excerpts of the docu-ment first appeared in The New York
Times in the spring of 1992, it created quite a stir.
Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), now chairman of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, was particularly outraged, calling it
a prescription for “literally a Pax Americana,” an American
The details contained in the draft of the Defense Planning
Guidance (DPG) were indeed startling.
The document argued that the core assumption guiding U.S.
foreign policy in the 21st century should be the need to establish
permanent U.S. dominance over virtually all of Eurasia.
It envisioned a world in which U.S. military intervention
would become “a constant fixture” of the geopolitical landscape.
“While the U.S. cannot become the world’s ‘policeman’ by assuming
responsibility for righting every wrong, we will retain the
preeminent responsibility for addressing selectively those
wrongs which threaten not only our interests, but those of
our allies or friends,” wrote the authors, Paul Wolfowitz
and I. Lewis Libby—who at the time were two relatively obscure
political appointees in the Pentagon’s policy office.
The strategies put forward to achieve this goal included “deterring
potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional
or global role,” and taking preemptive action against states
suspected of developing weapons of mass destruction.
The draft, apparently leaked by a high-ranking source in the
military, sparked an intense but fleeting uproar. At the insistence
of then-National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and Secretary
of State James Baker, the final DPG document was toned down
But through the ’90s, the two authors and their boss, then-Pentagon
chief Dick Cheney, continued to wait for the right opportunity
to fulfill their imperial dreams.
Their long wait came to an end on the morning of Sept. 11,
2001, when two hijacked commercial airliners slammed into
the World Trade Center towers in Manhattan and a third into
the Pentagon outside Washington.
And the timing could not have been more ideal. Dick Cheney
had already become the most powerful vice president in U.S.
history, while the draft’s two authors, Wolfowitz and Libby,
were now deputy defense secretary and Cheney’s chief of staff
and national security adviser, respectively.
In the year since, these three men, along with Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld and like-minded officials strategically located
elsewhere in the administration, have engineered what former
U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke recently described as a
“radical break with 55 years of bipartisan tradition” in U.S.
U.S. foreign policy after World War II was based on two broad
strategies: a realist policy organized around containment
and deterrence to U.S. power; and a more liberal, internationalist
policy based on the construction of a set of multilateral
institutions and alliances to promote open market-based economies
and democratic values.
While Republican administrations leaned more towards the realist
agenda and Democratic administrations toward the internationalist
perspective, neither deviated very far from the core assumptions.
But now, “for the first time since the dawn of the Cold War,
a new grand strategy is taking shape in Washington,” says
Georgetown University Professor G. John Ikenberry. In his
article “America’s Imperial Ambition,” published in the current
edition of Foreign Affairs, he argues that the Bush
administration’s foreign policy since Sept. 11 is driven by
the desire for global dominance rather than the threat of
to this new paradigm, America is to be less bound to its partners
and to global rules and institutions while it steps forward
to play a more unilateral and anticipatory role in attacking
terrorist threats and confronting rogue states seeking WMD
(weapons of mass destruction),” Ikenberry writes. “The United
States will use its unrivaled military power to manage the
Aside from a strong belief in U.S. military power, advocates
of the new paradigm share a number of key attitudes that shape
their foreign-policy prescriptives. These include a contempt
for multilateralism, which necessarily denies the “exceptional”
nature of the United States; a similar disdain and distrust
for Europeans, especially the French; and a conviction that
“fundamentalist” Islam poses a major threat to the United
States and the West. They also consider China a long-term
strategic threat that should be confronted sooner rather than
And these views have shaped the White House’s policy decisions,
including its strong support of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon and its attack on various multilateral institutions,
such as the International Criminal Court (ICC), and key arms-control
accords, like the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty,
not to mention its push for a war on Iraq and “regime change”
in a number of Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia.
In other words, U.S. foreign policy today looks and sounds
remarkably like the DPG draft leaked nearly 10 years ago.
On this anniversary of Sept. 11, it is increasingly clear
that Cheney and his protégés have used the tragedy to validate
their dangerous delusions of grandeur. The so-called “war
on terror” was always just an expedient reason for the unilateral
use of military power to achieve global dominance.