The dominance motif

[In last night's first presidential debate, John F. Kerry pledged that he would end America's program to develop miniature nuclear 'bunker—buster' weapons, the type of weapon which would be suitable to remove the threat from underground nuclear weapons facilities belonging to rogue states. Yet in the very same debate, Kerry decried the progress made by North Korea and Iran toward nuclear weapons, weapons which are produced using underground facilities of the type which could only be destroyed by ultra—powerful bunker—busters.

How do we explain Kerry's position that the United States should not possess weapons capable of stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons to rogue states, a threat he identified as the most important one facing the United States? The answer to that question can be found in the writings of leftist theoreticians, critical of what they call American "dominance." 

They have openly expressed their fears that a world in which the United States is the most powerful actor will be unjust, and is undesirable. Of course, no candidate for president will go so far as to baldly state the thesis that the United States is not to be trusted with power, and that we need to be checked and balanced by the power of foreign states, comparably armed and able to project their power against us. But these intellectual doctrines seem to have been incorporated into the national security thinking of John F. Kerry, the would—be next Commander—in—Chief, because they explain his peculiar views on disabling America's ability to address the threat of North korean and Iranian nukes.

Justin Hart makes his American Thinker debut today with a careful dissection of the intellectual foundations of the frightening national security doctrine of the Democrats' nominee for President. — Thomas Lifson, editor]

Al Gore's now infamous MoveOn.org speech  in May 2004 highlights a theme that has 'dominated' left—leaning scholarship for last three years.  Said Gore: 'An American policy of dominance is as repugnant to the rest of the world as the ugly dominance of the helpless, naked Iraqi prisoners has been to the American people. Dominance is as dominance does.'

In promoting Gore's speech MoveOn.org decries   'the policy of domination which pervades the Bush Administration.' The specter raised by Gore and other notables on the left is both alarming and thoroughly consistent. This 'dominance motif' is the bedrock of modern leftist thought, seeding a host of conspiracy theories and birthing a thriving industry of Bush—bashing tomes.  Understanding the history, rhetoric and proponents behind these claims illustrates the flawed worldview of the left.

In 2002, John Ikenberry, a Georgetown University professor lambasted   'America's unprecedented global dominance' and 'radical strategic ideas and impulses.' Earlier this year, Ikenberry invoked Benjamin Barber (a left—leaning professor from the University of Maryland), '... empire is not inherent in U.S. dominance but is, rather, a temptation —— one to which the Bush administration has increasingly succumbed.'  

Barber, in turn, finds himself arm and arm with Noam Chomsky, who wrote  in 2002 'Violence is a powerful instrument of control, as history demonstrates. But the dilemmas of dominance are not slight.'  Chomsky, for his part, refers to anti—war activist, Rahul Mahajan, and his book Full Spectrum Dominance.

This is just a small sampling from a vein of leftist scholarship and publications warning of the 'imperial grand strategy' that the Bush administration has 'embraced.'  All of these writers allude to the 2002 policy document, The National Security Strategy of the United States of America.

This lengthy policy publication spells out, in detail, the Administration's plans to thwart terrorism in the modern age.  This single document codifies (at least for this Administration) the 'Bush Doctrine' of pre—emption and the cooperative initiatives for the international war against terror.  But in the eyes of left—leaning scholars, this is the most dangerous and 'extreme' policy ever adopted by a sitting President.

In their minds, there is even something inherently sinister about it.  To summarize their fears: The birth of 'neocons' during the first Gulf War gave rise to the 'Bush Doctrine' of 'forward deterrence.'  Before the 2001 attacks, 'preemption' was a rhetorical device employed by U.S. administrations since WWII, that has now become a declarative policy under Cheney—Rumsfeld—Powell and associates.  Employing an 'Arab fašade', the Bush Administration has struck a 'Faustian bargain,' vying for U.S. hegemony while simultaneously 'socializing' a military economy, driving huge deficits and creating 'powerful pressures' to cut federal spending. 

Bush is seen as a 'born—again global crusader,' fixated on enriching his oil—rich peers.  He advocates a Pax Americana, with a swagger of 'open contempt' for international law, and displays an insatiable desire for global dominance.   The common premise across these worldview conspiracies is that the Bush Administration has insidious designs to dominate and 'run the planet by force to protect their privilege.'

Back to Al Gore:

Dominance is not really a strategic policy or political philosophy at all. It is a seductive illusion that tempts the powerful to satiate their hunger for more power still by striking a Faustian bargain. And as always happens — sooner or later — to those who shake hands with the devil, they find out too late that what they have given up in the bargain is their soul.

For an ideology that promotes an atheistic tradition, this strikes me as an odd metaphor to employ.  Gore continues:

Our world is unconquerable because the human spirit is unconquerable, and any national strategy based on pursuing the goal of domination is doomed to fail because it generates its own opposition, and in the process, creates enemies for the would—be dominator.

This theme is concurrent with other notable leftists as well.  The plan for dominance is both unconscionable and untenable.  Here's Chomsky: 'The imperial grand strategy is based on the assumption that the United States can gain 'full spectrum dominance' through military programs that dwarf those of any potential coalition and that have useful side effects.' 

Robert Lifton writes in his book, America's Apocalyptic Confrontation with the World:

More than merely dominate, the American superpower now seeks to control history. Such cosmic ambition is accompanied by an equally vast sense of entitlement, of special dispensation to pursue its aims. That entitlement stems partly from historic claims to special democratic virtue, but has much to do with an embrace of technological power translated into military terms. That is, a superpower — the world's only superpower — is entitled to dominate and control precisely because it is a superpower.

And this is no idle complaint.  Many of the left seek a full—frontal adjustment to world power.  Writes Robert Jensen in his book: Citizens of the Empire:

Either the world can continue to be based on domination by powerful nation—states (in complex relationship with multinational corporations) and the elites who dictate policy in them, or we can seek a new interdependence and connection with people around the world through popular movements based on shared values and a common humanity that can cross national boundaries. (p.7) 

There are host of issues and contradictions within the 'dominance motif.'  First, one can flatly deduce plenty of 'reading between the lines' by the leftists.  The 2002 National Security Strategy document never uses the word 'dominance'.  Perhaps they're referring to parts of the policy that speak of 'dominating aggressors.'  Perhaps they detest the plain nature and admissions of the policy document. Perhaps they detest the policy goal to 'dissuade future military competition.' Perhaps they loathe President Bush's statement preceding the policy document: 'we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self—defense by acting preemptively against such terrorists, to prevent them from doing harm against our people and our country.'   This brings us to our second point. 

The animus against 'dominance' is an axiomatic reasoning which sees U.S. supremacy as a bad thing.  In many ways it's a matter of trust.  Says Chomsky: 'The world is to be left at mercy of U.S. attack at will, without warning or credible pretext.'  One leftist article declares: 'Under the guise of protecting American citizens from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the Bush administration has marched Congress toward global imperialism.'  This rhetoric is wholly reliant on the presumptive nature of their worldview: too much power just can't be trusted to the U.S.

PSR (Physicians for Social Responsibility), a prominent anti—nuke group publishes an article pointing to 'the doctrine of dominance' which is seemingly 'reminiscent of an imperial mentality.'  Michel Chossudovsky, in his book War and Globalization, sees an 'Anglo—American axis" formed by 'close consultation with Wall Street'

Thus, the dominance motif needs two assumptions to logically conclude that evil is upon us.  First, the unprecedented posture of the Bush doctrine is automatically suspect; world dominance is the only motive they can see behind the policy (even if they cannot demonstrate the motive).  Second, dominance is wrong—headed, dangerous and corrosive.  As Ikenberry suggests in Foreign Affairs, 'No one disagrees that U.S. power is extraordinary. It is the character and logic of U.S. domination that is at issue in the debate over empire.'*

The 'dominance' crowd concedes that the US "reigns supreme" in military force and has done so since WWII.  But they now predict "global designs" of a post—war military will dominate the entire hemisphere and later the world. 

The obvious contradiction has historical grounding: U.S. military might has been tops since  WWII.  But this historic force has only claimed Hawaii and Alaska as their spoils?  Will this change?  Is there any evidence that we plan to keep Iraq or Afghanistan?  With the ultimate fighting force why not take the oil at our leisure?  What about our oil—rich Latin—American allies?  Are they next of the list?  Does fighting terrorism even come into play here?  What proof of dominance to they offer?  What do they mean by dominance?

How do you reconcile the secret plan to break the economy with the unholy alliance between Bush and his Wall Street buddies?  Is the record breaking push of federal spending during Bush's first term simply a ruse disguised to accelerate the end of big government?  How can you qualify the supposed corollary effects of the War on Terror (e.g. the oil grab, curbed democratic freedoms, Latin American domination)?  Where is the evidence for these assumptions?

In the end, many of their complaints are hearsay. 'Bush will steal your Social Security during war time.' Or 'Paul Wolfowitz has Zionist dreams that have been fermenting since the Reagan years.'  

Perhaps it's just a misunderstanding.  Jonah Goldberg nicely summarizes the left's failing: 'They confuse our cultural dominance with the Roman Empire's dominance, skipping right over the fact that the Roman Empire installed Roman governors, collected imperial taxes, imposed Roman law, conscripted colonial subjects into the Roman army (eventually), and generally considered Rome the supreme and final authority on any important question.'  Joe Lockhart can envision all of the puppet strings he wants, but hard evidence is lacking.  Goldberg continues: 'We don't rule the world. We lead the world'

On the other hand, perhaps the left's reaction to the 'Bush Doctrine' is a natural (some would say necessary) resistance to a decidedly far—reaching (some would say radical) foreign policy.  Even John O'Sullivan wonders aloud if the American people will 'sustain the historic burden that the president called on them to bear?' On the perceived side effects of pre—emption (the hidden agenda to reduce federal spending on social programs) Ramesh Ponnuru** foresees a possible end of liberalism.  Perhaps, they fear the 'dogs of war' as a self—defensive reflex.  Perhaps they know the game is over.

The quickest way to diffuse all this hysteria is simple to articulate the dominance worldview and wait it out.  While Chomsky and Ikenberry will get a prominent audience, Horowitz and NRO can aptly rebut their claims.  The rest of the crowd will have their place in academic circles, but will have minimal influence. 

If your friends or colleagues make orations on a similar theme, simply regurgitate their own worldview (neocons trying to take over the world through costly wars to destroy the economy do away with social spending and replace it all with a military society to enrich Haliburton).  Next turn on your laugh track (if they don't laugh first). 

As for Al Gore:  let Al be Al, and this should all work out nicely.  We know that the goal is not world domination, but the continued existence and survival of Western society.  Those who can't see this are not necessarily the enemies within, but they need a good worldview adjustment.   Understanding this worldview is only half of the battle at home.

Justin Hart is a writer and researcher living in the Washington D.C area.  He runs the blog Right Side Redux. justin@rightsideredux.com


* 'Illusions of Empire: Defining the New American Order', G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2004

 

** National Review, September 27, 2004 pg 18, pg 35

 

[In last night's first presidential debate, John F. Kerry pledged that he would end America's program to develop miniature nuclear 'bunker—buster' weapons, the type of weapon which would be suitable to remove the threat from underground nuclear weapons facilities belonging to rogue states. Yet in the very same debate, Kerry decried the progress made by North Korea and Iran toward nuclear weapons, weapons which are produced using underground facilities of the type which could only be destroyed by ultra—powerful bunker—busters.

How do we explain Kerry's position that the United States should not possess weapons capable of stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons to rogue states, a threat he identified as the most important one facing the United States? The answer to that question can be found in the writings of leftist theoreticians, critical of what they call American "dominance." 

They have openly expressed their fears that a world in which the United States is the most powerful actor will be unjust, and is undesirable. Of course, no candidate for president will go so far as to baldly state the thesis that the United States is not to be trusted with power, and that we need to be checked and balanced by the power of foreign states, comparably armed and able to project their power against us. But these intellectual doctrines seem to have been incorporated into the national security thinking of John F. Kerry, the would—be next Commander—in—Chief, because they explain his peculiar views on disabling America's ability to address the threat of North korean and Iranian nukes.

Justin Hart makes his American Thinker debut today with a careful dissection of the intellectual foundations of the frightening national security doctrine of the Democrats' nominee for President. — Thomas Lifson, editor]

Al Gore's now infamous MoveOn.org speech  in May 2004 highlights a theme that has 'dominated' left—leaning scholarship for last three years.  Said Gore: 'An American policy of dominance is as repugnant to the rest of the world as the ugly dominance of the helpless, naked Iraqi prisoners has been to the American people. Dominance is as dominance does.'

In promoting Gore's speech MoveOn.org decries   'the policy of domination which pervades the Bush Administration.' The specter raised by Gore and other notables on the left is both alarming and thoroughly consistent. This 'dominance motif' is the bedrock of modern leftist thought, seeding a host of conspiracy theories and birthing a thriving industry of Bush—bashing tomes.  Understanding the history, rhetoric and proponents behind these claims illustrates the flawed worldview of the left.

In 2002, John Ikenberry, a Georgetown University professor lambasted   'America's unprecedented global dominance' and 'radical strategic ideas and impulses.' Earlier this year, Ikenberry invoked Benjamin Barber (a left—leaning professor from the University of Maryland), '... empire is not inherent in U.S. dominance but is, rather, a temptation —— one to which the Bush administration has increasingly succumbed.'  

Barber, in turn, finds himself arm and arm with Noam Chomsky, who wrote  in 2002 'Violence is a powerful instrument of control, as history demonstrates. But the dilemmas of dominance are not slight.'  Chomsky, for his part, refers to anti—war activist, Rahul Mahajan, and his book Full Spectrum Dominance.

This is just a small sampling from a vein of leftist scholarship and publications warning of the 'imperial grand strategy' that the Bush administration has 'embraced.'  All of these writers allude to the 2002 policy document, The National Security Strategy of the United States of America.

This lengthy policy publication spells out, in detail, the Administration's plans to thwart terrorism in the modern age.  This single document codifies (at least for this Administration) the 'Bush Doctrine' of pre—emption and the cooperative initiatives for the international war against terror.  But in the eyes of left—leaning scholars, this is the most dangerous and 'extreme' policy ever adopted by a sitting President.

In their minds, there is even something inherently sinister about it.  To summarize their fears: The birth of 'neocons' during the first Gulf War gave rise to the 'Bush Doctrine' of 'forward deterrence.'  Before the 2001 attacks, 'preemption' was a rhetorical device employed by U.S. administrations since WWII, that has now become a declarative policy under Cheney—Rumsfeld—Powell and associates.  Employing an 'Arab fašade', the Bush Administration has struck a 'Faustian bargain,' vying for U.S. hegemony while simultaneously 'socializing' a military economy, driving huge deficits and creating 'powerful pressures' to cut federal spending. 

Bush is seen as a 'born—again global crusader,' fixated on enriching his oil—rich peers.  He advocates a Pax Americana, with a swagger of 'open contempt' for international law, and displays an insatiable desire for global dominance.   The common premise across these worldview conspiracies is that the Bush Administration has insidious designs to dominate and 'run the planet by force to protect their privilege.'

Back to Al Gore:

Dominance is not really a strategic policy or political philosophy at all. It is a seductive illusion that tempts the powerful to satiate their hunger for more power still by striking a Faustian bargain. And as always happens — sooner or later — to those who shake hands with the devil, they find out too late that what they have given up in the bargain is their soul.

For an ideology that promotes an atheistic tradition, this strikes me as an odd metaphor to employ.  Gore continues:

Our world is unconquerable because the human spirit is unconquerable, and any national strategy based on pursuing the goal of domination is doomed to fail because it generates its own opposition, and in the process, creates enemies for the would—be dominator.

This theme is concurrent with other notable leftists as well.  The plan for dominance is both unconscionable and untenable.  Here's Chomsky: 'The imperial grand strategy is based on the assumption that the United States can gain 'full spectrum dominance' through military programs that dwarf those of any potential coalition and that have useful side effects.' 

Robert Lifton writes in his book, America's Apocalyptic Confrontation with the World:

More than merely dominate, the American superpower now seeks to control history. Such cosmic ambition is accompanied by an equally vast sense of entitlement, of special dispensation to pursue its aims. That entitlement stems partly from historic claims to special democratic virtue, but has much to do with an embrace of technological power translated into military terms. That is, a superpower — the world's only superpower — is entitled to dominate and control precisely because it is a superpower.

And this is no idle complaint.  Many of the left seek a full—frontal adjustment to world power.  Writes Robert Jensen in his book: Citizens of the Empire:

Either the world can continue to be based on domination by powerful nation—states (in complex relationship with multinational corporations) and the elites who dictate policy in them, or we can seek a new interdependence and connection with people around the world through popular movements based on shared values and a common humanity that can cross national boundaries. (p.7) 

There are host of issues and contradictions within the 'dominance motif.'  First, one can flatly deduce plenty of 'reading between the lines' by the leftists.  The 2002 National Security Strategy document never uses the word 'dominance'.  Perhaps they're referring to parts of the policy that speak of 'dominating aggressors.'  Perhaps they detest the plain nature and admissions of the policy document. Perhaps they detest the policy goal to 'dissuade future military competition.' Perhaps they loathe President Bush's statement preceding the policy document: 'we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self—defense by acting preemptively against such terrorists, to prevent them from doing harm against our people and our country.'   This brings us to our second point. 

The animus against 'dominance' is an axiomatic reasoning which sees U.S. supremacy as a bad thing.  In many ways it's a matter of trust.  Says Chomsky: 'The world is to be left at mercy of U.S. attack at will, without warning or credible pretext.'  One leftist article declares: 'Under the guise of protecting American citizens from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the Bush administration has marched Congress toward global imperialism.'  This rhetoric is wholly reliant on the presumptive nature of their worldview: too much power just can't be trusted to the U.S.

PSR (Physicians for Social Responsibility), a prominent anti—nuke group publishes an article pointing to 'the doctrine of dominance' which is seemingly 'reminiscent of an imperial mentality.'  Michel Chossudovsky, in his book War and Globalization, sees an 'Anglo—American axis" formed by 'close consultation with Wall Street'

Thus, the dominance motif needs two assumptions to logically conclude that evil is upon us.  First, the unprecedented posture of the Bush doctrine is automatically suspect; world dominance is the only motive they can see behind the policy (even if they cannot demonstrate the motive).  Second, dominance is wrong—headed, dangerous and corrosive.  As Ikenberry suggests in Foreign Affairs, 'No one disagrees that U.S. power is extraordinary. It is the character and logic of U.S. domination that is at issue in the debate over empire.'*

The 'dominance' crowd concedes that the US "reigns supreme" in military force and has done so since WWII.  But they now predict "global designs" of a post—war military will dominate the entire hemisphere and later the world. 

The obvious contradiction has historical grounding: U.S. military might has been tops since  WWII.  But this historic force has only claimed Hawaii and Alaska as their spoils?  Will this change?  Is there any evidence that we plan to keep Iraq or Afghanistan?  With the ultimate fighting force why not take the oil at our leisure?  What about our oil—rich Latin—American allies?  Are they next of the list?  Does fighting terrorism even come into play here?  What proof of dominance to they offer?  What do they mean by dominance?

How do you reconcile the secret plan to break the economy with the unholy alliance between Bush and his Wall Street buddies?  Is the record breaking push of federal spending during Bush's first term simply a ruse disguised to accelerate the end of big government?  How can you qualify the supposed corollary effects of the War on Terror (e.g. the oil grab, curbed democratic freedoms, Latin American domination)?  Where is the evidence for these assumptions?

In the end, many of their complaints are hearsay. 'Bush will steal your Social Security during war time.' Or 'Paul Wolfowitz has Zionist dreams that have been fermenting since the Reagan years.'  

Perhaps it's just a misunderstanding.  Jonah Goldberg nicely summarizes the left's failing: 'They confuse our cultural dominance with the Roman Empire's dominance, skipping right over the fact that the Roman Empire installed Roman governors, collected imperial taxes, imposed Roman law, conscripted colonial subjects into the Roman army (eventually), and generally considered Rome the supreme and final authority on any important question.'  Joe Lockhart can envision all of the puppet strings he wants, but hard evidence is lacking.  Goldberg continues: 'We don't rule the world. We lead the world'

On the other hand, perhaps the left's reaction to the 'Bush Doctrine' is a natural (some would say necessary) resistance to a decidedly far—reaching (some would say radical) foreign policy.  Even John O'Sullivan wonders aloud if the American people will 'sustain the historic burden that the president called on them to bear?' On the perceived side effects of pre—emption (the hidden agenda to reduce federal spending on social programs) Ramesh Ponnuru** foresees a possible end of liberalism.  Perhaps, they fear the 'dogs of war' as a self—defensive reflex.  Perhaps they know the game is over.

The quickest way to diffuse all this hysteria is simple to articulate the dominance worldview and wait it out.  While Chomsky and Ikenberry will get a prominent audience, Horowitz and NRO can aptly rebut their claims.  The rest of the crowd will have their place in academic circles, but will have minimal influence. 

If your friends or colleagues make orations on a similar theme, simply regurgitate their own worldview (neocons trying to take over the world through costly wars to destroy the economy do away with social spending and replace it all with a military society to enrich Haliburton).  Next turn on your laugh track (if they don't laugh first). 

As for Al Gore:  let Al be Al, and this should all work out nicely.  We know that the goal is not world domination, but the continued existence and survival of Western society.  Those who can't see this are not necessarily the enemies within, but they need a good worldview adjustment.   Understanding this worldview is only half of the battle at home.

Justin Hart is a writer and researcher living in the Washington D.C area.  He runs the blog Right Side Redux. justin@rightsideredux.com


* 'Illusions of Empire: Defining the New American Order', G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2004

 

** National Review, September 27, 2004 pg 18, pg 35