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Context of 'February 18, 1992: ’Wolfowitz Doctrine:’ Proposal Advocates US as World’s Lone Superpower'

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Many experts consider President Bush’s decision not to invade Baghdad and overthrow Saddam Hussein (see January 16, 1991 and After) as wise and prudent, avoiding putting the US in the position of becoming a hostile occupying force and, thusly, avoiding the alienation of allies around the world as well as upholding the UN mandate overseeing the conflict. However, many of the neoconservatives in Defense Secretary Dick Cheney’s office have different views. Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and Zalmay Khalilzad are among those who view the “failure” to overthrow Hussein as what author Craig Unger will call “a disastrous lost opportunity.” Unger will reflect, “Interestingly, in what critics later termed ‘Chickenhawk Groupthink,’ the moderate, pragmatic, somewhat dovish policies implemented by men with genuinely stellar [military] records—George H. W. Bush, Brent Scowcroft, and Colin Powell—were under fire by men who had managed to avoid military service—Cheney, Wolfowitz, Libby, and Khalilzad.” (Secretary of State James Baker tells Powell to watch out for the “kooks” working for Cheney.) In some ways, the criticism and counterproposals from Cheney and his followers amounts to another “Team B” experience similar to that of 16 years before (see Early 1976, November 1976 and November 1976). Wolfowitz, with Libby and Khalilzad, will soon write their own set of recommendations, the Defense Planning Guide (DPG) (see February 18, 1992) memo, sometimes called the “Wolfowitz doctrine.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 115-117]

Entity Tags: Paul Wolfowitz, Brent Scowcroft, Colin Powell, Craig Unger, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Saddam Hussein, Zalmay M. Khalilzad, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, George Herbert Walker Bush

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Paul Wolfowitz.Paul Wolfowitz. [Source: Boston Globe]A draft of the Defense Department’s new post-Cold War strategy, the Defense Planning Guidance (DPG), causes a split among senior department officials and is criticized by the White House. The draft, prepared by defense officials Zalmay Khalilzad and Lewis “Scooter” Libby under the supervision of Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, says that the US must become the world’s single superpower and must take aggressive action to prevent competing nations—even allies such as Germany and Japan—from challenging US economic and military supremacy. [New York Times, 5/23/1992; Rupert and Solomon, 2005, pp. 122; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 165] The views in the document will become known informally as the “Wolfowitz Doctrine.” Neoconservative Ben Wattenberg will say that its core thesis is “to guard against the emergence of hostile regional superpowers, for example, Iraq or China.” He will add: “America is No. 1. We stand for something decent and important. That’s good for us and good for the world. That’s the way we want to keep it.” [AntiWar (.com), 8/24/2001] The document hails what it calls the “less visible” victory at the end of the Cold War, which it defines as “the integration of Germany and Japan into a US-led system of collective security and the creation of a democratic ‘zone of peace.’” It also asserts the importance of US nuclear weapons: “Our nuclear forces also provide an important deterrent hedge against the possibility of a revitalized or unforeseen global threat, while at the same time helping to deter third party use of weapons of mass destruction through the threat of retaliation.” [New York Times, 3/8/1992] The document states, “We must maintain the mechanism for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.” [New York Times, 3/8/1992] In 2007, author Craig Unger will write that deterring “potential competitors” from aspiring to a larger role means “punishing them before they can act.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 116]
US Not Interested in Long-Term Alliances - The document, which says the US cannot act as the world’s policeman, sees alliances among European nations such as Germany and France (see May 22, 1992) as a potential threat to US supremacy, and says that any future military alliances will be “ad hoc” affairs that will not last “beyond the crisis being confronted, and in many cases carrying only general agreement over the objectives to be accomplished.… [T]he sense that the world order is ultimately backed by the US will be an important stabilizing factor.” [New York Times, 5/23/1992] Conspicuously absent is any reference to the United Nations, what is most important is “the sense that the world order is ultimately backed by the US… the United States should be postured to act independently when collective action cannot be orchestrated” or in a crisis that demands quick response. [New York Times, 3/8/1992] Unger will write of Wolfowitz’s “ad hoc assemblies:” “Translation: in the future, the United States, if it liked, would go it alone.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 116]
Preventing the Rise of Any Global Power - “[W]e endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power. These regions include Western Europe, East Asia, the territory of the former Soviet Union and Southwest Asia.” The document advocates “a unilateral US defense guarantee” to Eastern Europe, “preferably in cooperation with other NATO states,” and foresees use of American military power to preempt or punish use of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, “even in conflicts that otherwise do not directly engage US interests.” [Washington Post, 3/11/1992]
Containing Post-Soviet Threats - The document says that the US’s primary goal is “to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union.” It adds, “This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to general global power.” In the Middle East and Southwest Asia, “our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the region and preserve US and Western access to the region’s oil.” The document also asserts that the US will act to restrain what it calls India’s “hegemonic aspirations” in South Asia [New York Times, 5/23/1992] , and warns of potential conflicts, perhaps requiring military intervention, arising in Cuba and China. “The US may be faced with the question of whether to take military steps to prevent the development or use of weapons of mass destruction,” it states, and notes that these steps may include pre-empting an impending attack with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, “or punishing the attackers or threatening punishment of aggressors through a variety of means,” including attacks on the plants that manufacture such weapons. It advocates the construction of a new missile defense system to counter future threats from nuclear-armed nations. [New York Times, 3/8/1992]
Reflective of Cheney, Wolfowitz's Views - Senior Pentagon officials say that while the draft has not yet been approved by either Dick Cheney or Wolfowitz, both played substantial roles in its creation and endorse its views. “This is not the piano player in the whorehouse,” one official says.
Democrats Condemn Policy Proposal - Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), an advocate of a reduction in military spending, calls the document “myopic, shallow and disappointing,” adding: “The basic thrust of the document seems to be this: We love being the sole remaining superpower in the world.” Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) attacks what he sees as the document’s emphasis on unilateral military action, and ridicules it as “literally a Pax Americana.” Pentagon officials will dispute characterizations that the policy flatly rejects any idea of multilateral military alliances. One defense official says, “What is just dead wrong is this notion of a sole superpower dominating the rest of the world.” [New York Times, 3/8/1992; Washington Post, 3/11/1992]
Abandoned, Later Resurrected - Wolfowitz’s draft will be heavily revised and much of its language dropped in a later revision (see May 22, 1992) after being leaked to the media (see March 8, 1992). Cheney and Wolfowitz’s proposals will receive much more favorable treatment from the administration of George W. Bush (see August 21, 2001).

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Ben Wattenberg, Craig Unger, Robert C. Byrd, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Bush administration (41), United Nations, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Zalmay M. Khalilzad, US Department of Defense, Joseph Biden

Timeline Tags: US International Relations


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