The US's geopolitical nightmare
By F William Engdahl
By drawing attention to Iraq and the obvious role oil plays in US policy today,
the George W Bush-Dick Cheney administration has done just that: it has drawn
the world's energy-deficit powers' attention firmly to the strategic battle
over energy, and especially oil.
This is already having consequences for the global economy in terms of
US$75-a-barrel crude-oil price levels. Now it is taking on the dimension of
what one former US defense secretary rightly calls a "geopolitical nightmare"
for the United States.
The creation by Bush and Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and company
of a geopolitical nightmare is also the
backdrop to comprehend the dramatic political shift within the US establishment
in the past six months, away from the Bush presidency. Simply put: Bush and
Cheney and their band of neo-conservative war hawks, with their special
relationship to the capacities of Israel in Iraq and across the Mideast, were
given a chance.
The chance was to deliver on the US strategic goal of control of petroleum
resources globally, to ensure the US role as first among equals over the next
decade and beyond. Not only have they failed to "deliver" that goal of US
strategic dominance, they have also threatened the very basis of continued US
hegemony, or as the Rumsfeld Pentagon likes to term it, "Full Spectrum
The move by Bolivian President Evo Morales, after meetings with Venezuela's
Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Fidel Castro, to assert national control over oil and
gas resources is only the latest demonstration of the decline in US power
The Bush Doctrine in the balance
As the reality of US foreign policy is obscured by the endless rhetoric of
"defending democracy" and the like, it is useful to recall that US foreign
policy since the collapse of the Soviet Union has been open and explicit. It is
to prevent at any cost the congealing of a potential combination of nations
that might challenge US dominance. This is the US policy as elaborated in
Bush's June 2002 speech at the United States Military Academy in West Point,
There the president outlined a radical departure in explicit US foreign policy
in two vital areas: a policy of preventive war, should the US be threatened by
terrorists or by rogue states engaged in the production of weapons of mass
destruction; second, the right of self-defense authorized the US to launch
preemptive attacks against potential aggressors, cutting them off before they
were able to launch strikes against the US.
The new US doctrine, the Bush Doctrine, also proclaimed "the duty of the US to
pursue unilateral military action when acceptable multilateral solutions cannot
be found". It went further and declared it US policy that the "United States
has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge". The US would
take whatever actions necessary to continue its status as the world's sole
military superpower. This resembled British Empire policy before World War I,
namely that the Royal Navy must be larger than the world's next two largest
navies put together.
The policy also included proactive regime change around the world under the
slogan of "extending democracy". As Bush stated at West Point, "America has no
empire to extend or utopia to establish. We wish for others only what we wish
for ourselves - safety from violence, the rewards of liberty, and the hope for
a better life."
Those policy fragments were gathered into an official policy in September 2002,
a National Security Council text titled the "National Security Strategy of the
United States". That text was drafted for the president's signature by then
national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
She in turn took an earlier policy document prepared under the 1992 presidency
of George Bush Sr by neo-conservative Paul Wolfowitz. The Bush Doctrine of Rice
had been fully delineated in 1992 in a Defense Planning Guidance "final draft"
done by then under secretary of defense for policy Wolfowitz, and known in
Washington as the Wolfowitz Doctrine. Wolfowitz declared then that, with the
threat of a Soviet attack gone, the US was the unchallenged sole superpower and
should pursue its global agenda, including preemptive war and unilateral
An internal leak of the draft to the New York Times then led Bush Sr to
announce that it was "only a draft and not US policy". By 2002, it was
officially US policy.
The Bush Doctrine stated that "military preemption" was legitimate when the
threat was "emerging" or "sufficient, even if uncertainty remains as to the
time and place of the enemy's attack". That left a hole large enough for an
Abrams tank to roll through, according to critics. Afghanistan, as a case in
point, was declared a legitimate target for US military bombardment because the
Taliban regime had said it would turn Osama bin Laden over only when the US
demonstrated proof he was behind the New York World Trade Center and Pentagon
attacks on September 11, 2001. Bush didn't give proof. He did launch a
"preemptive" war. At the time, few bothered to look to the niceties of
The Bush Doctrine was and is a neo-conservative doctrine of preventive and
preemptive war. It has proved to be a strategic catastrophe for the US role as
sole superpower. That is the background to comprehend all events today as they
are unfolding in and around Washington.
The future of that Bush Doctrine foreign policy - and in fact the future
ability of the US, as sole superpower or sole anything, to hold forth - is what
is now at stake in the issue of the future of the Bush presidency. Useful to
note is that Wolfowitz wrote his 1992 draft for then defense secretary Cheney.
Bush administration in crisis
The most fascinating indication of a sea-change within the US political
establishment toward the Bush Doctrine and those who are behind it is the
developing debate around the 83-page paper, first published on the official
website of Harvard University, criticizing the dominant role of Israel in
shaping US foreign policy.
The paper was initially trashed by the B'nai Brith and select neo-conservative
writers as "anti-Semitic", which it is not, and one commentator tried to smear
it as "echoing the views of former KKK [Ku Klux Klan] leader and white-power
advocate David Duke", who has also attacked the Israel lobby.
However, profoundly significant is the fact that this time leading mainstream
media, including Richard Cohen in the Washington Post, have come to the defense
of authors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. Even certain sections of the
Israeli press have done so. The taboo of speaking publicly of the pro-Israel
agenda of neo-conservatives has apparently been broken. That suggests that the
old-guard foreign-policy establishment, types such as Zbigniew Brzezinski and
Brent Scowcroft and their allies, are stepping up to retake foreign-policy
leadership. The neo-cons have proved a colossal failure in their defense of
America's strategic interests as the realists see it.
The paper, "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy", was written by two highly
respected US foreign-policy realists and consultants to the State Department.
The authors are neither neo-Nazi skinheads nor anti-Semites. Mearsheimer is
political-science professor and co-director of the Program on International
Security Policy at the University of Chicago. Walt is academic dean and a
chaired professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Both are members
of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy. They are so-called "realists",
along with Henry Kissinger, Scowcroft and Brzezinski.
Some of their conclusions about the Israel lobby's goals:
"No lobby has managed to divert foreign policy as far from what the American
national interest would otherwise suggest, while simultaneously convincing
Americans that US and Israeli interests are essentially identical."
US supporters of Israel promoted the war against Iraq. The senior
administration officials who spearheaded the campaign were also in the vanguard
of the pro-Israel lobby, eg Wolfowitz; under secretary of defense for policy
Douglas Feith; Elliott Abrams, Mideast affairs at the White House; David
Wurmser, Mideast affairs for Cheney; Richard Perle, first among neo-con equals,
chairman of the Defense Policy Board, an influential advisory body of strategic
A similar effort is now under way to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities.
The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is fighting registering
as foreign agents because this would place severe limitations on its
congressional activities, particularly in the legislative electoral arena.
American politicians remain acutely sensitive to campaign contributions and
other forms of political pressure and major media outlets are likely to remain
sympathetic to Israel no matter what it does.
It's useful to quote the official goals of the Coalition for a Realistic
Foreign Policy, of which Walt and Mearsheimer are members, to have a better
indication of their factional lineup in the current factional battle inside the
US elite. The website of that coalition states:
Against the backdrop of
an ever-bloodier conflict in Iraq, American foreign policy is moving in a
dangerous direction toward empire. Worrisome imperial trends are apparent in
the Bush administration's National Security Strategy. That document pledges to
maintain America's military dominance in the world, and it does so in a way
that encourages other nations to form countervailing coalitions and alliances.
We can expect, and are seeing now, multiple balances of power forming against
us. People resent and resist domination, no matter how benign.
Authors Walt and Mearsheimer also note that Perle and Feith put their names to
a 1996 policy blueprint for Benjamin Netanyahu's then incoming government in
Israel, titled, "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm"
In that document, Perle and Feith advised Netanyahu that the rebuilding of
Zionism must abandon any thought of trading land for peace with the
Palestinians, ie, repeal the Oslo accords. Next, Saddam Hussein must be
overthrown and democracy established in Iraq, which would then prove contagious
in Israel's other Arab neighbors. That was in 1996, seven years before Bush
launched a near-unilateral war for regime change in Iraq.
When NBC-TV's Tim Russert on the widely watched Meet the Press asked
Perle about his geopolitical laundry list for Israel's benefit, Perle replied,
"What's wrong with that?"
For all this to succeed, Perle and Feith wrote, "Israel would have to win broad
American support." To ensure this support, they advised the Israeli prime
minister to use "language familiar to Americans by tapping into themes of past
US administrations during the Cold War, which apply as well to Israel". An
Israeli columnist in Ha'aretz accused Perle and Feith of "walking a fine line"
between "their loyalty to American governments and Israeli interests".
Today, Perle has been forced to take a low profile in Washington after
initially heading Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board at the Pentagon. Feith was
forced to leave the State Department for the private sector. That was more than
a year ago.
Wave of Bush resignations
The White House chief of staff and a man who was a Bush family loyal retainer
for 25 years, Andrew Card, has left, and in an announcement that apparently
shocked neo-conservative hawks such as William Kristol, on Friday Bush's
pro-neo-conservative Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) head Porter Goss
abruptly announced his resignation in a one-line statement.
Goss's departure was preceded by the growing scandal involving his No 3 man at
the CIA, executive director Kyle "Dusty" Foggo. Last December, the CIA
inspector general opened an investigation into Foggo's role in Pentagon-CIA
contract fraud. Foggo is also being linked to an emerging White
House-Republican Party sex scandal that could pale the Monika Lewinsky affair
that so troubled former president Bill Clinton. As Goss violated seniority
precedence in naming Foggo to No 3 at the CIA, the Goss resignation and the
imminent breaking sex and bribery scandals around Foggo are being linked by
The Foggo case is tied to disgraced Republican congressman Randall "Duke"
Cunningham. Federal prosecutors have accused, as an unindicted co-conspirator,
one of Foggo's closest friends, San Diego businessman Brent Wilkes, of
participating in a scheme to bribe Cunningham, the former Republican
congressman from San Diego.
Cunningham in turn is linked to convicted Republican money-launderer and fix-it
man Jack Abramoff. Foggo oversaw contracts involving at least one of the
companies accused of paying bribes to congressman Cunningham. The Wall Street
Journal reports that Foggo has been a close friend, since junior high school,
with California defense contractor Brent R Wilkes. They report that an ongoing
"criminal investigation centers on whether Mr Foggo used his postings at the
CIA to improperly steer contracts to Mr Wilkes' companies".
Wilkes was implicated in the charges filed against Cunningham as an unindicted
co-conspirator who allegedly paid $630,000 in bribes to Cunningham for help in
obtaining federal defense and other contracts. No charges have been filed
against Wilkes, though federal prosecutors in San Diego are working to build a
case against him, as well as Foggo.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and federal prosecutors are investigating
evidence that Wilkes had given gifts to Foggo and paid for various services,
including alleged sex orgies at the Watergate (now Westin), while Foggo was in
a position to help him gain particular CIA contracts.
The Goss resignation follows on the heels of public calls for Rumsfeld's
immediate resignation over the Iraq military debacle coming from a growing
chorus of retired US military generals.
The latest in the slow, systematic "let 'em twist in the wind" process of
downsizing the Bush regime was an incident in Atlanta last Thursday before a
supposedly friendly foreign-policy audience where Rumsfeld spoke. During the
question period, he was confronted with his lying about the grounds for going
to war in Iraq.
Ray McGovern, a 27-year CIA veteran who once gave then-president George H W
Bush his morning intelligence briefings, engaged in an extended debate with
Rumsfeld. He asked why Rumsfeld had insisted before the Iraq invasion that
there was "bulletproof evidence" linking Saddam to al-Qaeda.
"Was that a lie, Mr Rumsfeld, or was that manufactured somewhere else? Because
all of my CIA colleagues disputed that and so did the 9-11 Commission,"
McGovern said to a startled Rumsfeld. "Why did you lie to get us into a war
that was not necessary?"
Significant in terms of the shift reflected in how the establishment media
handle Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush today is the following account in the Los
At the start of the exchange, Rumsfeld remained his
usual unflappable self, insisting, "I haven't lied; I did not lie then," before
launching into a vigorous defense of the administration's prewar assertions on
Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
But Rumsfeld became uncharacteristically tongue-tied when McGovern pressed him
on claims that he knew where unconventional Iraqi weapons were located.
"You said you knew where they were," McGovern said.
"I did not. I said I knew where suspected sites were," Rumsfeld retorted.
McGovern then read from statements the defense secretary had made that weapons
were located near Tikrit, Iraq, and Baghdad ...
stone-silent. The entire episode was filmed and shown on network television.
Rumsfeld's days are clearly numbered. Karl Rove is rumored to be days away from
being co-indicted with Cheney aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby for the Valerie Plame
CIA leak affair. Recall that that affair was over alleged Niger uranium
evidence as basis for persuading Congress to waive a war declaration on Iraq
and give Bush carte blanche.
All threads are being carefully woven, evidently by a re-emerging realist
faction, into a tapestry that will likely spell impeachment, perhaps also of
the vice president, the real power behind this presidency.
A foreign policy disaster over China
In this context, the recent diplomatic insult from Bush to visiting Chinese
President Hu Jintao is doubly disastrous for the US foreign position. Bush
acted on a script written by the anti-China neo-conservatives, deliberately to
insult and humiliate Hu at the White House.
First was the incident of allowing a Taiwanese "journalist", a Falungong
member, into the carefully screened White House press conference, to rant in a
tirade against Chinese human rights for more than three minutes, with no
attempt at removal, at a filmed White House press conference.
Then came the playing of the Chinese national anthem for Hu, which was
introduced as the anthem for the Republic of China - Taiwan. It was no slip-up
by the professional White House protocol people. It was a deliberate effort to
humiliate the Chinese leader.
The problem is that the US economy has become dependent on Chinese trade
imports and on Chinese holdings of US Treasury securities. China today is the
largest holder of dollar reserves in the form of US Treasury paper worth an
estimated US$825 billion. Were Beijing to decide to exit the US bond market,
even in part, it would cause a dollar free-fall and collapse of the $7 trillion
US real-estate market, a wave of US bank failures, and huge unemployment. It's
a real option, even if unlikely at the moment.
Hu, though, didn't waste time or tears over the Bush affront. He immediately
went to Saudi Arabia for a three-day state visit where he signed trade, defense
and security agreements. This is no small slap in the face to Washington by the
traditionally "loyal" Saudi royal house.
Hu signed a deal for Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) of Saudi Arabia to
build a $5.2 billion oil refinery and petrochemical project in northeastern
China. At the beginning of this year, Saudi King Abdullah was in Beijing for a
full state visit.
Since the Franklin D Roosevelt-King Ibn Saud deal giving US Aramco and not the
British exclusive concession to develop Saudi oil in 1943, Saudi Arabia has
been regarded in Washington as a core strategic sphere of interest.
Hu then went on to Morocco, Nigeria and Kenya, all regarded as US spheres of
interest. And only two months ago Rumsfeld was in Morocco to offer US arms. Hu
is offering to finance energy exploration there.
The SCO and Iran events
The latest developments surrounding the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)
and Iran further underscore the dramatic
change in the geopolitical position of the United States.
The SCO was created in Shanghai on June 15, 2001, by Russia and China along
with four former Soviet Central Asian republics, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Prior to September 11, 2001, and the US declaration
of an "axis of evil" in January 2002, the SCO was merely background
geopolitical chatter as far as Washington was concerned.
Today the SCO, which has to date been blacked out almost entirely in US
mainstream media, is defining a new political counterweight to US hegemony and
its "unipolar" world. At the next SCO meeting on June 15, Iran will be invited
to become a full SCO member.
And last month in Tehran, Chinese Ambassador Lio G Tan announced that a pending
oil and gas deal between China and Iran was ready to be signed.
The deal is said to be worth at least $100 billion, and includes development of
the huge Yadavaran onshore oilfield. China's Sinopec would agree to buy 250
million tons of liquefied natural gas over 25 years. No wonder China is not
jumping to back Washington against Iran in the United Nations Security Council.
The US had been trying to put massive pressure on Beijing to halt the deal, for
obvious geopolitical reasons, to no avail. Another major defeat for Washington.
Iran is also moving on plans to deliver natural gas via a pipeline to Pakistan
and India. Energy ministers from the three countries met in Doha recently and
plan to meet again this month in Pakistan.
The pipeline progress is a direct rebuff to Washington's efforts to steer
investors clear of Iran. Ironically, US opposition is driving these countries
into one another's arms, Washington's "geopolitical nightmare".
At the same SCO meeting next month, India, which Bush is personally trying to
woo as a geopolitical Asian "counterweight" to China, will also be invited to
join the organization, as well as Mongolia and Pakistan. The SCO is gaining in
geopolitical throw-weight quite substantially.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mohammadi told ITAR-Tass in Moscow
last month that Iranian membership in the SCO could "make the world more fair".
He also spoke of building an Iran-Russia "gas-and-oil arc" in which the two
giant energy producers would coordinate activities.
US out in cold in Central Asia
The admission of Iran into the SCO opens many new options for Iran and the
region. By virtue of SCO membership, Iran will now be able to take part in SCO
projects, which in turn means access to badly needed technology, investment,
trade and infrastructure development. It will have major implications for
global energy security.
The SCO has reportedly set up a working group of experts ahead of the June
summit to develop a common SCO Asian energy strategy, and discuss joint
pipeline projects, oil exploration and related activities. Iran sits on the
world's second-largest natural-gas reserves, and Russia has the largest. Russia
is the world's second-largest oil producer after Saudi Arabia. These are no
India is desperate to come to terms with Iran for energy but is being pressured
by Washington not to.
The Bush administration last year tried to get "observer status" at the SCO but
was turned down. The rebuff - along with the SCO's demands for a reduced US
military presence in Central Asia, deeper Russia-China cooperation, and the
setbacks to US diplomacy in Central Asia - have prompted a policy review in
After her October 2005 Central Asian tour, Rice announced reorganization of the
State Department's South Asia Bureau to include the Central Asian states, and a
new US "Greater Central Asia" scheme.
Washington is trying to wean Central Asian states away from Russia and China.
President Hamid Karzai's government in Kabul has not responded to SCO's
overtures. Given his ties historically to Washington, he likely has little
Gennady Yefstafiyev, a former general in Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service,
said, "The US's long-term goals in Iran are obvious: to engineer the downfall
of the current regime; to establish control over Iran's oil and gas; and to use
its territory as the shortest route for the transportation of hydrocarbons
under US control from the regions of Central Asia and the Caspian Sea,
bypassing Russia and China. This is not to mention Iran's intrinsic military
and strategic significance."
Washington had based its strategy on Kazakhstan being its key partner in
Central Asia. The US wants to expand its physical control over Kazakhstan's oil
reserves and formalize Kazakh oil transportation via the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline,
as well as creating the dominant US role in Caspian Sea security. But
Kazakhstan isn't playing ball. President Nursultan Nazarbayev went to Moscow on
April 3 to reaffirm his continued dependence on Russian oil pipelines. And
China is making major energy and pipeline deals with Kazakhstan as well.
To make Washington's geopolitical problems worse, despite securing a major US
military basing deal with Uzbekistan after September 2001, Washington's
relations with Uzbekistan are disastrous. The US effort to isolate President
Islam Karimov, along the lines of the Ukrainian "orange" revolution tactics, is
not working. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Tashkent late last
As well, Tajikistan relies heavily on Russia's support. In Kyrgyzstan, despite
covert US attempts to create dissensions within the regime, President Kurmanbek
Bakiev's alliance with Moscow-backed Prime Minister Felix Kulov is holding.
In the space of 12 months, Russia and China have managed to move the pieces on
the geopolitical chess board of Eurasia away from what had been an overwhelming
US strategic advantage, to the opposite, where the US is increasingly isolated.
It's potentially the greatest strategic defeat for the US power projection of
the post-World War II period. This is also the strategic background to the
re-emergence of the so-called realist faction in US policy.
F William Engdahl is the author of A Century of War:
Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, Pluto Press Ltd. He may be
contacted at www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net.