Friday, November 5, 2004

The Project For The New American Century

This issue, Fight.Boredom will take a look at The Project for the New American Century, a political think tank that has exercised tremendous influence on our nation and its foreign policy over the last four years – and promises to influence it all the more over the next four. In doing so, we would like you to keep in mind the following question: Just whom did we vote for?

Pax Americana
Pax Americana (Latin for American Peace) is a term used to describe the period of relative peace in the Western world following World War II – a period in which the United States of America has and continues to play the role of a modern-day Roman Empire or British Empire (Pax Romana and Pax Britannica, respectively).

Pax Americana is also used by critics to describe the alleged efforts, on the part of the US government, to militarily, economically, and politically suppress those countries that do not cooperate with U.S. foreign policy. It describes a world condition in which the United States has sought, or has been forced into, a quasi-imperialist role by its status as the world's sole superpower and in which the goal of western hegemony, encouraged by the Monroe and Truman Doctrines, has expanded to include the larger world-view.

It is in the context of maintaining Pax Americana that The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) takes center stage. The PNAC is a Washington, DC based think tank established in the spring of 1997 as a non-profit organization with the goal of promoting “American global leadership.” The group is an initiative of the non-profit New Citizenship Project and, as of this writing, is chaired by William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard.

The PNAC is a very controversial organization. Critics, conservative and liberal, have argued that the Project proposes military and economic domination of land, space, and cyberspace by the US to establish total American dominance in world affairs (Pax Americana) for the future – hence "New American Century." Conversely, PNAC supporters argue the project's aims and agendas are often misinterpreted, sometimes deliberately.

The source of much criticism stems from the ideological and political affiliation of the Project’s membership. Present and former members include several prominent members of the Republican Party and the Bush Administration, including Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush, Richard Perle, Richard Armitage, Dick Cheney, William Kristol, Steve Forbes, Francis Fukuyama, and Dan Quale – a large number of which are associated with the neoconservative movement.

Neoconservatism and The Project for the New American Century
Neoconservatives (“new conservatives”), compared to other U.S. conservatives, are characterized by an aggressive stance on foreign policy, a lesser social conservatism, and a lesser dedication to the basic Republican policy of minimal government. The term is used more often by those who oppose neoconservative politics than those who subscribe to them – many to whom the label is applied reject it – and fails to address critical political differences between so-called neocons.

How well does Neocon ideology describe the platform of The Project for the New American Century?

PNAC founders believed that, under the Clinton administration, American foreign and defense policy was adrift and precious political capital was squandered. Foreign affairs and defense spending was cut, the tools of statecraft were ignored, inconstant leadership made it difficult to sustain American influence around the world, and short-term commercial benefits threatened to override long-term strategic considerations.

At the same time, conservative politicians remained indecisive and divided – allowing petty differences over political tactics to obscure potential agreement on strategic objectives that would maintain American security and advance American interests in the 21st century.

The Project for the New American Century aims to change this perceived failure of conservatism and to make the case for American global leadership while reviving the essential elements of the Reagan Administration's success: a strong military that is ready to meet both present and future challenges; a bold and purposeful foreign policy that promotes American principles abroad; and national leadership that accepts the United States' global responsibilities.

As the world's preeminent power and Cold War victor, America faces an opportunity and a challenge: Does the United States have the vision to build upon the achievements of past decades? Does the United States have the resolve to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests?

In particular, the PNAC believes the US must play a vital role in maintaining peace and security in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, shaping circumstances before crises emerge, and meeting threats before they become dire.

The Project for the New American Century thusly maintains the following objectives:
  • The US needs to increase defense spending significantly so it can carry out its global responsibilities and modernize its armed forces for the future;
  • The US needs to strengthen its ties to democratic allies and to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values;
  • The US needs to promote the cause of political and economic freedom abroad;
  • The US needs to accept responsibility for its unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.
Several of these objectives align directly with Bush administration policy – especially on defense issues dominated by neocons Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. A 2000 PNAC document, “Rebuilding America's Defenses," lays out the foundation for the Pentagon’s Transformation military and even describes the 21st century American hegemony that has already begun to form over the disputed conflict in Iraq. Several other objectives contradict stated campaign issues from the 2000 presidential race – such as Bush’s campaign stance against international policing – but have proven themselves in subsequent action. And the neocons and the PNAC have little apparent domestic policy agenda to deter Bush’s own almost paleoconservative policies therein.

Of course, the argument can be – and has been – made that 9/11 necessitated a restructuring on national objectives to the profit of the neocons and the PNAC. That a political environment was created in which PNAC ideologies might flourish. All the more reason for the American public to be mindful and watchful of the PNAC and its advocates lest we settle for the by-products of reactionary policy.

The Critics
Several groups, liberal and conservative, are critical of the Project. One such group,, focuses on investigating, analyzing, and exposing the Project for the New American Century and its plan for a "unipolar" world with special emphasis on the big-picture plan behind the current war in Iraq and other foreign policy decisions of the current administration.

A British pundit, Barry McNamara, has recorded a very popular, if somewhat paranoid, online film, “What Barry Says” in collaboration with’s Simon Robson. The film’s animated monologue explores US imperialism and the Project for The New American Century. “What Barry Says” is targeted at a visually literate European generation that conspicuously lacked interest in the anti-war movement during the attacks on Afghanistan and the Second Gulf War.

This brings us back to our formative question: Just whom did we vote for? Several members of the Bush administration – including the Vice President, his chief of staff, the Secretary of Defense, and his deputy – are founding members of The Project for The New American Century. And, with few exceptions, the policy of the administration remains closely aligned with that of the PNAC.

And this raises even more questions: What do you call a shadow government that hides out in the open? That posts its policies and advances its agenda in the open and online? Was 9/11 merely a political pretext for the PNAC agenda? Is this political agenda a bad one?

And do they really have the best interests of the United States in mind? Certainly, they believe they do. And how much control do PNAC advocates have over the current administration? Divergences do exist: The PNAC openly opposes the actions of Putin’s regime in Russia while President Bush avoids direct criticism.

To their credit – and in opposition to many of the PNAC’s critics – The Project for the New American Century lays it all on the table (or, at least, the website). It’s all there to be read and reviewed. Their opinions on invading Iraq were posted months before the military was sent to the Near East. Their goal of political and economic hegemony is outlined.

Go look at their website. See what they, and their critics, have to say. Learn whom we put in power and, most importantly, if you agree with it. fb

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