More Cannon Fodder, Please
rising concern about the over-extension of U.S. military forces
and the growing budget deficit, the Project for the New American
Century (PNAC), a neoconservative group whose past foreign policy
recommendations have often been followed by President George W.
Bush, is urging Congress to add 25,000 new soldiers to U.S. ground
forces each year over the next several years.
appeal, which comes on the eve of Bush's State of the Union address,
is certain to fuel the growing debate over whether Washington can
afford the interventionist vision long espoused by PNAC and its
highly influential founders that of a global "Pax Americana"
in which the U.S. military acts as the effective guarantor of international
peace and security.
United States military is too small for the responsibilities we
are asking it to assume," said the open letter addressed to
the Congressional leadership and signed by 34 defense and foreign
policy analysts, mostly prominent neoconservatives but also a smattering
of retired generals and, significantly, several national defense
alumni of Bill Clinton's administration.
was published as the lead editorial in the Rupert Murdoch-owned
Weekly Standard, which is edited by William Kristol, PNAC's
chairman and founder.
national security, global peace and stability, and the defense and
promotion of freedom in the post-9/11 world require a larger military
force than we have today," the letter went on, adding, "The
[Bush] administration has unfortunately resisted increasing our
ground forces to the size needed to meet today's (and tomorrow's)
missions and challenges."
itself consists of a handful of people besides Kristol and PNAC's
director, Gary Schmitt. Since its creation in 1997, it has acted
primarily as a platform from which prominent neoconservatives could
issue policy recommendations and invite influential analysts from
other ideological currents to sign on.
its founding charter, which called for a "Reaganite policy
of military strength and moral quality," was signed mostly
by neoconservatives, such as former Commentary editor Norman
Podhoretz; Vice President Dick Cheney's current chief of staff,
I. Lewis Libby; current Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz;
and the current director for Middle East affairs on the National
Security Council, Elliott Abrams.
several individuals more closely associated with an aggressive nationalist
position, notably the current Pentagon chief, Donald Rumsfeld, Cheney,
and magazine magnate Steve Forbes, also signed, as did Gary Bauer,
a leader of the U.S. Christian Right.
signers' make-up thus presaged the three-headed coalition of hawks
neoconservatives, aggressive nationalists, and the Christian
Right that gained control of the Bush administration's foreign
policy after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
1997 until Bush's election, PNAC issued a number of policy statements
signed by the same or a similar cast of characters, as well as several
longer reports and a book, Present
Dangers, that prescribed many of the policy initiatives
the incoming Bush administration has since adopted.
first urged Washington to work for "regime change" in
Iraq in 1998, but, within nine days of the 9/11 attacks, the group
called for a similar policy to be applied as well to the Palestinian
National Authority, Syria, and Iran, if they failed to cooperate
fully with the U.S. campaign against terrorism.
strongly supportive of Bush, PNAC first began expressing some disappointment
with the administration almost exactly two years ago for its failure
to increase the proposed military budget from 3.4 percent of gross
domestic product (GDP) to something closer to 4 percent of GDP,
which it noted was still below the 4.8 percent Washington was spending
in 1993, at the end of the Cold War.
months later, as U.S. forces launched their invasion, PNAC issued
another letter expressing concern that the administration was unprepared
to provide the stabilization and reconstruction process in Iraq
with enough military and economic resources.
letter, which was widely construed as an attack on Rumsfeld, was
signed mostly by neoconservatives but also included for the first
time since Bush had become president a number of former senior Clinton
officials, such as his deputy national security adviser, James Steinberg;
a former senior Pentagon official, Walter Slocombe, and several
has since indicated reservations about the administration's coziness
with Russia and China two areas where the administration
has generally spurned the hawkish advice of the neoconservatives
but the latest letter indicates a higher level of frustration.
is the first addressed to Congress and thus appears as a more direct
challenge to the administration's reluctance to increase the defense
budget. Like the 2003 letter, the new one also includes the signatures
of "liberal hawks" mostly the same former Clinton
officials who signed the 2003 letter as well as neoconservatives.
principal target appears to be Rumsfeld, who has strongly resisted
suggestions that U.S. ground forces which currently include
almost 500,000 active-duty Army troops, more than 175,000 Marines,
and a roughly equal number of reservists are inadequate to
the tasks they face.
has argued that increasing the size of U.S. ground forces will delay
the military's "transformation" into a lighter, more lethal,
and more hi-tech force capable of deploying overwhelming military
power to any strategic hot spot within hours. Additional and unanticipated
expenses for equipping, training, and maintaining an expanded ground
force will take money away from the development and deployment of
only way to do both is to increase the defense budget, since the
price tag for just two new divisions, totaling 34,000 soldiers,
is an estimated $20 billion.
with the budget bleeding red ink as far as the eye can see, Bush
would have to find new sources of revenue either by cutting
social programs that have already been slashed, rolling back tax
cuts, or imposing new taxes.
of these alternatives is attractive, especially to many Republican
lawmakers for whom the mushrooming deficit is seen increasingly
as the Achilles heel of their party's current political dominance.
understand the dangers of continued federal deficits, and the fiscal
difficulty of increasing the number of troops," the letter
reassures its readers. "But the defense of the United States
is the first priority of the government."
Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2005 One World