National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  May 7, 2004

From power to paralyzing fear

As the sun was about to rise on the 21st century, some hard-core conservative Americans drew up plans to assure the new century would be shaped by the United States to serve U.S. interests.

Democracy, free markets, the dominant U.S. economy and U.S. military together would overwhelm all foes, all rivals.

These thinkers, dubbed neoconservatives and nicknamed “neocons,” had no time for the gentility of classic conservatism and no tolerance for the idea that privilege was best put to the service of a broad common good. Any notion of “international cooperation” betrayed weakness of resolve.

Their plans and later their decision to invade Iraq represented a major step toward proving the correctness of their vision and showing the world they were of serious intent.

Ironically, at inestimable expense in lost lives, an outraged Islamic world and a crippled economy, their bold and reckless adventure in Iraq has proven them wrong.

Indeed, virtually everyone outside their ranks now sees the 21st century will likely be shaped by forces far removed from their Washington think tanks. Further, should the people of America not disown their misguided arrogance, the United States will almost certainly lose its position of respect and influence in the decades ahead.

It was in 1997 that neoconservatives, including Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Elliot Abrams and Donald Rumsfeld, founded the Project for the New American Century, which issued a statement of principles that called for an aggressive American policy of global domination.

Two months before the presidential election of 2000, the same group wrote a document titled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century.” The paper detailed their strategy for achieving global empire: Repudiate international treaties, build a global missile defense system, increase defense spending by at least $20 billion per year and expand military might throughout the world.

From the first days of the Bush administration, accounts now confirm, they had their eyes set on Iraq as a test case. The new president used threatening rhetoric virtually every time he had the public platform. In his first State of the Union message, in January 2002, he declared Iraq to be part of an “axis of evil,” along with Iran and North Korea.

Months later, Bush issued the most radical foreign policy document in U.S. history, titled “National Security Strategy of the United States of America.” It declared the right of the United States to wage preemptive war as it deemed necessary.

One year after the invasion of Iraq, the United States is viewed across the world as the “rogue state” the neoconservatives set out to crush. U.S. unilateralism is derided even by our nation’s long-term European allies. U.S. forces are now bogged down in Iraq with no exit strategy in sight. The neoconservative strategy has alienated the world. The United States, rather than assuring the peace, has ignited an Islamic jihad against our nation, a sentiment that will assuredly be fueled anew by the recent bombing of Fellujah.

The U.S. economy, meanwhile, is slowly being crushed by the weight of a growing deficit.

What began as a vision of projected power and superiority seems increasingly to be shaped by fear, a fear that marks Bush administration decisions; that has inspired the construction of new barriers to our involvement with the rest of the world; a fear that has begun to erode some of the most fundamental civil rights at home. America has set itself apart from the rest of the global community not by distinguished action or noble cause, but subject to a paralyzing fear that finds expression in militarism and domination.

The neocons may have been dreaming of a century of expanding U.S. power, but in a matter of months their perverse use of U.S. might has turned the treasury inside out and drained the well of U.S. ideals.

National Catholic Reporter, May 7, 2004

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