Article — From the October 2002 issue

Dick Cheney’s Song of America

Drafting a plan for global dominance

( 4 of 9 )

The Gulf War temporarily re­duced the pressure to cut military spending. It also diverted attention from some of the Plan’s less appeal­ing aspects. In addition, it inspired what would become one of the Plan’s key features: the use of “over­whelming force” to quickly defeat enemies, a concept since dubbed the Powell Doctrine.

Once the Iraqi threat was “con­tained,” Wolfowitz returned to his ob­session with the Soviets, planning var­ious scenarios involving possible Soviet intervention in regional conflicts. The failure of the hard-liner coup against Gorbachev in August 1991, however, made it apparent that such planning might be unnecessary. Then, in late December, just as the Pentagon was preparing to put the Plan in place, the Soviet Union collapsed.

With the Soviet Union gone, the United States had a choice. It could capitalize on the euphoria of the moment by nurturing cooperative re­lations and developing multilateral structures to help guide the global re­alignment then taking place; or it could consolidate its power and pursue a strategy of unilateralism and global dominance. It chose the latter course.

In early 1992, as Powell and Cheney campaigned to win congressional sup­port for their augmented Base Force plan, a new logic entered into their appeals. The United States, Powell told members of the House Armed Services Committee, required “suffi­cient power” to “deter any challenger from ever dreaming of challenging us on the world stage.” To emphasize the point, he cast the United States in the role of street thug. “I want to be the bully on the block,” he said, implant­ing in the mind of potential opponents that “there is no future in trying to challenge the armed forces of the Unit­ed States.”

As Powell and Cheney were mak­ing this new argument in their con­gressional rounds, Wolfowitz was busy expanding the concept and working to have it incorporated into U.S. policy. During the early months of 1992, Wolfowitz supervised the preparation of an internal Pentagon policy statement used to guide mili­tary officials in the preparation of their forces, budgets, and strategies. The classified document, known as the Defense Planning Guidance, depicted a world dominated by the United States, which would main­tain its superpower status through a combination of positive guidance and overwhelming military might. The image was one of a heavily armed City on a Hill.

The DPG stated that the “first ob­jective” of U.S. defense strategy was “to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival.” Achieving this objective required that the United States “pre­vent any hostile power from domi­nating a region” of strategic signifi­cance. America’s new mission would be to convince allies and enemies alike “that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggres­sive posture to protect their legiti­mate interests.”

Another new theme was the use of preemptive military force. The op­tions, the DPG noted, ranged from taking preemptive military action to head off a nuclear, chemical, or bio­logical attack to “punishing” or “threatening punishment of aggres­sors “through a variety of means,” including strikes against weapons-manufacturing facilities.

The DPG also envisioned main­taining a substantial U.S. nuclear ar­senal while discouraging the devel­opment of nuclear programs in other countries. It depicted a “U.S.-led sys­tem of collective security” that im­plicitly precluded the need for re­armament of any kind by countries such as Germany and Japan. And it called for the “early introduction” of a global missile-defense system that would presumably render all missile-launched weapons, including those of the United States, obsolete. (The United States would, of course, re­main the world’s dominant military power on the strength of its other weapons systems.)

The story, in short, was dominance by way of unilateral action and mili­tary superiority. While coalitions — such as the one formed during the Gulf War — held “considerable promise for promoting collective ac­tion,” the draft DPG stated, the Unit­ed States should expect future al­liances to be “ad hoc assemblies, often not lasting beyond the crisis being confronted, and in many cases carry­ing only general agreement over the objectives to be accomplished.” It was essential to create “the sense that the world order is ultimately backed by the U.S.” and essential that America position itself “to act independently when collective action cannot be or­chestrated” or in crisis situations re­quiring immediate action. “While the U.S. cannot become the world’s ‘po­liceman,’ ” the document said, “we will retain the preeminent responsibility for addressing selectively those wrongs which threaten not only our interests, but those of our allies or friends.” Among the interests the draft indi­cated the United States would defend in this manner were “access to vital raw materials, primarily Persian Gulf oil, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, [and] threats to U.S. citizens from terrorism.”

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

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