Was Trump’s very recent shredding of the nuclear agreement with Iran, simply the act of a man who loves to flex his muscles and keep a campaign promise? Or, is there more to this latest development? As will be presented next, there is a lot more. In fact, one Hell of a lot more.
1997 – Post 9-11
In 1997, a neoconservative think tank called the “Project for a New American Century” (PNAC) was established in Washington, D.C. At its’ core was the belief that the coming 100 years should be shaped by the exercise of US power and certainly, in our best interests. This was seen as requiring an aggressive foreign policy that included diplomacy as well as military intervention whenever that was deemed necessary. By one of those means and/or the other, the result would be a Pax Americana.
In the two years that preceded the 2000 election of GW Bush, members of the PNAC began a concerted effort to make regime change in Iraq central to US foreign policy. They pressured then-President Bill Clinton to embrace such a stance which he ultimately did. So, “the table was set”, so to speak for what would eventually follow.
In 2000 the PNAC came forth with a manifesto entitled “Creating Tomorrow’s Dominant Force”. Achieving that goal would require the use of all the levers of US power, including military might. As the authors of this screed stated:
“…the process of transformation (of Iraq and the Middle East), even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor”.
This was the mindset of approximately 10 PNAC participants who found their way into the inner circle of newly elected President GW Bush’s White House. Not only did they have the new president’s ear; they were also armed with the support of the previous president (see above) for regime change in Iraq. As Paul O’Neill, Bush’s first Secretary of the Treasury said, regime change in Iraq attained primacy right from the start.
And then came….
The attacks of 9-11
This is where you pause and go back and re-read the inserted bold-face quotation from the PNAC Manifesto. Were the attacks the “Pearl Harbor”; the “catastrophic” event that would galvanize US public support for military action? (1) Whether or not you take that view, there is no question that the pretext for force intervention was now present. To make Iraq the target of such action would require a “sales job” of what, much later, came to be understood as involving substantial lying, misdirection, and the cherry-picking of intelligence to make it work (2). But, it did and the result was a misbegotten war, the spilling of extraordinary amounts of American blood and treasure and a destabilization of Iraq and on a broader scale, the Middle East.
The here and now
The forgoing background was provided to set forth the premise that the “Past is Prologue” to what is currently going on. Trump’s decimation of the Iran Nuke agreement comes with his belief that he can, using tougher sanctions, force Iran back to the bargaining table where a better deal would be crafted. But, it also comes with the threat that Iran would feel liberated to resume its production of enriched uranium for bomb-making and full nuclearization. It requires no stretch of the imagination to see that as a potential rationale for a forceful military response by us. In that case, we would be returning to the PNAC playbook and that comes with the recognition that some of its’ participants remain influential in directing US foreign policy. The most notable among such individuals is the new National Security Advisor, John Bolton.
At a time when his presidency is all but consumed by the Stormy Daniels scandal and SP Mueller’s Russia meddling probe, 45 has started us down a path that is fraught with peril. Just 24 hours before the first word in this blog was typed, Iran launched a missile attack against Israel, our closest ally in the Middle East. The Israelis retaliated by bombing several Iranian installations in Syria. How Trump and our original European partners in the nuke agreement respond is going to be critical and deserving of our full attention.
- The bold-face statement became so controversial that it was scrubbed from the PNAC web site.
- See Frank Rich’s “The Greatest Story Ever Sold”. New York: Penguin Books, 2006.