THE PROJECT FOR THE NEW AMERICAN
CENTURY: IDEOLOGY BECOMES POLICY
The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) was a letterhead organization established by neoconservatives in the late 1990s to publicly push their idea of post-Cold War American global leadership. By 2006 it was largely defunct.
Some of the ideas laid out in their Statement of Principles published June 3, 1997 include:
“Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity”
“it is important to shape circumstances before crises emerge, and to meet threats before they become dire.”
“we need to increase defense spending significantly”
“we need to strengthen our ties to democratic allies and to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values”
Of the 25 signatories on the Statement of Principles, 14 would be members of the George W. Bush administration: Dick Cheney (who was CEO of Halliburton at the time, a corporation already receiving substantial defense spending), Elliott Abrams, Eliot Cohen, Paula Dobriansky, Aaron Friedberg, Francis Fukuyama, Fred C. Ikle, Zalmay Khalilzad, I. Lewis Libby, Dan Quayle, Peter Rodman, Henry Rowen, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz.
Other notable right wing names on the statement include Republican political figures Jeb Bush and Steve Forbes, and Religious Right leader Gary Bauer.
Despite criticizing President Clinton’s “incoherent” foreign policies in their Statement of Principles, they wrote a letter to him on January 26, 1998, urging Clinton to use his upcoming State of the Union address to “enunciate a new strategy that would secure the interests of the U.S. and our friends and allies around the world. That strategy should aim, above all, at the removal of Suddam Hussein’s regime from power.”
The letter cautions that U.N. inspections are ineffective, and lays out a foreign policy strategy:
“It hardly needs to be added that if Saddam does acquire the capability to deliver weapons of mass destruction, as he is almost certain to do if we continue along the present course, the safety of American troops in the region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world’s oil supply will all be put at hazard.”
“The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction.”
“In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy.”
“In any case, American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.”
Of the 18 signatories on the letter to Clinton, 13 would be members of the George W. Bush administration: Elliott Abrams, Richard Armitage, John Bolton, Paula Dobriansky, Francis Fukuyama, Zalmay Khalilzad, Richard Perle, Peter Rodman, Donald Rumfeld, William Schneider, Jr., Paul Wolfowitz, R. James Woolsey and Robert B. Zoellick.
PNAC founders Robert Kagen and William Kristol referenced the Clinton letter (which they, too, signed) in an October 2001 editorial for the Weekly Standard:
“In 1998 a group of prominent figures sent a letter to President Clinton urging him to take strong action against Saddam Hussein… They pressed President Clinton to make it the aim of American foreign policy to “remove Saddam Hussein and his regime from power.” The signatories of that letter are today a Who’s Who of senior ranking officials in this administration: Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Under Secretery of State John Bolton, Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky, Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Rodman, and National Security Council senior officials Elliott Abrams and Zalmay Khalilzad.”
A total of 31 members of the George W. Bush Administration had also been PNAC contributors and signatories.
Journalists Jim Lobe and Michael Flynn reported that in the wake of 9/11 “the most vociferous proponent of going after Iraq was Wolfowitz, who pressed the case repeatedly at Camp David meetings during the first critical week after the attacks. Meanwhile, Perle convened the DPB for its own meeting to recommend policy options. Extraordinarily, he invited Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi to take part in the highly classified meetings. It appears that after 9/11, the network of hawks and neoconservatives that had coalesced around [PNAC] had mobilized in a highly coordinated way to fashion the administration’s response to the terror attacks and rally the public behind their new agenda.”
As the occupation of Iraq dragged on and attacks by insurgents escalated, some neocons in and out of the Bush Administration grudgingly came to realize the real world flaws in their foreign policy theories.
In the New York Times Magazine (2/16/06), PNAC signatory and a member of the Bush Administration’s Cloning Panel and the President’s Council on Bioethics, Francis Fukuyama wrote, “Neoconservatism, whatever its complex roots, has become
indelibly associated with concepts like coercive regime change, unilateralism, and American hegemony.”
On 3/26/06, the Washington Post quoted from Fukuyama’s 2006 book America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power and the Neoconservative Legacy, “I have concluded that neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support.”