Bush Cheney 2004

The Project for the New American Century
A vision for American global leadership

The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) is a Washington think-tank founded in 1997 to advance the power and influence of the United States throughout the world. The ideological birth of PNAC was a February 1992 draft document entitled "Defense Planning Guidance" authored by Paul Wolfowitz, then working for President George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney as Under Secretary for Policy.

Paul Wolfowitz
This draft called for the United States to use its unmatched military power to prohibit any other nation in the world from rivaling the power of the United States, the only remaining superpower after the fall of the Soviet Union, and to safeguard "access to vital raw material, primarily Persian Gulf oil." This recommendation included military intervention in Iraq to safeguard this "raw material." This document was not intended for public view and after it was leaked to the New York Times it caused alarm among U.S. allies and Congress. It was revised accordingly.

"The U.S. must show the leadership necessary to establish and protect a new order that holds the promise of convincing potential competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests. In non-defense areas, we must account sufficiently for the interests of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership or seeking to overturn the established political and economic order. We must maintain the mechanism for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role."

- From the 1992 Draft Defense Planning Guidance

When PNAC was formed five years later, it was chaired by Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, I. Lewis Libby, Richard Perle, Jeb Bush and others. Wolfowitz is frequently credited with being PNAC's "ideological father."

While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Rebuilding America's Defenses
PNAC Report, September 2000
In a letter to President Bill Clinton January 26, 1998, PNAC openly urged "the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power." This plan included the use of force, if needed, to remove Saddam and to establish a more assertive U.S. policy in the Middle East. In the same letter, PNAC warned that Saddam could potentially place "a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil ... at hazard," and advised the United States to act without U.N. cooperation if necessary.

PNAC's vision can be summarized in its September 2000 report entitled "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century." Among other suggestions, this report calls for the United States to:

  • Withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, stop the reduction of nuclear missiles, develop new nuclear weapons, and deploy a national missile defense system.
  • Increase defense spending to a minimum 3.8 percent of gross domestic product (up from the 3 percent spent at the time of the report).
  • "Fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theatre wars" as a "core mission."
  • Warns that "we cannot allow North Korea, Iran, Iraq or similar states to undermine American leadership," and American military preeminence rests on the ability to "[remove] a dangerous and hostile regime when necessary."
  • Keep all peacekeeping and rebuilding missions within the power of American political leadership rather than that of the United Nations.
  • Use key allies, such as the U.K., as the "most effective and efficient means of exercising American global leadership."
  • Take military control of the Persian Gulf region through the establishment of permanent bases.
  • Take control of cyberspace, otherwise "[America] will find it difficult to exert global political leadership."

In this 2000 report, PNAC predicted this more assertive defense policy would come about slowly, unless there were "some catastrophic and catalyzing event, like a new Pearl Harbor."

PNAC Member Highlight
Richard Perle

As Defense Policy Board Chairman, PNAC member Richard Perle has access to top-secret intelligence reports, receives classified presentations from the Defense Intelligence Agency, and regularly advises fellow PNAC member Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on matters of defense policy.

Perle also sits on the boards of several defense contractors, advises investors on how to profit from U.S. military conflicts, and even heads his own venture capital firm that explores investments in defense and homeland security. In March 2003 he conducted a phone seminar with investors entitled "Implications of an Imminent War: Iraq Now. North Korea Next?"

These are not conflicts of interest, but rather expressions of Perle's extraordinary vision as a member of PNAC.

The new Bush Administration took power soon after this report, and included Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Assistant to the President I. Lewis Libby, and Defense Policy Board Chairman Richard Perle. Of the eighteen signers of 1998 PNAC letter to Clinton calling for Saddam's removal, ten currently serve in the Bush Administration. The "new Pearl Harbor" envisioned by PNAC occurred with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and killed approximately 3,000 American citizens.

Within five hours of the attacks, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was advising his staff to link Saddam Hussein to the terrorist strikes and to explore the idea of hitting Saddam Hussein at the same time as Osama Bin Laden (See the Donald Rumsfeld page for more information on his efforts to defend America). In a letter to President George W. Bush only nine days later, PNAC urged the removal of Saddam Hussein "even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the [9-11] attack."

The same day, September 20, 2001, the White House released the "National Security Strategy of the United States of America." Nearly identical to PNAC's "Rebuilding America's Defenses" report issued a year earlier, it contains similar and sometimes verbatim language to describe the United State’s new defense policy. Among these similarities is the increase of defense spending to 3.8% of the GDP, the exact recommendation of PNAC.

Also consistent with PNAC goals: the Bush Administration skillfully used British Prime Minister Tony Blair as a supportive "sidekick" in the war with Iraq while it defied the United Nations by acting without support of the U.N. Security Council; three of the five hostile regimes described by PNAC have been identified as the "axis of evil" by President Bush, and one of them, Iraq, has been occupied by U.S. forces; Bush withdrew the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, is pushing for a national missile defense, and proposing new nuclear weapon designs known as "mini-nukes" and "bunker-busters" (see the Foreign Policy page for more information on our new nuclear developments).

For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue - weapons of mass destruction - because it was the one reason everyone could agree on."
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
Interview with Vanity Fair, June 2003
Public support for a preemptive invasion of Iraq was shaky in the U.S., and the idea received outright hostility abroad. So in the fall of 2002, a PNAC off-shoot organization known as The Committee for the Liberation of Iraq was formed to build public support for war. As stated in the committee's Mission Statement, it was formed to "engage in educational ... efforts to mobilize US and international support for policies aimed at ending the aggression of Saddam Hussein." The committee met with National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice to pursue these efforts. The Bush Administration soon discovered that promoting the fear of alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction would bring the American public on board (see the War on Terror page for more information on Bush’s efforts to unite America against Saddam Hussein).

Editor of the conservative Weekly Standard William Kristol, also a PNAC member and one of the original signers of the 1998 letter to Clinton, told Nightline on March 5, 2003 that the Bush Administration would be "vindicated when we discover the weapons of mass destruction and when we liberate the people of Iraq." The Weekly Standard is owned by Rupert Murdoch, international media boss that owns other media outlets such as Fox News (see the Fox News page for more information).


This article was written with information from the following sources:

Photo Credits:
  • Paul Wolfowitz: Eric Draper
  • Richard Perle: Unknown


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