On June 1, 2002, George W. Bush gave the commencement address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The Afghan War was then being hailed as a triumph and the invasion of Iraq just beginning to loom on the horizon. That day, after insisting the U.S. had “no empire to extend or utopia to establish,” the President laid out a vision of how the U.S. was to operate globally, facing “a threat with no precedent” — al-Qaeda-style terrorism in a world of weapons of mass destruction.
After indicating that “terror cells” were to be targeted in up to 60 countries, he offered a breathtakingly radical basis for the pursuit of American interests:
“We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants, who solemnly sign non-proliferation treaties, and then systemically break them. If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long… [T]he war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge. In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act… Our security will require transforming the military you will lead — a military that must be ready to strike at a moment’s notice in any dark corner of the world.”
This would later be known as Vice President Dick Cheney’s “one percent doctrine” — even a 1% chance of an attack on the U.S., especially involving weapons of mass destruction, must be dealt with militarily as if it were a certainty. It may have been the rashest formula for “preventive” or “aggressive” war offered in the modern era.
The President and his neocon backers were then riding high. Some were even talking up the United States as a “new Rome,” greater even than imperial Britain. For them, global control had a single prerequisite: the possession of overwhelming military force. With American military power unimpeachably #1, global domination followed logically. As Bush put it that day, in a statement unique in the annals of our history: “America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge — thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace.”
In other words, a planet of Great Powers was all over and it was time for the rest of the world to get used to it. Like the wimps they were, other nations could “trade” and pursue “peace.” For its pure folly, not to say its misunderstanding of the nature of power on our planet, it remains a statement that should still take anyone’s breath away.
Read the whole thing at tomdispatch
Lotsa things Bush has said and done take my breath away. What’s shocking to me is that many Americans seem to be breathing quite comfortably.