The Neocon Web
by Jim Lobe
most of the world is still trying to come to terms with the neo-imperial
ambitions of the post-Sept. 11 Bush administration, U.S. political
analysts, particularly those on the libertarian right and the left,
have been trying to map out the various forces behind the administration's
hawks in order to better understand and counteract them.
analysts have identified three main components to the coalition
behind Bush's aggressive foreign policy: right-wing militarists,
of whom Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is the exemplar; neo-conservatives,
led by former Defense Policy Board (DPB) chairman Richard Perle,
whose worldview is similar to that of Israel's Likud Party; and
Christian Right forces whose leaders are influential with Bush's
political guru, Karl Rove.
these forces are often depicted in the abstract, they constitute
a network of flesh-and-blood people who have worked together closely
and openly both in and out of government for more than 30
years in some cases.
that period, they built up what analyst Tom Barry of the Interhemispheric
Resource Center (IRC) has called an "infrastructure of the
(right-wing) counter-establishment," of key individuals, institutions,
think tanks and publications that has emerged as the dominant power
in the Republican Party and not only with respect to foreign
of the structure's most remarkable characteristics are how few people
it includes and how adept they have been in creating new institutions
and front groups that act as a vast echo chamber for each other
and for the media, particularly in media-obsessed Washington.
this, the neo-conservatives, who lack any grassroots constituency,
have been especially effective.
fact, the network consists of a very small elite, much smaller for
example than the post-World War II internationalist "establishment"
that includes such institutions as the Council on Foreign Relations,
the foreign service and the Wall Street lawyers, financiers and
business executives who have long dominated US foreign policy.
understand its dimensions and the way it works, Barry and the IRC
(for which this author has written articles for compensation) compare
it to a spider's web hence the name of their latest Internet
website, Right Web,
probably the most comprehensive and integrated effort yet to link
the various connections and relationships that have given the "Right"
its power and influence.
site, which is still being developed, covers some 175 individuals
and dozens of organizations that have constituted the network over
the past quarter century. Even a brief meander through the site
demonstrates both just how small and incestuous this network has
been and how ambitious are its goals, both in foreign and domestic
are, for example, that you have never heard of the Foundation for
Community, Faith-Centered Enterprise, an innocent-sounding initiative
that suggests church-based community organizing or perhaps a philanthropic
group that awards grants to church-related business initiatives.
fact, the foundation and its sister group, Americans for Community
and Faith-Centered Enterprise, were founded in mid-2001 by Michael
Joyce, a right-wing king pin who helped turn the Bradley Foundation
into the rainmaker of an ever-growing network of institutes, publications
and think tanks.
told the Washington Post in June 2001 that he launched the
two groups at the behest of Rove, who was looking for ways to bolster
public support for Bush's efforts to fund religious organizations
that provide social services.
you look more closely at the group's profile on the website, you'll
get a better idea of how this two-year-old organization fits into
the larger network of the US right.
associates include William Kristol, the editor of Rupert Murdoch's
Weekly Standard and chairman of the Project for the New American
Century (PNAC) and another neo-conservative, former education secretary
William Bennett, for whom Kristol once worked.
Decter, another prominent neo-conservative who co-headed (with Rumsfeld)
the Committee for the Free World during the Reagan administration,
currently serves on the foundation's board of visitors, while Jeffrey
Bell, former president of another neo-conservative think tank, the
Manhattan Institute, serves as the group's Washington lobbyist.
will find further that all of these individuals have supported the
work of PNAC, which played a key role in pushing Bush to war in
Iraq, and whose founding statement in 1997 was signed by Rumsfeld,
Vice President Dick Cheney and more than half a dozen other top
Bush foreign-policy figures, all identified as key hawks.
you click on a different group, say Americans for Victory Over Terrorism
(AVOT), you might expect to find a different cast of characters.
But this group is headed by Bennett, and among its associates and
advisers are L. Paul Bremer, currently the chief of the Coalition
Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq; Center for Security Policy
(CSP) Director Frank Gaffney; real estate baron Lawrence Kadish;
and former CIA director James Woolsey.
you click on each of these names, you will find that they all have
supported PNAC, and when you read Gaffney's profile you will see
that he, like Perle, once worked for Washington State Senator Henry
Jackson and, indeed, for Perle himself, when the "Dark Prince"
toiled at the Pentagon under Reagan.
you then click on CSP's name, you will soon discover that it is
one of the country's most hard-line foreign-policy groups, and has
consistently opposed arms control treaties; favored the retention
and expansion of Washington's nuclear arsenal; warned of a Chinese
takeover of the Panama Canal; and served as a major backer of Likud's
policies in the Middle East.
will also find an astonishing overlap between its board of advisers,
PNAC associates and top Bush national-security officials
and that it is funded heavily by big defense contractors.
on the other hand, you opt for Woolsey, a frequent guest on Murdoch-owned
Fox News, you will find that the former CIA chief is currently a
member with Perle of the DPB, works for defense contractor Booz
Allen Hamilton, has supported PNAC, acts as CSP's honorary co-chair
and served on the Rumsfeld Commission on the ballistic-missile threat.
also worked with the National Institute for Public Policy (NIPP),
whose bland name disguises a band of nuclear-weapons zealots that
has long advocated developing new nukes, smaller nukes, bunker-busting
nukes and Star Wars.
depicted by the site, Woolsey also served on the Advisory Board
of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a group set up 13 months
ago in much the same way that Americans for Community, Faith-Centered
Enterprise was to support Bush's drive to war.
Woolsey, other directors included several other DPB members, including
Perle, Eliot Cohen, General Wayne Downing and former House Speaker
Newt Gingrich, as well as Kristol and about a dozen people also
associated with PNAC.
you click on Perle, whose principal perch is the American Enterprise
Institute (AEI), along with Gingrich and former United Nations Ambassador
Jeane Kirkpatrick, you are likely to find yourself occupied for
some time. Ditto for Kristol, whose offices are located just five
floors below AEI, close to 17th and L Streets in Washington.
the centrality of both Perle and Kristol, however, the genius of
the right's network, as noted by Barry, is its improvisational "architecture."
than operating from a single blueprint, they constantly renovate
and commission additions in the form of new institutes, front groups,
media outlets and political projects," he says. "It's
a postmodern structure with no central office or main lobby, no
fixed foundation, no elevator that takes you to different levels."
to its vitality and breadth, according to Barry, its ideological
foes on the left, or even in the middle, "resemble aging cobwebs."
Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2003 Inter Press Service