Bulletin N°66

28 March 2003
Grenoble, France

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Below is an article on the political origins of today's U.S. military policy. Technically speaking, historians have argued that the political economy of fascism requires an expansionist demension (i.e. military conquests). In this way, Franco's Spain and Pinochet's Chile were qualitatively different from Mussolini's Italy, Hitler's Germany, or Tojo's Japan. Similar repressive domestic policies of a police state apparatus were put into practice, but the political economies of the latter fully-fascist states were guided by military expansionist policies, with state commands, rather than free market competitions, directing the production of goods and services, which benefitted from swollen military and police budgets that guaranteed profits to investors in selected industries.

In the short term, these fascist political economies were profitable and solved the unemployment problem. In the long term, of course,  they were suicidal for the nations that had adopted them.

Below, please read about the architects of America's post-cold-war military policies, described in an unusual article, written by Steven Weisman and published in the 24 March issue of the International Harold Tribune.

F. Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research


Doctrine of preemptive war has its roots in early 1990s
by Steven R. Weisman
Monday, March 24, 2003
copyright © 2003 The International Herald Tribune

    WASHINGTON. In January 1998, a lineup of conservative policy advocates warned
     President Bill Clinton in an open letter that the "containment" of Iraq was a failure and
     that removing Saddam Hussein from power "now needs to become the aim of
     American foreign policy."

     Among the 18 signers were Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Armitage and
     Richard Perle, all former officials in Republican administrations. At the time, the men
     were affiliated with academic centers and policy institutes, with no particular
     expectation that they would, within five years, be in a position to turn their ideas into

     The second U.S.-led war in the Gulf represents far more than simply a triumph for
     Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, and Wolfowitz, his deputy, or for Armitage, the
     deputy secretary of state, and Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board, a
     Pentagon advisory panel, not to mention their colleagues in the conservative press.

     It also reflects, at least in the view of some, the ascendance under President George
     W. Bush of the conservatives' idea that chemical, biological and nuclear weapons
     programs of "rogue states" must be confronted with preemptive action before an
     imminent threat materializes.

     The origins of the current war are, in fact, rooted in a series of policy pronouncements
     by these and other conservative intellectuals that date from the early 1990s, after the
     end of the Cold War and the inconclusive end of the Gulf War in 1991, which left
     Saddam in power.

     During the Clinton years, when many of these conservative intellectuals lost their
     perches inside the government and Iraq faded as a central foreign policy concern, they
     kept alive the cause of deposing the Iraqi leader in foreign policy magazines,
     conferences and other political forums.

     Then, when Bush began filling the top layers of his administration, many of these
     ardently anti-Saddam intellectuals returned to power, including Douglas Feith, the
     undersecretary of defense for policy, and I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick
     Cheney's chief of staff.

     Even as they gained influence within the new administration, however, it was not until
     after Sept. 11, 2001, that they succeeded in making Iraq Bush's top foreign policy
     priority. It was then that the president came to share their deep concern that Iraq might
     give unconventional weapons to terrorist groups.

     "Without Sept. 11, we never would have been able to put Iraq at the top of our
     agenda," a senior administration official said. "It was only then that this president was
     willing to worry about the unthinkable - that the next attack could be with weapons of
     mass destruction supplied by Saddam Hussein."

     Not everyone around Bush is comfortable with the Iraq war being seen as a symbol of
     a new doctrine.

     "The battle over the direction of American policy will continue," said another senior
     administration official, adding that the debate about how to neutralize threats from Iran
     and North Korea - the other two nations in the "axis of evil" cited by Bush - would
     begin even before the fighting in Iraq ended.

     But ever since Bush and his team started talking about the need to deal preemptively
     with foreign threats, Secretary of State Colin Powell and some others in the
     administration have emphasized that such actions are only a part of the large set of
     options available to the United States.

     Asked the other day whether the Iraq war reflected a broader doctrine of preemptive
     attacks on enemies, Powell replied, "No, no, no." He said Iraq was being attacked
     because it had violated its "international obligations" under its 1991 surrender
     agreement, which required the disclosure and disarmament of its dangerous weapons.

     In an interview, Powell said Friday that the publicity over the doctrine of preemption,
     enshrined in the administration's National Security Strategy published last year,
     overlooked the fact that preemption was only one tool among many.

     "I think it's a bit of an overstatement to say that, now this one's pocketed, on to the
     next place," Powell said.

     The doctrine of preemption, especially with respect to Iraq, has been floating around
     conservative policy circles since at least the presidency of Bush's father, when it was
     embraced by conservative intellectuals like Wolfowitz, then a policy aide to Cheney,
     who was then defense secretary. In 1992, Cheney's aides - including Wolfowitz, Libby
     and Zalmay Khalilzad, the administration's envoy to Iraq - prepared a document
     known as the Defense Planning Guidance, which argued that the United States should
     be prepared to use force to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. The document
     also suggested that the United States should be "postured to act independently when
     collective action cannot be orchestrated." But when drafts of the document were
     leaked, just as the first President Bush's re-election campaign was heating up, it
     embarrassed the administration as being too hawkish and was shelved.

     The principle of preemptive action was picked up in 1996 in an influential article in the
     journal Foreign Affairs by Robert Kagan and William Kristol, the editor of The
     Weekly Standard and the former chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle, titled
     "Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy."

     Kristol and Kagan wrote that the 1990s under Clinton were a time of passivity toward
     the threat of terrorism comparable to that of the 1970s, when Ronald Reagan felt the
     same way about American attitudes toward the threat of communism.

     Kristol now notes that Clinton himself had begun embracing many of the ideas of
     preemptive action while still in office. In a speech on Feb. 17, 1998, at the Pentagon,
     Clinton said the United States "simply cannot allow" Saddam to acquire nuclear,
     chemical and biological weapons arsenals.

     In a foreshadowing of what the younger Bush president would say a few years later,
     Clinton spoke of "an unholy axis" of terrorists and the "outlaw nations" that harbor
     them. At the end of 1998, Clinton authorized bombing raids on Iraq, prompted by
     Saddam's refusal to cooperate with weapons inspectors.

     Policy analysts inside and outside the administration are now asking whether a
     successful campaign in Iraq would encourage the administration to apply the principle
     of preemption to Iran and North Korea, both of which are further along in their nuclear
     weapons programs than Iraq. Administration officials who advocate military preemption
     say that such an approach will not necessarily apply to those countries, in part because
     North Korea could retaliate and because Iran, even if there is a change in  government,
     will not be likely to abandon its nuclear program. But there is little doubt that the fundamental
     debate will continue.

     "This is just the beginning," an administration official said. "I would not rule out the
     same sequence of events for Iran and North Korea as for Iraq, but circumstances do
     not compel you to end up in the same place."


Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research at CEIMSA
Center for the Advanced Study of American
Institutions and Social Movements
University of Grenoble-3