Paul Wolfowitz’s Neocon Blueprint for US Strategic Action

On May 4, 1992, Paul Wolfowitz, then a senior US Defense Department official, completed the draft of a voluminous memo laying out what he thought should be the United States’ overarching global strategy in the wake of the NATO victory in the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet bloc.

Although parts of it leaked and short excerpts appeared in the press and it was publicly disavowed by President George H.W. Bush (1989-1993), it has in effect become the philosophy that has governed Neocon planners like John Bolton, today President Donald Trump’s ultra-hawkish National Security Adviser, who advocates regime change in Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, Yemen and North Korea. Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, is equally hawkish. Between the two of them, they have pushed for harsher action on Iran.

The document was classified secret for many years but apparently has recently been declassified. As made available to Asia Sentinel, it comprises 93 pages of drafts, some written by aides, and includes descriptions of defense outlays for the services.

As Undersecretary for Defense Policy under the first Bush, Wolfowitz was an early advocate of the second Gulf War although in the aftermath of what became what has been called the country’s worst military and diplomatic disaster in history, he denied influencing policy and disclaimed responsibility. Along with Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Stephen Hadley, Richard Perle and Scooter Libby, they became known as the Vulcans, named for the Roman God of Fire.

Wolfowitz bailed out of the Bush administration in 2005 and was nominated to head the World Bank amid considerable controversy. He was later forced out of that job over a personal relationship that was deemed a security risk.

The defense planning document he wrote in the administration of George H.W Bush is titled “Defense Planning Guidance for the years FY1994-1999.” In it, Wolfowitz described four “mutually supportive strategic goals” that were meant to guide Neocon defense interests. It appears to have been adopted wholesale by the 41st president's son, George W Bush, who served as president from 2001 to 2009 and could well have served as the basis for the administration’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The most fundamental of the four goals, it said, was an aggressive stance to deter or defeat attack from whatever source against the United States, its citizens and forces and to honor the country’s treaty commitments, a goal abandoned by the current administration, or at least its leader, Donald Trump.

The second was strengthen and extend defense arrangements with allies, and provide a collective response to preclude threats or, if necessary to deal with them as a key feature of US regional defense strategy.

The third was to preclude any hostile power from dominating a region critical to US interests, and to strengthen the barriers against the reemergence of a global threat to the interests of the US and its allies. “These regions include Europe, East Asia, the Middle East/Persian Gulf, and Latin America. Consolidated, nondemocratic control of the resources of such a critical region could generate a significant threat to our security.”

The fourth goal, according to the document, was to “reduce sources of regional instability and limit violence should conflict occur by encouraging the spread and consolidation of democratic government and open economic systems and discouraging the spread of destructive technology, particularly of weapons of mass destruction.

A collective response, Wolfowitz wrote, “will not always be timely and, in the absence of US leadership, may not gel.” The US, he said, cannot allow its critical interests “to depend solely on international mechanisms that can be blocked by countries whose interests may be neither can be very different from our own.”

In other words, the US should be prepared to act on its own in areas where it feels its interests are threatened.

The collapse of Soviet Communism, he wrote, “leaves America and its allies with an unprecedented opportunity to preserve with greater ease a security environment within which our democratic ideals can prosper.”

With the Warsaw Pact dissolved, he wrote, ”we can work to shape the future environment and to preclude hostile nondemocratic powers from dominating regions critical to us. This same approach will also work to preclude the emergence of a hostile power that could present a global security threat comparable to the one the Soviet Union presented in the past. In so doing we can provide the underpinnings of a peaceful international order in which nations are able to pursue their legitimate interests without fear of military domination.”

In another similar document, he writes that “It is not in our interest nor those of the other democracies to return to earlier periods in which multiple military powers balanced one another off in what passed for security structures, while regional, or even global peace hung in the balance.

The demise of the Soviet Union and the increasing strength of US allies permits the US to “define our regional interests selectively and to safeguard those interests in separate regional contexts and at lower resource levels.”

That means a future president would need to have options that would allow him to lead or, where prudent and practical, to act to protect critical interests even in cases where very few others back the US.

“We must plan sufficient forces and programs within current fiscal constraints to provide such options...A critical task will be to begin preparing for tomorrow's [core) competencies, while gaining an appreciation of those we need no longer emphasize

US forces, Wolfowitz predicted, “must continue to be at least a generation ahead in those technologies which will be decisive on future battlefields. Future generations must have at least the same qualitative advantages over their opponents as our forces did in the Gulf War.”