By Will Banyan
Copyright © 20 December 2008
In his recent article, “Behind the Obama Agenda”, (The New American, Nov. 26, 2008), the current President of the John Birch Society, John F. McManus, made the following astounding revelation about the US vice president elect, Joe Biden:
In April 1992, Senator Joe Biden — now our vice president-elect — penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal entitled “How I Learned to Love the New World Order.” Senator Biden was miffed that the Journal had cast him as a “neo-isolationist” because he had objected to the foreign-policy strategy of then-President George Bush (Senior), a strategy which Biden characterized as “America as ‘Globocop.'” Sen. Biden wanted to make clear that far from being an “isolationist,” he is a solid internationalist who subscribes to the doctrine of “collective security” under the United Nations Charter. He argued that “the Bush administration should be reallocating Pentagon funds to meet more urgent security needs: sustaining democracy in the former Soviet empire; supporting U.N. peacekeepers in Yugoslavia, Cambodia and El Salvador.”
Biden called for “an honest debate over America’s proper role in the new world order.” Unfortunately, there never has been any honest debate over just what America’s political elites mean (Senator Biden included) when they use the term “new world order.” Nor did the senator explain his assumption that there is a “proper role” in this “new world order” for an America that would still be recognizable as a sovereign, independent republic and still be operating under our system of limited, constitutional government.
It’s important to remind ourselves of the context of those 1992 remarks. Biden, a Democrat, was responding to the pronouncements and policies of President George Bush, a Republican, about this “new world order,” a phrase with which most Americans were totally unfamiliar prior to September 11, 1990.
On that day, President George Bush delivered his televised “New World Order” speech on the Iraq situation to a joint session of Congress, several months before launching the U.S.-led attack on Saddam Hussein in the First Gulf War. “Out of these troubled times,” said the president, “our fifth objective – a new world order – can emerge.” Immediately following President Bush’s address to Congress and the nation, Congressman Richard Gephardt, the House Majority Leader, gave the Democrats’ official response on the Gulf crisis: “From the summit at Helsinki [on the Iraq-Kuwait conflict] … we could see beyond the present shadows of war in the Middle East to a new world order” – that is, to the reining in of rogue states and global policing of nations.
The problem with this fascinating piece of background about Biden is that McManus has got his facts wrong and has therefore misinformed readers of The New American. It is true that Senator Joe Biden penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (Apr. 23, 1992) that took issue with his characterisation as a “neo-isolationist” by an editorial in the Wall Street Journal (Mar. 18, 1992). But McManus provides a highly inaccurate explanation as to why Biden was “miffed” with the Journal; in short his explanation for the “context of those 1992 remarks” is demonstrably wrong.
First, McManus claims that Biden’s offending criticism – “America as ‘Globocop’” – was in response to then President George H.W. Bush’s “new world order” pronouncements of 1990 and 1991. This is an outright falsehood. The real target of Biden’s “Globocop” comment was a draft version of the Pentagon’s Defense Planning Guidance 1994-1999 (hereafter DPG), copies of which had been leaked to the New York Times and Washington Post in early 1992.
The New York Times (Mar. 08, 1992) reported that the classified document made “the case for a world dominated by one superpower” and that it articulated “the clearest rejection to date of collective internationalism.” The draft, produced under the supervision of then Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Paul D. Wolfowitz, was blunt in its recommendation that this unipolar world be maintained by discouraging other “advanced industrial nations…from challenging our leadership or seeking to overturn the established political and economic order.” Perhaps most controversially, according to the Times, was that the document was “conspicuously devoid of references to collective action through the United Nations”; instead the draft DPG seemed to prefer temporary military coalitions, or what it described as “ad hoc assemblies, often not lasting beyond the crisis being confronted.”
It was Biden who had ridiculed the DPG’s emphasis on unilateral action as “literally a Pax Americana… It won’t work. You can be the world superpower and still be unable to maintain peace throughout the world” (Washington Post, Mar. 11, 1992). Biden was also sceptical about the real purpose of the DPG, noting that despite “disclaiming it” the Pentagon’s strategy “reverts to the old notion of the United States as the world’s policeman – a notion that, not incidentally, will preserve a large defense budget” (Associated Press, Mar. 09, 1992; emphasis added).
That the DPG was the focus of Biden’s criticism was made abundantly clear in the Wall Street Journal editorial (“Pax Americana”, 18 Mar. 1992), which disparaged Biden’s comments specifically in reference to “the flap over a draft Pentagon strategy for U.S. defense policy after the Cold War.” The Journal wrote approvingly of the DPG, which apparently already reflected Defense Secretary Dick Cheney’s thinking, of keeping the United States “militarily pre-eminent.” As for Biden, the Journal dismissed him as Patrick Buchanan’s “new strategic soul mate”, and suggested that if he and Buchannan were critical of the DPG: “It must say something sensible.”
Biden also made it clear in his response that it was his attitude towards the DPG and not anything Bush Sr had uttered, that had earned him the Journal’s censure:
Imagine my surprise when a Wall Street Journal editorial appointed me dean of the Pat Buchanan school of neo-isolationism. My credentials? Believing that the Pentagon’s new strategy — America as “Globocop” — could render the United States a hollow superpower.
It is important to put this into perspective. While McManus was correct in his characterization of Biden’s preferred “new world order”, he was quite wrong in identifying the actual target of his criticism 16 years ago. It is also noteworthy that the leaked document Biden was damning was later celebrated by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) in its 2000 report Rebuilding America’s Defenses:
In broad terms, we saw the project as building upon the defense strategy outlined by the Cheney Defense Department in the waning days of the Bush Administration. The Defense Policy Guidance (DPG) drafted in the early months of 1992 provided a blueprint for maintaining U.S. preeminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests. Leaked before it had been formally approved, the document was criticized as an effort by “cold warriors” to keep defense spending high and cuts in forces small despite the collapse of the Soviet Union; not surprisingly, it was subsequently buried by the new administration.
Although the experience of the past eight years has modified our understanding of particular military requirements for carrying out such a strategy, the basic tenets of the DPG, in our judgment, remain sound. (p.ii; emphasis added).
According to McManus PNAC is driven by a “megalomaniacal” agenda to “create a worldwide American empire as part of our nation’s ‘global responsibilities’ and begin to ‘challenge regimes hostile to our interests’” (The New American, Oct. 16, 2006). Incidentally, it should also be remembered that among the participants in the project that produced that PNAC report was DPG overseer Paul D. Wolfowitz…
Second, McManus implies that Biden changed his attitude towards Bush Sr’s “new world order” after some prodding from the Wall Street Journal. But the opposite was the case with Biden already well established as a supporter of collective security through the United Nations, hence his opposition to the unilateralist prescriptions contained in the DPG. Readers of McManus’ article would not realise it, but the Journal editorial actually mocked Biden’s apparent faith in the UN:
Mr. Biden favors “the next big advance in civilization,” namely the utopia of “collective power through the United Nations.” We agree the U.N. can play a more constructive role now that Soviet communism has collapsed, but do Americans really want to trust their security to a global committee? Does anyone think the U.N. would have lifted a finger against Saddam Hussein without the prodding of George Bush?
In his response, Biden repeated his argument that the strategy outlined in the draft DPG was a threat to the UN:
Secretary Cheney says his plan wouldn’t undermine support for the U.N. Who would know better than the U.N.’s usually understated secretary general? If implemented, says Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the Pentagon’s strategy would spell “the end of the U.N.” Rather than denigrating collective security, we should regularize the kind of multilateral response we assembled for the Gulf War. Why not breathe life into the U.N. Charter? It envisages a permanent commitment of forces, for use by the Security Council. That means a presumption of collective action — but with a U.S. veto.
And there you have it: the document praised respectively by the Wall Street Journal as “sensible” and by PNAC as “sound”, was criticised by Biden as a recipe for turning the US into a “hollow superpower.” So, for the sake of argument, we might suggest that in their disdain for PNAC’s preferred approach, incidentally detailed in the DPG, Biden and McManus were reading off the same page, even though their preferred foreign policies for the United States are clearly worlds apart.
It is not the intention of this article (nor the inclination of this author) to a mount a defence of either Biden or PNAC, but rather to highlight the obvious flaw that permeates much of the analysis emanating from the John Birch Society. This defect is the relentless insistence that the US power elite is somehow fixated on achieving world government and is therefore undivided, if not rigidly united under the supposedly monolithic façade of the Council on Foreign Relations. Biden’s stoush with the Wall Street Journal some sixteen years ago, though a minor political event at the time, is a reminder of the reality that there are competing factions with quite different agendas for the use of US power on the world stage. The main division, brought sharply into focus during the past eight years, has been between the imperialists – who, believing US superpower status to be unassailable, favour the unilateral exercise of US (especially military) power and weakened international institutions – and the globalists – who, being more sceptical of the long-term survival of America’s superpower status, favour a world order built based on global free trade and stronger multilateral bodies.
Where this leaves the looming administration of President-elect Barack Obama is the subject of considerable debate as his cabinet selection seems to combine members of both factions. What we can be certain of, contrary to McManus’s misleading article, is that 16 years ago the vice-president elect was firmly on the opposite (albeit globalist) side of the fence from the imperialist agenda that PNAC would embrace. Whether this view holds, in the face of Obama’s “team of rivals” experiment, time will tell; otherwise the slogan “change we can believe in” will go down as one of the most cynical in US political history, as the grim reality of continuity sinks in…