Preventative War in Neocon Ideology


In January a new President will be sworn in and there is every likelihood it will be Hillary Rodham Clinton. It has been put about that she is most likely to appoint Victoria Nuland as her Secretary of State, or as a national security adviser. If this happens then we can expect the Clinton administration’s foreign policy to be based on the same Neocon principles as the Cheney-Rumsfeld administration (I meant of course the Bush Jr. administration).

Victoria Nuland is worth a series of articles in her own right, but I want to focus here on her husband Robert Kagan. Kagan, an academic, is a leading, founding Neocon ‘ideas man’, a believer in a strong military stance and in active military intervention. He was a strong supporter of the US invasion of Iraq. Some have called him Neocon ‘royalty’.

In 2000 Kagan was a major contributor to the publication titled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” a product of the key Neocon think tank, The Project for the New American Century. The document was also signed by Paul Wolfowitz as a participant.

In the introduction of the document, p. ii, it says:

In broad terms, we saw the project as building upon the defense strategy outlined by the Cheney Defense Department in the waning days of the Bush Administration. The Defense Policy Guidance (DPG) drafted in the early months of 1992 provided a blueprint for maintaining U.S. preeminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests. Leaked before it had been formally approved, the document was criticized as an effort by “cold warriors” to keep defense spending high and cuts in forces small despite the collapse of the Soviet Union; not surprisingly, it was subsequently buried by the new administration.”


The document continues:

Although the experience of the past eight years has modified our understanding of particular military requirements for carrying out such a strategy, the basic tenets of the DPG, in our judgment, remain sound.”


The Defence Policy Guidance (DPG) referred to, was a most controversial document which, never intended for public consumption, or to be seen by Congress, was leaked by an unidentified official, presumably in the US Department of Defence. On 8 March 1992 the “New York Times” published the article, “U.S. Strategy Plan Calls for Insuring No Rivals Develop: A One Superpower World.”, by Patrick E. Tyler.




Tyler writes:


“In a broad new policy statement that is in its final drafting phase, the Defense Department asserts that America’s political and military mission in the post-cold-war era will be to ensure that no rival superpower is allowed to emerge in Western Europe, Asia or the territories of the former Soviet Union.”


Some extracts from the document are illuminating:

“Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.”

“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.”


The document also explicitly addressed the use of military force to prevent nuclear proliferation:

“The continuation of this strategic goal explains the strong emphasis elsewhere in the document and in other Pentagon planning on using military force, if necessary, to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in such countries as North Korea, Iraq, some of the successor republics to the Soviet Union and in Europe.

Nuclear proliferation, if unchecked by superpower action, could tempt Germany, Japan and other industrial powers to acquire nuclear weapons to deter attack from regional foes. This could start them down the road to global competition with the United States and, in a crisis over national interests, military rivalry.”

Following the leak the document caused such embarrassment that it had to be rewritten in more tactful, diplomatic language before being finally approved.

Kagan generally writes in terms of using military strength to maintain the “Pax Americana” by deterring military action by rival powers, however we have seen the Neocon policies in action over twenty years since the end of the Cold War and they are less about peace, and more about using destabilisation and military force to eliminate opponents. Such policies have dangerously mutated from an “American Peace” to a world of continuous “American War” which is spreading chaos across the world.

Inherent in the practice of this Neocon ideology are two pernicious concepts:

Firstly “Preventative War”. A preventative war is one carried out against a power which is not yet strong enough to threaten, but which is perceived as developing in a threatening direction. The strategy aims to ‘strangle emerging powers in their cradles’ before they become too strong to confront. Such conflicts do not meet the legal definition of self-defence, which requires the security threat be imminent to justify a pre-emptive attack. In fact the idea of imminence seems included to expressly rule out preventative wars. After all once the justification of preventative war is accepted it opens the door to justifying practically any war anywhere.

Second is the inevitable creation of a world of continuous military conflict without end. This contains echoes of fascism. The fascists believed in a Darwinist view of international relations that superior nations had to continually fight against their rivals to maintain their dominance. War was almost a normal condition of existence in their world view. The Neocons seem to have a similarly Darwinian view of the world. The never ending “War on Terror” has now established this world where war is the ‘normal’ condition.

We have reached a crisis in history, where the world’s dominant power wants to ‘stop history’. The very idea of peaceful co-existence becomes impossible when the advance and development of other nations is automatically interpreted as a threat to the existing order. In the age of nuclear weapons it is a near suicidal policy.

What am I expecting from a Clinton administration should Neocon influence prevail?

The war in Syria will be escalated till the overthrow of Assad has been achieved, and Russia will be faced down over it.

The US will drag NATO into a preventative war against Iran on the excuse that it must be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The conflict in Ukraine will be escalated till either it becomes a NATO base from which the US can threaten Russia, or war erupts with Russia.

Expect a great escalation in world conflict with disastrous results for the Middle East and possibly a full scale European war.

History will not stop unless the human species destroys itself with nuclear weapons. However this seems the most likely outcome of the current alignment of powers in the world.



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