What was the Nexus?

(Update. Not that it matters much at this point but I fixed the link to the Letter to President Clinton. BW 1/3/09)

No I am not asking about a car or misspelling LexisNexis or even talking about a new sequel to the Matrix. It is instead the question to be applied to the following list of names?

Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney and then in alphabetical order:

Elliott Abrams Richard L. Armitage Gary Bauer William J. Bennett

Jeffrey Bergner John Bolton Eliot Cohen Midge Decter Paula Dobriansky Steve Forbes

Aaron Friedberg Francis Fukuyama Frank Gaffney Fred C. Ikle Donald Kagan Robert Kagan Zalmay Khalilzad

William Kristol I. Lewis Libby Richard Perle Norman Podhoretz Dan Qualye Peter W. Rodman Stephen P. Rosen

Henry S. Rowen Donald Rumsfeld William Schneider, Jr. Vin Weber George Weigel Paul Wolfowitz

The answer is below the fold.
Is it a cross section of Republican leadership? Well no, not now and not when the list was compiled. In particular there are very few actual politicians on the list, if by politicians we mean people who ran for office and won.

Is it a list of people who served in the Reagan Administration in foreign policy positions or under Bush I? Well no, though you are getting close. Because some of these people have never to my knowledge had a formal position in government at all.

And while pretty much the entire top tier of the Bush II official security apparatus is represented (Cheney, Bolton, Rumsfeld, Abrams, Libby, Khalilzad) they far from exhaust the entire list. So that is not it either.

Well then is this list somehow bipartisan? Well no, I don’t think you could find a self-identified Democrat on the list. (Though there are a couple of names I am not immediately familiar with).

No what you have here is the combined signatories (because there is a lot of overlap) of the Project for a New American Century’s Statement of Principles of June 3, 1997 and the PNAC’s Letter to President Clinton of Jan 6, 1998.

As the Bush/Cheney regime winds down there are some ongoing and persistent attempts to shape the historical legacy of both men, and as all agree Iraq is going to be the largest element in that. The standard story being pushed is that Bush was a reluctant warrior pushed into war by bad intelligence and retransigence by Saddam. And moreover that that decision was joined in by the entire center-right including both Clintons, Gore and every Representative and Senator who voted for the AUMF in fall 2002. Well sorry I am here to call bullshit on that one and a look at the Statement and the Letter say why. First from the Statement

We aim to change this. We aim to make the case and rally support for American global leadership.

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?

Note what is missing here. There is not a hint of multilateralism in any context other than ‘American global leadership’ and not a suggestion that the goal is to spread democracy or global prosperity or anything else for its own sake. Instead this New Century is to be an unabashedly American Century to further America’s own interests. This is a straight out call for global American hegemony. So how do we get there? Well lets look at the letter.

Given the magnitude of the threat, the current policy, which depends for its success upon the steadfastness of our coalition partners and upon the cooperation of Saddam Hussein, is dangerously inadequate. The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy.

We urge you to articulate this aim, and to turn your Administration’s attention to implementing a strategy for removing Saddam’s regime from power. This will require a full complement of diplomatic, political and military efforts. Although we are fully aware of the dangers and difficulties in implementing this policy, we believe the dangers of failing to do so are far greater. We believe the U.S. has the authority under existing UN resolutions to take the necessary steps, including military steps, to protect our vital interests in the Gulf. In any case, American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.

. Which translated means ‘screw consultation with our allies, forget complying with our treaty obligations under the UN Charter, we need to take the bastard out using all means necessary’.

Feel free to browse around the rest of the PNAC website. You won’t be able to dodge the conclusion that a certain self-identified group of past national security officials, opinion makers, and selected academics committed themselves in the mid-nineties to an aggressive policy of using unilateral US military force to shape the world in America’s image or at least in America’s interest. Starting with an invasion of Iraq. They were not able to get Clinton to move as aggressively as they liked, and in the aftermath of Bush v. Gore didn’t quite have the public support needed to stage a military invasion of Iraq. Until of course 9/11 intervened.

In any event anyone who thinks this war was in any fundamentally contingent on anything that happened in 2001 needs to review the record. All of these people eagerly signed on to a campaign of Iraq invasion with or without ally or UN agreement four or more years prior to 9/11. And it is hard not to identify these people with those that thought Bush I was too tentative after Gulf War I. These people were itching to get a war on, and Cheney’s appointment to lead the VP search team gave them all the opening they needed. Key team members were installed at high levels in State, Defense and the WH itself and all they were waiting for was an excuse.

A last observation. Note that while the plans may have always included a Bush, George wasn’t the first choice, instead it seems like JEB was going to be the figurehead (or given that he is by all accounts smarter than W, perhaps the actual leader).