'New American Century' Project Ends With a Whimper
Is the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which did so much to promote the invasion of Iraq and an Israel-centered"global war on terror," closing down?
In the absence of an official announcement and the failure since late last year of a live person to answer its telephone number, a Washington Post obituary would seem to be definitive. And, sure enough, the Post quoted one unidentified source presumably linked to PNAC that the group was "heading toward closing" with the feeling of "goal accomplished."
In fact, the 9-year-old group, whose 27 founders included Vice President Dick Cheney and Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, among at least half a dozen of the most powerful hawks in the George W. Bush administration's first term, has been inactive since January 2005, when it issued the last of its "statements," an appeal to significantly increase the size of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps to cope with the growing demands of the kind of "Pax Americana" it had done so much to promote.
PNAC, whose charter was signed by leading neoconservatives, including Cheney's future chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby; Rumsfeld's future deputy, Paul Wolfowitz; Bush's future top Middle East aide, Elliott Abrams; his future ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad; Rumsfeld's future top international security official, Peter Rodman; American Enterprise Institute (AEI) fellow and neocon impresario Richard Perle; Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; as well as Cheney and Rumsfeld themselves.
It was PNAC's role to sustain and propagate these ideas through its reports, its periodic letters and statements signed by right-wing notables, and a steady flow of opinion-pieces and essays, that acted as part of a larger neoconservative"echo chamber" that included Kristol's Weekly Standard, Fox News, the Washington Times, and the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, to frame debates in official Washington and the mainstream media.
In this sense, PNAC was more of a "letterhead organization" that acted more as a mechanism for developing consensus on issues among different political forces – in its case, Republican hawks – and then pushing them in public, than as a think tank.
But perhaps its most notable letter was sent to Bush Sept. 20, 2001, just nine days after the 9/11 attacks. In addition to calling for the ouster of the Taliban and war on al-Qaeda, the letter called for waging a broader and more ambitious "war on terrorism" that would include cutting off the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat, taking on Hezbollah, threatening Syria and Iran, and, most importantly, ousting Hussein regardless of his relationship to the attacks or al-Qaeda.