04.25.03

Articles--Think Tanks

Origins of Regime Change in Iraq


This brief provides an excellent short overview of the growth of the PNAC foreign policy wave, from Paul Wolfowitz’s 1992 Defense Planning Guidance document (mentioned below), to fall 2002, when the final press for regime change in Iraq began. The brief is by Joseph Cirincione, a Senior Associate and Director of the Non-Proliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. You can hear him in a good segment on NPR’s Fresh Air (as well as the PNAC’s William Kristol) here.

Origins of Regime Change in Iraq
Proliferation Brief, Volume 6, Number 5
Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Long before September 11, before the first inspections in Iraq had started, a small group of influential officials and experts in Washington were calling for regime change in Iraq. Some never wanted to end the 1991 war. Many are now administration officials. Their organization, dedication and brilliance offer much to admire, even for those who disagree with the policies they advocate.

We have assembled on our web site links to the key documents produced since 1992 by this group, usually known as neo-conservatives, and analysis of their efforts. They offer a textbook case of how a small, organized group can determine policy in a large nation, even when the majority of officials and experts originally scorned their views.

In the Beginning

In 1992, Paul Wolfowitz, then-under secretary of defense for policy, supervised the drafting of the Defense Policy Guidance document. Wolfowitz had objected to what he considered the premature ending of the 1991 Iraq War. In the new document, he outlined plans for military intervention in Iraq as an action necessary to assure “access to vital raw material, primarily Persian Gulf oil” and to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and threats from terrorism.

The guidance called for preemptive attacks and ad hoc coalitions but said that the U.S. should be ready to act alone when “collective action cannot be orchestrated.” The primary goal of U.S. policy should be to prevent the rise of any nation that could challenge the United States. When the document leaked to the New York Times, it proved so extreme that it had to be rewritten. These concepts are now part of the new U.S. National Security Strategy.

Full Story…

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