I was recently having a discussion with a friend of mine about the origins of World War II. He pointed out evidence that FDR was a war agitator. I saw mention of an October 7, 1941 memo written by Lieutenant Commander Arthur McCollum that seemed to lay out a plan for how to bait Japan into attacking us so that we could get public support for entering into WWII on the side of the allies. Supposedly it provided an 8-step plan, and (coincidentally or not) these 8 steps were all taken by FDR within two years.
That really got my attention because there is a modern group, Project for the New American Century(footnote 1) which has been releasing publications for about 7 years now which have also been agitating for war, and whose recommendations have been followed by the Bush Jr. administration. I always get a kick out of finding the apparent internal logic that would appear to connect otherwise disparate events. Sometimes it gives us clues into what the underlying plan or mindset is.
But when I actually read the McCollum memo, I was shocked by the way it relates to PNAC material. Here is an excerpt from the memo:
1. The United States is faced by a hostile combination of powers in both the Atlantic and the Pacific.
2. British naval control of the Atlantic prevents hostile action against The United States in this area.
4. Japan must be diverted if British opposition in Europe is to remain effective.
5. The United States naval forces now in the Pacific are capable of so containing and harassing Japan as to nullify her assistance to Germany and Italy.
Compare that to the letter of January 26, 1998 to President Clinton from Project for the New American Century, signed by (among others) Donald Rumsfeld. Here are the first two paragraphs:
We are writing you because we are convinced that current American policy toward Iraq is not succeeding, and that we may soon face a threat in the Middle East more serious than any we have known since the end of the Cold War. In your upcoming State of the Union Address, you have an opportunity to chart a clear and determined course for meeting this threat. We urge you to seize that opportunity, and to enunciate a new strategy that would secure the interests of the U.S. and our friends and allies around the world. That strategy should aim, above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power. We stand ready to offer our full support in this difficult but necessary endeavor.
The policy of "containment" of Saddam Hussein has been steadily eroding over the past several months. As recent events have demonstrated, we can no longer depend on our partners in the Gulf War coalition to continue to uphold the sanctions or to punish Saddam when he blocks or evades UN inspections. Our ability to ensure that Saddam Hussein is not producing weapons of mass destruction, therefore, has substantially diminished. Even if full inspections were eventually to resume, which now seems highly unlikely, experience has shown that it is difficult if not impossible to monitor Iraq's chemical and biological weapons production. The lengthy period during which the inspectors will have been unable to enter many Iraqi facilities has made it even less likely that they will be able to uncover all of Saddam's secrets. As a result, in the not-too-distant future we will be unable to determine with any reasonable level of confidence whether Iraq does or does not possess such weapons.
They are each memos urging for the US to take pre-emptive military action. McCollum believed we should do so because there was a pair of fascist dictatorships (Italy and Germany) which had used military force to occupy almost all of Europe. McCollum further cited the Tripartite Pact, an agreement between Germany, Italy, and Japan, effectively guaranteeing that if any of them were to become at war with America that the other two would join in. Rumsfeld et al, however, expressed that we should go to war because a sovereign nation with almost no real military power and no real allies is refusing inspections. The sense I am getting is that what it means to be a "hawk" has changed.
In case you missed that, let's pound this out a little more clearly. McCollum believed that Germany and Italy were going to eventually conquer Britain, and then control the Atlantic and move on America. He speculated that in such an eventuality Japan and Russia would likely join in against America. McCollum used, as evidence, the fact that Germany and Italy had already invaded almost all of Europe and that Britain was the only balancing force. He also pointed out that they had signed a treaty which would appear to have no purpose other than to frighten America into not supporting Britain until it was too late. You don't even need to dig into the deeper issues of the holocaust, or the merits of National Socialism. There was already an active and unambiguous shooting war on.
Now can I remind you what Rumsfeld et al were on about? Inspections.
Yes, it's true, in today's technological world it is possible for a nation or even a small terrorist group to construct and deliver a weapon that could kill thousands or even millions of people without having any traditional military power. But this applies equally to all groups -- does technological advancement give America the right or responsibility to inspect every lab in every nation that we do not "trust"? What about "suspicious" labs in our own nation? Do the 4th and 5th ammendments to the Constitution of the United States of America matter in the face of imminent peril?
So let's look a little bit more at the PNAC, what is their underlying philosophy? Would it contradict this idea of Big Brother policing The Entire World to control Weapons of Mass Destruction? Here's an excerpt from their Statement of Principles:
As the 20th century draws to a close, the United States stands as the world's preeminent power. Having led the West to victory in the Cold War, America faces an opportunity and a challenge: Does the United States have the vision to build upon the achievements of past decades? Does the United States have the resolve to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests?
Okay let's take that apart a little bit. The first thing that jumps out at me is this concept of victory in the cold war. It wasn't an actual shooting war so it's not quite that open and shut -- we can't look at who signed where on some document of surrender and deduce the winners. There is no denying now that America is in a very strong position and that the Soviet Union is over. But is that victory? Did we improve freedom throughout the world?
Where would Afghanistan be today if it weren't for its role in the proxy wars? What about North Korea? Have we liberated the people of Russia? What about Cuba? Is the world a better place because America has a sufficient nuclear arsenal to destroy the world several times over? We just don't know, we can't envision a 20th century without a cold war. It looks to me like the cold war itself won. Neither nation did nearly as much to change the face of the world as this concept of two superpowers tromping all over smaller powers in some bizarre race with no clear finish line.
But okay, what if we did win the cold war. What do we do with it? Well the PNAC believes that we should shape the 21st century in a way favorable to American interests. That would appear to be a fancy way of saying that in the 21st century, America should rule the world. They would seem to answer the question of whether or not America has a right to invade the privacy of any sovereign nation with a resounding yes. Is that not the natural role of the country that won the cold war?
Remember where I started, though. I presented two documents that appear to have been taken to heart by an American president on the path to war. One is considered by many to be the "smoking gun" proving that FDR intentionally precipitated Pearl Harbor and therefore America's involvement in World War II. It captures a radical mindset that is considered to have changed America forever. The other document appears to be the cornerstone of modern American foreign policy. When viewed side by side, the radical world-changing document looks almost moderate and conciliatory by comparison. Scary, eh?
When I mention PNAC, people often think I am on about some crazy conspiracy. I assure you, they are not a conspiracy. They are an overt group whose letters have been signed by members of Bush's cabinet. They are interesting for two reasons: they are agitating aggressively for war and imperialism, and they are strongly and overtly linked to the current Bush administration. If Clinton were in office, I would probably be talking about The Democratic Leadership Council or some other sinister 'New Democrat' think tank instead.