Seeking War to the End of the World
Despite the disastrous Iraq War, neocons still dominate Official
Washington’s inside-outside game, government policymakers
coordinating with think-tank opinion leaders to keep world tensions
high and money flowing to military projects, a process personified
by Robert Kagan and Victoria Nuland.
By Robert Parry
July 20, 2015 "Information
If the neoconservatives have their way again, U.S.
ground troops will reoccupy Iraq, the U.S. military will take out
Syria’s secular government (likely helping Al Qaeda and the Islamic
State take over), and the U.S. Congress will not only kill the Iran
nuclear deal but follow that with a massive increase in military
Like spraying lighter fluid on a roaring barbecue, the neocons also
want a military escalation in Ukraine to burn the ethnic Russians
out of the east, and the neocons dream of spreading the blaze to
Moscow with the goal of forcing Russian President Vladimir Putin
from the Kremlin. In other words, more and more fires of Imperial
“regime change” abroad even as the last embers of the American
Republic die at home.
Much of this
“strategy” is personified by a single Washington power couple: arch-neocon
Robert Kagan, a co-founder of the Project for the New American
Century and an early advocate of the Iraq War, and his wife,
Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland,
who engineered last year’s coup in Ukraine that started a nasty
civil war and created a confrontation between nuclear-armed United
States and Russia.
Kagan, who cut his teeth as a propaganda
specialist in support of the Reagan administration’s brutal Central
American policies in the 1980s, is now a senior fellow at the
Brookings Institution and a contributing columnist to The Washington
Post’s neocon-dominated opinion pages.
On Friday, Kagan’s
column baited the Republican Party to do more than just
object to President Barack Obama’s Iranian nuclear deal. Kagan
called for an all-out commitment to neoconservative goals, including
military escalations in the Middle East, belligerence toward Russia
and casting aside fiscal discipline in favor of funneling tens of
billions of new dollars to the Pentagon.
Kagan also showed how the neocons’ world view
remains the conventional wisdom of Official Washington despite their
disastrous Iraq War. The neocon narrative gets repeated over and
over in the mainstream media no matter how delusional it is.
For instance, a sane person might trace the
origins of the bloodthirsty Islamic State back to President George
W. Bush’s neocon-inspired Iraq War when this hyper-violent Sunni
movement began as “Al Qaeda in Iraq” blowing up Shiite mosques and
instigating sectarian bloodshed. It later expanded into Syria where
Sunni militants were seeking the ouster of a secular regime led by
Alawites, a Shiite offshoot. Though changing its name to the Islamic
State, the movement continued with its trademark brutality.
But Kagan doesn’t acknowledge that he and his
fellow neocons bear any responsibility for this head-chopping
phenomenon. In his neocon narrative, the Islamic State gets blamed
on Iran and Syria, even though those governments are leading much of
the resistance to the Islamic State and its former colleagues in Al
Qaeda, which in Syria backs a separate terrorist organization, the
But here is how Kagan explains the situation to
the Smart People of Official Washington: “Critics of the recent
nuclear deal struck between Iran and the United States are entirely
right to point out the serious challenge that will now be posed by
the Islamic republic. It is an aspiring hegemon in an important
region of the world.
“It is deeply engaged in a region-wide war that
encompasses Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, the Gulf States and the
Palestinian territories. It subsidizes the murderous but collapsing
regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and therefore bears primary
responsibility for the growing strength of the Islamic State and
other radical jihadist forces in that country and in neighboring
Iraq, where it is simultaneously expanding its influence and
inflaming sectarian violence.”
The Real Hegemon
While ranting about “Iranian hegemony,” Kagan
called for direct military intervention by the world’s true
hegemonic power, the United States. He wants the U.S. military to
weigh in against Iran on the side of two far more militarily
advanced regional powers, Israel and Saudi Arabia, whose combined
weapons spending dwarfs Iran’s and includes – with Israel – a
sophisticated nuclear arsenal.
Yet reality has never had much relationship to
neocon ideology. Kagan continued: “Any serious strategy aimed at
resisting Iranian hegemony has also required confronting Iran on the
several fronts of the Middle East battlefield. In Syria, it has
required a determined policy to remove Assad by force, using U.S.
air power to provide cover for civilians and create a safe zone for
Syrians willing to fight.
“In Iraq, it has required using American forces to
push back and destroy the forces of the Islamic State so that we
would not have to rely, de facto, on Iranian power to do the job.
Overall, it has required a greater U.S. military commitment to the
region, a reversal of both the perceived and the real withdrawal of
“And therefore it has required a reversal of the
downward trend in U.S. defense spending, especially the undoing of
the sequestration of defense funds, which has made it harder for the
military even to think about addressing these challenges, should it
be called upon to do so. So the question for Republicans who are
rightly warning of the danger posed by Iran is: What have they done
to make it possible for the United States to begin to have any
strategy for responding?”
In Kagan’s call for war and more war, we’re
seeing, again, the consequence of failing to hold neocons
accountable after they pushed the country into the illegal and
catastrophic Iraq War by selling lies about weapons of mass
destruction and telling tales about how easy it would be.
Instead of facing a purge that should have
followed the Iraq calamity, the neocons consolidated their power,
holding onto key jobs in U.S. foreign policy, ensconcing themselves
in influential think tanks, and remaining the go-to experts for
mainstream media coverage. Being wrong about Iraq has almost become
a badge of honor in the upside-down world of Official Washington.
But we need to unpack the truckload of sophistry
that Kagan is peddling. First, it is simply crazy to talk about
“Iranian hegemony.” That was part of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu’s rhetoric before the U.S. Congress on March 3 about Iran
“gobbling up” nations – and it has now become a neocon-driven
litany, but it is no more real just because it gets repeated
For instance, take the Iraq case. It has a
Shiite-led government not because Iran invaded Iraq, but because the
United States did. After the U.S. military ousted Sunni dictator
Saddam Hussein, the United States stood up a new government
dominated by Shiites who, in turn, sought friendly relations with
their co-religionists in Iran, which is entirely understandable and
represents no aggression by Iran. Then, after the Islamic State’s
dramatic military gains across Iraq last summer, the Iraqi
government turned to Iran for military assistance, also no surprise.
Back to Iraq
However, leaving aside Kagan’s delusional
hyperbole about Iran, look at what he’s proposing. He wants to
return a sizable U.S. occupation force to Iraq, apparently caring
little about the U.S. soldiers who were rotated multiple times into
the war zone where almost 4,500 died (along with hundreds of
thousands of Iraqis). Having promoted Iraq War I and having paid no
price, Kagan now wants to give us Iraq War II.
But that’s not enough. Kagan wants the U.S.
military to intervene to make sure the secular government of Syria
is overthrown, even though the almost certain winners would be Sunni
extremists from the Islamic State or Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front. Such a
victory could lead to genocides against Syria’s Christians, Alawites,
Shiites and other minorities. At that point, there would be
tremendous pressure for a full-scale U.S. invasion and occupation of
That may be why Kagan wants to throw tens of
billions of dollar more into the military-industrial complex,
although the true price tag for Kagan’s new wars would likely run
into the trillions of dollars. Yet, Kagan still isn’t satisfied. He
wants even more military spending to confront “growing Chinese
power, an aggressive Russia and an increasingly hegemonic Iran.”
In his conclusion, Kagan mocks the Republicans for
not backing up their tough talk: “So, yes, by all means, rail about
the [Iran] deal. We all look forward to the hours of floor speeches
and campaign speeches that lie ahead. But it will be hard to take
Republican criticisms seriously unless they start doing the things
that are in their power to do to begin to address the challenge.”
While it’s true that Kagan is now “just” a neocon
ideologue – albeit one with important platforms to present his views
– his wife Assistant Secretary of State Nuland shares his foreign
policy views and even edits many of his articles. As she told The
New York Times last year, “nothing goes out of the house that I
don’t think is worthy of his talents. Let’s put it that way.” [See
True Foreign Policy ‘Weakness.’”]
But Nuland is a foreign policy force of her own,
considered by some in Washington to be the up-and-coming “star” at
the State Department. By organizing the “regime change” in Ukraine –
with the violent overthrow of democratically elected President
Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 – Nuland also earned her spurs as
an accomplished neocon.
Nuland has even outdone her husband, who may get
“credit” for the Iraq War and the resulting chaos, but Nuland did
him one better, instigating Cold War II and reviving hostilities
between nuclear-armed Russia and the United States. After all,
that’s where the really big money will go – toward modernizing
nuclear arsenals and ordering top-of-the-line strategic weaponry.
A Family Business
There’s also a family-business aspect to these
wars and confrontations, since the Kagans collectively serve not
just to start conflicts but to profit from grateful military
contractors who kick back a share of the money to the think tanks
that employ the Kagans.
For instance, Robert’s brother Frederick works at
the American Enterprise Institute, which has long benefited from the
largesse of the Military-Industrial Complex, and his wife Kimberly
runs her own think tank called the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
According to ISW’s annual reports, its original
supporters were mostly right-wing foundations, such as the
Smith-Richardson Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley
Foundation, but it was later backed by a host of national security
contractors, including major ones like General Dynamics, Northrop
Grumman and CACI, as well as lesser-known firms such as DynCorp
International, which provided training for Afghan police, and
Palantir, a technology company founded with the backing of the CIA’s
venture-capital arm, In-Q-Tel. Palantir supplied software to U.S.
military intelligence in Afghanistan.
Since its founding in 2007, ISW has focused mostly
on wars in the Middle East, especially Iraq and Afghanistan,
including closely cooperating with Gen. David Petraeus when he
commanded U.S. forces in those countries. However, more recently,
ISW has begun reporting extensively on the civil war in Ukraine.
[See Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocons
Guided Petraeus on Afghan War.”]
So, to understand the enduring influence of the
neocons – and the Kagan clan, in particular – you have to appreciate
the money connections between the business of war and the business
of selling war. When the military contractors do well, the think
tanks that advocate for heightened global tensions do well, too.
And, it doesn’t hurt to have friends and family
inside the government making sure that policymakers do their part to
give war a chance — and to give peace the old heave-ho.
[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “A
Family Business of Perpetual War.”]
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra
stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can
buy his latest book,
America’s Stolen Narrative,
either in print
here or as an
You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its
connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The
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