The Wolfowitz Doctrine

" 1991, [Paul Wolfowitz] was the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy – it's the number 3 position at the Pentagon. And I had gone to see him when I was a 1-Star General. I was commanding the National Training Center..... I said 'Mr. Secretary, you must be pretty happy with the performance of the troops in Desert Storm [during the first Gulf war].' And he said: 'Well, yeah,' he said 'but not really,' he said 'because the truth is we should have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein, and we didn’t … But one thing we did learn' he said, 'we learned that we can use our military in the region – in the Middle East – and the Soviets won’t stop us.' He said, 'And we’ve got about 5 or 10 years to clean up those old Soviet client regimes – Syria, Iran, Iraq – before the next great superpower comes on to challenge us.'"
General Wesley Clark, on his 1991 meeting with Paul Wolfowitz, US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy
Commonwealth Club of California, San Francisco, 3 October 2007

Dick Cheney's Song of America
Harpers's Magazine, October 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....

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.'

The DPG was leaked to the New York Times in March 1992. Critics on both the left and the right attacked it immediately. Then-presidential candidate Pat Buchanan portrayed it as giving a 'blank check' to America’s allies by suggesting the United States would 'go to war to defend their interests.' Bill Clinton’s deputy campaign manager, George Stephanopoulos, characterized it as an attempt by Pentagon officials to 'find an excuse for big defense budgets instead of downsizing.' Delaware Senator Joseph Biden criticized the Plan’s vision of a 'Pax Americana, a global security system where threats to stability are suppressed or destroyed by U.S. military power.' Even those who found the document’s stated goals commendable feared that its chauvinistic tone could alienate many allies. Cheney responded by attempting to distance himself from the Plan. The Pentagon’s spokesman dismissed the leaked document as a 'low-level draft' and claimed that Cheney had not seen it. Yet a fifteen-page section opened by proclaiming that it constituted 'definitive guidance from the Secretary of Defense.'

Powell took a more forthright approach to dealing with the flap: he publicly embraced the DPG’s core concept. In a TV interview, he said he believed it was 'just fine' that the United States reign as the world’s dominant military power. 'I don’t think we should apologize for that,' he said. Despite bad reviews in the foreign press, Powell insisted that America’s European allies were 'not afraid' of U.S. military might because it was 'power that could be trusted' and 'will not be misused.'

Mindful that the draft DPG’s overt expression of U.S. dominance might not fly, Powell in the same interview also trotted out a new rationale for the original Base Force plan. He argued that in a post-Soviet world, filled with new dangers, the United States needed the ability to fight on more than one front at a time. 'One of the most destabilizing things we could do,' he said, 'is to cut our forces so much that if we’re tied up in one area of the world . . . and we are not seen to have the ability to influence another area of the world, we might invite just the sort of crisis we’re trying to deter.' This two-war strategy provided a possible answer to Nunn’s 'threat blank.' One unknown enemy wasn’t enough to justify lavish defense budgets, but two unknown enemies might do the trick.

Within a few weeks the Pentagon had come up with a more comprehensive response to the DPG furor. A revised version was leaked to the press that was significantly less strident in tone, though only slightly less strident in fact. While calling for the United States to prevent 'any hostile power from dominating a region critical to out interests,' the new draft stressed that America would act in concert with its allies — when possible. It also suggested the United Nations might take an expanded role in future political, economic, and security matters, a concept conspicuously absent from the original draft.

The controversy died down, and, with a presidential campaign under way, the Pentagon did nothing to stir it up again. Following Bush’s defeat, however, the Plan reemerged. In January 1993, in his very last days in office, Cheney released a final version. The newly titled Defense Strategy for the 1990s retained the soft touch of the revised draft DPG as well as its darker themes. The goal remained to preclude 'hostile competitors from challenging our critical interests' and preventing the rise of a new superpower. Although it expressed a 'preference' for collective responses in meeting such challenges, it made clear that the United States would play the lead role in any alliance. Moreover, it noted that collective action would 'not always be timely.' Therefore, the United States needed to retain the ability to 'act independently, if necessary.' To do so would require that the United States maintain its massive military superiority. Others were not encouraged to follow suit. It was kinder, gentler dominance, but it was dominance all the same. And it was this thesis that Cheney and company nailed to the door on their way out....

After eight years of what Cheney et al. regarded as wrong-headed military adventures and pinprick retaliatory strikes, the Clinton Administration — mercifully, in their view — came to an end. With the ascension of George W. Bush to the presidency, the authors of the Plan returned to government, ready to pick up where they had left off. Cheney, of course, became vice president, Powell became secretary of state, and Wolfowitz moved into the number-two slot at the Pentagon, as Donald Rumsfeld’s deputy. Other contributors also returned: Two prominent members of the Wolfowitz team that crafted the original DPG took up posts on Cheney’s staff. I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, who served as Wolfowitz’s deputy during Bush I, became the vice president’s chief of staff and national security adviser. And Eric Edelman, an assistant deputy undersecretary of defense in the first Bush Administration, became a top foreign policy adviser to Cheney.

Cheney and company had not changed their minds during the Clinton interlude about the correct course for U.S. policy, but they did not initially appear bent on resurrecting the Plan. Rather than present a unified vision of foreign policy to the world, in the early going the administration focused on promoting a series of seemingly unrelated initiatives. Notable among these were missile defense and space-based weaponry, long-standing conservative causes. In addition, a distinct tone of unilateralism emerged as the new administration announced its intent to abandon the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia in order to pursue missile defense; its opposition to U.S. ratification of an international nuclear-test-ban pact; and its refusal to become a party to an International Criminal Court. It also raised the prospect of ending the self-imposed U.S. moratorium on nuclear testing initiated by the President’s father during the 1992 presidential campaign. Moreover, the administration adopted a much tougher diplomatic posture, as evidenced, most notably, by a distinct hardening of relations with both China and North Korea. While none of this was inconsistent with the concept of U.S. dominance, these early actions did not, at the time, seem to add up to a coherent strategy.

It was only after September 11 that the Plan emerged in full. Within days of the attacks, Wolfowitz and Libby began calling for unilateral military action against Iraq, on the shaky premise that Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network could not have pulled off the assaults without Saddam Hussein’s assistance. At the time, Bush rejected such appeals, but Wolfowitz kept pushing and the President soon came around. In his State of the Union address in January, Bush labeled Iraq, Iran, and North Korea an 'axis of evil,' and warned that he would 'not wait on events' to prevent them from using weapons of mass destruction against the United States. He reiterated his commitment to preemption in his West Point speech in June. 'If we wait for threats to fully materialize we will have waited too long,' he said. 'We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge.' Although it was less noted, Bush in that same speech also reintroduced the Plan’s central theme. He declared that the United States would prevent the emergence of a rival power by maintaining 'military strengths beyond challenge.' With that, the President effectively adopted a strategy his father’s administration had developed ten years earlier to ensure that the United States would remain the world’s preeminent power. While the headlines screamed 'preemption,' no one noticed the declaration of the dominance strategy.

In case there was any doubt about the administration’s intentions, the Pentagon’s new DPG lays them out. Signed by Wolfowitz’s new boss, Donald Rumsfeld, in May and leaked to the Los Angeles Times in July, it contains all the key elements of the original Plan and adds several complementary features. The preemptive strikes envisioned in the original draft DPG are now 'unwarned attacks.' The old Powell-Cheney notion of military 'forward presence' is now 'forward deterrence.' The use of overwhelming force to defeat an enemy called for in the Powell Doctrine is now labeled an 'effects based' approach."

"About ten days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the Joint Staff who used to work for me, and one of the generals called me in. He said, 'Sir, you’ve got to come in and talk to me a second.' I said, 'Well, you’re too busy.' He said, 'No, no.' He says, 'We’ve made the decision we’re going to war with Iraq.' This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, 'We’re going to war with Iraq? Why?' He said, 'I don’t know.' ... So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, 'Are we still going to war with Iraq?' And he said, 'Oh, it’s worse than that.' He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, 'I just got this down from upstairs'—meaning the Secretary of Defense’s office—'today.' And he said, 'This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.' I said, 'Is it classified?' He said, 'Yes, sir.' I said, 'Well, don’t show it to me.' And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, 'You remember that?' He said, 'Sir, I didn’t show you that memo! I didn’t show it to you!'"
General Wesley Clarke, Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO from 1997 to 2000 interviewed by Amy Goodman
Democracy Now, 2 March 2007

"This was Paul Wolfowitz's year. On September 15, 2001, at a meeting in Camp David, he advised President George W. Bush to skip Kabul and train American guns on Baghdad. In March 2003, he got his wish. In the process, Wolfowitz became the most influential US deputy defense secretary ever - can you so much as name anyone else who held the post? .... Not that this alone qualifies Wolfowitz as the Jerusalem Post's Man of the Year. The war in Iraq had many authors: Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Tony Blair, George Bush. Wolfowitz may have been an early and vocal advocate, but he was cheering from the second row. What's not in dispute is that Wolfowitz is the principal author of the doctrine of preemption, which framed the war in Iraq and which, when it comes to it, will underpin US action against other rogue states. This is more remarkable than you might at first think. Following September 11, many people grasped intuitively that it was useless to contain or deter foes for whom suicide was an acceptable option. The difference with Wolfowitz is that he's been talking about this since at least 1992."
Man of the Year
Jerusalem Post, 3 October 2003

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