Neoconservatism, the Israeli Lobby,
and other Power Relations

Chapter 3 From the PhD Thesis of QFG member

Andrés Perez-Alonso

The discourse of the war on terrorism cannot be understood without the context in which it emerged. A series of power relations of specific groups of people with similar ideologies have converged in a point in time allowing the apparition of this specific discourse. This is not a cause and effect relationship; rather a network of power has made this discourse possible. Not one of these agents or groups is solely responsible for it, much less for its consequences, but all have had a part to play. This chapter traces such a network.

It will be noted that in the examination that follows, the current president of the United States, George W. Bush, is not mentioned as often as other less known characters. One of the reasons is that Bush was new to foreign policy when he became president in 2000, and as he has insisted himself, his decisions have been nurtured by a group of advisers with a long experience in the subject, both in the academy and policy making.[1] Another one is that it is possible to identify the influence that the men and women holding positions of power have had, to such an extent that Bush’s words and actions have followed previous documents prepared by these people almost exactly.


It is widely believed that a specific group of influence known as neoconservatism has had an enormous influence on the war on terror. Even self-proclaimed conservatives, such as Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke judge that the current brand of US policy against terrorism that allowed the war on Iraq "closely reflected the established neo-conservative position and neo-conservative interventions in the policy process." [2]

The most appropriate way to view neoconservatism is as a "special interest" or "faction". Special interests are associations "representing the interests of their members to secure for themselves a privileged seat at the national decision-making table". MIT professor Gene Grossman defines them as "any minority group of voters that shares identifiable characteristics and similar concerns".[3] The neoconservative faction consists of intellectuals and elitists who tend to be of Jewish or Catholic background, many of whom seem to have lapsed to secular humanism.[4] The group has also been identified as "unipolarism", "democratic globalism", "neo-Manifest Destinarianism", "neo-imperialism", "Pax Americanism", "neo-Reaganism", and "liberal imperialism".[5]

This special interest includes individuals who hold or have held positions in government, such as Chief of Staff to Vice-President Dick Cheney, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, until his resignation in late 2005 after the investigation on the Valerie Plame affair resulted in charges against him; Special Advisor to President Bush, Elliott Abrams; Deputy Secretary of Defence with the Bush Administration, Paul D. Wolfowitz, later appointed head of the World Bank; and State Department officials John R. Bolton, later appointed US ambassador the UN, and David Wurmser. On governmental advisory bodies Eliot A. Cohen occupies a position on the Defence Policy Board, a position that was also held by Richard Perle until recently.

Perhaps most important are Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who would be better described as American nationalists than as neoconservatives, but whose careers and views, such as those concerning American exceptionalism and unilateralism, have run closely to those of neoconservatism. Both their signatures can be found on a key neoconservative document, the 1997 Statement of Principles by the Project for the New American Century.

Neoconservatives can also be found in the academy: for example Yale professor Donald Kagan, Princeton professors Bernard Lewis and Aaron Friedberg; in the media: Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, and most foreign policy editorialists on the Wall Street Journal and the Fox News Channel; in business: former CIA Director James Woolsey; and in research institutions: Max Boot at the Council on Foreign Relations, Norman Podhoretz and Meyrav Wursmer at the Hudson Institute, any member of the Project for the New American Century, and most foreign or Defence studies scholars at the American Enterprise Institute.[6] This list is not all inclusive, but it should serve to illustrate the range of positions held by neoconservatives.

An Introduction to Neoconservative Ideology

Neoconservatives have a tendency to see or depict the world of international politics in black and white: a struggle between good and evil. It is a doctrine specifically about the relation between Moscow and Washington in the late twentieth century,[7] and between the United States as the centre of democratic societies and rogue nations in the early twenty-first.

According to neoconservative Irving Kristol, there is no set of neoconservative beliefs concerning foreign policy, only a set of attitudes derived from historical experience that can be summarized in four "theses": first, patriotism should be encouraged; second, international institutions should be regarded "with the deepest suspicion"; third, statesmen should make a clear distinction between friends and enemies, since it was a mistake for some to not count the Soviet Union as an enemy; and finally, for a great power, the "national interest" is not a geographical term, but also an ideological one. Therefore,

Barring extraordinary events, the United States will always feel obliged to defend, if possible, a democratic nation under attack from nondemocratic forces, external or internal. That is why it was in our national interest to come to the defence of France and Britain in World War II. That is why we feel it necessary to defend Israel today, when its survival is threatened. No complicated geopolitical calculations of national interest are necessary.[8]

This Wilsonian notion of the spread of democracy is not pure idealism; it is also based on the supposition that if democracy and the rule of law are established in troubled countries around the world, they will cease to be threats. The promotion of democracy is not left to economic development and political engagement; if necessary, it is provided through military force. Some think-tank "fundamentalists" - as G. John Ikenberry identifies them - such as Tom Donnelly and Max Boot, go even further and argue for formal quasi-imperial control over strategically valuable failed states, backed up by new American bases and an imperial civil service.[9]

We could add to those theses the following common themes: a belief that the human condition is defined as a choice between good and evil and that the former (themselves) should have the political character to confront the latter; a willingness to use military power; and a primary focus on the Middle East and global Islam as the principal theatre for American overseas interests.

In putting their ideas into practice, neoconservatives analyze international issues in absolute moral categories; focus on the "unipolar" power of the United States, seeing the use of force as the first, not the last option of foreign policy; disdain conventional diplomatic agencies such as the State Department and conventional country-specific, realist, and pragmatic analysis; and are hostile toward nonmilitary multilateral institutions and instinctively antagonistic toward international treaties and agreements.[10] If there is any good to multilateralism it is as a tool of American power. As Robert Kagan has famously put it, "multilateralism is a weapon of the weak". Or in Max Boot’s words: "Power breeds unilateralism. It is as simple as that".[11]

Based on the above beliefs and approaches neoconservatives tend to find themselves in confrontational postures with the Muslim world, with some U.S.' allies, with the need for cooperation in the United Nations, and with those within their country who disagree with them and their objectives.[12]

Emphasis on Military Might and US exceptionalism

Robert Kagan and William Kristol’s book of 2000, Present Dangers: Crisis and Opportunities in American Foreign and Defence Policy, which includes a wide range of contributions from fellow neoconservatives, provides something close to their canon. Kagan and Kristol speak of establishing the "standard of a global superpower that intends to shape the international environment to its own advantage," and decry a narrow definition of America's "vital interests" arguing that "America's moral purposes and national interests are identical."[13]

Their introductory chapter proposes to create a strong America capable of projecting force quickly and with devastating effect on important regions of the world. [An America which would act] as if instability in important regions of the world, and the flouting of civilised rules of conduct in those regions, were threats that affected us with almost the same immediacy, [and which] conceives of itself as at once a European power, an Asian power, a Middle Eastern power and, of course, a Western Hemisphere power.

A principal aim of American foreign policy should be to bring about a change of regime in hostile nations - in Baghdad and Belgrade, in Pyongyang and Beijing and wherever tyrannical governments acquire the military power to threaten their neighbours, our allies and the United States.

[W]hen it comes to dealing with tyrannical regimes... the United States should seek not coexistence but transformation.[14]

It is easy to identify this projection of neoconservative global intent as a blueprint for what was to become later known as the Bush Doctrine.[15]

The unipolarists emphasize that the United States is not like other nations but also maintain that other nations should be more like it, without a doubt supported in the long imagined idea that their country is an exception to history.[16] In turn, exceptionalism supports the argument that military power must be returned to the centre of American foreign policy. For early neoconservatives of the 1970s, foreign policy in the post-Vietnam era had become too liberal and soft, and unwilling to confront Soviet expansionism. Years later they argued that during the Clinton era the United States was not taken seriously as a global military power because of his reluctance to use real force in Iraq; and when enemies stop fearing the United States, they are emboldened to strike.[17]

Their promotion of force has also a certain degree of admiration and fascination with the capabilities of the U.S. military, as Irving Kristol’s words reveal:

Behind all [the neoconservative convictions about foreign policy there] is a fact: the incredible military superiority of the United States vis-à-vis the nations of the rest of the world, in any imaginable combination. [...] With power come responsibilities, whether sought or not, whether welcome or not. And it is a fact that if you have the kind of power we now have, either you will find opportunities to use it, or the world will discover them for you.[18]

Max Boot looks forward to a new era when The United States, like the British Empire, will always be fighting some war, somewhere in the globe. Likewise, Professor Eliot Cohen of the Defence Policy Board and former CIA Director James Woolsey have suggested that the United States is now "on the march" in "World War IV". It should come as no surprise, then, that for neoconservatives, the applicability of force is the default measure against terrorism. David Frum and Richard Perle's book An End to Evil, sets out at full length the remedy for terror and tyranny that underlies the Bush foreign policy: using military force to overthrow noncooperative governments in troubled areas.[19]

The Middle East and Israel

Both Kagan and Kristol’s book and Frum and Perle’s are mostly dedicated to the Middle East, the need for a strong military and Islamic-inspired terrorism as the only foreign policy challenge to the United States. Similarly, scholars at the Project for the New American Century pour most of their energies into the Middle East and members of Americans for Victory over Terrorism do so completely.

Their views are very specific and tend to be hostile towards the peace process and Islam.

Since the 1970s, neoconservative publications have focused on defence of U.S. policies concerning Israel. For example, the neoconservative Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs was established following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, "partially at the prompting of the Pentagon for a counterbalance to liberal sniping at Defence spending." Podhoretz provided a pro-Israeli voice in what many neoconservatives of the time thought of as an intellectual community lacking in support for Israel as the only genuine democracy in the Middle East. He also maintained that anti-Zionism was simply a mask of anti-Semitism and that it was often found among anti-Americans and radicals. Thus, commitment to Israel's security and right to exist and a patriotic support of U.S. values were inextricably linked for many neoconservatives.

During the Cold War, intellectuals such as Midge Decter, Moynihan, and Podhoretz argued that the U.N., Communism, and much of the Third World was anti-Semitic, along with large portions of the U.S. intellectual community; therefore the United States and Israel shared a common ideological struggle against common enemies.[20]

The historical neoconservative commitment to Israel has been so pronounced that even traditional conservatives like Russell Kirk have charged them with mistaking "Tel Aviv for the capital of the United States". Similarly, Patrick Buchanan, who had been sceptical of the need for war with Iraq and challenged George Bush for the 1992 Republican presidential nomination, commented that neoconservative "tactics - including the smearing of opponents as racists, nativists, fascists, and anti-Semites - left many conservatives wondering if we hadn't made a terrible mistake when we brought these ideological vagrants in off the street and gave them a place by the fire." These comments sparked a debate over whether or not Buchanan was anti-Semitic.[21]

Philosophical and ideological origins

Leo Strauss

If we only read the above summary of neoconservative ideas we would be excused to believe with John Samples that neoconservatism has been "as much about politics as principles. ...They believed that the striving for national greatness would appeal to American idealism and create a new Republican majority."[22] Even if we do not accept those ideals, we would be forced to conclude that it is a form of idealism, and indeed, several commentators do so. Nonetheless, at least one interpretation of the philosophical origins of neoconservatism, which I believe to be more accurate, tells a rather different story - one which happens to disclose the will to power underneath the will to truth that Foucault wrote about.

While some political analysts think of the University of Chicago professor Leo Strauss as the intellectual inspiration for neoconservatives (some studied with him or with lecturers that followed his ideas in the 1960s), others claim that his influence is exaggerated and that there is no direct link between him and positions of power in Washington.[23] Modern neoconservatives generally write in good terms about Strauss, but they also deny that they owe any debt to him, and some even say they are not familiar with his work.

However, while his importance may indeed be overstated, it is a fact that his perspectives closely resemble those of neoconservatives, and so we would be committing a mistake by dismissing him altogether. This is not to suggest that all neoconservatives are following Strauss, but to recognize that some influential neoconservatives in, and with links to, the Bush administration, have fundamental connections to Straussianism in their published works, statements, attitudes and policy perspectives.[24]

Strauss used classical texts - not only the Greek, but also Christian, Jewish, and Muslim sacred writings - to comment on modern tyrannies, which he thought were the product of modernity's rejection of the values of classical societies that were hierarchically ordered and supported in religiosity. Strauss believed democracy could not enforce its own paradigm if it could not confront tyranny, which he believed was inherently expansionist. He argued that the European emphasis on human reason deriving from the Enlightenment represented a decline in religion-based values and not an advance, deploring a secular political order for its "movement away from the recognition of a superhuman authority - whether of revelation based on Divine will or a natural order - to a recognition of the exclusively human based authority of the State."[25]

Such a position reveals a concern for principles and would suggest a form of idealism. Nevertheless, the significance of these values may be exclusively pragmatic - even nihilistic. Jim George argues that to the emphasis on national and cultural unity and the simple religious and philosophical morality, we would have to add, as part of Strauss’s legacy to neoconservatism, a "war culture" as the basis for that unity, along with the notion that "elite rule is crucial" and the belief that "the neoconservative elite has the right and indeed the obligation to lie to the masses in order that the 'right' political and strategic decisions be made and implemented. Hence, the use of the so-called 'noble lie'."[26]

The reason is that Strauss was not the conventional conservative philosopher that he appears to be; instead, he was a philosophical nihilist influenced by Carl Schmitt, Heidegger and a particular reading of Nietzsche. For Strauss,

...the fundamental truth of the Western philosophical tradition is a nihilist truth: that all morality, all notions of justice, all distinctions between good and evil are actually matters of power and interpretation and political ideology - not metaphysical or theological irreducibility... Consequently, in the most natural and most just regimes, the cleverest and strongest should rule the weak, for the good of society as a whole. [The ancient scholars guarded and concealed this knowledge], hence their reliance on esoteric deception as a way of protecting themselves.[27] [emphases added]

It is precisely here where the will to power has been made explicit within philosophical thought itself; a most important point that cannot be stressed enough, for ‘noble lies’ have made their appearance in the context of the war on terror. It is now part of the historical record that the case for the war on Iraq was built on false connections to the 11 September attacks and fake evidence of weapons of mass destruction,[28] a contradiction that will be further explored in Chapter 5.

This explains why Strauss regarded as vital the development of a new breed of ruling intellectuals - modern "philosopher kings" - that would project a hidden ("esoteric") truth based on simple moral precepts for modern societies to be able to face tyranny. The elite is a necessity, since in his view democracy

...had become little more than a vulgar and futile attempt to create equality in a naturally unequal world... This clearly troubled Strauss, to the extent that, among many other things, he shared with Nietzsche the belief that ‘the history of western civilization has led to the triumph of the inferior’. A prospect that terrified them both.[29]

Thus, the intellectual elite needs to tell "noble lies" not only to people but also to powerful politicians. In 2000, William Kristol implicitly recognized this when he explained that a major teaching of Strauss was that no political position was really based on the truth.[30]

Strauss also advocated a reawakening of "a reverence for myth and transcendental illusion among the masses." Again, this was confirmed by a neoconservative, Irving Kristol, who acknowledged that the neoconservatism movement had taken up the Straussian strategy of "explicit and strong support for religion - even if such support contradicted one's own atheism". Thus, according to Kristol, "neoconservatives are pro-religion even though they themselves may not be believers"; a position that has been described as "noble hypocrisy" by Ronald Bailey.[31]

Another commentator, Shadia Drury, notes that like Marx, Strauss believed that religion was the opium of the masses, but unlike him, Strauss believed that masses needed opium. The Editor of the Christian Journal, Chronicles, has put it this way, "Straussians in general believe that religion might be a useful thing to take in the suckers with." [32]

Another form of myth that needs to be created for the sake of the unity of the populace is that of an enemy to fight, "so that they can be reminded of the meaningfulness and precariousness of their culture and polity."[33] And here we see further parallels with the current discourse of the war on terror, a ‘war’ that from a Straussian perspective is not only waged against the external, but also against the domestic forces of individualism, historicism and relativism.[34]

Why should we prefer this interpretation of Strauss as consciously aware of the manipulation of society for the promotion of the elite rather than as an idealist? Because it explains better the behaviour of contemporary neoconservatives in power; and also because that is how Strauss interpreted the classics himself. Jim George writes:

[I]f one reads Strauss in the way that he insists we must read philosophical texts - sceptically and always aware of esoteric strategies - he is very much what his detractors claim he is, a cynical manipulator of young minds, a right wing fundamentalist seeking to undermine liberal freedoms in the US and instigate an old world 'war culture' at the core of US foreign policy. In this reading of Strauss, his classically trained elite is little more than a reconstituted pre-modern aristocracy encouraged to believe that their intellectual superiority entitles them to rule over their fellow citizens and to use any duplicitous means at their disposal in this process.[35]

An argument could be made for a third possible interpretation: that Strauss did believe in the intrinsic value of ideals for the common good, but that it faced such a threat from tyrannical forces that the intellectual elite had no option but to make use of any means, even those that the people would not approve of. Maybe, but if so we would have to recognize that it would make absolutely no difference in practice. Thus, the idealistic aspect of Straussianism would have to be dismissed.

Albert Wohlstetter and Allan Bloom

Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz had both been students of Albert Wohlstetter, another professor of political science at the University of Chicago who had worked for RAND Corporation and had been a consultant for the Pentagon. He also helped them both to get positions in Washington’s political circles. Wohlstetter and Allan Bloom, another University of Chicago academic who also tutored Wolfowitz, were protégés of Strauss.[36]

Wohlstetter thought that arms limitation talks with the Soviets were not a good idea, since the US would be in disadvantage by having its technological brilliance constrained. His alternative strategy proposed that the US should replace the traditional realist mindset of deterrence and balance of power with a posture that allowed fighting a limited nuclear war, a perspective that was enthusiastically endorsed by neoconservatives like Wolfowitz.[37] Wohlstetter sought to use game theory and statistics to construct precise scenarios of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. He was the godfather of the nuclear hawks, opposed all forms of accommodating coexistence with the Soviet Union, and pushed hard for the development of an antiballistic missile system.[38]

As for Bloom, he preached the importance of traditional values, books and the classics, and rejected relativism. Most of his ideas were borrowed from Strauss, who had been his teacher. Bloom dedicated his first book to Strauss and described his first encounter with him as the "decisive moment" in his life.[39]

James Burnham

In the 1930s, the maverick intellectual James Burnham was a leading Trostkyite, but in 1940 he broke with Leon Trostky over the socialist status of the Soviet Union, and by the end of World War II he was a fierce right-wing anticommunist.

He believed that the Soviets were certain to conquer the entire world unless the United States accepted the mission and responsibilities of a World Empire. In his words:

The reality is that the only alternative to the communist World Empire is an American Empire which will be, if not literally world-wide in formal boundaries, capable of exercising decisive world control.

Burnham was sorry that the United States was too moralistic to think about a global empire, and he worried that Americans were afraid of Soviet power.

In 1955 he joined William F. Buckley, Jr., whom he had recruited to the CIA, in launching National Review, the right-wing magazine. The foreign policy conservatism of National Review of the 1970s was shaped mostly by Burnham.

Conservatives and Ronald Reagan admired him as a leading anticommunist. The neoconservatives were equally indebted to him, although cautious about acknowledging it, since he was too cynical and reactionary to be a model of good American expansionism.

Burnham developed some of the ideas of neoconservatism, for example the determinative role of cultural elites; the primacy of ideological conflict; the totalitarian, expansionist and conspiratorial nature of communism; the struggle for the world; and the quest for American global dominance. Burnham’s transition from the left to conservatism set an example that was often followed.

While neoconservatives did not cite him, the echoes of his work were very strong. "And when the Cold War was over, they renewed the language of empire".[40]

Neoconservatism in Historical Perspective


Social and political difficulties forced some liberal intellectuals to reconsider their positions by rejecting what they considered to be excesses of radicalism and hubris from reformists. This resulted in a split in US liberalism at the beginning of the 1970s. The parting intellectuals confounded their colleagues on the left who accused them of turning to the right, and at first were called "new conservatives", changing later into "neoconservatives". [41]

The break came in large part because they saw a threat in mounting social disorders and what they thought of wishful thinking in foreign affairs, isolating themselves within the Democratic Party. Most of the New York liberal community was Jewish, and so they were also disturbed by what they saw as a sharp increase in anti-Semitism from the black community - even when hard evidence to back up this claim was scarce. They also believed that criticism to the 1967 war Israeli victory and accusations of oppressing Arabs from the New Left were another form of anti-Semitism.[42]

The leading neoconservatives - Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Nathan Glazer, Daniel Bell, Midge Decter, Michael Novak, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Peter Berger and others - were veterans of the so-called vital centre of anti-Communist ideology. They rejected détente as a failure to stand against the evils of communism,[43] argued that the defeat in Vietnam had led the Democratic party to go soft on national security, and endorsed Ronald Reagan because he promised to renew efforts in the struggle with the Soviets. [44]

The Committee on the Present Danger and Team B

In March 1976, Republican and Democratic hardliners established the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD). It was led by Richard Allen, William Casey, Max Kampelman, Paul Nitze, Richard Perle, Norman Podhoretz, Eugene Rostow, and Elmo Zumwalt, and it included Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Kenneth Adelman and Richard Pipes. It supported the Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson and Ronald Reagan warning that coexistence with the Soviet Union as promoted by Henry Kissinger had dangerously turned the United States into a weaker power than the Soviet Union. Its purpose was to destroy détente and the Jimmy Carter administration, and ‘sell’ the Soviet threat scenario as presented by Team B, an alternative hard-line group of outside experts to the CIA appointed that year by the agency’s new director, George H. W. Bush.

The thesis of both CPD and Team B was that the US must reject all ‘appeasement’ strategies, abandon arms control and engage in military build up to overwhelm all threats in any foreseeable future.[45]

Team B consisted of three groups: one analyzed Soviet low-altitude air defence capabilities, another studied Soviet ICBM accuracy, and the last one focused on Soviet strategic objectives. It was the last one, chaired by Pipes and including Wolfowitz as one of its members, which triggered controversy, earning the name Team B exclusively. This group believed that the Soviets had built their forces to fight and win a nuclear war - not to deter one - by gaining a strategic superiority that would deny the US any effective retaliatory options. This was the chief argument in their report, issued a month after Carter won the presidency; an argument that was promulgated as a factual imperative by the CPD.[46]

The Reagan Administration

A sign of how much Ronald Reagan valued the work of the Committee on the Present Danger, was the fact that no less than thirty of its members received appointments to his administration in 1980, twenty of them in national security posts.[47]

Reagan entered office sharing their belief that previous administrations had neglected the nation’s defences and been too passive in the face of Soviet expansionism.[48] Likewise, the neoconservatives believed that they had a president who shared their view of the world, and whose victory proved that US citizens had come to share their views of the present danger.[49]

Jean Kirkpatrick was appointed ambassador to the UN because of her articles published at Commentary. Elliott Abrams, Daniel Patrick Moynihan's former assistant, was made assistant secretary of state for international organizations. Richard Perle became assistant secretary of Defence for international security policy, and played one of the most skilful and influential roles among neoconservative policy-makers. Max Kampelman, a member of the Committee on the Present Danger remained head of the American delegation to the Madrid meeting of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, an appointment he had received from Carter in 1980.[50]

For two years Paul Wolfowitz ran the State Department's policy planning staff in the administration, working out the department’s long-term goals. His staff included Francis Fukuyama, Alan Keyes, Zalmay Khalilzad, and James Roche. Later, Wolfowitz became Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.[51]

Through their declarations, neoconservatives contributed to the initial image of Reagan in the way he was regarded outside the US. They came rapidly to be seen, especially by outsiders, as the foreign policy specialists of Reagan, largely because other members of the right wing were oriented to domestic issues.[52] From her position in the UN, Kirkpatrick consistently supported Israel in the Security Council and the General Assembly against "an ongoing process whose goals are to delegitimize... [Israel and] to deny it the right to self-Defence, to secure borders, to survival." After the invasion of Grenada Kirkpatrick told the Security Council that "the [UN] charter does not require that people submit supinely to terror, nor that their neighbours be indifferent to their terrorization." She applied the argument in other situations. "We do not think it is moral to leave small countries and helpless people defenceless against conquest by violent minorities", she said of El Salvador in 1984. Following Kirkpatrick’s lead, Abrams portrayed Communism as the greatest threat to human rights.[53] From their point of view for reasons of Soviet structure and politics, the conflict between Moscow and Washington was not susceptible of mitigation, but had to end with the death or transformation of one or other of the two countries.[54]

For the first three years the declarations coming from Reagan were what the neoconservatives could have wished. Reagan asserted that Soviet leaders were masters of an "evil empire" prepared "to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat" in order to achieve a Communist world. In a display of Anti-Communism, Reagan rejected détente and claimed that an expansionist USSR "underlies all the unrest that is going on. If they weren't engaged in this game of dominoes, there wouldn't be any hot spots in the world." He identified the Soviets as the source of Third World disorders and he committed the US to the active support of anti-Communist movements around the world, such as the contras in Nicaragua and the Afghan rebels.[55] However, Reagan’s declarations disguised the fact that his actions by no means matched his words. This may explain in part why differences between some neoconservatives and Reagan developed in the later years.[56]

The reason for the gap between words and actions is most probably that anti-Communism and threat exaggeration serve as vehicles for forging US unity at home, particularly in times of domestic crisis. Thomas G. Patterson notes that

Given these characteristics [of creation of unity], leaders who have developed views of a malevolent Communism that preys upon a vulnerable world may not shift their views, even in the face of abundant evidence that Communism is not the omnipresent force they imagine. Because leaders work to maintain consistency in their ideas, they will often ignore contradictions, cling to exaggerations, and become intransigent.[57]

What is interesting about this observation are the parallels that may be drawn with today’s neoconservative exaggerations of the threat of global terrorism, and many others, like John Samples, have already noticed the similarities.[58] Both ‘wars’ are reminiscent of Strauss’s idea of the creation of simple myths to encourage social unity.

Neoconservatives who were unhappy with Reagan, such as Norman Podhoretz, Frank Gaffney, and Michael Ledeen outflanked him to the right. From the early years of Reagan’s presidency Podhoretz bitterly complained that Reagan, despite his rhetoric, huge military expenditures, and appointment of neoconservatives, capitulated to the Soviets.[59] He became progressively more disillusioned as he realized that Reagan was not consumed with defeating Communism but instead was acting cautiously. In Podhoretz’s view, anything less than total victory was equivalent to defeat and he bitterly denounced Reagan for his compromises.[60] In 1981 Irving Kristol complained that that no new, stronger measures had taken the place of the grain embargo imposed on the USSR after the invasion of Afghanistan; he worried that the administration's declared commitment to preventing a leftist revolution in El Salvador was not being matched by actions; and that arms sales to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, respectively, were not helping the Afghans and were a threat to Israel.

Other neoconservatives resisted the attacks, relieving Reagan of responsibility and blaming a series of his officials for the shortcomings.[61] In spite of Podhoretz and others, most neoconservatives retain an admiration of Reagan nowadays, considering him the exemplar of all the virtues they defend.[62] The Reagan legacy is clearly present in the current Bush administration. Dick Cheney has said that "it was the vision and the will of Ronald Reagan that gave hope to the oppressed, shamed the oppressors and ended an evil empire,"[63] while Edwin Feulner, president of the far-right Heritage Foundation happily described the Bush Jr. administration as "more Reaganite than the Reagan administration".[64]

Ikenberry writes:

New fundamentalists are inspired by a particular view of how the Cold War was won - and it is their lessons from their great victory that guide their strategy today. [For them] It was not engagement, detente, 'paper' agreements and mutual interest that brought the Soviet Union down, but the Reagan administration's hard-line policy of confrontation, military build up and ideological warfare. Reagan raised the stakes in the struggle with the Soviet Union by boosting military spending and putting ideological pressure on the 'evil empire'. This [flawed] historical narrative provides the ultimate defence for hard-line fundamentalist policies.[65] [emphasis added]

After their overall successes with Reagan, neoconservative also began a generational transition from liberalism to mainstream conservatism, while maintaining an identity apart from that traditional southern and midwestern US conservatism. Younger neoconservatives and analysts influenced like Abrams, William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer began to assume the leadership positions long held by Irving Kristol, Podhoretz, and Kirkpatrick.[66] The second generation of neoconservatives, which also included Alan Keys, Francis Fukuyama, Gary Schmitt, Abram Shulsky and Wolfowitz, was much more explicitly indebted to Strauss.[67]

The Bush Sr. Administration and the First Gulf War

After serving as vice president with Reagan, George H. W. Bush became president himself. Various members of his staff would later serve again under his son’s administration in 2000. Colin Powell, for example, was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with Bush Sr. while Dick Cheney was secretary of Defence.[68] The latter was the only hardline Cold Warrior in the administration’s top rank. While most of his colleagues believed in Gorbachev, Cheney thought that the Soviet Union was still a mortal enemy and that glasnost was a trick to disarm the United States. He cultivated a team of hardliners in the Pentagon's policy directorate, led by Paul Wolfowitz.

Powell, the former national security advisor with Reagan, was committed no less than Cheney, to maintaining and strengthening America’s global military dominance. However, unlike Cheney, he believed that the Cold War was over, and wanted the American military to have maximum flexibility in order to focus on regional trouble spots. For him, the US had to be "the world’s global police force." Part of his plan included military expenditure cuts. While Cheney and Wolfowitz did not agree with Powell on the reduction in military spending, the three of them designed a military policy based on responding to regional contingencies instead of a global war with the Soviet Union.  However, the presentation of the new policy coincided with Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, pushing the plan to the background.1[69]

The Bush administration had pushed a resolution through the UN Security Council setting a 15 January 1991 deadline for Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait and authorizing any member state to use "all necessary means" after the date. Bush claimed that with the UN resolution in hand and on the basis of his constitutional authority he could go to war after the deadline without a formal declaration of war by the Congress, and so the first attacks on Baghdad came on January 16.

During the six months of US deployments in the gulf, several different justifications were given by the administration for it at different points in time; among them, getting rid of "a mad dictator",  defending the "oil-lifeline threatened"; the protection of freedom, liberty, national security, and jobs; the restoration of "rulers to Kuwait", and Defence against Saddam Hussein’s "nuclear threat".[70] As we can see, the justifications given by the son for the Second Gulf War echo the father’s. Just as Bush Jr.’s discourse spoke of the war within the context of a global war, the "war on terror", Bush Sr.’s had also a vision for the world. It was with the First Gulf War that Bush Sr. began to speak of a "new world order":

What is at stake is more than one small country, it is a big idea - a new world order where diverse nations are drawn together in common cause to achieve the universal aspirations of mankind: peace and security, freedom and the rule of law.[71]


[The war was waged] to defend civilized values around the world... a world where the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle... I've had a lot of time to think about the situation in the Middle East, I've reconciled all the moral issues. It's black versus white, good versus evil.

 In another speech he added a religious dimension by declaring that the Gulf War coalition was "on the side of God".[72]

Charles Krauthammer took the U.S. led response to the Iraqi invasion as a reminder that Western security still depended on Washington’s lead. "Where the United States does not tread, the alliance does not follow," he wrote. He estimated that a new and major problem would be that advanced weapons technologies would enable "relatively small, peripheral, and backward states... to emerge rapidly as threats not only to regional but to world security," so the U.S. would have to be prepared "to act alone [against these threats], backed by as many of its allies as will join". Similarly, Elliott Abrams advocated a U.S. role centred on using its preponderance of power to enforce international norms of conduct, much as Great Britain’s during the nineteenth century.[73]

Norman Podhoretz welcomed the Gulf War as an opportunity for the US to ‘remoralize’ itself after the demise of the Soviet Union and the loss of a necessary ‘foreign demon’ as a focus of national unity and moral commitment.[74]

However, Bush’s failure to end the war with the removal of Saddam Hussein became a regular complaint in neoconservative publications such as Commentary; we get an insight of what they wished for the Middle East a decade before it would materialize.[75]

Another cause of neoconservative discontent with the Bush administration was its policies toward Israel. In 1992, the Bush administration demanded from Tel Aviv that a $10 billion in U.S. loan guarantees to Israel not be used in the building of settlements in the occupied territories. Jean Kirkpatrick suggested that this marked a point of departure from traditional U.S. support for Israel. Frustrated by the Israelis as well as their political allies in the United States, Secretary of State James A. Baker lost his temper, "Fuck the Jews. They didn't vote for us," he said in a private remark which was leaked to the press. In this atmosphere, some neoconservatives would later find Bill Clinton an attractive alternative presidential candidate.1[76]

The 1992 Defence Planning Guidance

The document that is generally taken to be the basis for the so-called Bush (Jr.) Doctrine guiding the post 9/11 ‘war on terror’ is the Defence Planning Guidance (DPG) of 1992, ordered by Secretary of Defence Dick Cheney, supervised by Pentagon Undersecretary for Policy Paul Wolfowitz and prepared by his team. It had the input of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Zalmay Khalilzad, Andrew Marshall, Richard Perle, Eric Edelman and Albert Wohlstetter. The DPG was a military plan for fiscal years 1994 through 1999. It was never officially finalized, but it was leaked to the Washington Post and the New York Times.

The strategy declared the U.S.’ right to wage preemptive wars - the word "preempt" was actually included - to avoid attacks with weapons of mass destruction or to punish aggressors. It called for a global missile defence system and a "U.S.-led system for collective security". It opposed the development of nuclear programs in other countries while asserting the U.S.’ need to maintain a strong nuclear arsenal. The DPG warned the United States might have to take "military steps to prevent the development or use of weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq, North Korea, Pakistan, and India. It warned that allowing Japan or South Korea to grow into regional powers would be destabilizing in East Asia, and judged that the U.S. needed to thwart Germany’s aspirations for leadership in Europe and restrain India’s "hegemonic aspirations" in South Asia. In the Middle East and Southwest Asia, the overall objective was "to remain the predominant outside power in the region and preserve U.S. and Western access to the region's oil." It also cautioned that a Russian relapse was a dangerous possibility.

In short, the US had to become so powerful militarily that no other power or coalition of powers could any longer prevent it shaping the world in its own image.[77]

Since the report was leaked, Bush Sr. and Cheney were forced to distance themselves from it, but it was later published as the Regional Defence Strategy of 1993. Its promotion of preemptive military action in Iraq suggests that it became policy in 2002. Wolfowitz acknowledges that he personally started worrying about Iraq in 1979.1[78]

The Clinton Administration

During the decade of the 1990s neoconservatism seemed to fade because it was no longer in the administration. Also, it was identified with bygone debates, and it merged to some degree with mainstream conservatism.[79]

Though for some neoconservatives Bill Clinton seemed at first a good option to Bush, soon his administration became a disappointment, and so they accused him of not being a true moderate Democrat but, rather, a left winger disguising himself to win the election.

In foreign affairs, neoconservatives began attacking the president in the Spring of 1993, criticizing his apparent acquiescence in the stagnation of multilateralism and his unwillingness to use military force. The Kosovo experience led the neoconservatives to conclude that the NATO alliance was more a hindrance than a help. They focused on Clinton’s failure to rescue the Bosnians. His indecision led the neoconservatives to worry that foreign governments might perceive the U.S. as turning isolationist and weakening militarily.[80]

The editors of the New Republic were also unhappy for Clinton’s softness toward Saddam Hussein: they thought the president had an "obsession" with U.N. requirements and "legalism". Paul Wolfowitz stressed that the real questions facing U.S. foreign policy were not being addressed, such as future threats from "‘backlash states’ like North Korea, Iraq and Iran...".[81] With mounting anger he fixated on Iraq in the mid-1990s, fuelling a campaign to rectify the unfinished business. He warned that Saddam was too dangerous to be contained, because with his stockpile of biological weapons "he could kill the entire population of the world". In 1997 Wolfowitz and Khalilzad demanded Saddam’s overthrow by the US and its Iraqi allies. They wrote: "If we are serious about dismantling Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, and preventing him from building more, we will have to confront him sooner or later - and sooner would be better."[82]

The disappointment and aspirations of neoconservatism were expressed by William Kristol, who wrote that conservatism ought to emphasize both personal and national responsibility, relish the opportunity for national engagement, embrace the possibility of national greatness, and restore a sense of the heroic, which has been sorely lacking in American foreign policy - and American conservatism - in recent years.

The revival of the heroic required a "remoralization of American foreign policy" that recognized that the principles of the Declaration of Independence were "universal, enduring, ‘self evident’ truths."[83]

The Project for the New American Century

William Kristol and Robert Kagan founded the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) in 1997, an indication that neoconservatism had completed a generational transition. Kagan, Kristol, Muravchik, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and others had assumed leadership roles that had been held by Nathan Glazer, Irving Kristol, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Norman Podhoretz. The terms of their debate shifted replacing the Soviet threat with a broad idea of "American global leadership" and an intent above all else on waging a second Gulf-War.

The members of the PNAC had strong links to the national security bureaucracy, the Defence establishment, the print and cable media industry, dominant sections of the U.S. Defence industry, and some of America’s wealthiest conservative foundations. A large portion of the signatories, such as Elliott Abrams, Gary Bauer, Bennett, Dick Cheney, Eliot Cohen, Aaron Friedberg, Frank Gaffney, Fred Ikle, Zalmay Khalilzad, Jean Kirkpatrick, Dan Quayle, Peter Rodman, Henry Rowen, Donald Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz had served in the Reagan and Bush senior administrations. Others had worked for the CIA, such as Reuel Marc Gerecht and James Woolsey, the agency’s director from 1993 to 1995. Among the intellectual members were Francis Fukuyama, Donald Kagan, Podhoretz and Midge Decter. Also in the PNAC were Jeb Bush, brother of the current president, and Perle.

In February 1998 Wolfowitz told the House International Relations Committee that regime change in Iraq was the "only way to rescue the region and the world from the threat that will continue to be posed by Saddam’s unrelenting effort to acquire weapons of mass destruction..." That month an open letter was sent to the White House suggesting a strategy for bringing down the Iraqi regime, and another one in May with a similar message was addressed to the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader.

Among the signatories of the letter to Clinton were Abrams, Richard Armitage, John R. Bolton, Douglas Feith, Khalilzad, Perle, Peter Rodman, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, David Wurmser and Dov Zakheim, Graffney, Kagan, Kristol, Muravchik, Martin Peretz, and Leon Wieseltier. They called themselves the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf.[84] Of the 18 people who signed the PNAC letter to Clinton, eleven became part of the Bush administration.1[85]

The PNAC is not the only influential neoconservative organization. The American Enterprise Institute, for example, sits on the three floors above the headquarters of the PNAC in Washington, and has a tradition of extensive associations with the top levels of government. AEI’s interaction with government circles has included George H. W. Bush, Gerald Ford, and ex Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Shamir. Kirkpatrick, Ledeen, Muravchik, Perle Wattenberg, and Wurmser are all members.

In the financial network organizations such as the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation and the Castle Rock Foundation all provide the money for research institutions such as AEI, the Heritage Foundation, and the Hoover Institute - the latter includes Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice among its alumni, and several of the institute’s fellows sit on the Defence Policy Board.[86]

The Rise of the Bush Jr. Administration and the Bush Doctrine

When George W. Bush came to power in 2000 an alliance between the two generations of neoconservatives was evident.[87] For weeks, while the 2000 election verdict was being decided between the Florida Supreme Court and the US Supreme Court, the Weekly Standard fiercely contended that Bush should be president. Meanwhile, the neoconservatives got very good appointments, thanks to Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.[88] John P. Burke reported that planning for the Bush administration commenced a year and a half before a possible inauguration and that the Bush team, particularly Karl Rove, drew on the experiences of the 1980 Reagan transition.[89]

In the Bush administration we find:

Dick Cheney, Vice President; Lewis Libby, Chief of Staff until his resignation in late 2005; Eric Edelman, Foreign Policy Advisor; Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defence; Paul Wolfowitz, Assitant Secretary of Defence until his departure and appointment as head of the World Bank; Doug Feith, Under-Secretary of Defence (Policy); Steven Hadley, Deputy to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and later Secretary of State replacing Collin Powell; John Bolton, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and now ambassador to the UN; Richard Perle, Chairman of the Defence Advisory Board, until his resignation in March 2003; Zalmay Khalilizad, special envoy to Afghanistan and Iraq; an Paul Kozemcheak, Defence Department in charge of ‘radical innovation’ in Defence planning. Others connected to these individuals in the administration include Abram Shulsky, Director of the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans; and Stephen Cambone, Under Secretary of Defence (Intelligence). Both are at the centre of the concern about bogus intelligence on the Iraq war,[90] examined in more detail in Chapter 5.

The so-called ‘Bush Doctrine’ which emerged clearly after 9/11 resonates with neoconservative perspectives, almost word for word. It is characterized by its support for the use of overwhelming force in the face of threat, even if potential. Pre-emption is an official strategic policy. There is an inclination towards unilateralism, hostile attitudes towards global liberalism and its multilateral institutions, and an ideological representation of U.S.’ exceptionalism. The doctrine also includes the idea that this is an opportune time to transform international politics and that peace and stability require the U.S. to assert its primacy in world politics.[91] The National Security Strategy of the US elaborates the doctrine by endorsing the idea of spreading freedom, democracy and free enterprise throughout the world.[92]

Clearly, both Kagan and Kristol’s book, Present Dangers: Crisis and Opportunity in American Foreign and Defence Policy of 2000,1[93] and the 1992 Defence Planning Guidance were the blueprints of the Bush Doctrine.[94] Since they had been thinking about a strategy for years, September 11 found the neoconservatives well prepared, with their response in place and targets fixed.[95]

In the eight months after the terrorist attacks, the already huge US defence budget received a 14 per cent increase,1[96] a sign that the military would be having a primary role, confirmed by the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq. These invasions are but the most visible effects of the Bush Doctrine so far, but the consequences have been profound in many other respects, some of which will be covered in further chapters.

The Israeli Lobby

What is called the U.S. Israeli "lobby" is not just the Jewish community, but also the major segments of liberal opinion, the leadership of the labour unions, religious fundamentalists, conservatives, and cold war warriors[97] which strongly support Israel. The Israeli lobby happens to be closely connected to neoconservatism. Though there is no reason why neoconservatism should be linked to hardline Zionism, in fact it often is, mingling the neoconservative and Israeli lobby networks and making them sometimes indistinguishable from each other. Gary Dorrien writes:

Most unipolarist leaders were Jewish neoconservatives who took for granted that a militantly pro-Israel policy was in America’s interest. Wolfowitz, Perle, Podhoretz, Krauthammer, Wattenberg, Muravchik, both Kristols, Kagan, Boot, and Kaplan fit the description, as did dozens of neocons at all levels of the Bush administration from the Pentagon desk officers to State Department deputy secretaries and advisors in the vice president’s office.

Some of these were members of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), founded in 1976, which took a very hard line against the Palestinians and US diplomatic relations with Syria. According to Dorrien, JINSA has sometimes outflanked Israel’s Likud Party to the right.

JINSA’s board of advisors before 2001 included Richard Perle, James Woolsey, Dick Cheney, John Bolton, and Douglas Feith, until the last moved into the Bush administration. JINSA gave a voice to those who wanted to see the US continue to provide Israel with ample support in case of another war in the Middle East. The Institute is now committed to argue in favour of the link between US National security and Israel’s security, as well as strengthening both. Since the 1970s, JINSA has grown to a highly connected and well-funded $1.4-million-a-year operation, much of which goes toward facilitating contact between Israeli officials and retired U.S. generals and admirals with influence in Washington. Indeed, one of the military figures connected to JINSA was Jay Garner, the Bush administration’s first choice for the reconstruction of Iraq, and one of the signatories of the U.S. Admirals’ and Generals’ Statement on Palestinian Violence, which stated: "We are appalled by the Palestinian political and military leadership that teaches children the mechanics of war while filling their heads with hate."

JINSA overlaps considerably with the Centre for Security Policy (CSP), another hardline Zionist organization. Both are underwritten largely by Irving Moskowitz, and their membership lists are interchangeable. The CSP is directed by Frank Gaffney, a Perle protégé, and it promotes wars for regime changes throughout the Middle East while stridently defending Israel’s settlements policy.[98]

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), founded in the 1950s and with a 100,000 members across the U.S., is mostly concerned about ensuring that Israel is strong enough to meet its security challenges. Its website boasts that publications such as The New York Times and Fortune have described it as one of the most powerful interest groups and the most important organization affecting the U.S.’ relationship with Israel. It helps pass more than 100 pro-Israel legislative initiatives through meetings with members of Congress.[99]

AIPAC might be involved in a case of espionage. The FBI is investigating Lawrence Franklin, an analyst specializing in Iran who worked with former under secretary of defence for policy Douglas Feith, for passing classified information to AIPAC. The FBI has been investigating AIPAC for about four years.[100]

That is not the only case of neoconservatism demonstrating more loyalty to Israel than the U.S. Perle, who functions as a link across many of the neoconservative think tanks, research institutions, and other organizations on the network,[101] was, according to researcher Stephen Green, caught by the FBI in 1970 discussing classified information with an Israeli Embassy official. Wolfowitz was also investigated in 1978 for providing a classified document to an Israeli official via an AIPAC staffer on the proposed sale of a US weapons system to an Arab government.[102]

Other institutes lobbying for Israel include the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Middle East Forum.[103]

The loyalty of the neoconservative Jews seems to be exclusively related to the Likud Party and the extreme right of Israeli politics.[104] One of the most outstanding events to come out of this relationship was the 1996 research paper published by the Israeli think tank the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm. It was a policy guideline for Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu which argued that Netanyahu’s "new set of ideas" provided an opportunity "to make a clean break" with the afflicted Oslo peace process. The paper criticized the "land for peace" initiative and emphasized: "Our claim to the land - to which we have clung for hope for 2000 years - is legitimate and noble." The "clean break" also meant re-establishing "the principle of preemption". The study group that contributed to the report included JINSA member James Colbert, Charles Fairbanks, Feith, Perle, Jr., David Wurmser, and his wife Meyrav Wurmser.[105] The document also called for the use of proxy armies to destabilize and overthrow Arab governments. It advocated Israeli attacks on Syrian military targets in Lebanon, and, if necessary, Syria. Since Iraq was an enemy of Israel, it asked Netanyahu to support Jordanian Hashemites in their challenges to Iraq’s borders.

Perle, Feith and Wurmser told Netanyahu, with whom they had close personal ties, that the U.S. would support a hard line against the Palestinians and a policy of "hot pursuit into Palestinian-controlled areas." More important, Israel was under no obligation to honour the Oslo agreements if the Palestine Liberation Organization did not fulfil its obligations of compliance and accountability. The time had come to find alternatives to Arafat and Israel’s dependence on the United States, they urged.[106]

No doubt that Netanyahu paid good attention to the words of neoconservatives, since shortly after the 9/11 attacks he implored the United States to smash Iraq, Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Palestinian resistance. Neoconservatives added Syria, North Korea, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Sudan and Algeria.[107]

Bush’s announcement on 14 March 2003 of support for the road map for the peace in Palestine set off the alarms among neoconservatives and the Israeli government. The issue was Bush’s degree of seriousness to promote the road map and the State Department’s suggestion of the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005.

On several occasions Bush signalled that he was not serious, suggesting that the plan could be amended later. As for the State Department of Colin Powell’s critical stance towards the barrier separating Israel from the West Bank, the supporters of Israel won the match. Though Powell complained about Israel’s repression on Palestine and Bush asked Ariel Sharon to build the security barrier as close as possible to the Green Line, on October 1 2003 Sharon resolved to cut deeply into the West Bank to protect the settlements, vowing to retain the major ones while withdrawing from the Gaza Strip. The Bush administration approved the decision and disavowed the Palestinian right of return. Though Sharon claimed to accept the goal of a two-state solution, its policy sabotaged the possibility of a viable Palestinian state.[108]

This should serve as example of the effects of the work of the Israeli lobby.

Other Power Relations: Oil, Media and Religion


It is a common belief among critiques of the war on Iraq that the real reasons for the invasion had nothing to do with the threat posed by Saddam Hussein but with the desire to control Middle Eastern oil. Since it has been fairly determined that a great part of, if not all, the case for war was based on fabrications, as Chapter 5 will detail, it is sensible to assume that economics played a role. I do not believe, however, that the importance of oil is in itself sufficient to explain the war or any of the other effects of the war on terror for the matter. While it should definitely not be ignored, it is just one network of power relations among many, and not necessarily the one most directly related.

That the importance that the Bush administration and its neoconservative advisers attribute to Persian Gulf oil can be traced back to 1976, when Paul Wolfowitz, working as the deputy assistant secretary of defence for regional programmes in the Carter administration, wrote the Limited Contingency Study, the first extensive examination of the need for the U.S. to defend the Persian Gulf. The document began:

We and our major industrialized allies have a vital and growing stake in the Persian Gulf region because of our need for Persian Gulf oil and because events in the Persian Gulf affect the Arab-Israeli conflict… The importance of Persian Gulf Oil cannot be easily exaggerated.

If the Soviet Union were to control Persian Gulf oil, Wolfowitz warned, NATO and the U.S.-Japanese alliance would probably be destroyed "without recourse to war by the Soviets".

The study also addressed the possible threat of Iraq to Western interests. The solution:

...we must not only be able to defend the interests of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and ourselves against an Iraqi invasion or show of force, we should also make manifest our capabilities and commitments to balance Iraq’s power - and this may require an increased visibility for U.S. power.[109]

The personal careers of some of the members of the Bush administration also suggest that the issue of oil was carefully taken into consideration. The Secretary of Commerce, Don Evans, is the former chairman of Tom Brown, an independent oil and gas position that exploits natural gas in the Rocky Mountains. Vice President Dick Cheney was chief executive of Halliburton, the world’s largest oil field service company. And George W. Bush himself owned a small oil company, Arbusto. That his experience shaped his decisions to some degree is revealed by his own words: "I lived the energy industry. I understand its ups and downs. I also know its strategic importance to the United States of America. Access to energy is a mainstay of our national security".[110]

The assumption that oil was one of the main reasons for war on Iraq is reinforced by Crude Designs: The rip-off of Iraq's oil wealth, a 2005 report authored by Greg Muttitt, from the London-based charity PLATFORM, and backed by U.S. and British pressure groups such as War on Want, the New Economics Foundation (NEF), Global Policy Forum and Institute for Policy Studies. It claims that Iraq may lose up to $194bn (£113bn) of oil wealth if a U.S.-inspired plan to hand over development of its oil reserves to US and British multinationals comes into force in 2006. The report says the new Iraqi constitution opened the way for greater foreign investment and that negotiations with oil companies, such as the Anglo-Dutch Shell group, were already under way ahead of the December 2005 election and before legislation was passed. The authors claimed to have details of high-level pressure from the US and UK governments on Iraq to look to foreign companies to rebuild its oil industry. The report added that the use of production sharing agreements (PSAs) was proposed by the US State Department even before the invasion and adopted by the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Earlier in 2005 a BBC Newsnight report claimed to have uncovered documents showing the Bush administration made plans to secure Iraqi oil even before 9/11.[111]


The Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, New York Post, American Spectator, National Review, New York Sun, Weekly Standard, Clear Channel radio and the Fox News Channel are among the publications and electronic media that ensure that conservatives have a place among the mass media. The latter two are owned by media entrepreneur Rupert Murdoch.

Murdoch’s strong personal and business attachments with Israel have received recognition in the United States. The American Jewish Congress of New York voted him "Communications Man of the Year" in 1982. Actually, his position on Israel has been strong enough to force correspondents to resign when their stories did not conform to the approved line. Naturally, he has provided a voice in the media for neoconservatism and like-minded groups since the 1990s, when his empire grew to include broadcasting networks and channels, with coverage of 40 percent of US TV households, more than 130 newspapers, around 25 magazines and publishing companies.[112]


Since the discourse of neoconservatism portrays world politics as a struggle of good versus evil, an image that grew with the events of 9/11, it found support and common ground among domestic Christian conservative groups. Commentators such as Jerry Falwell and Christian Broadcasting Network President Pat Robertson offered similarly apocalyptic accounts of events.[113] This does not mean that neoconservatives actually share their beliefs. But it is certain that as a Straussian strategy, they have found an alliance of the extremism of this brand of Christianism convenient.

‘Extremism’ may well be an accurate description of some of these Christian conservatives. An illuminating example of their thinking is offered by Robertson’s comments of August 2005 on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Chavez, he said, was a "terrific danger" to the U.S. because he would make Venezuela a "launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism." The solution:

You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. … It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don’t think any oil shipments will stop. … We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. …We don’t need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator... It’s a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.[114]

Robertson has also supported the Israeli settlements movement and denounced peace negotiations with the Palestinians. The basis for his position is the Bible’s geography of the promised land and, mostly, the belief according to which the gathering of Jews in modern Israel was a prelude to Christ’s second coming at which time Jews would be converted to Christianity or condemned to hell.[115]

This interpretation of the significance of the state of Israel as the site for the second coming of Christ is shared by Christian right groups such as Empower America, founded by PNAC co-signatory William Bennett and Jack Kemp in 1999, and the Foundation for the Defence of Democracy (FDOD), resulting in their support to the neoconservative agenda and Israel’s Likud Party. Ralph Reed joined together with Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein to found Stand for Israel, with the purpose of generating political support among the Christian community for Israel and later the war on terror. The group was created out of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), which has been central in the promotion of the relationship between evangelical Christians and U.S. Jews since 1983.

In return, neoconservative figures such as National Security Council official Elliott Abrams, also helped to promote the links between Washington’s neoconservatives and Christian evangelicals, sometimes advocating for issues of importance to religious groups such as sex trafficking and AIDS.[116] Furthermore, the goal of George W. Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative is to enable partnerships between faith-based organizations and the government in the delivery of social services, making them eligible to compete for grants. Once with federal funding, they would be able to consider a person’s religion when hiring staff, which constitutes discrimination in hiring on the basis of religion, and to use federal funds to build or maintain structures that could be used for religious purposes. Not all of Congress would pass Bush’s legislation, so the President used executive orders and rule changes to get what he wanted for the benefit of his religious supporters.[117]

The agenda of the Christian right has also found a place in the Republican Party. In the March 2004 Texas conventions the delegates agreed, among other things, to the idea that homosexuality should be repealed, that Israel has an undivided claim to Jerusalem and the West Bank and should do whatever it wishes in order to eliminate terrorism. Arab states, on the other hand, should be "pressured" to absorb refugees from Palestine.[118]

A survey conducted after 9/11 shows how closely linked are the ideas of the Christian right to the war on terror. When asked to name the most important reasons for the support of Israel, 56 percent of evangelical Christians referred to its alliance with U.S. against terrorism. Even neoconservative Daniel Pipes recognized as much in July 2003:

"To those who wonder why Washington follows policies so different from the European states, a large part of the answer these days has to do with the clout of Christian Zionists."[119]

Another poll from April 2004 discovered that among U.S. citizens who go to church at least once a week, 56% agreed that the "situation in Iraq was worth going to war over." Less than 45% of those who seldom attend church thought so.

Consider the political importance of these relationships since at least one in five U.S. citizens identify themselves as Evangelicals.[120]


The examination of the power relations behind the current U.S. discourse on terrorism shows that the most important and influential group has been that of neoconservatives, having their ideas and goals clearly established many years before 9/11. These people serve, among other functions, as a link between the Israeli lobby, with which they often overlap, the U.S. government and academia, and so they are in a privileged position of power. The other groups that have been identified also play important roles, however they are often only complementary ones.


[1] James Mann, Rise of the Vulcans, The History of the Bush's War Cabinet, Penguin Books, USA, 2004, p. ix-xi

[2] Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone: The Neo-Conservatives and the Global Order, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004, p. 32

[3] Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 36-38

[4] Coral Bell, The Reagan Paradox, American Foreign Policy in the 1980s, Rutgers University Press, 1989, p. 10

[5] Gary Dorrien, Imperial Designs, Neoconservatism and the New Pax Americana, 2004, Routledge, United Kingdom, p. 1-5

[6] Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 14

[7] Coral Bell, The Reagan Paradox, p. 12

[8] Irving Kristol, The Neoconservative Persuasion, The Weekly Standard, Vol. 8, Issue 47, August 25, 2003

[9] G. John Ikenberry, The End of the Neo-Conservative Moment, Survival, 2004, vol. 46, no. 1, p. 8-10

[10] Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 11

[11] G. John Ikenberry, The End of the Neo-Conservative Moment, p. 15

[12] Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 12

[13] Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 17

[14] Robert Kagan and William Kristol , Present Dangers: Crisis and Opportunity in American Foreign and Defence Policy (2000) p. 17-20, cited in Jim George, Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism and US Foreign Policy: Esoteric Nihilism and the Bush Doctrine, International Politics, 2005, 42, p. 190, 191

[15] Jim George, Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism and US Foreign Policy, p. 190

[16] Gary Dorrien, Imperial Designs, p. 18

[17] G. John Ikenberry, The End of the Neo-Conservative Moment, p. 8-10

[18] Irving Kristol, The Neoconservative Persuasion

[19] Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 26-30, 144

[20] Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 19, 20, 58- 60

[21] John Ehrman, The Rise of Neoconservatism, Intellectuals and Foreign Affairs 1945-1994, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1995, p. 186

[22] John Samples, "The Rise and Fall of conservative Reform in the United States", p. 101

[23] Gary Dorrien, Imperial Designs, p. 16

[24] Jim George, Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism and US Foreign Policy, p. 177

[25] Cited in Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 64, 65

[26] Jim George, Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism and US Foreign Policy, p. 174

[27] Jim George, Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism and US Foreign Policy, p. 177

[28] G. John Ikenberry, The End of the Neo-Conservative Moment, p. 19

[29] Jim George, Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism and US Foreign Policy, p. 178

[30] Jim George, Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism and US Foreign Policy, p. 179

[31] Cited in Jim George, Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism and US Foreign Policy, p. 180

[32] Heer, 2003, , cited in Jim George, Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism and US Foreign Policy, p. 181

[33] Havers and Wexler, cited in Jim George, Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism and US Foreign Policy, p. 182

[34] Jim George, Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism and US Foreign Policy, p. 182

[35] Jim George, Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism and US Foreign Policy, p. 197

[36] Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 61, 62

[37] Jim George, Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism and US Foreign Policy, p. 185, 186

[38] Gary Dorrien, Imperial Designs, p. 45

[39] James Mann, Rise of the Vulcans, p. 24, 25

[40] Gary Dorrien, Imperial Designs, p. 22-25

[41] John Ehrman, The Rise of Neoconservatism, p. 33, 34; and Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 41, 56

[42] John Ehrman, The Rise of Neoconservatism, p. 34-46

[43] John Ehrman, The Rise of Neoconservatism, p. 33, 34; and Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 41, 56

[44] John Samples, "The Rise and Fall of conservative Reform in the United States: George Bush and the Transformation of the Reagan Legacy", Asia-Pacific Review, Vol. 11, No. 2, 2004, p. 99, 100

[45] Gary Dorrien, Imperial Designs, p. 50; Jim George, Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism and US Foreign Policy, p. 186 ; and James Mann, Rise of the Vulcans, p. 73, 74

[46] Gary Dorrien, Imperial Designs, p. 50-53

[47] Jim George, Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism and US Foreign Policy, p. 186

[48] David Mervin, Ronald Reagan & the American Presidency, Longman, London and New York, 1990, p. 210

[49] John Ehrman, The Rise of Neoconservatism, p. 137, 138

[50] John Ehrman, The Rise of Neoconservatism, p. 149; Coral Bell, The Reagan Paradox, p. 9; and Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 57

[51] Gary Dorrien, Imperial Designs,  p. 58

[52] Coral Bell, The Reagan Paradox, p. 9

[53] John Ehrman, The Rise of Neoconservatism, p. 149-157

[54] Coral Bell, The Reagan Paradox, p. 13

[55] Thomas G. Paterson, Meeting the Communist Threat, Truman to Reagan, Oxford University Press, New York, Oxford, 1988, p. 256

[56] Coral Bell, The Reagan Paradox, p. 16

[57] Thomas G. Paterson, Meeting the Communist Threat, p. xi

[58] John Samples, "The Rise and Fall of conservative Reform in the United States", p. 101, 102

[59] Gary Dorrien, Imperial Designs, p. 10, 11

[60] John Ehrman, The Rise of Neoconservatism, p. 138

[61] Gary Dorrien, Imperial Designs, p. 12

[62] Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 11

[63] Cited in John Samples, The Rise and Fall of conservative Reform in the United States, p. 97

[64] Joel D. Aberbach, The Political Significance of the George W. Bush Administration, Social Policy & Administration, Vol. 39, No. 2, April 2005, p. 135

[65] G. John Ikenberry, The End of the Neo-Conservative Moment, p. 16, 17

[66] John Ehrman, The Rise of Neoconservatism, p. 173, 174, 185

[1] James Mann, Rise of the Vulcans, The History of the Bush’s War Cabinet, Penguin Books, USA, 2004, p. ix-xi

[2] Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone: The Neo-Conservatives and the Global Order, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004, p. 32

[67] Jim George, Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism and US Foreign Policy, p. 185

[68] Larry Berman and Bruce W. Jentleson, Bush and the Post-Cold-War World: New Challenges for American Leadership, in The Bush Presidency: First Appraisals, eds. Colin Campbell, S.J. And Bert A. Rockman, p. 102

[69] Gary Dorrien, Imperial Designs, p. 28-30

[70] Larry Berman and Bruce W. Jentleson, Bush and the Post-Cold-War World, p. 106, 107, 116, 117

[71] Larry Berman and Bruce W. Jentleson, Bush and the Post-Cold-War World, p. 94

[72] Larry Berman and Bruce W. Jentleson, Bush and the Post-Cold-War World, p. 98, 99

[73] John Ehrman, The Rise of Neoconservatism, p. 182, 183

[74] Cited by Dorrien, The Neoconservative Mind : Politics, Culture and the War of Ideology, Philadelphia, Tempelton University Press, 1993, p. 134, cited in Jim George, Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism and US Foreign Policy, p. 183

[75] Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 81

[76] John Ehrman, The Rise of Neoconservatism, p. 196, 197

[77] Gary Dorrien, Imperial Designs, p. 39, 40; Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 145; Jim George, Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism and US Foreign Policy, p. 187, 188

[78] Jim George, Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism and US Foreign Policy, p. 188 ; Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 33

[79] Gary Dorrien, Imperial Designs, p. 15

[80] John Ehrman, The Rise of Neoconservatism, p. 203; Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 86, 87, 95

[81] Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 89

[82] Gary Dorrien, Imperial Designs, p. 66-68

[83] John Samples, "The Rise and Fall of conservative Reform in the United States", p. 100

[84] Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 98-104

[85] Gary Dorrien, Imperial Designs, p. 143

[86] Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 103-105, 108

[87] Jim George, Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism and US Foreign Policy, p. 183

[88] Gary Dorrien, Imperial Designs, p. 142

[89] Joel D. Aberbach, The Political Significance of the George W. Bush Administration, p. 135

[90] Jim George, Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism and US Foreign Policy, p. 191, 192

[91] Jim George, Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism and US Foreign Policy, p. 176 ; Robert Jervis, Understanding the Bush Doctrine, Political Science Quarterly, Volume 118, Number 3, 2003, p. 365, 366

[92] Robert Jervis, Understanding the Bush Doctrine, p. 365, 366

[93] Jim George, Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism and US Foreign Policy, p. 190, 191

[94] Joel D. Aberbach, The Political Significance of the George W. Bush Administration, p. 144

[95] Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 33

[96] James Anderson, American Hegemony after 11 September: Allies, Rivals and Contradictions, Geopolitics, October 2003, vol. 8, no. 3, p. 39, 40

[97] Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians, London, Pluto Press, 1999, p. 13

[98] Gary Dorrien, Imperial Designs, p. 196, 197 ; Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 105, 106

[99] About AIPAC, , last accessed 2005-11-22

[100] Andrew I. Killgore, Neocon Douglas Feith to Resign From Pentagon, as AIPAC Investigations Continue, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, April 2005,

[101] Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 105

[102] Jim Lobe, Spy probe scans neo-cons’ Israel ties, Asia Times,

[103] Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 108

[104] Jim George, Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism and US Foreign Policy, p. 188

[105] Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 106, 107

[106] Gary Dorrien, Imperial Designs, p. 197

[107] Gary Dorrien, Imperial Designs, p. 202

[108] Gary Dorrien, Imperial Designs, p. 208, 209, 212, 214

[109] James Mann, Rise of the Vulcans, p. 79-83

[110] Richard Wolffe and Stephen Fidler, Bush Campaign finds it more comfortable to duck the gasoline price issue, Financial Times 23 June 2000 (Financial Times on CD-Rom)

[111] Philip Thornton, Iraq’s Oil: The Spoils of War, The Independent, 22 November 2005, ; and Big Oil has crude designs on Iraq wealth - report, Reuters, November 22, 2005.

[112] Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 184, 186, 187

[113] Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 196

[114] Televangelist calls for Chavez’ death, Associated Press, August 22, 2005,

[115] Gary Dorrien, Imperial Designs, p. 205

[116] Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 109, 198, 199

[117] Joel D. Aberbach, The Political Significance of the George W. Bush Administration, pp. 142, 143

[118] George Monbiot, Their beliefs are bonkers, but they are at the heart of power, The Guardian, April 20, 2004,

[119] Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone, p. 199

[120] John Samples, The Rise and Fall of conservative Reform in the United States, p. 101



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