by Dan Wright
Here we go again. Earlier this year, some were surprised to see Project For The New American Century (PNAC) co-founder and longtime DC fixture Robert Kagan endorse former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for president.
They shouldn’t have been. As is now clear from a policy paper [PDF] published last month, the neoconservatives are going all-in on Hillary Clinton being the best vessel for American power in the years ahead.
The paper, titled “Expanding American Power,” was published by the Center for a New American Security, a Democratic Party-friendly think tank co-founded and led by former Undersecretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy. Flournoy served in the Obama Administration under Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and is widely considered to be the frontrunner for the next secretary of defense, should Hillary Clinton become president.
The introduction to Expanding American Power is written by the aforementioned Robert Kagan and former Clinton Administration State Department official James Rubin. The paper itself was prepared in consultation with various defense and national security intellectuals over the course of six dinners. Among the officials includes those who signed on to PNAC letters calling for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, such as Elliot Abrams, Robert Zoellick, Craig Kennedy, Martin Indyk, Dennis Ross, and Flournoy herself, who signed on to a PNAC letter in 2005 calling for more ground troops in Iraq.
The substance of the document is about what one would expect from an iteration of PNAC. The paper cites a highly revisionist history of post-World War II American policymaking, complete with a celebration of America’s selfless motives for every action. Left out is any mention of overthrowing democratically elected and popular governments for US business, or the subsequent blowback for such actions in Latin America, the Middle East, and elsewhere.
For the neocons and liberal interventionists at the Center for a New American Security, the United States has always acted for the benefit of all.
The paper primarily focuses on the economy and defense budget, and American security interests in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Supporting the Trans-pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are considered the highest priority, as they will bind the main drivers of the US-led “liberal world order”—the US and Europe—closer together.
According to the paper, “Even in a world of shifting economic and political power, the transatlantic community remains both the foundation and the core of the liberal world order.” In other words, the West must maintain control of the planet, for the good of all, of course.
Part of the European concerns are a rise in nationalist sentiment in eastern Europe and the United Kingdom, for which the paper blames Russia, even bizarrely claiming that Russian funding is the cause of the disunity within the European Union—a claim without foundation, especially in the UK’s case.
The revisionist history continues, as the paper makes an astonishingly absurd claim on the US role in Asia, stating, “U.S. leadership has been indispensable in ensuring a stable balance of power in Asia the past 70 years.” No mention of the calamitous US war in Vietnam or its reciprocal effects in the killing fields of Cambodia. Nor is the US role in the genocide in East Timor dispensed with anywhere.
Then we come to the Middle East, where things really get slippery. The paper breezes past the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with a sorry, not sorry statement: “Despite recent American misjudgments and failures in the Middle East, for which all recent administrations, including the present one, bear some responsibility, and despite the apparent intractability of many of the problems in the region, the United States has no choice but to engage itself fully in a determined, multi-year effort to find an acceptable resolution to the many crises tearing the region apart.”
And with that, the paper demands regime change in Syria and that “Any such political solution must include the departure of Bashar al-Assad (but not necessarily all members of the ruling regime), since it is Assad’s brutal repression of Syria’s majority Sunni population that has created both the massive exodus and the increase in support for jihadist groups like ISIS.” Left out is the US role in destabilizing Iraq and arming jihadist rebels in Syria.
The paper goes on to regurgitate alarmingly facile claims about regional tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia that could have been written by the government of Saudi Arabia itself, such as, “We also reject Iran’s attempt to blame others for regional tensions it is aggravating, as well as its public campaign to demonize the government of Saudi Arabia.” It also states that “the United States must adopt as a matter of policy the goal of defeating Iran’s determined effort to dominate the Greater Middle East.”
If that appears like a commitment to more reckless regime change in the Middle East, that’s because it is.
But the overriding concern of the entire paper, with all its declarations about bipartisanship and universal altruism, is a concern with the American people being increasingly apprehensive towards the empire, and that concern leading to further defense budget cuts and unwillingness to support adventurism abroad.
The authors of the paper hope an improved economy can help change the current situation. “Ensuring that the domestic economy is lifting up the average American is still the best way to ensure support for global engagement and also contribute to a stronger, more influential America,” they write, though they see no end in sight, regardless of public support, claiming, “the task of preserving a world order is both difficult and never-ending.”
That this is what a think tank closely associated with Hillary Clinton is openly claiming should be concerning to all. While such analysis and declarations no doubt please the Center for a New American Security’s defense contractor donors, the American people are less-than-enthused with perpetual war for perpetual peace.
Former Secretary Clinton already affirmed her belief in regime change during the campaign, but now it looks like those waiting in the wings to staff her government are anxious to wet their bayonets.