US: Imperialist fantasies of the Project for a New American Century way off the mark Print E-mail

Tuesday May 2 2007

Jane Smiley The Blog

Who's the Enemy?

Yesterday, I was reading the piece by Owen West on the New York Times' op-ed page. West laments that now, just as US forces seem to be making some headway in Iraq, US voters want to get out. I don't agree with West about the headway, but he's entitled to his opinion (for now, anyway).

Then I came to the following line, "We're four years into a global conflict that will span generations, fighting virulent ideologues obsessed with expansion." It reminded me of something. Oh, yeah. It reminded me of PNAC. It reminded me of the 2000 PNAC report entitled " Rebuilding American Defenses," which contained lines like, "blueprint for maintaining global US pre-eminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests"... This "American grand strategy" must be advanced for "as far into the future as possible." The US must "fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theatre wars" as a "core mission." (Thanks to Neil McKay for these quotes, though I did read the report [pdf]) I was wondering who West's "virulent ideologues" might be--Sunnis? Shias? Kurds? Saudis? Pakistanis? Venezuelans? But then I realized. They are us.

Here's how the sequence of events went: In 2000, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Kristol, and others decided that the US was the boss of the world, and was to be the boss of the world for at least a hundred years. Cheney made himself vice president and grafted his ambitions onto whatever Bush thought he was doing. Already in "Rebuilding America's Defenses," the PNACkers were planning to get rid of Saddam Hussein, but then after the Republicans cheated and bullied their way into the presidency (thank you, Jeb Bush), they disdained everything Clinton had learned about Al Qaeda and the Middle East and a potential terrorist attack on American soil. When that attack occurred, they instantly annexed it to their agenda, and used it as an excuse to begin a civil war in Iraq, get rid of Saddam, and take control of the oil (not, as Greg Palast says, to turn the spigot on but to turn it off, and raise prices and profits). Having begun the Iraq civil war, which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries to Iraqis and Americans, not to mention the internal displacement of millions, the PNACkers have no interest in ending it (and don't know how, anyway).

Why is that? It is because they don't know who the enemy is, or rather, because they define the enemy as anyone who is opposed to American interests. Today the enemy is one set of Islamic fundamentalists, tomorrow it will be another set. Today, two sets of Islamicists are against us. Tomorrow, one set will be for us and the other set will have found a new ally, and be against us. But, in actual fact, how can any person or any group in the Middle East or Europe or China or Africa or South America define themselves as the PNACkers define them, solely in relation to American interests? People and groups have to define themselves in relation to their own interests. If, for example, they have a resource, such as oil, it is in their own interest to possess it and profit from it. Are they really required to think first about what the gas-guzzling, bomb-wielding Americans might want? Well, yes, if we can make them. But we aren't actually "in the right" if we make them do so by force or by threats.

The way the PNACkers think has a surface allure, but it is actually corrupt nonsense, based on only the dimmest sort of ideas of how the world works. The goal of "Rebuilding America's Defenses" was to remake American armed forces with the specific purpose of controlling peoples and resources all around the world in order to enforce American notions of what various countries and peoples should be doing in their own countries -- hundreds of thousands of American soldiers were going to be enforcers of PNAC ideas about "democracy" and "the free market." What if these people didn't want American forces in their countries? Well, the implication was, they would get them anyway. Why fighting men and women, and not, say, trade representatives and diplomats? Well, soldiers are a threat, and if citizens of other countries acted in opposition to American interests, they could easily be punished. This plan presupposes that in any country and in any conflict, Americans would know what their interests are, but history shows, of course, that THIS IS NOT THE CASE! Iraq is our number one example. By any measure -- money, reputation, good-will, humanity -- the PNACkers have shown unequivocally that they do not even begin to know what American interests are.

One crazy thing you can try at home is to project your own ideas and fears onto others. When right-wingers like West see an implacable ideological foe in the Islamic world where others see chaos and diversity of intention and opinion, they are really seeing their own superpower fantasies. These fantasies have no actual relation to the world around us, but they are dangerous to everyone, as the military fantasies of the PNACkers have shown. West doesn't define the enemy, because even having been in Iraq, he doesn't actually know who the enemy is.

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