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Neo-Con Unfurls the Big Picture

by WINSLOW T. WHEELER

Editors’ Note: Thomas Donnelly is a paradigm neo-con. These days he shuttles between the Project for the New American Century and the American Enterprise Institute His CV traces his ascent, from that seedbed of militarism, Sidwell Friends Quaker School, through flack work for Lockheed Martin, a Congressional Committee, the Army Times, The National Interest, and now the AEI and the Project for the NAC. Last Friday, Donnelly, in a talk at the AEI, launched his new pamphlet “The Military We Need”. The session was in the appropriately named Wohlstetter Room, named for the Godfather of the Neocons. CounterPunch’s Winslow Wheeler was there, to hear the neo-con vision of the shape of things to come. AC / JSC

It was shall we say, an interesting experience. I would not call it mind-expanding, but there definitely were many stretched neurons in the Wohlsetter Conference Room at AEI that day.

The pretext was the coming forth of a pamphlet by Donnelly, “The Military We Need,” available for free at http://www.aei.org/books/ The UPI review of this work handed out at the event says Donnelly “transcends easy labels” including “neo-conservative,” “nationalist,” and “neo-imperialist.” While the terminology may seem a bit too polite, it is also incomplete.

In his pamphlet, Donnelly cites his goals for Bush Administration policy. These I see as surrogates for what the neo-conservatives (for lack of a better term, right now) as a group see as the next stage of their policy advocacy. Given what Donnelly called Bush’s “rapid success” in Afghanistan and the “last legs” on which Vice President Cheney now sees the insurgents in Iraq so wobbily staggering, what, do you wonder, have these authors of American policy for the last five years mapped out for us in the future?

Donnelly wants five things:

* “Build new alliances,” meaning bag Europe, embrace India, which will be needed in the confrontation with China.

* “Expand active duty army by at least 125,000 soldiers,” but given the active Army’s current shrinkage given its recruitment problems ­ driven by current policy ­ he didn’t breath the “d” word, which would seem to be an essential component.

* “Create naval and air forces that reflect a “high-low” mix of capabilities,” meaning gun boats (Littoral Combat Ships) for the Navy and more air transports for the “expeditionary land forces.”

* “Increase ‘baseline’ defense spending by $100 billion per year,” meaning in excess of $600 billion for DoD per year (baseline plus Iraq) and build on that as unfolding operations pose additional requirements. (They haven’t gotten off the percent of GDP measure of defense spending for the Cold War and can’t stand it that we’re nowhere near 8-10%.)

And, here’s my favorite,

“Create new networks of overseas bases,” which is explained as a “semipermanent ring of ‘frontier forts’ along the American security perimeter from West Africa to East Asia.” Plus, as Donnelly explained in his verbal comments, the US “homeland” (not to be confused with the above mentioned “American security perimeter” from Morocco to Japan) includes the area defined in the Monroe Doctrine, i.e. the Caribbean and Central America.

While the “frontier fort” terminology may be intended to give this thinking a homey American connotation, I think the use of the term more useful in its being revealing. It invokes not just some of the saddest chapters in domestic American history in the form of the ethnic cleansing of native Americans away from the path of others seeking living space (which Donnelly no doubt recalls as Hollywood, not history) but it also speaks to the messianic, manifest destiny quality ­ a sense of righteous entitlement ­ that these people ooze through every pore. Add to that the Monroe Doctrine, in truth applied to the rest of the world except Europe and Russia, i.e. against almost exclusively non-white races and cultures, and you have it all.

I had only one uplifting moment as I listened to Donnelly preach. Earlier that same week, national newspapers were carrying poll results showing a continuation of the trend toward collapse of American popular support for the war in Iraq, collapse in the belief that that the war “against terror” is being led competently, collapse in support for the President in general. The Democrats didn’t do much better either. Small “d” democratic support for Donnelly’s strategic vision is nowhere to be found and shrinks the more Americans hear about its impact. If we remain a functioning democracy, it is a plan for action that may bring more regime change to America than to China and other neo-con enemies in the making.

Indeed, neo-con does not even begin to describe the genre. UPI’s “nationalist” and even “neo-imperialist” seems completely inadequate. “Lunatic” or even “dangerous menace” comes to mind but falls into the excessive rhetoric of these times. I’ll be positive and an optimist and call them “a past embarrassment of the future.”

WINSLOW T. WHEELER is a visiting senior fellow at the Center for Defense Information. He contributed an essay on the defense budget to CounterPunch’s new book: Dime’s Worth of Difference. Wheeler’s new book, “The Wastrels of Defense: How Congress Sabotages U.S. Security,” is published by the Naval Institute Press.

 

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Winslow T. Wheeler is the Director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight.  He spent 31 years working for the Government Accountability Office and both Republican and Democratic Senators on national security issues.

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