President George W. Bush

" changed into a nation-building mission, and that's where the mission went wrong. The mission was changed. And as a result, our nation paid a price. And so I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called nation-building."

            George W. Bush
                Second Gore-Bush Presidential Debate
                October 11, 2000

Rhetoric  &  Reality

Origins & Goals of the

 Bush National Security Strategy

 and the War in Iraq

This page offers a collection of readings for fellow conservatives and others interested in the origins and goals of current American foreign policy, especially as related to the Middle East and the war in Iraq.

Since 2002, policies which a  number of key officials in the Bush administration have advocated since prior to the 2000 election, have received increased attention.  Notable is the advocacy of  preemptive war, an emphasis on unilateral rather that multilateral warfare, and an insistence on American dominance throughout all regions of the world, space, and cyberspace. This aggressively interventionist foreign policy is alien to the beliefs of many conservatives, who would consider such policies threatening if they were the held by an ally.

While the Bush Doctrine of preemption sharply contrasts with the "more humble" foreign policy publicly advocated in 2000 by presidential candidate Bush, who repeatedly promised to avoid the interventionist "nation building" exploits of his predecessor, it has a developmental history going back to at least the early 1990's.

Although aggressively interventionist policies conflict with the values of many traditional, small-government conservatives, many supported the invasion of Iraq for the purpose of disarming Saddam Hussein.

The failure to find expected weapons of mass destruction has been disturbing for many who supported the invasion for this purpose.  Moreover:

    • as the stated mission of the war was re-defined from the more specific goal of disarming Saddam Hussein into that of "creating democracy" in Iraq, with an indeterminate exit strategy,
    • as  increasing majorities of the "liberated", both Sunni and Shiite, have pronounced us to be unwelcome occupiers,
    • as promises to bring our troops home promptly upon completion of our specific mission has given way to the prospect of a perpetual occupation,
    • as the "occupation" has been re-defined  by the Administration as having "ended" even as troop deployments are increasing and as 14 "enduring bases" are under construction,

many of these former supporters of the invasion have questioned the true intentions of our political leadership.

In this context, a study of the ideology of the civilian, non-veteran "neoconservatives" now holding key positions in the Department of Defense, which culminated the codification of preemptive war, unilateralism and world domination in a new National Security Strategy (NSS) adopted September 20, 2002, and in the Bush Doctrine of preemption, is enlightening.

For a national discussion of the merits of our foreign policy to occur - whether our policies are likely to:

    •  diminish  or  increase terrorism,
    •  nurture  or  alienate allies,
    •  encourage a view of Americans as liberators   or   as unwelcome empire builders,
    •  promote a view of America as a beacon of liberty   or   as policeman of the world,
    •  increase our stature as world leaders  or  swell the ranks of those who are bent on bringing us harm,
    •  result in preservation  or  erosion of  liberty at home,

we must first understand the world view implicit in that foreign policy, and the assumptions and values of those who have brought about its transformation.

“I just don't think it's the role of the United States to walk into a country and say, we do it this way, so should you ....but I think one way for us to end up being viewed as the ugly American is for us to go around the world saying, we do it this way, so should you…..I think the United States must be humble and must be proud and confident of our values, but humble in how we treat nations that are figuring out how to chart their own course.”
                            George W. Bush
                            Second Gore-Bush Presidential Debate
                            October 11, 2000




      Traditional Small-Government Conservatism    

"The President of the United States, on issue after issue, has reflected the thinking of the neoconservatives."

Richard Perle, leading neoconservative architect of administration foreign policy

  • strong national defense while avoiding injudicious intervention, "nation building", over-extension of our troops, or ambitions of empire
  • fiscal responsibility
  • respect for individual rights and responsibility

  • ideology of global domination
  • misrepresentation of motives & goals of foreign policy
  • fiscal recklessness
  • diminution in civil liberties

"If we don't stop extending our troops all around the world and nation building missions, then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the road, and I'm going to prevent that....

....I don't want to be the world's policeman, I want to be the world's peacemaker ."

                     George W. Bush
                First Gore-Bush Presidential Debate
                     October 3, 2000

Traditional Small-Government

October 3, 2000    The First Gore-Bush Presidential Debate  (transcript)

MODERATOR: "New question. How would you go about as president deciding when it was in the national interest to use U.S. force, generally?"

BUSH: "Well, if it's in our vital national interest, and that means whether our territory is threatened or people could be harmed, whether or not the alliances are -- our defense alliances are threatened, whether or not our friends in the Middle East are threatened. That would be a time to seriously consider the use of force. Secondly, whether or not the mission was clear. Whether or not it was a clear understanding as to what the mission would be. Thirdly, whether or not we were prepared and trained to win. Whether or not our forces were of high morale and high standing and well-equipped. And finally, whether or not there was an exit strategy. I would take the use of force very seriously. I would be guarded in my approach. I don't think we can be all things to all people in the world. I think we've got to be very careful when we commit our troops. The vice president and I have a disagreement about the use of troops. He believes in nation building. I would be very careful about using our troops as nation builders. I believe the role of the military is to fight and win war and therefore prevent war from happening in the first place. So I would take my responsibility seriously. And it starts with making sure we rebuild our military power. Morale in today's military is too low. We're having trouble meeting recruiting goals. We met the goals this year, but in the previous years we have not met recruiting goals. Some of our troops are not well-equipped. I believe we're overextended in too many places."

"..... if we don't stop extending our troops all around the world and nation building missions, then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the road, and I'm going to prevent that."

"I don't want to try to put our troops in all places at all times. I don't want to be the world's policeman, I want to be the world's peacemaker ...."

October 11, 2000    The Second Gore-Bush Presidential Debate  (transcript)

"....It really depends upon how our nation conducts itself in foreign policy. If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us. If we're a humble nation, but strong, they'll welcome us. And it's -- our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power, and that's why we have to be humble. And yet project strength in a way that promotes freedom. So I don't think they ought to look at us in any way other than what we are. We're a freedom-loving nation and if we're an arrogant nation they'll view us that way, but if we're a humble nation they'll respect us."

"....we can't be all things to all people. We can help build coalitions but we can't put our troops all around the world."

" the Palestinians and Israelis. Secondly, any lasting peace is going to have to be a peace that's good for both sides."

MODERATOR: .... Somalia.

BUSH: "Started off as a humanitarian mission and it changed into a nation-building mission, and that's where the mission went wrong. The mission was changed. And as a result, our nation paid a price. And so I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called nation-building. I think our troops ought to be used to fight and win war. I think our troops ought to be used to help overthrow the dictator when it's in our best interests. But in this case it was a nation-building exercise, and same with Haiti. I wouldn't have supported either."

"....I'm worried about overcommitting our military around the world. I want to be judicious in its use."

"....But one of the problems we have in the military is we're in a lot of places around the world."

"I think what we need to do is convince people who live in the lands they live in to build the nations. Maybe I'm missing something here. I mean, we're going to have kind of a nation building core from America? Absolutely not. Our military is meant to fight and win war. That's what it's meant to do. And when it gets overextended, morale drops.....I'm going to be judicious as to how to use the military. It needs to be in our vital interest, the mission needs to be clear, and the exit strategy obvious."

"I'm not so sure the role of the United States is to go around the world and say this is the way it's got to be. We can help. And maybe it's just our difference in government, the way we view government. I want to empower the people. I want to help people help themselves, not have government tell people what to do. I just don't think it's the role of the United States to walk into a country and say, we do it this way, so should you. I think we can help. I know we've got to encourage democracy in the marketplaces....So I'm not exactly sure where the vice president is coming from, but I think one way for us to end up being viewed as the ugly American is for us to go around the world saying, we do it this way, so should you. Now, we trust freedom. We know freedom is a powerful, powerful, powerful force, much bigger than the United States of America, as we saw recently in the Balkans. But maybe I misunderstand where you're coming from, Mr. Vice President, but I think the United States must be humble and must be proud and confident of our values, but humble in how we treat nations that are figuring out how to chart their own course."

October 17, 2000    The Third Gore-Bush Presidential Debate  (transcript)

MEMBER OF AUDIENCE: "Today our military forces are stretched thinner and doing more than they have ever done before during peacetime. I would like to know what you are -- I think we would all like to know what you as president would do to ensure proper resourcing for the current mission and/or more selectively choosing the time and place that our forces will be used around the world."

BUSH: "If this were a spending contest, I would come in second. I readily admit I'm not going to grow the size of the federal government like he is. Your question was deployment. It must be in the national interests, must be in our vital interests whether we ever send troops. The mission must be clear. Soldiers must understand why we're going. The force must be strong enough so that the mission can be accomplished. And the exit strategy needs to be well-defined. I'm concerned that we're overdeployed around the world. See, I think the mission has somewhat become fuzzy. Should I be fortunate enough to earn your confidence, the mission of the United States military will be to be prepared and ready to fight and win war. And therefore prevent war from happening in the first place. There may be some moments when we use our troops as peacekeepers, but not often. The Vice President mentioned my view of long-term for the military. I want to make sure the equipment for our military is the best it can possibly be, of course. But we have an opportunity -- we have an opportunity to use our research and development capacities, the great technology of the United States, to make our military lighter, harder to find, more lethal. We have an opportunity, really, if you think about it, if we're smart and have got a strategic vision and a leader who understands strategic planning, to make sure that we change the terms of the battlefield of the future so we can keep the peace. This is a peaceful nation, and I intend to keep the peace. Spending money is one thing. But spending money without a strategic plan can oftentimes be wasted. First thing I'm going to do is ask the Secretary of Defense to develop a plan so we are making sure we're not spending our money on political projects, but on projects to make sure our soldiers are well-paid, well-housed, and have the best equipment in the world."

November 11, 2002     President Bush Salutes Veterans at White House Ceremony  (transcript)

“As many veterans have seen in countries around the world, captive people have greeted American soldiers as liberators. And there is good reason. We have no territorial ambitions, we don't seek an empire. Our nation is committed to freedom for ourselves and for others. We and our allies have fought evil regimes and left in their place self-governing and prosperous nations."

March 19, 2003     President Bush Addresses the Nation (upon commencement of hostilities) 

 “We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people.  I know that the families of our military are praying that all those who serve will return safely and soon. Millions of Americans are praying with you for the safety of your loved ones and for the protection of the innocent. For your sacrifice, you have the gratitude and respect of the American people. And you can know that our forces will be coming home as soon as their work is done.

January 20, 2004     State of the Union  transcript

“We have no desire to dominate, no ambitions of empire.”

May 24, 2004     United States Army War College  transcript

“On June 30th, the Coalition Provisional Authority will cease to exist, and will not be replaced. The occupation will end, and Iraqis will govern their own affairs..... By keeping our promise on June 30th, the coalition will demonstrate that we have no interest in occupation.”

Injudicious "Neoconservative"

"Bush Sought Way to Invade Iraq" , CBS News, 60 Minutes  

 "From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go."  

Paul O'Neill, former Treasury Secretary and member of the National Security Council. Secretary O'Neill, a fiscal conservative, was fired when he opposed a second tax cut because of impending war in Iraq and a rising deficit, now approaching $400 million.
More about Paul O'Neill

"...going after Saddam was topic 'A' 10 days after the inauguration - eight months before Sept. 11..."

“The thing that's most surprising, I think, is how emphatically, from the very first, the administration had said ‘X’ during the campaign, but from the first day was often doing ‘Y,’” says Suskind. “Not just saying ‘Y,’ but actively moving toward the opposite of what they had said during the election.”

O'Neill: "Bush planned Iraq invasion before 9/11",

"There are memos. One of them marked 'secret' says 'Plan for Post-Saddam Iraq.'"

Suskind cited a Pentagon document titled "Foreign Suitors For Iraqi Oilfield Contracts," which, he said, outlines areas of oil exploration. "It talks about contractors around the world from ... 30, 40 countries and which ones have what intentions on oil in Iraq."

"Paul O'Neill Tells the Truth", Bill Press, World Net Daily

"WMD Just A Convenient Excuse for War, Admits Wolfowitz",
The Independent (UK)   

"For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on."    
 Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense

David Kay: Bush "Should Have Realised Pre-War Truth on WMD",

President Bush directed in June 2003 that the hunt for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction  be transferred from the Defense Department to the CIA. The director of the CIA appointed Dr. David Kay to lead that search and direct the activities of the 1,400 hundred member Iraq Survey Group.      
About David Kay

White House Pushed CIA to Alter Iraq Data, "Anonymous" CIA Insider Claims, Los Angeles Times, July 1, 2004,     also here, and here

"CIA insider slams Bush antiterror policies", CNN, June 27, 2004

"A top CIA counterterrorism official alleges that the Bush administration has bungled the war on terror, and because of poor decisions the United States faces a choice in Iraq and Afghanistan "between war and endless war."

Anonymous CIA Officer Identified, Editor & Publisher, June 30, 2004

The CIA agent previously identified as "Anonymous" was identified as Michael Scheuer, a 22-year CIA veteran who ran the Counterterrorist Center's bin Laden station from 1996 to 1999. Scheuer authored "Imperial Hubris: Why the U. S. is Losing the War on Terror" with a CIA-imposed condition of anonymity.

"The invasion of Iraq has been a 'Christmas gift' to Osama"
     - Former CIA Counterterrorism specialist Michael Scheuer

Al-Qaida is 18,000 strong, War in Iraq Swelling Its Ranks,  Associated Press, May 26, 2004

Terror Attacks Up Sharply in 2003, State Department Admits, CNN, June 14, 2004

"The State Department acknowledged Thursday it was wrong in reporting terrorism declined worldwide last year..."

"Most of the major key judgments in the ... 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction, either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence reporting."

Report on Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq, July 9, 2004
United States Senate Committee on Intelligence
Chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas)    Full Report

Against 'Nation Building': Finally, a coherent post-Cold War foreign policy", Wall Street Journal, September 27, 2001    

In this eloquent editorial 16 days after 9/11, the Wall Street Journal applauded President Bush's repeated condemnation of "nation building" and expressed hope that the President would, in fact, pursue  a focused, limited, achievable foreign policy  ("...And though building a free and democratic world would be a wondrous thing, experience suggests that for any nation it is a vastly complex project that must come mainly from within. America can serve as an example and an ally. But we cannot reliably reengineer other societies, and we risk enormous resentment when we try."-WSJ ).

"Bush Backs Into Nation Building" , Washington Post,
February 26, 2003

"Once against nation-building, Bush now involved", Boston Globe, March 2, 2004

As Vice President  Dick Cheney put it several months before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the primary organizing dynamic at work in the world today is the creation of “the arrangement [for] the twenty-first century” in which “the United States will continue to be the dominant political, economic, and military power in the world” 

Joseph Gerson, American Icarus, interview of Dick Cheney by Nicholas Lemann,The New Yorker, The Quiet Man, May 2, 2001.

Both Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby, as well as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Undersecretary of State John Bolton, Pentagon policy adviser Richard Perle, and numerous other civilians associated with Administration defense policy have been among those associated with the Project for the New American Century and the foreign policy of global domination, increased military bases around the world, multiple regime changes, nation building, and massively increased military expenditures for which it lobbies.

"Joint Vision 2020 Emphasizes Full-Spectrum Dominance",U. S. Department of Defense, "Full-spectrum dominance" is the key term in "Joint Vision 2020," the blueprint Department of Defense  will follow in the future....."

"American Unilateralism Alienates Allies, Isolates Us", Walter Cronkite, Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service

"U. S. Policies Inflame Arab Moderates", Christian Science Monitor 

"The truth is that Iraqi sovereignty is a sham."
Rahul Mahajan, author of "Full Spectrum Dominance: U. S. Power in Iraq and Beyond"

"The Pretense of an Independent Iraq " The Independent (UK), June 22, 2004

"Behind the Scenes, US Tightens Grip on Iraq's Future" – Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2004,     Also here, and here  

“As Washington prepares to hand over power, U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer and other officials are quietly building institutions that will give the U.S. powerful levers for influencing nearly every important decision the interim government will make."

"2% of Iraqis View the US as Liberators, 97% as Occupiers", poll  commissioned by the U. S. appointed Coalition Provisional Authority

"14 “Enduring Bases” Set in Iraq",Christine Spolar, Chicago Tribune, March 23, 2004

"U.S. Force In Iraq To Grow As Marine Deployment Pushed Up", USA Today, June 8, 2004

"U.S. death toll in Iraq climbs to 900"Associated Press, July 22, 2004

"US casualty rate high since handover - Long guerrilla war is feared in Iraq"Boston Globe, July 19, 2004

“There has got to be a change in Syria”

 Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense

"Change is needed in all those three countries, and a few others besides."
Richard Perle, leading neoconservative architect of regime change in Iraq

 "State Department's Bolton Says Iraq a Lesson for Syria, Libya, Iran"Interview with Undersecretary of State John Bolton

"Regime change in Iran now in Bush’s sights",
Sunday Herald, July 18, 2004

"I assured [Iraqi women leaders] that America wasn't leaving. When they hear me say we're staying, that means we're staying."

                             President George W. Bush, November 17, 2003

Traditional Conservative Values
Injudicious Intervention
"...captive people have greeted American soldiers as liberators. And there is good reason. We have no territorial ambitions, we don't seek an empire."
George W. Bush, November 11, 2002

“We have no desire to dominate, no ambitions of empire.”  
George W. Bush, January 20, 2004

"....we have no interest in occupation.” 
George W. Bush, May 24, 2004
"2% of Iraqis View the US as Liberators, 97% as Occupiers", poll  commissioned by the U. S. appointed Coalition Provisional Authority

"14 “Enduring Bases” Set in Iraq",Christine Spolar, Chicago Tribune, March 23, 2004

"Behind the Scenes, US Tightens Grip on Iraq's Future" – Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2004,     Also here, and here  

While there is a marked contrast between the President's rhetoric and the reality of his foreign policy, there is no ambiguity in the public statements of the "neoconservative" hawks within the Administration with whom the President has consistently sided.

This group includes Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, and numerous key civilian appointees within the Department of Defense.

Pertinent position papers which preceded the adoption in 2002 of the new National Security Strategy of the United States (NSS), prominently include the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance Memo (authored by Zalmay Khalizad, now ambassador to Afganistan, and in 1992 an aide to Paul Wolfowitz under then Secretary of Defense Cheney in the first Bush administration), and Rebuilding America's Defenses, a report of the Project for the New American Century published in September, 2000.  Both of these documents were formative predecessors to the 2002 National Security Strategy (NSS) which codified the "Bush Doctrine" of preemptive war by the United States, unilateralism, American dominance with the central goal being the prevention of any nation, whether friend or foe, from accumulating enough power to rival American dominance. 

In contrast to the rhetoric of President Bush, which repeatedly denies ambitions of empire, territory, or domination, which states our goal to be freeing of the Iraqi people, and who has repeatedly denied an interest in military occupation (advocating a reduced military presence around the world), the neoconservatives with whom he has consistently sided are quite candid in their aspirations of empire.

"The U.S. has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in the Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."
“Rebuilding America’s Defenses” 2000 Report, Project for the New American Century

"When we have economic problems, it's been caused by disruptions in our oil supply. If we have a force in Iraq, there will be no disruption in oil supplies."
Donald Kagan, Project for the New American Century

The policies embodied in "neoconservative" foreign policy, the "Bush Doctrine" of preemptive war, and the 2002 National Security Strategy represent a significant departure from historical American policy, from American moral values, and additionally involve the issue of whether these policies are resulting in an increase or in a decrease in our safety and liberties. 

Public discussion of these most vital issues is impeded when they are obscured by a rhetoric of denial, a rhetoric which is disjoined from the reality of our policy.


Evolution of the Bush Doctrine & Neoconservative Foreign Policy
articles and commentary from across the political spectrum

"The President's Real Goal in Iraq", Jay Bookman, Atlanta Journal Constitution, September 29, 2002
This is an archived copy of one of the first published analysis of the origins of the transformation of American foreign policy.

"The True Rationale? It's a Decade Old", James Mann, Washington Post, March 7, 2004

"The War Behind Closed Doors", PBS Frontline, February 20, 2003, extensive analysis of the evolution of Bush administration foreign policy, chronology, and interviews with leading neoconservatives and critics, and 52 minute video

"Chronology: The Evolution of the Bush Doctrine", PBS Frontline, condensed timeline and discussion of major documents and significant individuals in the development of the Bush Doctrine of preemptive warfare

"Empire Builders: Neoconservatives and Their Blueprint for U.S. Power", Christian Science Monitor, August, 2003, extensive interactive introduction

"Neo-Conned", Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), also here    "The modern-day, limited-government movement has been co-opted....Conservatives who worked and voted for less government in the Reagan years and welcomed the takeover of the U.S. Congress and the presidency in the 1990s and early 2000s were deceived...."  Congressman Paul 's detailed discussion of domestic and foreign policy aspects of neoconservatism.

"Origins of Regime Change in Iraq", Joseph Cirincione, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March 19, 2003

"Was It All Planned? Iraq and Empire-Builders" , Jon Basil Utley, Robert A. Taft  Fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, director of the conservative/libertarian Americans Against World Empire, and adviser,  The Ludwig von Mises Institute advocates market economy, private property, sound money, and peaceful international relations, and opposes government intervention as economically and socially destructive.

"How We Got into This Imperial Pickle – a PNAC Primer", Bernard Weiner, Crisis Papers,  May 26, 2003

"Project for the New American Century (PNAC)" – overview & links, Stopsleeping

"Rumors of neocons’ demise exaggerated", Jacob Heilbrunn, Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2004, also here,  and here

 "The victor is always right. History ascribes to the victor qualities that may or may not actually have been there. And similarly to the defeated."

-Karl Rove


Rhetoric & Reality: The Bush Natl Security Strategy & the War in Iraq
Reconsidering Iraq: Conservative, Republican & Military Dissent
The Conservative Case Against George W. Bush
The Case for Divided Government Military Leaders, Conservatives, Republicans Rejecting Bush/Cheney
Statement of Principles
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