This new white paper document was written and supported by the same organizations and people who were involved with the earlier Bush Doctrine and “PNAC Agenda” documents 15 years ago.
(Pictured above: Bill Kristol interviews authors of the new document)
Just in time for the presidential election season to heat up, American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has released a major new white paper to propose and discuss “rebuilding” America’s defenses. The new document, “To Rebuild America’s Military,” assesses the “failure” of US defenses, finds that “military services are in danger,” and suggests major expansion in all areas. The document also reviews military performance through administrations. The paper has the support of 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush. “To Rebuild America’s Military” was authored by many of the same people who created the “Bush Doctrine” and its similarly-titled white paper “Rebuilding America’s Defenses.”
ASSESSING US DEFENSE FAILURES
The new AEI white paper assesses military deficiencies. Forces are too small and “dispirited.” Weapons are too old, Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and nuclear capacities are all inadequately funded and out of date. Military actions have not been strong enough. Policies have not been adequately planned for the long run.
Rather than actively shaping the post–Cold War period to fashion a broader and deeper peace, America has, with the exception of NATO expansion, largely reacted to a series of external events and shocks. (6)
There has been a failure to create a “blue print” to account for 30 years of “problems that now plague America’s military.” The paper then suggests a general blueprint for the ‘rebuild.’
REBUILDING AND EXPANDING NEEDED IN ALL AREAS
A summary at the website for AEI describes the broad policy.
American Enterprise Institute’s Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies team provides a detailed plan to rebuild American military strength and capabilities by identifying the strategy, forces, and budgets needed to protect US interests through the next four years and decades to come. It contains a quantitative assessment of the nuclear, land, air, maritime, missile defense, special operations, space, and cyber capabilities demanded by a three-theater standard.
The document suggests (1) adopting a “three-theater force construct” to provide a “favorable balance” of power throughout Europe, Middle East and East Asia rather than a compromised “pivot” to Asia, (2) increasing military capacity to “conduct campaigns simultaneously” using innovation and larger troop forces, (3) introducing “new capabilities urgently” to correct the “failure to modernize” the military, and (4) increasing military spending above a floor of four-percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Army, Navy and Marine forces must be increased. Weapons systems including nuclear weapons must be upgraded and expanded. Asian bases must be re-established while troops in Eastern Europe must be expanded. As per the white paper title, every aspect of the military must be ‘rebuilt.’
MILITARY PERFORMANCE ACROSS ADMINISTRATIONS
Woven into the 81-page thesis, the authors assess military performance by each administration from 1980.
President Jimmy Carter in his January 1980 State of the Union address declared the “Carter Doctrine,” asserting that “an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.” By March, Carter had created the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force, which three years later became US Central Command. For the next 35 years, Carter’s successors strove to achieve his goals. (18)
Subsequent White House residents generally followed this “Carter Doctrine,” but each one in succession did not engage enough. Reagan “left Saddam Hussein with a huge army that had nothing to do.” Bush I “left him firmly in power in Baghdad.” Clinton of course left Saddam Hussein in power, and did not see terror attacks in the nineties as “acts of war.” However, Bush II eventually became more “thoroughgoing.”
President Bush and his lieutenants were tragically slow to realize how difficult and sustained an effort was required to carry out this goal, yet with the Iraq “surge” they began to correct course. When Bush left the Oval Office, the Middle East balance of power was more favorable than at any time since 1979. (19)
While each of the White House residents did a pretty good job implementing the Carter Doctrine, none could ever go far enough in military actions. Bush II receives the most praise in the report, but even he was too restrained in building and using the military.
But then came Barrack Obama. In the press, Barack Obama has received harsh criticism from many for his willingness to engage in wars. The Washington Post published an article, “After vowing to end two wars, Obama may leave three behind.” This theme has been all over the mainstream press, with NPR pointing out that “during his presidency, the U.S. has bombed seven separate Muslim countries.” The Nation summed it up, “Critics call him timid, but the president’s foreign policy has often been too aggressive—even at the risk of our long-term national interests.”
Contrary to these other reports, this new AEI white paper finds, “Only in the Obama years has US strategy begun to deviate from this traditional path.” (10)
The Obama administration has in particular devalued the importance of American leadership, neglected traditional allies without recruiting new ones, and suffered from strategic surprises (especially in Eastern Europe and the Middle East) rather than anticipating them. They have fetishized diplomacy and “soft power” while abjuring the use of military power and set in motion a series of defense budget reductions that have caused serious harm to a US military that was already in dire straits. The irony of President Obama’s foreign policy is that virtually every one of his failed or failing initiatives—the reset with Russia, the olive leaf he has tried to extend to the Muslim world, the rebalance to Asia, the outreach to Iran, the red line in Syria, his withdrawal from Iraq and his less-than-aggressive approach to ISIS, and his determination now to withdraw from Afghanistan whether the Afghan government can defend itself or not—would have had a much greater chance of success had he, at the same time, been engineering a buildup rather than a decline of America’s armed forces. The president’s policies have sought peace, partnership, and amity among diverse nations and cultures. But against the backdrop of waning American military strength, adversaries and allies alike see his yearning for peace as a sign of weakness. Today, fewer and fewer nations care about our promises or believe our threats. (9)
He has undertaken several new military operations during his terms—notably the support of the rebellion that removed Muammar Gaddafi from power in Libya and the ongoing efforts against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria—but these have been quite constrained, to the point that neither effort can be said to have achieved strategic success. (19)
In contrast to the relatively minor criticisms for his predecessors, these severe complaints about Obama stand out as the 2016 election nears.
JEB BUSH AND THE 2016 CAMPAIGN
In the weeks since this AEI white paper has been published, presidential candidate Jeb Bush has stepped into the role of policy promoter, speaking “on his plan to rebuild America’s military” with points lifted straight from this white paper. C-SPAN filmed one of his speeches. These speeches are receiving coverage mostly in the partisan press.
Jeb Bush is familiar with this agenda, as he was involved in the creation of the earlier “Bush Doctrine” and supported these same authors in 2000 to help develop the policy then.
UNCREDITED AUTHORS OF THE BUSH DOCTRINE
The new paper was written mainly by Thomas Donnelly and Gary Schmitt. Both of these main authors of “To Rebuild America’s Military” were also members of the earlier think-tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC). The PNAC organization was created with members of AEI and operated out of the same building at 1150 Seventeenth Street in Washington DC.
PNAC is most well-known for its 2000 policy white paper called “Rebuilding America’s Defenses.” This document became known as the “Bush Doctrine” or the “PNAC Agenda” because the George W. Bush administration was filled with PNAC members or supporters, including Dick Cheney. Official Bush policy followed the PNAC Agenda almost exactly.
According to Armed Forces Journal, “To Rebuild America’s Military” author Thomas Donnelly “served as the director of strategic communications and initiatives at Lockheed Martin and as deputy executive director of the Project for the New American Century.” This page was removed, but can still be found in the Internet Archive. The journal itself is now on “hiatus.” The biography at American Enterprise Institute (AEI) for Thomas Donnelly does not mention these associations. Author Gary Schmitt worked on foreign intelligence in the Reagan administration, and later worked with PNAC.
The website for PNAC itself is “suspended” and the group is defunct, but the earlier paper “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” exists at other sites today. The PNAC group was inundated with bad press from liberal, conservative, mainstream and especially alternative press after the 2003 Iraq escalation, and the group quietly closed down.
Thomas Donnelly and Gary Schmitt moved over to AEI in that same building and continued writing white papers to expand the military and its operations including this new one without any mention or citation of the prior work at PNAC.
A BRIEF LOOK AT THE EARLIER PNAC WHITE PAPER
In September 2000, PNAC released its white paper, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” with input from the authors of the current document. Before the contested presidential election and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, these authors were promoting much more military spending and intervention. The New York Times described PNAC as the “new imperialists” in an article published after the 9-11 attacks.
This year a new conservative movement, led by William Kristol’s Project for the New American Century, formed around a single idea: support for a new, proud American imperialism. The debate on whether America is an imperial power is over, P.N.A.C.’s scholars insist; the American empire is real. The challenge now is to figure out what to do with it… Tom Donnelly [is] P.N.A.C.’s deputy executive director… The new imperialists would like [the United States] to return to its cold war average of 10 percent of G.D.P., increasing the defense budget.
“Rebuilding America’s Defenses” was all about “transformation” of the military.
Although it may take several decades for the process of transformation to unfold, in time, the art of warfare on air, land, and sea will be vastly different than it is today, and “combat” likely will take place in new dimensions: in space, “cyber-space,” and perhaps the world of microbes. Air warfare may no longer be fought by pilots manning tactical fighter aircraft sweeping the skies of opposing fighters, but a regime dominated by long-range, stealthy unmanned craft. On land, the clash of massive, combined-arms armored forces may be replaced by the dashes of much lighter, stealthier and information-intensive forces, augmented by fleets of robots, some small enough to fit in soldiers’ pockets. (60)
The document lamented that such a “transformation” would be slow “absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.” The document also suggested that “advanced forms of biological warfare that can ‘target’ specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool.”
But even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.
For these colorful statements of military longing, and for the lack of popularity of the 2003 Iraq war, PNAC became a subject of public disfavor and shut down as described above.
ONE PAPER FOLLOWS DIRECTLY FROM THE OTHER
The new white paper “To Rebuild America’s Military” is little more than a rehash of the old PNAC paper “Rebuilding America’s Defenses.” Both have the same writers, the same promoters, and obviously similar titles. Both make very passionate cases to expand military spending and to increase military actions.
The language in the new AEI document is less colorful. Unlike the PNAC document, there is no talk of a “new Pearl Harbor” or suggestion of “advanced biological weapons” as a “useful tool.” Instead, the new document makes more of a partisan political case. But both lay out plans to extend the military and expand wars. That case is now being promoted by Jeb Bush who will continue his namesake “Bush Doctrine” if he enters the White House — or it may be promoted by another willing Republican candidate. The New Yorker noted a pattern of activities.
Democratic Presidents have a way of inspiring foreign-policy conservatives to form hawkish pressure groups. The Committee on the Present Danger bedeviled Jimmy Carter, and then helped staff Ronald Reagan’s Administration. The Project for a New American Century put the squeeze on Bill Clinton to sign the Iraq Liberation Act, and then provided George Bush with many of his top officials.
The move from the PNAC office to the AEI office in the same building was just the latest reconfiguration to promote the same policy. The policy is war.
Bill Kristol interviews “To Rebuild America’s Military” authors.
“I’m fairly pessimistic about even the candidates who are more muscular and advocate for stronger foreign policy probably haven’t take the time to see how deeply broken the military is at this point,” suggests Thomas Donnelly in the above interview.