By the time the second Bush had ascended to the office of the presidency neoconservative policy making had begun to grow its roots in foreign policy. Neoconservatives had been warning for years that a harder line must be taken against foreign aggressors, most importantly terrorists. Although neoconservative policies occupied a position of limited importance during the beginning of the Bush administration, 9/11 would provide the catalyst necessary to bring their thinking to the for-front. The strengthening of American military primacy, the implementation of pre-emptive measures, the rise of unilateralism and the greater use of hard line policies were some of the core initiatives proposed by neoconservatives such as Paul Wolfowitz, all with the aim of spreading the American version of liberal democracy. Since then foreign policy aims have been dominated by these tenets of neoconservativism. The aim of this work is to analyze this mode of thinking during the last six years through the eyes of one of its greatest proponents, intellectual and statesman Paul Wolfowitz. Anatomizing the essential role Wolfowitz played in the support and implementation of these policies during the first and second Bush administrations can only shed light on neoconservative values in foreign policy during times of heightened American involvement abroad.
Wolfowitz and Bush
While 9/11 may have opened the door to neoconservative foreign policy, it had been knocking for a long while. In fact, Wolfowitz had already served under the Reagan and Bush senior administrations where he had expressed his belief in the spread of liberal democracy and support of American military primacy. Oliver believes that one particular element of neoconservative foreign policy, U.S. military primacy has been on the rise since the end of the Cold War. The changing conditions in world politics allowed the United States to remain alone in it military primacy. For Oliver the importance played to military primacy goes back to the first Bush administration, and “was revealed in one of the last strategic planning documents produced in 1992 and 1993 by then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and Wolfowitz.”
For all of the pushing and planning of neoconservative elements such as Wolfowitz during the first period of George W. Bush’s administration, the president followed in the foots of his predecessor and largely shied away from military involvement abroad. Some analysts believe it was influence wielding neo-conservatives that helped change Bush’s foreign policy initiatives after 9/11. Muravchik claims that, “At their hands, the President who as a candidate had envisioned a “humble” America–one that would reduce foreign deployments and avoid nation building–became a warrior chieftain who has already toppled two foreign governments and has laid down an ultimatum to others warning of a similar fate.” Krauthammer adds that “what neoconservatives have long been advocating is now being articulated and practiced at the highest levels of government by a war cabinet composed of individuals who, coming from a very different place, have joined and reshaped the neoconservative camp.”
Neoconservativism in Foreign Policy
Neoconservative foreign policy is currently defined by its supporters as the means to spread democracy and freedom. Bush in his second inaugural address broadly proclaimed that “The defense of freedom requires the advance of freedom.” This paper will attempt to provide a somewhat expanded analysis of this breed of foreign policy summed up in those few words by outlining its core tenets and investigating the actual measures implemented to “advance freedom.´´
There can be no doubt that after 9/11 the Bush administration would come forward to take a more hard line approach on foreign policy. One of the means through which to do this was to focus on pre-emptive strikes. Wolfowitz in particular had been a long time adherent of preemptive strikes and he was quick to support unilateral military actions in both Afganhastan and later in Iraq. Seymour Hersh claims that it would be through Wolfowitz that pre-emption would “emerge as the overriding idea behind the Administration’s foreign policy.”
During a press conference after 9/11 Wolfowitz openly stated that American foreign policy “is ending states that sponsor terror.” In addition, in an interview with Robert Collier of the San Francisco Chronicle he stated, “I think the premise of a policy has to be we can’t afford to wait for proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” In the same interview he questions the necessity of evidence before striking and claims that if “somebody did something in the past, you know that people are planning to do something against you in the future and that they’re developing incredibly destructive weapons to do it with and that’s not tolerable.”
Another of the notable features of military actions carried out by the Bush administration in the wake of the September 11th attacks is the unilateral nature with which they were carried out. The invasion of Afghanistan began on October 7th of 2001 and although significant help was offered by NATO for the invasion Wolfowitz shied away from these offers and later stated that “Allies, coalitions and diplomacy were of little immediate concern.” The war in Iraq a short while later would result in a greater effort to make it a multilateral one but international support was low and many countries who had joined forces against Saddam Hussein in 1991 where reluctant to do so this time. What is noticeable is that despite the lack of multilateral support the Bush administration went ahead with the invasion.
The success of these invasions, most noticeably that of Iraq, is questionable. In the years following the invasion the reconstruction of Iraq has been noticeably difficult, some would even say a failure. Hersh believes that this was because almost no effort was made to “provide the military and economic resources” for reconstruction. Wolfowitz’s efforts were again complicated when his request for a provisional government was denied. The White House preferred an Iraqi government while Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz believed that exiled Iraqis would be best for the job. Criticism for failures in Iraq have largely fallen on Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, as they were seen to be the main architects of the invasion and there has even been some speculation that Wolfowitz’s move to the World Bank was due to his growing unpopularity in Washington.
What can be said is that Wolfowitz has had a trying two years as the Banks director, where his main objective has been to try to cut out corruption both within the organization and in the countries receiving aid. At the outset of his term Suzanne Goldenberg posed two questions: the first was whether Wolfowitz could “overcome the derision and anger that have been heaped on him as the architect of the Iraq war,” and the second was if “after a lifetime spent trying to expand America’s power, he is capable of functioning in a multilateral environment where the focus will not be Washington’s strategic interest, but global poverty?” Some believe that under Wolfowitz’s direction that the bank “is becoming the very caricature of a US-dominated, ideological agency that they have always denied it was.”
Wolfowitz, the Middle East and Neoconservatism
The notable turn in direction in American foreign policy since the Cold War has also been a turn in geography. While America’s focus during the Cold War was spread world-wide in its fight against communism the tendency in the past years has been to focus in on those countries that hold a new threat to the United States, terrorism. Due to the fact that a large percentage of terrorist activities against America are financed and supported by government and non-government groups in the Middle East, it has become a hot point with foreign policy makers. Wolfowitz regards the Middle East and in particular the safe guarding of Israel to be on the list of high priority issues.
Some believe that for Wolfowitz and other neoconservatives the war in Iraq was meant to be the first step in the re-organization of the whole region and that Syria and Iran were to be the next stepping stones to the spread of democracy in the region. Of course, what they didn’t expect was the incredibly complex situation that would result from the invasion of Iraq. Mearsheimer and Walt claim that Neoconservatives “offered a long-term strategy for making the Middle East less of a hotbed of terrorism: implanting democracy in the region and thereby helping to foment a less violent approach to politics.”
Iran and its nuclear weapons program, in particular, have caught the eye of the neoconservative powers in Washington. Israel considers the Muslim country a great threat and has been pushing for the United States government to put some kind of hold on Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in an interview with The Times “Describing Iran as the “center of world terror,”” who was “bent on acquiring nuclear weapons.” Neoconservatives supporting Sharon’s ideas were quick to jump on the bandwagon and in an explosion of conferences and articles they called for the American government to push for the exit of the Iranian regime and the entrance of democracy. Wolfowitz, historically a supporter of Iranian dissidents, was one of those to advocate this move.
Reasons for American interest in the Middle East falls into three areas: the threat of terrorism, the valuable nature of the region due to its oil reserves and the long-term role of protectorate the United States has played with Israel. The three are intricately tied to create a powder keg situation where even the smallest fire may spark an explosion. The United States has been drawn into the Middle East again and again by its economic investments in oil and by its political ties with Israel. The end result has been the rise of terrorism aimed at American citizens.
Mearsheimer and Walt claim that neoconservative efforts to “transform the region into a community of democracies has helped produce a resilient insurgency in Iraq, a sharp rise in world oil prices, and terrorist bombings in Madrid, London, and Amman.” They also claim that the importance placed upon the area is largely the result of the Israeli Lobby at work in Washington. In fact, they go so far as to claim that the relationship with Israel has taken predominance over national interest in the region. They claim that “The combination of unwavering U.S. support for Israel and the related effort to spread democracy throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized U.S. security.”
For the authors Wolfowitz has been an essential element in the tightening of relations between the current government and the “Israeli Lobby.´´ Wolfowitz has supported America’s protectorate position as well as an array of special aid packages and weapons and technical support. At a 2002 rally for Israeli national solidarity Wolfowitz was the only member of the Bush administration to attend and told the crowd that US President George W. Bush, “wants you to know that he stands in solidarity with you.”
Furthermore in their controversial work “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy´´ Mearsheimer and Walt claim that American policy in the Middle East is largely pushed on by what they call the “Israeli Lobby´´. This lobby is seen to be a group of individuals and various interest groups who work behind the scenes to see that American foreign policy favors Israel. Yet the claim that Israeli interests take precedence over national interests in the area made by Mearsheimer and Walt does leave out the very real fact that America’s outlook on Middle Eastern affairs has largely been affected by repeated terrorist activities. Massing claims that, “Despite its many flaws, their essay has performed a very useful service in forcing into the open a subject that has for too long remained taboo.” In addition, the essay does not give the proper attention to the very real fact that American economic interests are strongly tied to the areas oil reserves. This can clearly be seen by the U.S. involvement in the liberation of Kuwait in 1991.
Paul Wolfowitz has been a key player in the drastic change of direction in American foreign policy since 9/11. While foreign policy remained fairly stagnant over the Clinton terms and even into the beginning of Bush’s first term, it took a mush more aggressive stance as terrorism became America’s number one foreign policy concern. Pre-emptive strikes, unilateral movements and American military primacy have been only some of the direct results of the Bush administrations shift to neoconservative policy initiatives. Yet, in large part the policies promoted and the resultant wars are falling under skeptical eyes in recent years and America’s role as the spreader of democracy and liberty is being called in to question. The end result is that many Americans are asking if the price for this type of involvement abroad is too high.
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“Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington.” The Guardian (April 1, 2005),
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