Monthly Archives: April 2008

McCain and Pre-Emptive War

     On Wednesday, April 9th, 2008 John McCain told an audience that he wouldn’t rule out attacking another country even if it had not first attacked the United States.  He was responding to a question referring to President Bush’s unprovoked invasion of Iraq.  McCain said “I don’t think you could make a blanket statement about pre-emptive war, because obviously, it depends on the threat that the Untied States of America faces.”

     Pre-emptive war became an American policy when leaders of the Bush administration told the nation and the world that there was an “imminent” threat to the U.S. from Saddam Hussein.  They insisted (falsely) that he had nuclear weapons and claimed he worked closely with al Qaeda (another lie) and was going to give the feared terrorist organization weapons of mass destruction.  This supposed alliance of a nuclear regime with a terrorist group posed an imminent threat of attack–giving the U.S. the right to launch a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq. 

     Why would John McCain be willing to consider launching another pre-emptive war, especially when this one turned out so well?  The connection between Bush’s aggression and McCain’s beligerance is a small group of policy intellectuals known as neo-conservatives.  After the collapse of the Soviet Union, with the United States occupying the role of sole world superpower, the neo-conservatives came together to support two big ideas. First, increasing military spending so the United States would be unchallenged as the world’s military superpower for many decades.  Second, using U.S. military power to invade and re-organize any countries unwilling to throw themselves open to the global marketplace dominated by U.S. corporations and banks.  They were especially concerned about unfriendly governments that controlled vital natural resources.

     The neo-conservatives invented the term “regime change” to encompass the idea that the U.S. should take out governments hostile to American corporations.  Regime change meant not worrying about getting permission from the United Nations or rallying our European allies to support the effort.  By the late 1990s, they focused on Sadam Hussein’s brutal government in Iraq, which just happened to sit on vast reserves of oil, as the first regime to change when the opportunity arose.

     Frustrated with the Clinton administration’s reluctance to act alone, the neo-conservatives supported John McCain when he ran for president. Then, when foreign affairs neophyte George Bush picked Dick Cheney was to be vice president, they moved into positions of prominence in the Bush regime.  For example, neo-conservative sympathizer Donald Rumsfeld became secretary of defense, neo-conservative author Paul Wolfowitz became deputy secretary of defense, and neo-conservative writer Douglas Feith became undersecretary of defense for policy.

     In response to the horrific attack of 9/11, these men came up with what was known as the Bush Doctrine (what, you thought George Bush wrote the Bush Doctrine while sitting at the Lincoln desk in the White House?)  The Bush Doctrine was an elaborate defense of pre-emptive war against rogue states that might develop weapons of mass destruction.

     While you might think that the neo-conservatives would be a bit bashful about offering up any new foreign policy advice – you are wrong.  They are as loud and persistent as ever, and they have found a presidential candidate who stands right with them in their crusade to crush Islamo-Fascism with American military power everywhere and anywhere.  Yes, their old favorite,  John McCain.

     The New York Times reported on April 10, 2008 that there is now a spirited competition between foreign policy pragmatists like Lawrence Eagleburger, formerly secretary of state under George Bush the first, and the neo-conservatives.  The McCain campaign’s head of foreign policy positions is Randy Scheunemann, who is on the board of the leading neo-conservative organization, the Project for the New American Century, and is president of the PNAC affiliate Committee for the Liberation of Iraq.  Mr. Scheunemann was an enthusiastic supporter of Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi, at least until it was discovered that Mr. Chalabi’s political party had no support in Iraq and that he was passing American secrets on to his friends in Iran.

     Mr. Scheunemann has brought a number of neo-conservative leaders into the McCain campaign.  For example, Robert Kagan, a co-founder of the Project for a New American Century, helped McCain write the major foreign policy speech he gave in Los Angeles on March 26.  Another neo-conservative advisor is Max Boot, who wrote in 2001, “Afghanistan and other troubled lands today cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets.”

     The Times reassures us that Mr. McCain also gets pragmatic foreign policy advice from former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.  Mr. Kissinger told the Times that “When we meet for lunch or inner, or on the one or two occasions he has come to my home, we have had philosophical discussions.” While doing the research for this blog entry, I’ve developed a very queasy feeling about a potential John McCain administration.


Thinking about the American Empire

Welcome to Perils of Empire.  This blog will explore the American empire, an informal network of military bases, oil field alliances, and aggressive trans-national corporations that exerts a disproportionate influence on the political and economic life of many other countries.  For a more elaborate discussion of the perils associated with the American empire, please order my book: Perils of Empire: The Roman Republic and the American Republic.

In this first post I want to point out that Michael Klare, author of Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum, has a new book out about the new international energy order.  He points out that the energy producing nations in the word — Iran, Russia, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and five other countries — are growing wealthy because of high energy prices.  In turn, countries like the United States, which distains alternative technologies and even higher milage automobiles, are going to become poorer.

I am very disappointed that this issue has not really been addressed during the presidential campaign.  I don’t count McCain’s proposal to waive the gas tax as a serious contribution to this problem — in fact it signals a disturbing lack of interest in the nature of the challenges we are facing.  The candidate from New Mexico, Bill Richardson, had a strong platform about alternative energy and energy independence, but he was not much of a political salesman.

The beauty of this situation is that one policy — moving away from the consumption of gasoline and the use of alternative technologies — addresses the long term problem of global warming, soothes the constant itch to go to war to secure oil supplies, and halts the immediate dislocations of rising gasoline prices.  If I were running for president, I would be making a big deal of this solution to our inter-connected problems.  That would be a way to show the public that I had a real vision about how to create a path out of our current mess.

Here is a thought (Note: this is an example of how I look at the Roman Republic to gain insights about the American Republic).  At the end of the Roman Republic, as society was crumbling into civil disorder and then civil war, no one could think of a solution to the multiple problems being generated by the city-state’s empire.  Every reform and change was blocked by a group of super conservative senators and consuls who refused to give up their economic priviledges.  As a result, individuals campaigned for a few specific reforms, but no agreement could be reached on how to fix the system.

The U.S. has been lucky, in times of crisis and peril to the Republic we had Roosevelt leading us through the Great Depression and Lincoln leading us through the Civil War.  What if lesser men were elected at those times?  What if a lesser man or woman is elected in 2008?  I believe that great men or women are only able to alter history if the right kinds of political and economic trends are available for them to take advantage of, but I also think that time and again throughout history, if a man who is not up to the job is in the leadership position at a time of national peril – then very bad things can happen.