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Project for the new American century


WE are now debating the pros and cons of sending Indian troops to Iraq. That we can even be discussing a scenario where jawans could be serving under U.S. armed forces and could take orders to kill Iraqis, shows how close our government and opinion-makers have taken us to doing the U.S. bidding. This is a mess of our making. And we are unaware of what and who is driving current U.S. policy, about which we are strangely not being informed.

Iraq was about oil, but it was also more than that. It was a test case for expression of a new phase of U.S. imperial power. The present policy of the U.S. has been crafted by a network of persons who have come to occupy powerful positions in Washington. Dubbed the "neoconservatives", though they are anything but interested in the status quo, many of them draw their intellectual inspiration from a little-known philosopher of the Greek classics. Their vision is for the U.S. to secure the world so that its political, economic and military interests are not threatened. The neo-conservatives have been at work for nearly a decade developing, honing and canvassing their arguments. In that sense the new imperial expression of U.S. policy was not occasioned by the 2001 terrorist attacks against the country. The roots go back much further.

In 1992, during the last year of the presidency of Mr. Bush senior, Paul Wolfowitz, (then Number 3, now Number 2, in the U.S. Department of Defence) drafted a "Defence Policy Guidance" that visualised an aggressive military posture. The U.S. would have the right to intervene anywhere in the world and its military dominance would be, as reported then, capable of "deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role." A public uproar forced the Pentagon to abandon this draft. But that was not the end for the makers of the new doctrine. In 1997, swimming against the tide, a group of present, past and, as has turned out, future policy-makers formed the "Project for the New American Century". PNAC argued for an expanded U.S. military force because, as it stated in its founding statement, "we need to accept responsibility for America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles".

In 2000, on the eve of Mr. George Bush, becoming President, PNAC published a major report "Rebuilding America's Defences: Strategy, Forces and Resources for the New Century", which of course called for greater military spending. But it also called on the U.S. Government "to fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theatre wars", to control the "international commons" of space and cyberspace, to take on "constabulary duties" around the world that would demand U.S. rather than U.N. leadership and to expand its military bases in the world. In most situations, this would have been considered an incendiary set of recommendations.

Who were behind this strange-sounding PNAC and its aggressive arguments? Signatories to the 1997 founding statement included Jeb Bush (Governor of Florida and brother of Mr. George Bush), Dick Cheney (now Vice-President), Donald Rumsfeld (now Secretary of Defence), Paul Wolfowitz (author of the 1992 draft and now Mr. Rumsfeld's deputy) and I. Lewis Libby (Chief of Staff of Mr. Cheney). Other members who in the 1990s subscribed to PNAC statements include Robert Zoellick (U.S. Trade Representative), Richard Armitage (Deputy Secretary in the State Department), James Bolton (Under Secretary in the State Department) and many others. In other words, the members of PNAC are like a "who's who" list of the most powerful members of the Bush Presidency who have, as one commentator described it, "a lock on policy-making".

According to an insightful article which was published in Le Monde in April and subsequently written up in May in the New York Times, the intellectual guidance for members of the policy establishment comes from Leo Strauss, a classicist who emigrated from Germany to the U.S., and taught in the University of Chicago before his death in 1973. The political implications of the Strauss philosophy were interpreted to mean the rejection of the "realism" that ruled U.S. policy (barring during the Reagan Presidency) from the 1960s onwards. As the Le Monde described it, Strauss's teachings could be read to mean that "The greatest threat comes from States that do not share the values of (American) democracy. Changing these regimes and working for the progress of democratic values are the surest ways to reinforcing security (of the US) and peace." Here is the justification for an expansionary, militaristic and imperial U.S that has no time for international institutions and agreements.

This is the U.S. policy stance that our government and opinion-makers are so eager to ignore in their desire to send the Indian army to Iraq. We can only guess for what purpose we are being asked to sell ourselves to prove to the U.S. we will do its bidding. To ensure that the U.S. always allies with us against Pakistan? Or to broker ourselves to a seat at the table of so-called "great-powers"? This is not national interest.

(Links to a number of articles on or relating to PNAC can be found at

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