May, 2003 The Rest of the PNAC Iceberg

Next Stop Iran?

If Bush sticks to the plan detailed in the
Project for a New American Century
Iran is a likely future target

On the evening of May 28th, less than two weeks after Bush declared victory in Iraq, the news media was replete with reports about the possibility of war with Iran. One news show reported that Rumsfeld warned Iran "not to interfere" in Iraq, while another show ran under the ominous title, "Next Stop Tehran?" and reported that "new information" has surfaced regarding a possible link between Iran and Al Qaeda. Yet another program ran a talking head (a former Defense Department official) who was declaring that although the U.S. "would rather deal with one thing at a time" (i.e., Iraq) it may very well be "forced" to take immediate military action in Iran.

Rumsfeld et. al. seem to be taking a page right out of the play-book that they commissioned back in 1997 - 'The Project for the New American Century' (PNAC).

Here we attempt to understand the current focus on Iran in the context provided by this document. Anyone who was familiar with it could have predicted, years ago, that there would likely come a day when the U.S. would gather troops at the border of Iran, on the brink of immanent invasion.

There are three steps in the logic that underwrites the PNAC, and they lead inexorably to the conclusion that it is in American's 'best interest' to occupy Iran -

Step 1: the Setting

First, let's consider the main premise on which the PNAC's vision is based - the need, in a post cold-war environment, for a new KIND of 'defense' policy.

At present the United States faces no global rival. Americaís grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible. There are, however, potentially powerful states dissatisfied with the current situation and eager to change it, if they can ... (page I)

But without conventional weapons that can match the weapons in the U.S. arsenal, these states are not in a position to do anything about the current situation. Not unless they can develop weapons of mass destruction, with which they might stand a good chance of 'deterring' (an interesting choice of the words) the U.S. from 'intervention' [their word] in regions over which they seek to maintain control:

In the post-Cold War era, America and its allies, rather than the Soviet Union, have become the primary objects of deterrence and it is states like Iraq, Iran and North Korea who most wish to develop deterrent capabilities. (page 54)

The possession of weapons of mass destruction would make 'otherwise weak states' formidable opponents. They are the great equalizers in the global political equation:

[The use of] conventional military forces or simply asserting political influence abroad, particularly in times of crisis, will be far more complex and constrained when the American homeland or the territory of our allies is subject to attack by otherwise weak rogue regimes capable of cobbling together a miniscule ballistic missile force. (Page 54)

... When their missiles are tipped with warheads carrying nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, even weak regional powers have a credible deterrent [to U.S. military intervention], regardless of the balance of conventional forces. That is why, according to the CIA, a number of regimes deeply hostile to America North - Korea, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Syria already have or are developing ballistic missiles that could threaten U.S allies and forces abroad. And one, North Korea, is on the verge of deploying missiles that can hit the American homeland. Such capabilities pose a grave challenge to the American peace and the military power that preserves that peace.

At the same time, the [Clinton]administrationís devotion to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty with the Soviet Union has frustrated [U.S.] development of useful ballistic missile defenses. (page 52)

Step 2: The Response

Under these circumstances the U.S. has no choice, according to the PNAC, but to adopt a new KIND of defense, one which radically redefines what 'defense' means. What they have in mind is a policy of 'pre-emptive action' - a policy that masks OFFENSIVE military action, the only means by which U.S. global dominance can be achieved, as DEFENSE strategy.

How, exactly, is this redefinition to be operationally accomplished? The PNAC is quite specific on this point. First, the document recommends ....

  1. an expansion of what it calls 'the U.S. security perimeter', beyond its traditional limits - the shores of the United States. 'Since the collapse of the Soviet empire, this perimeter has expanded slowly but inexorably,' the document admits. But it must be extended farther yet, into the Persian Gulf, South East Asia, and other places, if we are to remain 'secure'. This expansion of the security perimeter will involve ...
  2. 'changes of U.S. deployments and installations overseas', which are to be viewed as 'semi-permanent' ones. The forces that are 'repositioned' in this way must also ...
  3. be 'reconfigured', so that they can be used conduct 'constabulary and punitive operations' meant to 'preserve [this new] international security environment conducive to American interests and ideals', 'secure and expand zones of 'democratic peace', and prevent the 'rise of a [new] great-power' that can compete militarily with the U.S. This plan, which is far-reaching in scope, will require ...
  4. an extensive build-up of U.S. armed forces, so that we become capable of fighting 'major wars' in at least two 'theaters' simultaneously. It will also require ...
  5. a re-design of the U.S. armed forces, to take advantage of the technological 'revolution in military affairs' that is currently upon us. This will permit ...
  6. the U.S. to take 'control' of what the document calls 'the new international commons' - i.e., outer space and cyberspace - a necessary component in maintaining 'security' within the new 'perimeter' in the future.

Step 3: Making the Plan Operational
The Critical Role of the Persion Gulf

Any implementation of the strategy called for by the PNAC pivots on the ability of those in charge of foreign policy to present any moves directed toward global domination as 'security' moves, moves that must be made for the sake of defense. Not every geographical location will suffice as a good theater for a prospective military 'defense' action of this sort, however - since not every region is critical for achieving the goal of global domination.

This is where the Persian Gulf comes in. Occupation of this region is a pre-requisite for global domination, as many have pointed out. [1]

What is said in the PNAC makes it quite clear that the basic reason for the recent invasion of Iraq was never solely a matter of 'regime change', let alone the desire to stave off immanent threat of nuclear attack or reduce terrorist activity in the U.S. Rather, the invasion was, admittedly, based on a need to deploy a significant amount of troops to a critical geographical area:

In the Persian Gulf region, the presence of American forces, along with British and French units, has become a semipermanent fact of life. Though the immediate mission of those forces is to enforce the no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq, they represent the long-term commitment of the United States and its major allies to a region of vital importance. Indeed, the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein. (page 14)

In May, shortly AFTER the 'conclusion' of the invasion of Iraq - when one would have expected a decrease in troops - it was reported that U.S. military leaders wanted to increase the number from 160,000 to 200,000. This is not surprising, however, given the context provided by the paragraph above.

Step 4 - How Iran Fits In

Finally, here is how Iran fits into the plans that those who commissioned the PNAC have for the region:

Iran may well prove as large a threat to U.S. interests in the Gulf as Iraq has. And even should U.S.-Iranian relations improve, retaining forward-based forces in the region would still be an essential element in U.S. security strategy given the longstanding American interests in the region. (page 17)

Given the extent to which the Bush administration has been religiously sticking to the plan detailed in the PNAC, the above statement does not bode well for Iran. Is an invasion immanent? Would Bush's flagging popularity get a boost from an election-year invasion? Or does he plan to wait until he is securely in office for a second term?

Possible Study Materials:

1) Read Steven R. Weisman's NY Times article tracing the policy of 'pre-emption' through various documents produced throughout the 1990s by the group whose ideological views culminated in the publishing of the PNAC: "Pre-emption: Idea With a Lineage Whose Time Has Come," - March 23, 2003

2) Listen to Stanford University professor David Palumbo-Liu speak on how preemptive military policy masks the goal of global domination and hegemony, Wolfowitz's (1992) 'Defense Planning Guidance' document, and William Kristol and Robert Kagan[1], co-founders of the PNAC, 1996 proposal for 'a neo-reaganite foreign strategy'. (April 29th, 2003 - Democracy Now!) [audio]

3) Noam Chomsky's talk on the new path in U.S. foreign policy - Pre-emption and U.S. Global Dominance (4/15/2003, Democracy Now!) can be heard here: [audio]

4) What does the word 'pre-emption' mean?

SYNONYMS FOR 'preempt', according to the Merriam-Webster Thesaurus:

APPROPRIATE, accroach, annex, arrogate, commandeer, confiscate, expropriate, seize, sequester, take; ARROGATE, accroach, appropriate, assume, commandeer, usurp

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines 'preempt' in this way:

  1. of or relating to preemption : having power to preempt
  2. of a bid in bridge : higher than necessary and intended to shut out bids by the opponents
  3. giving a stockholder first option to purchase new stock in an amount proportionate to his existing holdings
  4. marked by the seizing of the initiative : initiated by oneself (a preemptive attack)

What is the etymology of the word pre∑emp∑tion?

Etymology: Medieval Latin praeemption-, praeemptio previous purchase, from praeemere to buy before, from Latin prae- pre- + emere to buy -- more at REDEEM
Date: 1602

  1. the right of purchasing before others; especially : one given by the government to the actual settler upon a tract of public land b : the purchase of something under this right
  2. a prior seizure or appropriation : a taking possession before others
Perhaps it is was the etymology of the word that the neo-cons had in mind when they described the invasion of Iraq as a 'pre-emptive' strike.