Who today knows the name of Paul Wolfowitz? He was neither a Congressman, Senator, nor governor, yet until this month, official US ‘defense’ policy has borne his name.
A former President of the World Bank and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, following the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the neo-conservative he authored the “Defense Planning Guidance of 1992″, which came to be known as the Wolfowitz Doctrine. Intended to “set the nation’s direction for the next century,” its first objective was “to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival.” In case the reader didn’t immediately get the message, it is spelled out as ‘deterring’ potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role’ by maintaining ‘unquestioned military superiority and, if necessary, employ[ing] force unilaterally.”
Both Colin Powell and President Bush objected to this brash approach to world affairs, so before becoming known as the Bush Doctrine it was rewritten in milder language. Since 2009, at the Foreign Policy Initiative think tank, Wolfowitz has advocated for the troop surge in the Afghanistan War[ and direct military strikes in Syria, continuing to lament an “absence of American leadership, as global pressure against the American-led international order intensifies.”
Imagine now as candidate for the presidency, a real estate magnate enamored of ‘deals’ declares “Wouldn’t it be better if we could be friends with Russia?” From there, it’s a straight line to a Special Counsel being appointed by the Justice Department to investigate possible collusion between the Trump campaign and President Putin.
Russia went from being a rival to be contained, to an ‘adversary’, then imperceptibly, an ‘enemy’, by supporting two breakaway regions of Ukraine after the US — in full view of the world — used Neo-nazi militias to carry out a coup against a democratically elected president who continued historical close ties with Russia. While loudly defend-ing ‘human rights’, Washington claims that Russian-speaking Ukrainians are not entitled to separate themselves from a regime that flouts Nazi insignia, calls them ‘cockroaches’ (burning some alive), and makes use of their language illegal.
Given these events, could Russia count on that same Kiev government to respect the permanent lease of a naval station in Crimea dating back to Catherine the Great? Or might prudence have dictated it encourage Crimea’s Russian-speaking population to act on its long-held desire to once again be a part of Russia? Could the presence of ‘little green men’ to ensure that a referendum was carried out without interference possibly be construed as an attack? For daring once again wield sovereignty over a territory that houses its only warm water naval base, Russia has become an ‘enemy’ of the West!
By a large margin, Americans believe that every effort should be made to avoid using nuclear weapons. They do not know that per the twenty-five year old Wolfowitz Doctrine, their country is building a case for nuclear war with the other major nuclear power. Russian ‘behavior’ (the word invariably spoken in the tone of an adult disciplining a child) in its own back yard justifies stationing NATO forces along its entire western border with Europe, then condemning its inevitable military build-up in response: Americans are gradually being accustomed to the idea that the inevitable use of nukes this situation could set off would be merely a temporary detour on the path of human progress.
Aside from ‘invading’ Ukraine’, Russia is guilty of having ‘interfered’ in the American election, now consistently referred to as ‘America’s ‘Democracy’. (Since the highest court baptized corporations as people, allowing them to spend unlimited money to help their candidates win elections, these are now referred to as Democracy with a capital D, the media breathlessly highlighting the amounts candidates raise, rather than the ideas they espouse.) This system had for decades brought to power candidates fully committed to the Wolfowitz Doctrine of unchallengeable American world hegemony. And in 2016, Hillary Clinton was its most fervent adept, consistently attacking the President of Russia.
Since the election, Vladimir Putin’s sin is not to have drawn a sword, but to have perhaps electronically tipped the scale toward peace and cooperation with the US — any other policy being tantamount to treason vis a vis the Russian people.
A century ago, Americans were taught to regard Russia as an ‘evil empire’ for having embraced a political philosophy intended to ensure the well-being of the 99%, (whether or not it succeeded). When, after seventy years of trying, it executed a stunning turnaround, allowing capitalism to flourish (creating many crooks and billionaires in the process), American policymakers could have applauded. Instead, fearing a capitalist Russia as much as a socialist one, the Wolfowitz Doctrine issued a year later, in 1992, called for the US to carve up the world’s largest country into loyal fiefdoms to ensure continuing American world hegemony.
Only now superseded by the Trump Doctrine, its purpose was 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, whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.” This grammatical construction, whether or not deliberate, conveys the fact that Russia’s crime is to possess resources that could enable it to dominate the US. When the Wolfowitz doctrine, intended to ensure that no country is ever able to challenge American hegemony, was leaked to the New York Times, Senator Edward Kennedy described it as “a call for 21st century American imperialism that no other nation can or should accept.” Rewritten in softer language, when the US invaded Iraq and Afghanistan — neither of which could possibly challenge American hegemony – in its name, it became known as the Bush Doctrine.
The new version declared:
Our most fundamental goal is to deter or defeat attack from whatever source… The second goal is to strengthen and extend the system of defense arrangements that binds democratic and like-minded nations together in common defense against aggression, build habits of cooperation, avoid the re-nationalization of security policies, and provide security at lower costs and with lower risks for all. Our preference for a collective response to preclude threats or, if necessary, to deal with them is a key feature of our regional defense strategy. The third goal is to preclude any hostile power from dominating a region critical to our interests, and also thereby to strengthen the barriers against the re-emergence of a global threat to the interests of the U.S. and our allies.
Continued uninterruptedly at the cost of thousands of foreign lives, some might see in this doctrine echoes of Hitler’s plan for a thousand year Reich, but sadly, most Americans believe their country is ‘generously’ exercising ‘benevolent oversight’ over an innocent, ‘rules-based’ order of its creation. Ready to condemn Donald Trump’s challenge to the principle of US world dominance, they approve the pursuit of those who, having helped him get elected, are accused of ‘collusion with a foreign power’ (foreign powers having been America’s nemesis since the days of its ‘revolutionary’ separation from Great Britain).
Although Russia and China are the only countries capable of challenging US dominance, they have made no threats. Vladimir Putin’s crime was to have proposed, in a landmark speech to the 2007 Munich International Security Conference, an international architecture in which the four or five regional powers would cooperate on the international stage to ensure peace and prosperity for all.
Stunningly, from the very first paragraph, Donald trump’s security doctrine lifts its principles straight from that speech, calling, exactly like his Russian counterpart, for “a world of strong, sovereign, and independent nations, each with its own cultures and dreams, thriving side- by-side in prosperity, freedom, and peace—throughout the upcoming years...”
Since any form of power-sharing contradicts the Wolfowitz/Bush doctrine, the US responded to Putin’s Munich speech by fomenting a series of color revolutions, in Georgia in 2008, and in Ukraine in 2014. Then, it positioned NATO forces along Russia’s entire Western border as a prelude to carving it up before taking on the more formidable other major power, China.
It’s no surprise that candidate Trump’s foreign policy declarations set off a concerted effort to legally sideline him once elected. Erroneously convinced he is the boss, Trump ordered his Security Doctrine to be codified:
China and Russia want to shape a world antithetical to U.S. values and interests. China seeks to displace the United States in the Indo-Pacific region, expand the reaches of its state-driven economic model, and reorder the region in its favor. Russia seeks to restore its great power status and establish spheres of influence near its borders. The intentions of both nations are not necessarily fixed. The United States stands ready to cooperate across areas of mutual interest with both countries.
In addition, after being dismissed as a phenomenon of an earlier century, great power competition returned. China and Russia began to reassert their influence regionally and globally. Today, they are fielding military capabilities designed to deny America access in times of crisis and to contest our ability to operate freely in critical commercial zones during peacetime. In short, they are contesting our geopolitical advantages and trying to change the international order in their favor.
As President Putin in his New Years’ address calls for pragmatic dialogue, Trump formally criticizes ‘authoritarian regimes’, while pursuing that same objective, which if pointed out, would be approved by voters of both parties. Unlike Bush/Cheney/Obama, Trump’s concern is with the pursuit of our commercial interests, rather than with power as an absolute. To secure these interests (while satisfying the arms industry), Trump calls for the United States to “overmatch” its adversaries, described as:
….“the combination of capabilities in sufficient scale to prevent enemy success and to ensure that America’s sons and daughters will never be in an unfair fight. Overmatch strengthens our diplomacy and permits us to shape the international environment to protect our interests. To retain military overmatch the United States must restore our ability to produce innovative capabilities, restore the readiness of our forces for major war, and grow the size of the force so that it is capable of operating at sufficient scale and for ample duration to win across a range of scenarios.”
This policy is justified by the desire to “create wealth for Americans and our allies and partners.(‘Enemies’ or even ‘rivals’ are in Trump’s view ‘competitors’, and “prosperous states are stronger security partners who are able to share the burden of confronting competitors.”) -In support of this view, America’s ‘Priority Actions’ are:
- REINFORCE ECONOMIC TIES WITH ALLIES AND PARTNERS: We will strengthen economic ties as a core aspect of our relationships with like-minded states and use our economic expertise, markets, and resources to bolster states threatened by our competitors.
- DEPLOY ECONOMIC PRESSURE ON SECURITY THREATS: We will use existing and pursue new economic authorities and mobilize international actors to increase pressure on threats to peace and security in order to resolve confrontations short of military action.
- SEVER SOURCES OF FUNDING: We will deny revenue to terrorists, WMD proliferators, and other illicit actors in order to constrain their ability to use and move funds to support hostile acts and operations.
America’s competitors weaponize information to attack the values and institutions that underpin free societies, while shielding themselves from outside information. They exploit marketing techniques to target individuals based upon their activities and interests.
COMMON THREATS. Fair and reciprocal trade, investments, and exchanges of knowledge deepen our alliances and partnerships, which are necessary to succeed in today’s competitive geopolitical environment.
Trump replaces unchallengeable world hegemony with an “America First” foreign policy [that] “celebrates America’s influence in the world as a positive force that can help set the conditions for peace and prosperity and for developing successful societies.”
We are not going to impose our values on others. Our alliances, partnerships, and coalitions are built on free will and shared interests. When the United States partners with other states, we develop policies that enable us to achieve our goals while our partners achieve theirs.
Today, the United States must compete for positive relationships around the world. China and Russia target their investments in the developing world to expand influence and gain competitive advantages against the United States. China is investing billions of dollars in infrastructure across the globe. Russia, too, projects its influence economically, through the control of key energy and other infrastructure throughout parts of Europe and Central Asia. The United States provides an alternative to state-directed investments, which often leave developing countries worse off. The United States pursues economic ties not only for market access but also to create enduring relationships to advance common political and security interests.
PRIVATE SECTOR ACTIVITY AND RULE OF LAW. The United States will shift away from a reliance on assistance based on grants to approaches that attract private capital and catalyze private sector activity. We will emphasize reforms that unlock the economic potential of citizens, such as the promotion of formal property rights, entrepreneurial reforms, and infrastructure improvements—projects that help people earn their livelihood and have the added benefit of helping U.S. businesses. By mobilizing both public and private resources, the United States can help maximize returns and outcomes and reduce the burden on U.S. Government resources.
Here, Trump deliberately misrepresents an adversary: while most African countries welcome the fact that China builds infrastructure without requiring reciprocal purchases (unlike the US), Trump takes advantage of American ignorance to claim that:
Unlike the state-directed mercantilism of some competitors that can disadvantage recipient nations and promote dependency, the purpose of U.S. foreign assistance should be to end the need for it. The United States seeks strong partners, not weak ones. American-led investments represent the most sustainable and responsible approach to development and offer a stark contrast to the corrupt, opaque, exploitive, and low-quality deals offered by authoritarian states.
Continuing an apparent condemnation of authoritarianism, Trumps states that:
Actors have long recognized the power of multilateral bodies and have used them to advance their interests and limit the freedom of their own citizens. If the United States cedes leadership of these bodies to adversaries, opportunities to shape developments that are positive for the United States will be lost. All institutions are not equal, however. The United States will prioritize its efforts in those organizations that serve American interests, to ensure that they are strengthened and supportive of the United States, our allies, and our partners. Where existing institutions and rules need modernizing, the United States will lead to update them. At the same time, it should be clear that the United States will not cede sovereignty to those that claim authority over American citizens and are in conflict with our constitutional framework.
EXERCISE LEADERSHIP IN POLITICAL AND SECURITY BODIES: The United States will strive for outcomes in political and security forums that are consistent with U.S. interests and values, which are shared by our allies and partners. The United Nations can help contribute to solving many of the complex problems in the world, but it must be reformed and recommit to its founding principles. We will require accountability and emphasize shared responsibility among members. If the United States is asked to provide a disproportion- ate level of support for an institution, we will expect a commensurate degree of influence over the direction and efforts of that institution.
Although the menace of Soviet communism is gone, new threats test our will. Russia is using subversive measures to weaken the credibility of America’s commitment to Europe, undermine transatlantic unity, and weaken European institutions and governments. With its invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, Russia demonstrated its willingness to violate the sovereignty of states in the region. Russia continues to intimidate its neighbors with threatening behavior, such as nuclear posturing and the forward deployment of offensive capabilities.
The United States will deepen collaboration with our European allies and partners to confront forces threatening to undermine our common values, security interests, and shared vision. The United States and Europe will work together to counter Russian subversion and aggression, and the threats posed by North Korea and Iran. We will continue to advance our shared principles and interests in international forums.
For Washington bureaucrats, who remain the same from one president to the next, Wolfowitz will always be the law of the land. Trips to Moscow are invariably construed as ‘political’ and criminalized by the FBI. Even at home, Americans are required to signal any encounter with Russians to the FBI! Saudi Arabia can bomb tiny Yemen to smithereens in the biggest ethnic cleansing ever, but talking to Russians can land you in jail. The Republican Party — which had been dragged kicking and screaming behind Trump in the 2016 election, is now vociferously demanding an investigation of the FBI itself, in order to derail its investigation of the President’s Russian ties.
Whether or not one applauds the election of Donald Trump, it should be obvious that if the nuclear great powers do not maintain friendly relations, the future of mankind is in jeopardy. Why should Russia’s ‘behavior’ in its own back yard justify plans for war? Why, instead of praising those who reach out to Russia, is the deep state threatening to ruin their lives? Why do those who hope that President Trump will not challenge North Korea to a nuclear exchange not also worry about the missiles we installed in Europe, to be launched against Russia should a US-dominated Old World decide it’s had enough of Uncle Sam’s ‘solicitude’?
The commercialization of every aspect of their lives has brought much harm to Americans, and now they need to stop focusing on their commercially-oriented president’s puerile tweets, and hope that in foreign policy, he manages to gain the upper hand over Wolfowitz before it’s too late.
Deena Stryker is an international expert, author and journalist that has been at the forefront of international politics for over thirty years, exlusively for the online journal “New Eastern Outlook”.