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Profile: Ben Wattenberg

Ben Wattenberg was a participant or observer in the following events:

Neoconservatives see Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern’s floundering campaign and eventual landslide defeat (see November 7, 1972) as emblematic of, in author Craig Unger’s words, everything that is wrong with the “defeatist, isolationist policies of the liberals who had captured the Democratic Party.” If the neoconservatives had had their way, their favorite senator, Henry “Scoop” Jackson (see Early 1970s), would have won the nomination. But the Vietnam War has put hawkish Cold Warriors like Jackson in disfavor in the party, and Jackson was set aside for the disastrous McGovern candidacy. The Republicans offer little interest themselves for the neoconservatives. Richard Nixon is enamored of one of their most hated nemeses, National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, whose “realpolitik” did nothing to excite their ideological impulses. And under Nixon, the icy Cold War is slowly thawing, with summit meetings, bilateral commissions, and arms limitations agreements continually bridging the gap between the US and the neoconservatives’ implacable foe, the Soviet Union. In Nixon’s second term, the Coalition for a Democratic Majority (CDM)—populated by Democratic neoconservatives like Jackson, Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, Midge Decter, Daniel Patrick Moynihan (Nixon’s domestic adviser), Jeane Kirkpatrick, Ben Wattenberg, and James Woolsey, and joined by 1968 Democratic presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey, will pressure Nixon to adopt a tough “peace through strength” policy towards the Soviet Union. Although it will take time, and the formation of countless other organizations with similar memberships and goals, this group of neoconservatives and hawkish hardliners will succeed in marginalizing Congress, demonizing their enemies, and taking over the entire foreign policy apparatus of the US government. (Unger 2007, pp. 47-48)

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. (Tyler 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.” (Utley 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.” (Tyler 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.” (Tyler 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.” (Tyler 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. (Tyler 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.” (Gellman 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 (Tyler 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. (Tyler 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.” (Tyler 3/8/1992; Gellman 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).


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