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Neocons' 'peace' only leads to war

May 05, 2007|By ALLAN POWELL

In 1992, then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney crafted a statement presenting his view of the proper foreign policy posture for the United States in this century. In 1997 the PNAC (Project for the New American Century) was created with Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol, other well-known conservative writers and commentators, Gov. Jeb Bush and a bevy of political luminaries who served as the founding members.

This new think tank has become known collectively as "neocons" and are praised or damned according to the weltanschauung (world view) of the commentator. The focus of my interest is a 76-page document published in 2000 that carries the title, "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For A New Century," which defines and defends what these neocon thinkers have in mind.

Honesty requires the confession of a sense of being overwhelmed by much of the logistical speculation about the appropriate number of cruise missiles, aircraft carriers and submarines. So, lacking the qualifications to make judgments in this domain, I will confine my observations to what I could manage.

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There is yet another important consideration to keep in mind when dealing with this policy statement document. When these neocon writers make their case for huge increases in defense procurement, they use terms that are subject to widely different interpretations. What is precisely meant by "global leadership," "prudent exercise of power," "sustain American influence around the world," or "shape circumstances before crises emerge." The devil is in the details.

The foregoing phrases sound intelligible. But one would be nave to trust the present group of neocons advising the president enough to give them the green light in foreign policy. For one good reason, we have their track record since the invasion of Iraq and it does not inspire trust.

Furthermore, what was supposed to have been successful is now unraveling in Afghanistan.

One term that surfaces repeatedly throughout the document is the importance of establishing and maintaining a "Pax Americana" - an "American Peace." At first glance, this sounds noble and worthy as a policy ideal. But a look at history reminds us that this is verbal reshuffling of the "Pax Romana" - the Roman peace.

We are dealing with the Roman Empire and its awesome Roman legions scattered all over the Mediterranean world and beyond. Admittedly, they are to be praised for spreading Greek culture and Roman engineering wherever their troops were posted.

But a price was exacted for that imposed order and the implied arrogance consequent to Roman hegemony.

Roman authority was so widely spread that the empire was artificially divided into two great centers of power. This proved to be too awkward and unwieldy for good governance and was a contributing factor to the fall of that great empire. Are the neocons courting a similar disaster?

An obvious lesson is now worth considering. This neocon idea that the United States has the resources, organizational skills and national will to spread democracy by force is dumb. Even worse is the supposition that the rest of the world would accept a Pax Americana without violence. They should know better. Americans, of all people, should recognize the potent force of nationalism. In addition, the incessant sectarian conflict between hostile authoritarian theocrats shows little room for optimism about implanting democracy. After all, a theocrat is a religious autocrat.

Hopefully the American public will give this neocon school of thought a resounding rejection. Democracy is incompatible with empire. Further, democracy cannot be imposed by the unilateral action of the United States. Peace, if it is ever possible, must be the studied result of multilateral cooperation and example.

Allan Powell is a Hagerstown resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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