'Rebuilding America's Defenses' and the Project for the New American Century
"Rebuilding America's Defenses (RAD)" is a policy document published by a neoconservative Washington think tank called the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Its pages have been compared to Hitler's Mein Kampf in that they outline an aggressive military plan for U.S. world domination during the coming century. And just as Hitler's book was not taken seriously until after his catastrophic rise to power, so it seems that relatively few Americans are expressing alarm at this published document that is a blueprint for many of the present actions of the Bush administration, actions which have begun to destabilize the balance of power between the nations of the world.
There is, indeed, much reason for alarm because PNAC is not an ordinary think tank and "RAD" is not an ordinary policy paper. Many PNAC members now hold key positions in the White House, Defense and State Departments, among them Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Elliot Abrams, Lewis Libby, and John Bolton, along with others in lesser positions. William Kristol, writer for the conservative magazine, the Weekly Standard, is chairman of the group.
Some of these men have been advocating for a strong military posture since the ending of cold war hostilities with the Soviet Union. Wishing to capitalize on the fact that the US had emerged as the world's preeminent superpower, they have lobbied for increases in military spending in order to establish what they call a Pax Americana that will reap the rewards of complete military and commercial control of land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace. This, they said, would be accomplished by the waging of "multiple simultaneous large-scale wars" and one of their first orders of business was always the removal of Saddam Hussein, thereby giving the US a toehold in the oil-rich Middle East.
During the Clinton presidency, when the Republicans were out of power, this militaristic wing in American politics became highly organized and efficient. They formed the PNAC in 1997 And published "RAD" in September 2000. Determined to have their world empire, they offered an eerie prophecy on page 52 of that document about how it might be accomplished, "Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor." Their dream of a catalyzing event could not have been better actualized than in the events of 9/11.
Although there could have been many responses to the tragedy of 9/11, the Bush administration seized upon that event to mold public opinion into accepting many ideas embodied in "RAD". The overthrow of Saddam Hussein, was being proposed by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz one day after 9/11, even before anyone knew who was responsible for the attacks. As soon as the war against Afghanistan was completed, the focus of US policy became regime change in Iraq, with all of the tragic consequences we are now seeing in that country.
Policies advocated in "RAD" are being enacted with terrifying speed, such as denigration of the UN, importance of Homeland Security, abrogation of international agreements, revamping of the US nuclear program and the spread of American military power into all corners of the globe by preemptive engagement. In Iraq we have seen the embodiment of "RAD" directives that call for the subjugation of regimes considered hostile to US interests and the prevention of military build-up in countries that may challenge US power. Bush's "Axis of Evil" nations Iraq, Iran and North Korea are mentioned numerous times as potential trouble spots and there is repeated insistence that the US establish military outposts in the Middle East and East Asia.
Most frightening is its complete isolation from any ideas of world unity and cooperative action. The authors appear to be intent on waging war as an answer to the problems of our planet, tragically imagining that peace can be won by enforcing American values on every other nation. A more chilling statement of the PNAC devotion to militaristic domination cannot be found than in Richard Perle's concept of "total war". "No stages," he said, "This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there. All this talk about first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq... this is entirely the wrong way to go about it. If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war... our children will sing great songs about us years from now."
This article is a summarization of "RAD." I believe it is of importance to become familiar with this document because it is determining US policy decisions which will have far reaching repercussions for decades to come. Subject areas are arranged under three topics: A. Pax Americana, outlining the rationale for global empire, B. Securing Global Hegemony, pinpointing regions that are considered trouble spots for US policy, C. Using the Military to Gain Empire, outlining military plans for complete world domination. My personal comments are in italics; page numbers are from the original document. See URLs at the end for further reading.
A. Pax AmericanaThe building of Pax Americana has become possible, claims "RAD," because the fall of the Soviet Union gave the United States status as the world's preeminent superpower. Consequently the US must now work hard, not only to maintain that position, but to spread its military might into geographic areas that are ideologically opposed to its influence, waging "multiple simultaneous large-scale wars" to subdue countries that may stand in the way of US global preeminence. Rationales offered for going to war with other nations are the preservation of the "American peace" and the spread of "democracy."
On Preserving American Preeminence
"It is not a choice between preeminence today and preeminence tomorrow. Global leadership is not something exercised at our leisure, when the mood strikes us or when our core national security interests are directly threatened; then it is already too late. Rather, it is a choice whether or not to maintain American military preeminence, to secure American geopolitical leadership, and to preserve the American peace" (p. 76).
"The Cold War world was a bipolar world; the 21st century world is – for the moment, at least – decidedly unipolar, with America as the world's 'sole superpower.' America's strategic goal used to be containment of the Soviet Union; today the task is to preserve an international security environment conducive to American interests and ideals. The military's job during the Cold War was to deter Soviet expansionism. Today its task is to secure and expand the 'zones of democratic peace;' to deter the rise of a new great-power competitor; defend key regions of Europe, East Asia and the Middle East; and to preserve American preeminence through the coming transformation of war made possible by new technologies" (p. 2).
Four Vital Missions
"RAD" lists four vital missions "demanded by US global leadership":
"Homeland Defense. . . . the United States . . . must counteract the effects of the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction that may soon allow lesser states to deter US military action by threatening US allies and the American homeland itself. Of all the new and current missions for US armed forces, this must have priority.
"Large Wars. Second, the United States must retain sufficient forces able to rapidly deploy and win multiple simultaneous large-scale wars and also to be able to respond to unanticipated contingencies in regions where it does not maintain forward-based forces.
"Constabulary Duties. Third, the Pentagon must retain forces to preserve the current peace in ways that fall short of conducting major theater campaigns. . . . These duties are today's most frequent missions, requiring forces configured for combat but capable of long-term, independent constabulary operations.
"Transform US Armed Forces. Finally, the Pentagon must begin now to exploit the so-called 'revolution in military affairs,' sparked by the introduction of advanced technologies into military systems; this must be regarded as a separate and critical mission worthy of a share of force structure and defense budgets" (p. 6).
". . . the failure to provide sufficient forces to execute these four missions must result in problems for American strategy. And the failure to prepare for tomorrow's challenges will ensure that the current Pax Americana comes to an early end" (p. 13).
On Usurping the Power of the UN
"Further, these constabulary missions are far more complex and likely to generate violence than traditional 'peacekeeping' missions. For one, they demand American political leadership rather than that of the United Nations, as the failure of the UN mission in the Balkans and the relative success of NATO operations there attests. Nor can the United States assume a UN-like stance of neutrality. . . . American troops, in particular, must be regarded as part of an overwhelmingly powerful force" (p. 11).
B. Securing Global Hegemony
"RAD" takes the posture that only the US should manipulate international relations and points out "trouble spots" that may cause future problems, like all of East Asia, and Iraq, Iran, and North Korea (now labeled by George Bush as the "Axis of Evil"). There is concern that several nations might come together to challenge US interests. Consequently any nation that produces nuclear weapons or engages in significant arms buildup will be viewed as a potential threat.
"America's global leadership, and its role as the guarantor of the current great-power peace, relies upon the safety of the American homeland; the preservation of a favorable balance of power in Europe, the Middle East and surrounding energy-producing region, and East Asia; and the general stability of the international system of nation-states relative to terrorists, organized crime, and other 'non-state actors.'
"A retreat from any one of these requirements would call America's status as the world's leading power into question. As we have seen, even a small failure like that in Somalia or a halting and incomplete triumph as in the Balkans can cast doubt on American credibility. The failure to define a coherent global security and military strategy during the post–Cold War period has invited challenges; states seeking to establish regional hegemony continue to probe for the limits of the American security perimeter" (p. 5).
Axis of Evil
"The current American peace will be short-lived if the United States becomes vulnerable to rogue powers with small, inexpensive arsenals of ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads or other weapons of mass destruction. We cannot allow North Korea, Iran, Iraq or similar states to undermine American leadership, intimidate American allies or threaten the American homeland itself. The blessings of the American peace, purchased at fearful cost and a century of effort, should not be so trivially squandered" (p. 75).
Iraq and the Persian Gulf
"Although the no-fly-zone air operations over northern and southern Iraq have continued without pause for almost a decade, they remain an essential element in US strategy and force posture in the Persian Gulf region. Ending these operations would hand Saddam Hussein an important victory, something any American leader would be loath to do" (p. 11).
"The Air Force presence in the Gulf region is a vital one for US military strategy, and the United States should consider it a de facto permanent presence, even as it seeks ways to lessen Saudi, Kuwaiti and regional concerns about US presence" (p. 35).
"Raising US military strength in East Asia is the key to coping with the rise of China to great power status.
"The prospect is that East Asia will become an increasingly important region, marked by the rise of Chinese power….A similar rationale argues in favor of retaining substantial forces in Japan. In recent years, the stationing of large forces in Okinawa has become increasingly controversial in Japanese domestic politics, and while efforts to accommodate local sensibilities are warranted, it is essential to retain the capabilities US forces in Okinawa represent. If the United States is to remain the guarantor of security in Northeast Asia, and to hold together a de facto alliance whose other main pillars are Korea and Japan maintaining forward-based US forces is essential" (p. 18).
"Reflecting the gradual shift in the focus of American strategic concerns toward East Asia, a majority of the US fleet, including two thirds of all carrier battle groups, should be concentrated in the Pacific. A new, permanent forward base should be established in Southeast Asia" (p. 39).
"Despite the shifting focus of conflict in Europe, a requirement to station US forces in northern and central Europe remains. The region is stable, but a continued American presence helps to assure the major European powers, especially Germany, that the United States retains its longstanding security interest in the continent. This is especially important in light of the nascent European moves toward an independent defense 'identity' and policy; it is important that NATO not be replaced by the European Union, leaving the United States without a voice in European security affairs" (p. 16).
"American military preeminence will continue to rest in significant part on the ability to maintain sufficient land forces to achieve political goals such as removing a dangerous and hostile regime when necessary" (p. 61).
"America's adversaries will continue to resist the building of the American peace; when they see an opportunity as Saddam Hussein did in 1990, they will employ their most powerful armed forces to win on the battlefield what they could not win in peaceful competition; and American armed forces will remain the core of efforts to deter, defeat, or remove from power regional aggressors" (p. 10).
C. Using the Military to Gain Empire
One stated objective of "RAD" is "to outline the large, 'full-spectrum' forces that are necessary to conduct the varied tasks demanded by a strategy of American preeminence for today and tomorrow" (p. 5). Much of the document is an elucidation of those missions and includes specific recommendations about weaponry, deployment patterns, increased personnel and defense spending. It envisions a future in which the United States is in complete control of land, sea, air, space and cyberspace of planet Earth and urges a new rendition of Reagan's "Star Wars" defense shield program.
"Until the process of transformation is treated as an enduring military mission – worthy of a constant allocation of dollars and forces – it will remain stillborn" (p. 60).
"If an American peace is to be maintained, and expanded, it must have a secure foundation on unquestioned US military preeminence" (p. 4).
"In sum, the 1990s have been a 'decade of defense neglect'. This leaves the next president of the United States with an enormous challenge: he must increase military spending to preserve American geopolitical leadership, or he must pull back from the security commitments that are the measure of America's position as the world's sole superpower and the final guarantee of security, democratic freedoms and individual political rights" (p. 4).
"American landpower remains the essential link in the chain that translates US military supremacy into American geopolitical preeminence. . . . Regimes are difficult to change based upon punishment alone. If land forces are to survive and retain their unique strategic purpose in a world where it is increasingly easy to deliver firepower precisely at long ranges, they must change as well, becoming more stealthy, mobile, deployable and able to operate in a dispersed fashion. The US Army, and American land forces more generally, must increasingly complement the strike capabilities of the other services. Conversely, an American military force that lacks the ability to employ ground forces that can survive and maneuver rapidly on future battlefields will deprive US political leaders of a decisive tool of diplomacy" (p. 30).
"Because of its inherent mobility and flexibility, the Air Force will be the first US military force to arrive in a theater during times of crisis; as such, the Air Force must retain its ability to deploy and sustain sufficient numbers of aircraft to deter wars and shape any conflict in its earliest stages. Indeed, it is the Air Force, along with the Army, that remains the core of America's ability to apply decisive military power when it pleases. To dissipate this ability to deliver a rapid hammer blow is to lose the key component of American military preeminence" (p. 37).
"The end of the Cold War leaves the US Navy in a position of unchallenged supremacy on the high seas, a dominance surpassing that even of the British Navy in the 19th and early parts of the 20thcentury. With the remains of the Soviet fleet now largely rusting in port, the open oceans are America's, and the lines of communication open from the coasts of the United States to Europe, the Persian Gulf and East Asia. Yet this very success calls the need for the current force structure into question. Further, the advance of precision-strike technology may mean that naval surface combatants, and especially the large-deck aircraft carriers that are the Navy's capital ships, may not survive in the high-technology wars of the coming decades. Finally, the nature and pattern of Navy presence missions may be out of synch with emerging strategic realities. In sum, though it stands without peer today, the Navy faces major challenges to its traditional and, in the past, highly successful methods of operation" (p. 39).
Overseas Bases to Advance American Geopolitical Interests
"There should be a strong strategic synergy between US forces overseas and in a reinforcing posture: units operating abroad are an indication of American geopolitical interests and leadership, provide significant military power to shape events and, in wartime, create the conditions for victory when reinforced. Conversely, maintaining the ability to deliver an unquestioned 'knockout punch' through the rapid introduction of stateside units will increase the shaping power of forces operating overseas and the vitality of our alliances. In sum, we see an enduring need for large-scale American forces" (p. 74).
"As a supplement to forces stationed abroad under long-term basing arrangements, the United States should seek to establish a network of 'deployment bases' or 'forward operating bases' to increase the reach of current and future forces. Not only will such an approach improve the ability to project force to outlying regions, it will help circumvent the political, practical and financial constraints on expanding the network of American bases overseas" (p. 19).
"…of all the elements of US military force posture, perhaps none is more in need of reevaluation than America's nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons remain a critical component of American military power but it is unclear whether the current US nuclear arsenal is well-suited to the emerging post–Cold War world. . . . there may be a need to develop a new family of nuclear weapons designed to address new sets of military requirements, such as would be required in targeting the very deep underground, hardened bunkers that are being built by many of our potential adversaries" (p. 8). If the United States is to have a nuclear deterrent that is both effective and safe, it will need to test." (pp. 7–8).
"But what should finally drive the size and character of our nuclear forces is not numerical parity with Russian capabilities but maintaining American strategic superiority – and, with that superiority, a capability to deter possible hostile coalitions of nuclear powers. US nuclear superiority is nothing to be ashamed of; rather, it will be an essential element in preserving American leadership in a more complex and chaotic world" (p. 8).
Space Command – Control of the "International Commons"
". . . control of space – defined by Space Command as 'the ability to assure access to space, freedom of operations within the space medium, and an ability to deny others the use of space' – must be an essential element of our military strategy" (p. 55).
"The ability to have access to, operate in, and dominate the aerospace environment has become the key to military success in modern, high-technology warfare. . . . How well the Air Force rises to the many challenges it faces – even should it receive increased budgets – will go far toward determining whether US military forces retain the combat edge they now enjoy" (pp. 38–39).
"Much as control of the high seas – and the protection of international commerce – defined global powers in the past, so will control of the new 'international commons' be a key to world power in the future. An America incapable of protecting its interests or that of its allies in space or the 'infosphere' will find it difficult to exert global political leadership" (p. 51).
"As Space Command also recognizes, the United States must also have the capability to deny America's adversaries the use of commercial space platforms for military purposes in times of crises and conflicts. Indeed, space is likely to become the new 'international commons', where commercial and security interests are intertwined and related. (Pp. 54–55).
"Building an effective, robust, layered, global system of missile defenses is a prerequisite for maintaining American preeminence" (p. 54).
". . . effective ballistic missile defenses will be the central element in the exercise of American power and the projection of US military forces abroad. Without it, weak states operating small arsenals of crude ballistic missiles, armed with basic nuclear warheads or other weapons of mass destruction, will be in a strong position to deter the United States from using conventional force, no matter the technological or other advantages we may enjoy. Even if such enemies are merely able to threaten American allies rather than the United States homeland itself, America's ability to project power will be deeply compromised" (p. 12).
Cyberspace or 'Net War'
"If outer space represents an emerging medium of warfare, then 'cyberspace', and in particular the Internet hold similar promise and threat. And as with space, access to and use of cyberspace and the Internet are emerging elements in global commerce, politics and power. Any nation wishing to assert itself globally must take account of this other new 'global commons'.
"Although many concepts of 'cyber-war' have elements of science fiction about them, and the role of the Defense Department in establishing 'control', or even what 'security' on the Internet means, requires a consideration of a host of legal, moral and political issues, there nonetheless will remain an imperative to be able to deny America and its allies' enemies the ability to disrupt or paralyze either the military's or the commercial sector's computer networks. Conversely, an offensive capability could offer America's military and political leaders an invaluable tool in disabling an adversary in a decisive manner.
"Taken together, the prospects for space war or 'cyberspace war' represent the truly revolutionary potential inherent in the notion of military transformation. These future forms of warfare are technologically immature, to be sure. But, it is also clear that for the US armed forces to remain preeminent and avoid an Achilles Heel in the exercise of its power they must be sure that these potential future forms of warfare favor America just as today's air, land and sea warfare reflect United States military dominance" (p. 57).
Future Forms of Warfare, Including Biological
"Future soldiers may operate in encapsulated, climate-controlled, powered fighting suits, laced with sensors, and boasting chameleon-like 'active' camouflage. 'Skin-patch' pharmaceuticals help regulate fears, focus concentration and enhance endurance and strength. A display mounted on a soldier's helmet permits a comprehensive view of the battlefield – in effect to look around corners and over hills – and allows the soldier to access the entire combat information and intelligence system while filtering incoming data to prevent overload. Individual weapons are more lethal, and a soldier's ability to call for highly precise and reliable indirect fires – not only from Army systems but those of other services – allows each individual to have great influence over huge spaces. Under the 'Land Warrior' program, some Army experts envision a 'squad' of seven soldiers able to dominate an area the size of the Gettysburg battlefield – where, in 1863, some 165,000 men fought" (p. 62).
"Although it may take several decades for the process of transformation to unfold, in time, the art of warfare on air, land, and sea will be vastly different than it is today, and 'combat' likely will take place in new dimensions: in space, 'cyber-space,' and perhaps the world of microbes. Air warfare may no longer be fought by pilots manning tactical fighter aircraft sweeping the skies of opposing fighters, but a regime dominated by long-range, stealthy unmanned craft. On land, the clash of massive, combined-arms armored forces may be replaced by the dashes of much lighter, stealthier and information-intensive forces, augmented by fleets of robots, some small enough to fit in soldiers' pockets. Control of the sea could be largely determined not by fleets of surface combatants and aircraft carriers, but from land and space based systems, forcing navies to maneuver and fight underwater. Space itself will become a theater of war, as nations gain access to space capabilities and come to rely on them; further, the distinction between military and commercial space systems – combatants and noncombatants – will become blurred. Information systems will become an important focus of attack, particularly for US enemies seeking to short-circuit sophisticated American forces. And advanced forms of biological warfare that can target specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool" (p. 60).
For further reading, see "Rebuilding America's Defenses" on the PNAC website at:
There is a website devoted exclusively to articles and information about PNAC at:
Truthout and Information Clearing House have many enlightening articles about the PNAC. See especially "Blood Money" by William Rivers Pitt at:
See "Global Eye-Dark Passage" by Chris Floyd at:
This article is followed by a long list of links to published articles about the PNAC.
Also see article by John Pilger at:
A longer summary of "RAD" (including more extensive quotes than here) can be found at http://gvtc.com/~mpingo/pnac.html.
Bette Stockbauer is a writer, activist and conservationist who lives in central Texas. She has been working for issues related to peace and justice since the Vietnam era.