RW ONLINE: Raymond Lotta: Dissecting the Bush Doctrine
Dissecting the Bush Doctrine
U.S. Imperialism's Crusade for One World Empire
by Raymond Lotta
Revolutionary Worker #1187, February 16, 2003, posted at rwor.org
Note: The following article is based on talks and speeches given at antiwar
teach-ins and seminars.
Why is the U.S. launching war against Iraq? What is driving the onslaught
against this impoverished, decimated country?
Behind the pretexts, lies, and pious rhetoric is cruel logic at work. The war
on Iraq is the second phase of what can only be described as America's war on
Think of what has happened since the events of 9/11. The U.S. conducted a
brutal war against Afghanistan that took more lives than were lost at the World
Trade towers. By early 2002, the U.S. had sent troops into the Philippines, into
Yemen, and Somalia. It had set up 13 new military bases in the oil-rich and
gas-rich countries surrounding Afghanistan. And it had embarked on the biggest
military build-up since the cold-war years of the Reagan administration.
U.S. policy planners and strategists have spoken of a "war without
boundaries." They tell us it will be a new kind of war--with new military
doctrine and tactics. Vice-President Cheney tells us this war may last a
generation--an "endless war." The joint chiefs of staff have quietly adopted a
20- to 30-year military plan for waging warfare against different states and
armed groups across the world. In March of 2002, the administration announced
that it was prepared to use tactical nuclear weapons in first strikes.
This "permanent war" has a home front. Again, think about what has happened
since 9/11: round-ups and detentions of targeted sections of immigrants, the
vast expansion of police and surveillance powers, the creation of military
tribunals, and a pervasive Big Brother atmosphere.
The government says this is all about preventing new outbreaks of
terrorism--that it's about our security, about democracy, about the preservation
of civilization (as they define it!). But what's really going on is something
else, and it is further and further removed from the events of 9/11. What's
going on is about the needs of empire--the U.S. empire.
Now when I say that the U.S. is an empire, I mean that the economy of the
U.S. is the "home base" of a global network of exploitation and plunder. This
empire is bound together by over trillion in overseas investments. It spreads
its tentacles of influence and control through global institutions like the IMF,
World Bank, and WTO that the U.S. dominates. This empire subordinates oppressed
nations of the Third World to its economic needs and strategic interests, and
enforces that subordination through the controlling mechanism of the neocolonial
This is a capitalist-imperialist empire. It operates according to the
imperatives of economic expansion, the pressures of competition, and the drive
among contending world powers for strategic position and advantage--over
regions, markets, and resources. And this empire rests on military might. U.S.
imperialism has girdled the globe with more than 700 military bases and
installations; stations over a half- million troops overseas; and has
constructed a high-tech military machine that has rained death and destruction
on more people of the world than has any other power of the last 60 years. The
rulers of the U.S. empire are now on a predatory offensive.
Bob Avakian, whose insightful analysis of the current situation I am drawing
on, describes the Bush administration's strategic perspective this way: "They
have ambitions of essentially reshuffling the whole deck, reordering the whole
situation--beginning with the strategic areas of central and south Asia and the
Middle East that are more immediately involved now--but, even beyond that, on a
world scale" (see "The New Situation and the Great Challenges"-- RW
special magazine section in RW #1143 [March 17, 2002] and at
The essence of what is happening is this: under the cloak of the war on
terrorism, U.S. imperialism is seeking to achieve world domination on a whole
new level . This is the "dirty little secret" of the "war on terrorism."
This "war on terrorism" is being used as a blank check to attack any opponent
the U.S. imperialists choose, including genuine revolutionary movements such as
the Maoist people's wars in Nepal and the Philippines. The "war on terrorism" is
a political-military-ideological offensive to accomplish many different things
in pursuit of empire. It is extreme and dangerous in its methods and
A GRAND STRATEGY FOR EMPIRE
In this article, I want to explore the nature and underlying objectives of
the Bush Doctrine. These are some of the main points I will be making:
1) The moves the U.S. is making in the world flow from a "grand strategy."
This grand strategy (the Bush Doctrine) is an attempt by U.S. imperialism to
restructure international power relations and geopolitical realities in key
regions of the world to its long-term advantage.
2) To understand this grand strategy, we have to go back to the collapse of
the Soviet Union and the effect this had on world politics and world
3) There are four interconnected elements to this grand strategy.
A) U.S. imperialism is seeking to make permanent its
military-political-economic superiority over potential rivals; to prevent any
potential rival or adversary from building up forces to match or surpass those
of the U.S.; and to reassert its global dominance in relation to other
imperialisms and regional powers.
B) U.S. imperialism is operating according to a new military doctrine of
preemption: of launching attacks and waging wars before there is any provocation
or threat to it.
C) U.S. imperialism is seeking to impose new forms of control and governance
in the Third World.
D) U.S. imperialism is breaking out of the restraints of international laws,
institutions, and alliances.
4) Right now Iraq is a major focus and stepping stone of this grand strategy.
In Iraq, there is a coming together of regional and international interests of
5) U.S. imperialism is on a roll. But the Bush doctrine and what the U.S. is
setting in motion are fraught with contradictions and uncertainties. The people
must act to bring about a different political alignment, one that can stop this
BACKDROP: THE COLLAPSE OF THE SOVIET UNION AND THE EMERGENCE OF THE U.S. AS
SOLE SUPERPOWER IN THE WORLD
To understand what is going on, we have to go back a decade or so. The
collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990-91 marked a sea-change in international
From the mid-1970s until 1991, world politics was deeply shaped by the
rivalry between the U.S.-led and Soviet-led imperialist blocs. The Soviet Union
had been a socialist society. But in the mid-1950s a new bourgeois class came to
power and restored capitalism and set out to build an empire. The Soviet Union
emerged as a superpower competitor, with comparable military capability, to the
U.S. The global rivalry between the two superpowers was leading towards war in
But with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. was now the sole
superpower in the world. The U.S. pummeling of Iraq in 1990-91, and their
display of raw power in the region, was a factor in the collapse of the Soviet
Empire. No other imperial power could match the combined military, economic, and
political strength of the U.S. No other power was in a position to mount a
sustained global challenge to U.S. imperialism. Never before in history has
military power been so disproportionately concentrated in the hands of one
This was the situation as the first Bush presidency was ending and the
Clinton team was taking over. Now during the Clinton years, various ruling class
"think-tanks" and policy planners were arguing that U.S. imperialism under
Clinton was not capitalizing on the new situation.
Clinton, it should be noted, was doing nothing other than advancing the
global interests of U.S. imperialism. But in the eyes of a certain grouping
within the U.S. ruling class, things were not right. Bob Avakian characterizes
their thinking this way: "`Look, we had this great victory in the Cold War. Then
we had this whole period when we had Clinton in there, and we didn't really take
advantage of the victory in the Cold War. We didn't `roll up' the whole world
the way we could have, and should have. We let things drift, and it's time to
get in there and follow up the victory of the Cold War with this whole new world
realignment that we're going to bludgeon into being.' " ( The New
Situation and the Great Challenges )
As these ruling-class forces read the situation, and their thinking was first
formulated in a 1992 briefing paper titled the Defense Planning Guidance draft,
the U.S. should have pursued a more aggressive post-Cold War strategy. It should
be using its military, political, and economic strengths to reshape the world in
ways that would entrench the U.S. as the dominant world power through the 21st
The ruling-class forces that have been pushing for a new post-Cold War
strategy are now in command. They are the heart of the Bush foreign policy
team--people like Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and
Condoleezza Rice, the National Security Adviser. Secretary of State Colin Powell
is a key architect of the U.S. "bully on the block" strategy. And they have
forged a certain consensus within the U.S. ruling class around an aggressive
course of global action.
Listen to Condoleezza Rice: "The international system has been in flux since
the collapse of Soviet power. Now it is possible--indeed probable--that that
transition is coming to an end. If that is right, then this is a period not just
of grave danger, but of enormous opportunity." These ruling class forces see
opportunity in the current balance of world power, which gives the U.S. more
freedom to impose its will. They see an opening to radically change the
political landscape in the Middle East, now that the Soviet Union is out of the
But these ruling class forces also believe that the U.S. must act
decisively--because this favorable moment may pass.
9/11 created a new mix of necessity and opportunity for U.S. imperialism. The
attack may have been a case of "blowback." The U.S. had organized, financed, and
armed reactionary fundamentalist forces as part of its efforts to oust the
Soviets from Afghanistan and weaken it elsewhere. But angered by the Persian
Gulf war and the U.S. presence in the Middle East, these forces have turned on
their U.S. sponsors.
9/11 presented U.S. imperialism with a certain necessity. As the world's
dominant power, it had to hit back, and hit with a vengeance--to let the world
know that the U.S. would not tolerate any such acts against it, especially on
its home soil. At the same time, the events of 9/11 presented the ruling class
with a political-ideological opening: they would cast their quest for global
dominance as a "war on terrorism."
A NEW HEGEMONISM* IN PURSUIT OF EMPIRE
*When I speak of hegemony, what I am referring to is the dominant position
and the leading-directing role of an imperialist state in the world imperialist
system. This dominance is exercised over the world market, the international
state system, and the military order. The U.S. ruling class is seeking to
enforce a new hegemonism over the world system.
The U.S. imperialists are setting out to restructure international relations.
What is this restructuring about? It's about the balance of power among the
imperialists, spheres of influence, the restructuring of military alliances,
trade relations, and forms of control in the Third World. The U.S. imperialists
are operating according to a global calculus and agenda. Their aim is to impose
a new world order that will secure U.S. dominance through the 21st century--a
new world order that will even more starkly serve the interests of the U.S.
empire. We can identify four key elements of this "grand strategy."
First, this grand strategy's starting point is an overriding commitment to
make permanent U.S. military and economic superiority over potential rivals and
to reassert U.S. hegemony and dominance in the world imperialist system.
The U.S. is taking more aggressive measures to preserve its position as an
unrivalled superpower. It wants to prevent any imperial power--Western Europe,
Russia, Japan--or possible coalition of imperial powers and regional powers,
like China, from challenging its interests in strategic regions of the world and
from gaining the ability to challenge its position as the dominant power of the
world capitalist system. It aims to prevent the emergence of what is called a
In pursuit of this goal, the U.S. is seeking to widen its military-technology
lead. It is committing to a permanent arms race in order to prevent any power
from building up forces to match it, and to threaten potential rivals and to
crush any forces that it regards as hostile to its global interests.
At the same time, the U.S. is seeking to keep other imperialist powers in
more subordinate and restricted junior-partner positions: a coalition of the
coerced. Here we can look at Western Europe and Japan.
The U.S.-led political-military alliance with Western Europe is under strain.
Economic rivalries and economic tensions between the U.S. and Western Europe are
growing. And there has been a trend of these other powers to go more their own
way. The U.S. is using the "war on terrorism" to reshape NATO (the U.S.-Western
European military alliance that the U.S. leads) and the whole U.S.-led military-
security framework that these imperialisms have operated in.
The U.S. is both strong-arming and cajoling other imperialisms. We see this
at work in how the U.S. has been pressuring France and Germany into supporting
the assault on Iraq--making it clear that they will be cut out of the spoils of
war in Iraq, especially any post-Saddam oil deals, if they do not endorse and
join in action.
The U.S. is also reasserting its great power interests in East Asia. East
Asia is the most rapidly developing source of superexploitable labor in the
world and the center of world manufacturing. There are large oil reserves in the
South China Sea. The United States, Japan, Russia, and China are jockeying for
position in this region. Japan in particular has been seeking to forge an
economic bloc in East Asia under its leadership. China, even though it is
dominated by imperialism, has become a major East Asian regional power with
The threats to North Korea and its inclusion in Bush's "axis of evil" have to
be seen in this light. On the one hand, the U.S. threatening North Korea,
telling it that the U.S. is calling the shots on the Korean peninsula and that
no regime can defy American power and dictates. But the U.S. is also sending an
indirect warning to Japanese imperialism about who's on top in the region, and
telling China that it must keep within the U.S. orbit.
Second, this "grand strategy" calls for the preemptive use of force to
forge a new world order.
In Bush's speech at West Point in June of 2002 and in the National
Security Strategy document released in October, the administration announced a
new doctrine of preemption.
Preemption means you strike first, to beat someone to the punch who is
planning to strike you. But the U.S. is taking this to a new level. It is giving
itself the right to attack countries and forces before any hostile actions have
been taken, before any threats have been made, before any threats have presented
themselves as major problems. All the U.S. has to do is to allege that a country
harbors terrorists or that it might possess, or want to possess, weapons of mass
destruction--and these are grounds for preemptive attack. The U.S. will
determine what the potential threats might be and how they will be dealt
Now throughout its history, the United States has invaded and attacked other
countries when it saw fit. But what's new is this: the U.S. is threatening
preemption on a global scale and declaring that preemption will be a norm of
U.S. conduct. The U.S. is saying that it has the right to attack and destroy
anywhere on this planet it wills--without even the pretext of a provocation.
Preemption requires the ability to strike quickly and anywhere. This doctrine
is served by continuing innovations in war-fighting: expanded air- and sea-lift
capabilities to rapidly move troops and armor; further advances in satellite and
computer-guided bombing and missile systems, and in electronic communications
and reconnaissance; and further development and deployment of special operations
forces. The Bush administration is spending a quarter trillion dollars over the
next five years to upgrade such capabilities, which are very much targeted for
regions of the Third World.
Third, this "grand strategy" involves a global onslaught
against the Third World and the imposition of new forms of control
The U.S. is threatening to carry out "regime change" in the Third World. This
is not about democratization--it's about taking out regimes that defy U.S.
authority, that stand in the way of U.S. designs in strategic regions. Iraq and
Iran are singled out because they stand in the way of an even tighter U.S. grip
on the Persian Gulf and because the U.S. wants to carry out big changes in the
At the same time, the U.S. is facing a larger problem of control and
governance in the Third World. As a result, the U.S. is not just seeking "regime
change" (putting new folks in charge) but a certain kind of "regime
transformation" as well. Let me explain.
Economically and socially, there is great and growing instability in much of
the Third World--as imperialist globalization, wrenching turns of the world
economy, and chaotic urbanization tear at economic structures and the social
Politically, there is a growing crisis of the neocolonial state. The
neocolonial state is an instrument of neocolonialism: a form of colonialism in
which a country is formally independent but effectively under the economic,
political, and military control of imperialism.
The political and military structures of the dependent neocolonial state are
under great strain. The alliances of local exploiting and privileged classes
that serve imperialism are under great strain.
In a country like Pakistan, the neocolonial state is highly centralized, with
the military running things, but this state is driven by competing power
centers. In Saudi Arabia, the royal family networks and the secret police are
the glue of power--but the narrow base of rule is fueling anti-Americanism even
among sections of the upper strata of business owners and technocrats. In Latin
America, savage austerity and adjustment programs ordered by the IMF, rampant
corruption, the flight of capital out of these countries, the economic ruin of
the middle classes have created problems of governability in many countries. In
much of Africa, the end of the Cold War (and with it a "declining interest" of
imperialism in aiding client regimes) and economic crisis have produced great
Imperialism's mechanisms of control in the Third World have grown shakier and
more unreliable. Under the signboard of the war on terrorism, the U.S.
imperialists are seeking to restructure neocolonial rule, to tighten their rule.
And they are speaking a more openly colonial language. They are talking
about global military action and direct and long-term military occupation to
bring order, stability, and "civilizing norms" to "failed states" and societies
that are "breeding grounds for terrorism."
Fourth, this is a strategy of breaking out of the constraints of
international treaties institutions.
The U.S. does not want to be hemmed in by international laws and
agreements (even those it helped craft!). It does not want its freedom of action
limited in any way.
Already, the U.S. has removed itself from the 1972 Antiballistic Missile
Treaty and the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. It has opposed the
International Criminal Court and forced the United Nations Security Council to
give it temporary immunity from the UN's jurisdiction in punishing war crimes.
It has refused to honor the Geneva convention on the treatment of POWs--since
that would interfere with its denial of rights and mistreatment of prisoners at
Guantamo in Cuba. It has rejected verification measures for the Biological
Weapons Convention, since the U.S. does not want inspectors learning too much
about its military-biological laboratories and programs--which of course is the
height of hypocrisy since this is the demand the U.S. is making on Iraq.
With respect to military alliances and cooperation with other powers, Defense
Secretary Rumsfeld has famously set down that the U.S. will enter into
coalitions when that is possible and serves the effectiveness of military
action--but will not be deterred from its agenda of conquest by alliance
relations or international bodies like the United Nations: "the mission
determines the coalition."
The U.S. is formulating a doctrine of empire that declares that the rest of
the world has limited sovereignty, and countries may even lose their sovereignty
to U.S. interference if the U.S. so decides. Meanwhile the U.S. has unlimited
global sovereignty to act against other states. It can exempt itself from
international agreements and treaties when that suits it, or ram through UN
resolutions when that best serves U.S. interests.
IRAQ AS PRIZE AND STEPPING STONE
This "grand strategy" that I am talking about is at play in Iraq. It is part
of the reason that the U.S. is so intent on going to war against Iraq. In Iraq,
there is a strategic convergence of regional and international interests of U.S.
The U.S. is not going into Iraq because Iraq may possess weapons of mass
destruction. The U.S. intends to oust Saddam Hussein fundamentally for other
reasons. The U.S.'s aim is to impose its will and authority over the people and
resources of Iraq and to turn Iraq into a platform from which to reshape
political and economic relations in the Middle East. To underscore the scope of
its ambition, the U.S. has floated out that it is prepared to occupy Iraq, for
years if necessary, and to install a U.S. military administration under General
Clearly, oil is a goal here. Iraq's oil reserves are the second largest in
the world (and Iraq and Saudi Arabia together account for close to 50 percent of
the world's proven oil reserves). A direct U.S. beachhead in the heart of the
Middle Eastern oilfields would have enormous regional and international
implications. It would radically affect the internal politics of OPEC. It would
give the U.S. a freer hand to alter arrangements with other oil-producing states
of the region. And control over Iraqi oilfields would strengthen U.S. leverage
over Western Europe and Japan, which rely heavily on Middle Eastern oil. A
direct U.S. presence would also hamper Russia from pursuing its own imperial
agenda in the region.
But oil is only part of the picture. Other natural resources loom large,
including control of Iraq's huge rivers and the fresh water resources of the
A U.S. occupation of Iraq or the installation of a pliant pro-U.S. regime
would allow the U.S. to shift its major military forces away from an
increasingly unreliable Saudi Arabian ruling class. It would put pressure on
neighboring Iran. And a pro-U.S. Iraq would serve as a launching pad for
political and economic "reordering" in the region.
Politically, the U.S. power structure wants to develop more dependable ruling
elites with broader bases of support in the middle classes. This is especially
so in countries like Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt--where the
influence of anti-American, Islamic-fundamentalist forces is quite strong.
Economically, the U.S. ruling class wants to batter down barriers to penetration
and control by corporate capital. It wants to modernize the social and economic
conditions for capitalist exploitation in these countries. From this
perspective, a "restructured" pro-U.S. Iraq would serve as a testing ground and
model for restructuring elsewhere.
The overthrow of Saddam would also aid Israel, America's most trusted client
in the Middle East. It would provide Israel with a more favorable regional
framework within which to suppress Palestinian resistance and fortify occupation
Finally, a successful war against Iraq would be a demonstration of brute
power. It would show allies and foes alike what happens when a regime defies the
new Roman Empire. It would serve as a precedent for preemptive military strikes
in other parts of the world. In these ways, the ouster of Saddam Hussein
bolsters the U.S.'s regional and world agenda.
A CAULDRON OF CONTRADICTIONS, A RESPONSIBILITY TO ACT
Let me sum up. Under the banner of the "war on terrorism," U.S. imperialism
is utilizing its political, military, and economic strengths to restructure
relations in key regions of the world and to entrench and fortify its position
as the hegemonic power over the world economy and the international state
system. U.S. imperialism is widening its military superiority. It is seeking to
secure monopolistic control over the world's sources of oil--in the Persian
Gulf, Caspian Sea, and the South China Sea. It is seeking more privileged access
to markets and raw materials. This is a quest to create the conditions for the
unchallenged exploitation of hundreds of millions of laborers throughout the
The Bush team sees a window of opportunity in the world situation to pursue
its agenda. They also see a necessity to move decisively. In their own perverted
way, they have a sense of history, of rising and declining empires.
The U.S. emerged from World War 2 with unparalleled strength. By the 1960s, a
storm of national liberation struggles in the Third World--supported by Maoist
China--challenged U.S. neocolonialism. By the early 1970s, the U.S. was facing
its first military defeat, at the hands of the Vietnamese people, and being
challenged on a world scale by a superpower rival, the Soviet Union. Japan was
the rising economic power of the world system. In the 1990s, the Soviet Union
had collapsed, Japan was fading economically, and the European Union had emerged
as a formidable economic power. The distribution of power in the world
imperialist system has changed dramatically over the last 40 years. The U.S.
imperialists are acutely aware of this.
U.S. imperialism has considerable initiative right now. But their global
juggernaut is fraught with complex and dangerous contradictions. It is forcing
many countries and already fragile regimes into the madness of the "war on
terrorism." It is intensifying tensions and instabilities in the Middle
East...on the Indian subcontinent...on the Korean peninsula. America's new
hegemonism is shaking alliances in Europe and elsewhere. Other imperialist
powers are being compelled to stake out their claims and fight for their
great-power interests in a more uncertain international arena. This war on the
world is dragging people in the imperialist countries into political life--with
literally millions taking to the streets. U.S. intervention and war in the
Middle East have the potential to ignite firestorms of resistance and upheaval
that could rock and topple regimes in the region.
Bob Avakian describes this situation as a "cauldron of contradictions." In
this context, he points out: "the alignment that [the U.S. imperialists] are
trying to bring into being, and even the alignment that now exists, is not the
only way things can turn out." The people must work to bring about a different
alignment, one that can stop this juggernaut and advance the struggle against
Here in the U.S., the antiwar movement is developing. Growing numbers are
taking up the task of organizing powerful resistance to this juggernaut of war
and repression, and making common cause with the people of the world. Right now
our focus must be to stop a cruel and unjust war in the making against Iraq. The
challenges are enormous. But people must rise to them, because what is
ultimately at stake is the kind of world we are going to live in: a world of
empire, or a world free of exploitation and domination.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker
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