PNAC’s Leviathan Has Petered Out


Politics, as with life, is all about having the right priorities. As a solid majority of Americans now believe that the Bush administration decision to invade Iraq was a bad idea, and more than half believe the president deliberately misled them to justify the unprovoked invasion, it is painful to consider not only the cost of the war, in dollar much less human suffering terms, but what the $259 billion that has been diverted to Iraq so far could have been used for otherwise.

It is a war we now realize could have been avoided entirely without any risk to U.S. national security. In fact, we now know that America is at much greater risk as a result of the invasion and occupation than before. Even though there is no link, whatsoever, between al Qaeda and the attack of 9/11 and anything then going on inside Iraq, it would be a poignant moment if, heaven forbid, there turned out to be more U.S. citizens killed in Iraq than in 9/11, all due to the unnecessary U.S. military action.

Cambridge University Professor Richard Drayton, writing for the Guardian newspapers yesterday, asserts that the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), which got its way with the new Bush administration in 2001 to plot the Iraq invasion, has badly miscalculated. Composed of the likes of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, key figures on the editorial board of The Weekly Standard magazine and others, the PNAC, Dr. Drayton writes, envisioned a “full-spectrum dominance” involving the U.S.’s ability to “fight and win multiple, simultaneous major-theatre wars.”

They are “American imperial strategists invested deeply in the belief that through spreading terror they could take power,” he writes, adding that they “learned from Leo Strauss that a strong and wise minority of humans had to rule over the weak majority through deception and fear, rather than persuasion and compromise.”

“They read Le Bon and Freud on the relationship of crowds to authority. But most of all they loved Hobbes’ Leviathan. While Hobbes saw authority as free men’s chosen solution to the imperfections of anarchy, his 21st century heirs seek to create the fear that led to submission,” he writes, adding that with the aid of modern technology, this all becomes possible, the PNAC neo-conservatives believe.

He then goes on to add, “The problem for the U.S. today is that Leviathan has shot his wad. Iraq revealed the hubris of the imperial geo-strategy. One small nation can tie down a superpower. Air and space supremacy do not give command on the ground. People can’t be terrorized into identification with America. The U.S. has proved able to destroy massively, but not create or even control. Afghanistan and Iraq lie in ruins, yet the occupiers cower behind concrete mountains.”

While the Bush administration insists Iraq is a success, he concludes, “There is a violent hysteria to the boasts. The narcissism of a decade earlier has given way to an extrovert rage at those who have resisted America’s will since 2001...Only America can cure its post-9/11 mixture of paranoia and megalomania...The U.S. needs to discover, like a child that does not know its limits, that there is a world outside its body and desires, beyond even the reach of its toys, that suffers, too.”

The problem is that this massive miscalculation has neither sunk in on or deterred the PNAC obsession with remaking the world in America’s image through “shock and awe.” No matter how badly things go in Iraq, the lust to extend the U.S. influence through Syria and Iran by the same means still burns in their twisted fantasies as hotly as ever.

It is up to the American people to say, “Enough,” and to make it stick.

The web site of the Massachusetts-based National Priorities Project reminds us by a real-time calculation of the cost of Iraq how the $229 billion spent there so far (projected to reach $260 billion by March) could have been used in other more constructive ways.

This is where the matter of politics and priorities comes into play. That sum, as of now, could have paid for the construction of 2,068,767 new units of public housing (New Orleans, are you listening?), the hiring of 3,981,759 new teachers, one year of Head Start pre-school for 30,431,689 kids, and four-year college scholarships for 11,138,218 students. It could have fully funded global anti-hunger efforts for nine years, global AIDS projects for 22 years and basic immunization programs for every child in the world for 76 years. All of this data is painstakingly documented by the project.

Ultimately, it is the U.S. population which has permitted the violently skewed priorities of the Bush administration. Ironically, the Iraqi people have coped with this Leviathan better than the American public has with its political manifestations, at least so far.