properties, and the abolition of all vestiges of the pre-existing
“Resistance is futile; you will be assimilated.” If the people of any
nation abroad resist our “benevolent global hegemony,” this will be of no
consequence, since our overwhelming military power will guarantee the
endurance of our “hegemony,” and will prevent the rise of a rival global
All three assumptions are profoundly false, as we are discovering each day
as the PNAC dream unravels.
The World can respond, unexpectedly and effectively. When King George
III dispatched the Howe brothers (General William and Admiral Richard) to
crush the rebellion in the American colonies, they expected that standard
European military tactics would defeat the rebels. And so they did at the
first encounter in Long Island when Washington’s colonials obligingly
behaved as expected.
But then the
American patriots responded creatively, adapting and improving guerilla warfare,
taking advantage of “home territory,” and eventually seizing the initiative.
Thus action is followed by a reaction that is innovative, intelligent,
and unexpected. History teaches us that this is a fundamental condition
of human conflict. A lesson sorrowfully learned by the British in India, by
the apartheid government of South Africa, by the Communist Party of the
Soviet Union, by the segregationists in the American South, and by the
American military in Viet Nam.
No greater error can be committed in war or in peace, than to presume that
one’s opponent will respond exactly as one expects them to respond. Yet, as
one reads the manifestos and publications of the neo cons, one is struck by
how little speculation is found therein as to how the “others” might respond
to the “benevolent global hegemony.”
One often hears from the supporters of Missile Defense, the challenge: “If
we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we develop as system that will
destroy incoming strategic missiles?” The answer is simple: the moon is
passive, while a strategic enemy is reactive and resourceful. The moon did
not actively attempt to foil the Apollo landing. But any and all improvements
in missile defense will result in countermeasures in the missile offense,
and the offense has
The people in other nations are the best judges of what is “good for them.”
This is a lesson learned by most freshman students of cultural anthropology.
Why it evades the notice of the well educated neo cons is a mystery.
Once again, history is a guide: Attempts from outside a culture to improve
the lives within that society, however well intentioned those attempts might
be, can have disastrous consequences if the culture and history of the
“beneficiary” people are not carefully studied and taken into account. And
it is doubtful that the interventions of the neo cons are either “well
intentioned” or well informed.
Put simply: while the “golden rule” is an excellent guide for conduct within
one’s culture, a more appropriate variant for dealing with other cultures
and peoples might be: “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.”
This rule requires that the “outsider” be well aware of what “they would
have you do unto them.”
“But haven’t American political ideals and culture been widely accepted
throughout the world?” Indeed, they have – from national constitutions
patterned after ours, to blue jeans and rock and roll. But these cultural
importations succeed best when the people within the society decide on their
accept them and integrate them into their culture. Attempts to force alien
ideas and customs upon a society can have disastrous consequences, as
missionaries and conquerors throughout history have learned.
Neo cons will tell us that they are trying to “spread democracy and freedom”
abroad. (“Freedom is on the march.” G. W. Bush).
This is a cruel hoax, as is evident when one looks past the word to the
deeds. There one finds that the “freedom” of the neo cons, is a freedom to
exploit, to seize a nation’s resources, and to reap enormous profits with
the connivance of the US government.
As for “democracy,” the neo cons are pleased to see nations abroad hold free
elections, so long as these elections select candidates that the neo cons
approve of. But if the neo cons don’t approve, then they will not hesitate
“correct” the voters’ “errors.” Consider, for example, the overthrow of Salvadore Allende in Chile, the attempt to oust Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua,
and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.
To this day, I cannot think of one authentic democracy that has been
established through the implementation of neo con foreign policy. Can you?
Iraq provides us with the most recent and vivid test example of neo con
“liberation.” As noted above, soon after Saddam was ousted, Paul Bremer was
installed as “Viceroy” whereupon he issued 97 “edicts” establishing a
libertarian utopia of unregulated free markets and privatization. He didn’t
think to ask the Iraqis what they wanted in a post-Saddam Iraq, nor did he
invite them to participate in the reconstruction of the country. Instead,
Halliburton, Bechtel, et al, swooped in with licenses to steal, as eight
billion dollars in cash were shipped on pallets into Iraq and then disappeared, like
fresh rain on the desert sand. Now,
as Seymour Hersh tells us, some of that purloined cash has apparently
fallen into the hands of the Iraqi "insurgents."
The Iraqis responded to these abuses exactly as we would in such
circumstances; they rose up in a struggle to drive out the occupiers and to
take back their country.
Despite its military might, the United States can be humbled, if “the
world” so chooses. The neo cons proclaim that the United States boasts a
military that can not be defeated in conventional war. And they are right.
But it does not follow that the US military cannot be defeated. It can be
defeated through unconventional warfare, as we discovered in Vietnam, and
are apparently discovering anew in Iraq.
But more significantly, the American “hegemon” can be defeated without a
shot being fired. As I have argued elsewhere (The
Vulnerable Giant), beneath the bombast and bluster of the
American military lies a pitifully week economic structure. More than half
of our eight trillion dollar national debt is in foreign hands (mostly China
and Japan). We have dismantled much of our industrial base and shipped it
overseas, and most of our strategic resources (primarily oil) are
imported. Should our foreign rivals “call” our debts and switch from the
dollar to the euro,
the value of the dollar will sink like a stone and we will
no longer be able to purchase strategic materials. An embargo on imported
oil would be the coup de grace.
True, this would create chaos and hardship in the world economy, but grave
threats can call for extreme remedies.
Put bluntly, we can be assured that “the world” will not submit to a “Pax
Americana” – an American “benevolent global hegemony.” Not when the nations
abroad take note of how American political ideals have been compromised and
even abolished at home by the neo con Bush administration, and how this
administration has treated American citizens and captured foreigners.
The nations abroad will not stand for this. And they need not stand for
this. If the neo con arrogance, threats and bullying become intolerable, the
community of nations can, in concert, demolish the American economy and
reduce the United States to a ruined irrelevancy.
Hopefully, before that terrible tipping point is reached, the American
public will at last wake up, regain its lost liberties, restore the
Constitution, and renounce the imperial ambitions of the neo cons.
It is just possible that the sleeping giant is beginning to stir, and that a
counter-revolution is afoot.
Let us hope that it is not too little and too late.
Copyright 2007 by Ernest Partridge
Ernest Partridge's Internet Publications
Conscience of a Progressive:
Partridge's Scholarly Publications. (The Online Gadfly)
Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field
of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at
the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He
publishes the website, "The Online
Gadfly" and co-edits the progressive website,
"The Crisis Papers".
His e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org .