Article — From the October 2002 issue

Dick Cheney’s Song of America

Drafting a plan for global dominance

Discussed in this essay:

Defense Planning Guidance for the 1994–1999 Fiscal Years (Draft), Office of the Secretary of Defense, 1992

Defense Planning Guidance for the 1994–1999 Fiscal Years (Revised Draft), Office of the Secretary of Defense, 1992

Defense Strategy far the 1990s, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 1993

Defense Planning Guidance for the 2004–2009 Fiscal Years, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 2002

Few writers are more ambitious than the writers of government poli­cy papers, and few policy papers are more ambitious than Dick Cheney’s masterwork. It has taken several forms over the last decade and is in fact the product of several ghostwrit­ers (notably Paul Wolfowitz and Colin Powell), but Cheney has been consistent in his dedication to the ideas in the documents that bear his name, and he has maintained a close association with the ideologues be­hind them. Let us, therefore, call Cheney the author, and this series of documents the Plan.

The Plan was published in unclas­sified form most recently under the title of Defense Strategy for the 1990s, as Cheney ended his term as secretary of defense under the elder George Bush in early 1993, but it is, like Leaves of Grass, a perpetually evolving work. It was the controver­sial Defense Planning Guidance draft of 1992 — from which Cheney, unconvincingly, tried to distance him­self — and it was the somewhat less aggressive revised draft of that same year. This June it was a presidential lecture in the form of a commence­ment address at West Point, and in July it was leaked to the press as yet another Defense Planning Guidance (this time under the pen name of Defense Secretary Donald Rums­feld). It will take its ultimate form, though, as America’s new national security strategy — and Cheney et al. will experience what few writers have even dared dream: their words will become our reality.

The Plan is for the United States to rule the world. The overt theme is unilateralism, but it is ultimately a story of domination. It calls for the United States to maintain its over­whelming military superiority and prevent new rivals from rising up to challenge it on the world stage. It calls for dominion over friends and enemies alike. It says not that the United States must be more power­ful, or most powerful, but that it must be absolutely powerful.

The Plan is disturbing in many ways, and ultimately unworkable. Yet it is being sold now as an answer to the “new realities” of the post–September 11 world, even as it was sold previously as the answer to the new realities of the post–Cold War world. For Cheney, the Plan has al­ways been the right answer, no mat­ter how different the questions.

Cheney’s unwavering adherence to the Plan would be amusing, and maybe a little sad, except that it is now our plan. In its pages are the ideas that we now act upon every day with the full might of the Unit­ed States military. Strangely, few critics have noted that Cheney’s work has a long history, or that it was once quite unpopular, or that it was created in reaction to circumstances that are far removed from the ones we now face. But Cheney is a well-known action man. One has to admire, in a way, the Babe Ruth–like sureness of his political work. He pointed to center field ten years ago, and now the ball is sailing over the fence.

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is an investigate reporter, formerly of the National Security News Service.

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