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Trump Administration National Security Policies Stem from Cheney’s ‘Sole Superpower’ Ideology

Sept. 9, 2020 (EIRNS)—As the old saying goes, there is nothing new under the Sun. The Trump Administration national security policymakers did not invent the notion that we are in “a new era of strategic competition.” The notions underlying that idea, as expressed in the administration’s National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy documents, actually date back to then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney’s 1992 draft Defense Planning Guidance. That planning effort was the origin of the policy that the U.S. was the “sole superpower” and would not brook any challenge to that status.

That conclusion, drawn from the reading of a Congressional Research Service report entitled “Renewed Great Power Competition: Implications for Defense—Issues for Congress,” dated Aug. 25, is inescapable, even though it only references the 1992 planning effort in a footnote. The CRS report says that the present shift towards confrontation with Russia and China dates back to the 2015 National Military Strategy of the Obama Administration, though it was not yet at the center of policy until the NSS and NDS came out in December of 2017 and January of 2018 respectively. Those documents “formally reoriented U.S. national security strategy and U.S. defense strategy toward an explicit primary focus on great power competition with China and Russia. Department of Defense (DOD) officials have subsequently identified countering China’s military capabilities as DOD’s top priority,” the report notes.

From there, the CRS report goes on to note that most of the world’s people, resources and economic activity are actually in Eurasia, not in the Western Hemisphere. “In response to this basic feature of world geography, U.S. policymakers for the last several decades have chosen to pursue, as a key element of U.S. national strategy, a goal of preventing the emergence of regional hegemons in Eurasia,” it says. “Although U.S. policymakers do not often state explicitly in public the goal of preventing the emergence of regional hegemons in Eurasia, U.S. military operations in recent decades—both wartime operations and day-to-day operations—appear to have been carried out in no small part in support of this goal.” This is why, the report argues, the U.S. military is organized, trained and equipped to carry out sustained operations across long distances.

The goal of preventing the rise of “regional hegemons” is based on two judgements:

“(1) that given the amount of people, resources, and economic activity in Eurasia, a regional hegemon in Eurasia would represent a concentration of power large enough to be able to threaten vital U.S. interests; and (2) that Eurasia is not dependably self-regulating in terms of preventing the emergence of regional hegemons, meaning that the countries of Eurasia cannot be counted on to be able to prevent, though their own actions, the emergence of regional hegemons, and may need assistance from one or more countries outside Eurasia to be able to do this dependably.”

It states that these judgments could change, causing large-scale changes in U.S. grand strategy, but gives no indication that such discussions might be underway.

One of the questions posed under “Issues for Congress” is this:

“Should the United States continue to include, as a key element of U.S. grand strategy, a goal of preventing the emergence of a regional hegemon in one part of Eurasia or another?” In a footnote, this section of the report cites Zalmay Khalilzad reporting in a 2016 article in The National Interest that, in fact, this question was taken up in 1992 when he was a Pentagon planner. He and his colleagues at that time “considered seriously the idea of conceding to great powers like Russia and China their own spheres of influence, which would potentially allow the United States to collect a bigger ‘peace dividend’ and spend it on domestic priorities,”

Khalilzad wrote.

“Ultimately, however, we concluded that the United States has a strong interest in precluding the emergence of another bipolar world—as in the Cold War—or a world of many great powers, as existed before the two world wars. Multipolarity led to two world wars and bipolarity resulted in a protracted worldwide struggle with the risk of nuclear annihilation. To avoid a return such circumstances, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney ultimately agreed that our objective must be to prevent a hostile power to dominate a ‘critical region,’ which would give it the resources, industrial capabilities and population to pose a global challenge. This insight has guided U.S. defense policy throughout the post-Cold War era.” (Zalmay Khalilzad, “4 Lessons about America’s Role in in the World,”

National Interest, March 23, 2016.)

Khalilzad was referencing the drafting of the 1992 defense planning guidance. Khalilzad was one among the other neo-conservative ideologues also involved in that effort, who would go on to craft later-Vice President Dick Cheney’s war in Iraq in 2002-2003. One of the defense policy goals listed in a draft of that document dated April 16, 1992, as posted by the National Security Archive in 2008, “is to preclude any hostile power from dominating a region critical to our interests, and also thereby strengthen the barriers against the reemergence of a global threat to the interests of the U.S. and our allies,” including in Europe, east Asia, the Middle East/Persian Gulf region and Latin America. “Consolidated nondemocratic control of the resources of such a critical region could generate a significant threat to our security,” the document claims.

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