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Project for the New American Century

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« on: October 14, 2007, 05:08:04 am »

Project for the New American Century

last updated: August 17, 2007

Established in 1997 by a number of leading neoconservative writers and pundits associated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) is a nonprofit organization whose declared aim is "to promote American global leadership." PNAC, which has been largely inactive since late 2005, played an important role building public and official support for a post-Cold War interventionist agenda in the Middle East and other global hotspots both before and after the 9/11 terror attacks. Such was its apparent influence that some scholars gave it singular importance in shaping policy during the George W. Bush administration. Writing in the Sociological Quarterly, David Altheide and Jennifer Grimes argued that "PNAC, working with a compliant news media, developed, sold, enacted, and justified a war with Iraq."

Regardless of PNAC's actual role in shaping policy, the group was arguably the most effective proponent of neoconservative ideas during the period between President Bill Clinton's second administration and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. PNAC's 1997 "Statement of Principles" set forth an ambitious post-Cold War agenda for foreign and military policy that William Kristol and Robert Kagan, both founding members of the group, described as "neo-Reaganite." Signatories of this charter document, which included many leading lights from the Christian Right and other conservative groupings, said that they aimed "to make the case and rally support for American global leadership." The statement argued: "We seem to have forgotten the essential elements of the Reagan administration's success: a military that is strong and ready to meet both present and future challenges; a foreign policy that boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad; and national leadership that accepts the U.S. global responsibilities."

PNAC's staff and directors as of mid-2007 included William Kristol (chairman), Robert Kagan, Bruce Jackson, Mark Gerson, Randy Scheunemann, Ellen Bork (deputy director), Gary Schmitt (senior fellow), Thomas Donnelly (senior fellow), Reuel Gerecht (director of the Middle East Initiative), Timothy Lehmann, (assistant director), and Michael Goldfarb (research associate).

Origins and Agenda. Before establishing PNAC, neoconservatives and their allies among hardline nationalists, including Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, began aggressively promoting a number of ideas that could replace the militant anti-communism that had guided U.S. policy during the later part of the Cold War. A key step in this process was the founding in 1995 of the Weekly Standard by two scions of the neoconservative movement—William Kristol and John Podhoretz. Together with Fred Barnes, a former correspondent for the New Republic, they secured funding from media mogul Rupert Murdoch to support what would ultimately prove to be a highly successful enterprise. The magazine quickly replaced Commentary as the mouthpiece of the neoconservatives, and after George W. Bush's election was widely regarded as a must-read inside the Beltway. In March 2003, the New York Times, in an article titled "White House Listens When Weekly Speaks," quoted media critic Eric Alterman as saying: "The magazine speaks directly to and for power. Anybody who wants to know what this administration is thinking and what they plan to do has to read this magazine."

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« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2007, 05:08:36 am »

In 1996, Kristol and Kagan wrote what would become a sort of founding statement for the new neoconservative agenda. Published in Foreign Affairs, their article, "Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy," established a number of pillars for a post-Cold War foreign policy agenda, including the maintenance of a "benevolent hegemony" in global affairs based in part on a willingness to use force unilaterally and before crises emerge. They asked rhetorically: What should the U.S. role be? "Benevolent global hegemony. Having defeated the 'evil empire,' the United States enjoys strategic and ideological predominance. The first objective of U.S. foreign policy should be to preserve and enhance that predominance by strengthening America's security, supporting its friends, advancing its interests, and standing up for its principles around the world." As for potential enemies, the article suggested that ultimately the United States would need to devise an "overall strategy for containing, influencing, and ultimately seeking to change the regime in Beijing." In the meantime, however, the main enemy was internal. Invoking past efforts to rally the American populace to accept a leading role for the United States in international affairs, the authors argued that "it is time once again to challenge an indifferent America and a confused American conservatism." They added: "In a world in which peace and American security depend on American power and the will to use it, the main threat the United States faces now and in the future is its own weakness. American hegemony is the only reliable defense against a breakdown of peace and international order. The appropriate goal of American foreign policy, therefore, is to preserve that hegemony as far into the future as possible. To achieve this goal, the United States needs a neo-Reaganite foreign policy of military supremacy and moral confidence."

PNAC served as an institutional vehicle for advocating the ideas laid out in this article. Located in the same office building that houses the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, PNAC was staffed by a number of emerging neoconservative leading lights. The founding of PNAC, write the scholars Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke in their 2004 book America Alone, marked a "complete generational transition" in neoconservatism that occurred somewhere "between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Bosnian war." They write: "By the later half of the 1990s, Kagan, William Kristol, [Joshua] Muravchik, [Richard] Perle, [Paul] Wolfowitz ... had assumed the leadership roles that had long been held by Nathan Glazer, Irving Kristol, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Norman Podhoretz. The younger neoconservatives had filled a space left by the increasing inability of older neoconservative views to provide a sufficient interpretative framework for the changing realities of international events in the 1990s" (Halper and Clarke, America Alone, p. 99).

PNAC's first act, publishing its founding principles in June 1997, repeated many of the same goals laid out in the Kagan/Kristol Foreign Affairs article, including the use of preemptive force, arguing that "the history of the 20th century should have taught us that it is important to shape circumstances before crises emerge, and to meet threats before they become dire." Responding to the purported confusion of the Clinton era, the founding statement called for a "Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity," which would be based on several key pillars: "We need to increase defense spending significantly if we are to carry out our global responsibilities today and modernize our armed forces for the future; we need to strengthen our ties to democratic allies and to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values; we need to promote the cause of political and economic freedom abroad; we need to accept responsibility for America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles." Although many of the signatories to this statement (as well as to PNAC's other open letters) were core neoconservatives, young and old—like Elliott Abrams, Norman Podhoretz, George Wiegel, Midge Decter, Frank Gaffney, and I. Lewis Libby—the statement also included the names of representatives from other rightist political factions, including social conservatives Gary Bauer, Steve Forbes, and William Bennett; hawkish Republicans like Peter Rodman (a former assistant to Henry Kissinger), Rumsfeld, and Cheney; and prominent intellectuals like Francis Fukuyama and Eliot Cohen. Nearly a dozen of the signatories would, some four years later, be given posts in the Bush administration, including Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Cheney, Paula Dobriansky, Zalmay Khalilzad, Abrams, and Libby.

The agenda items outlined in the statement reemerged in the wake of 9/11 in Bush's 2002 National Security Strategy, the seminal statement of the so-called Bush Doctrine. As described by leading international relations scholar Robert Jervis, the Bush Doctrine is composed of "a strong belief in the importance of a state's domestic regime in determining its foreign policy and the related judgment that this is an opportune time to transform international politics; the perception of great threats that can be defeated only by new and vigorous policies, most notably preventive war; a willingness to act unilaterally when necessary; and, as both a cause and a summary of these beliefs, an overriding sense that peace and stability require the United States to assert its primacy in world politics" (quoted in Chris Dolan and David Cohen, "The War about the War: Iraq and the Politics of National Security Advising in the G.W. Bush Administration's First Term," March 2006).

During its several years in operation, PNAC published more than a dozen open letters covering a range of issues, including everything from the defense of Taiwan to the need to overthrow Slobodan Milosevic. Demonstrating PNAC's characteristic ability to pull together different elements of the political landscape, some of these were supported by liberal groups and individuals—like the International Crisis Group, Morton Abramowitz, and Morton Halperin—as well as by leading members of the pro-Israel lobby in the United States, Evangelical Christians and social conservatives, liberal hawks in the Democratic Party, hardline Republican nationalists, and elite proponents of realism.

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« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2007, 05:09:09 am »

But the group's first order of business was Iraq, which as George Packer writes in his 2005 book The Assassins' Gate, would serve "as the test case for [neoconservative] ideas about American power and world leadership" (p. 36). Upset over the failure of the first President Bush to oust Saddam Hussein, neoconservatives had long been agitating for more aggressive U.S. action, penning numerous articles on the subject, creating pressure groups like the revived Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf (whose members included Abrams, Khalilzad, Perle, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, John Bolton, and David Wurmser), and attracting other factions on the Republican establishment to the cause.

In January 1998, PNAC published an open letter to President Clinton arguing that "containment" of Iraq "has been steadily eroding," jeopardizing the region and, potentially, beyond. "Given the magnitude of the threat, the current policy, which depends for its success upon the steadfastness of our coalition partners and upon the cooperation of Saddam Hussein, is dangerously inadequate." PNAC followed up a few months later with an open letter to Senate leader Trent Lott (R-MS) and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA), which argued that the "only way to protect the United States and its allies from the threat of weapons of mass destruction [is] to put in place policies that would lead to the removal of Saddam and his regime from power." Signatories to these letters included many of those who signed PNAC's statement of principles, as well as future realist-inclined Bush administration officials Richard Armitage and Robert Zoellick. Also in support of this effort, PNAC set up a meeting between Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Perle, and Sandy Berger, Clinton's national security adviser, to argue the case for intervention (Dolan and Cohen, "The War about the War."). Earlier, in February 1998, Wolfowitz had testified in front of the House International Relations Committee that regime change in Iraq was the "only way to rescue the region and the world from the threat" posed by Hussein. Revealing another aspect of neoconservative alliance-building in the years leading up to the Bush election, Wolfowitz added that the United States should recognize "a provisional government of free Iraq," and that the best place to look for such a government was "with the current organization and principles of the Iraqi National Congress" (quoted in Halper and Clarke, pp. 101-102). Thus, write Halper and Clarke, "in only a few years since the Soviet collapse, neoconservatism had refocused itself as an interventionist lobby intent above all else on waging a second Gulf war" (p. 102).

During Clinton's presidency, PNAC organized two sign-on letters to the president (the second one on Milosevic), one letter to congressional leaders (on Iraq), and one general statement (on the "Defense of Taiwan") (see " A Complete List of PNAC Signatories and Contributing Writers," Right Web). In 2000, PNAC published a book and a report, both of which were designed as blueprints for a new U.S. foreign and military policy: Present Dangers included work from many PNAC associates and other neoconservatives; "Rebuilding America's Defenses," written largely by PNAC's Donnelly, offered an agenda for military transformation that echoed many ideas that first gained prominence in the 1992 Defense Policy Guidance.

The 2000 election of George W. Bush enabled PNAC to advance its agenda for the "New American Century." Many PNAC principals moved into the Pentagon, vice president's office, and State Department. It was not, however, until after 9/11 that the PNAC agenda was fast-forwarded.

On September 20, 2001, PNAC sent an open letter to Bush that commended his newly declared war on terrorism and urged him not only to target Osama bin Laden but also other supposed "perpetrators," including Saddam Hussein and Hezbollah. The letter made one of the first arguments for regime change in Iraq as part of the war on terror. According to the PNAC letter, "It may be that the Iraqi government provided assistance in some form to the recent attack on the United States. But even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism."

The letter also pointed out that to undertake this new war, it would be necessary to inject more money into the U.S. defense budget: "A serious and victorious war on terrorism will require a large increase in defense spending. Fighting this war may well require the United States to engage a well-armed foe, and will also require that we remain capable of defending our interests elsewhere in the world. We urge that there be no hesitation in requesting whatever funds for defense are needed to allow us to win this war."

Including the first PNAC letter on the war on terrorism, PNAC published four letters to Bush from 2001 to 2003. In April 2002, PNAC sent Bush a letter regarding "Israel and the War on Terrorism," followed on November 25, 2002, by a letter about Hong Kong, and a January 23, 2003 letter on increasing the military budget. In March 2003, PNAC published two statements on "Post-War Iraq."

PNAC issued its most recent letter on January 28, 2005. Addressed to congressional leaders, the letter requested that they "take the steps necessary to increase substantially the size of the active duty Army and Marine Corps." It was the judgment of the signatories that an increase of 25,000 troops a year would be necessary to meet what Condoleezza Rice described as the country's "generational commitment" to fighting terrorism in the greater Middle East. "The administration has been reluctant to adapt to this new reality," according to the letter. "We understand the dangers of continued federal deficits and the fiscal difficulty of increasing the number of troops. But the defense of the United States is the first priority of the government."

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« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2007, 05:09:40 am »

Although many of the January 2005 signatories belong to the usual circle of neocons (such as Cohen, Donnelly, Gaffney, Gerecht, the Kagans, Max Boot, Clifford May, and James Woolsey), others were liberal hawks and liberal internationalists like Peter Beinart, Paul Kennedy, Will Marshall, Michael O'Hanlon, and James Steinberg.

Several months earlier, in September 2004, PNAC published an "Open Letter to the Heads of State and Government of the European Union and NATO," which expressed concern about the domestic and foreign policies of Vladimir Putin's government in Russia. The letter stated: "President Putin's foreign policy is increasingly marked by a threatening attitude toward Russia's neighbors and Europe's energy security, the return of rhetoric of militarism and empire, and by a refusal to comply with Russia's international treaty obligations. In all aspects of Russian political life, the instruments of state power appear to be being rebuilt and the dominance of the security services to grow. We believe that this conduct cannot be accepted as the foundation of a true partnership between Russia and the democracies of NATO and the European Union." Among the 100 signatories were many prominent neoconservatives. Prominent Democrats who signed the letter included Marshall, Steinberg, Joseph Biden, Richard Holbrooke, and Madeleine Albright.

The most recent PNAC report, "Iraq: Setting the Record Straight," published in April 2005, is an apologia for the invasion and war. It concludes that Bush's decision to act "derived from a perception of Saddam's intentions and capabilities, both existing and potential, and was grounded in the reality of Saddam's prior behavior." The authors blame the reporting of the UN inspection teams and U.S. government statements, which they say "left wide gaps in the public understanding of what the president faced on March 18, 2003, and what we have learned since." PNAC also charges that administration critics "selectively used material in the historical record to reinforce their case against the president's policy." In other words, PNAC makes no apology for its own role in urging the administration to invade Iraq but rather defends the Bush administration as acting on the best intelligence available.

PNAC's activities dwindled in 2005, and there have been no postings to its website in 2007. The most recent material under the "What's New" section of its website is from 2006: articles written by PNAC associates Gary Schmitt and Ellen Bork, all of which were published in the Weekly Standard or the New York Sun.

The Bush administration's war on terrorism spawned an array of other neoconservative organizations and advocacy groups that shared PNAC's views about U.S. global dominance and whose key figures have been associated with PNAC. Several of these entities—such as the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, the U.S. Committee on NATO, and the Coalition for Democracy in Iran—were formed as ad hoc pressure groups closely associated with PNAC and have now folded or become dormant. Other groups, notably the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), have emerged as major institutions with large budgets and staffs.

Despite PNAC's efforts to forge a consensus around neoconservative ideas, during the course of the Bush presidency many differences have emerged in the circle of hawks and social conservatives that PNAC brought together in 1997. Some, like Fukuyama, have backed away from the imperialism of PNAC and the neocon camp, and while generally supportive of the Bush administration's stance on the "global war on terror," many neocons, militarists, and social conservatives have grown increasingly critical of its foreign, military, and domestic policies—creating divisions between PNAC associates inside and outside government.

Some of the problems identified in PNAC's 1997 Statement of Principles have come back to undermine conservative unity around foreign policy. The statement observed that conservatives "have not confidently advanced a strategic vision of America's role in the world. They have not set forth guiding principles for American foreign policy. They have allowed differences over tactics to obscure potential agreement on strategic objectives. And they have not fought for a defense budget that would maintain American security and advance American interests in the new century."

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« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2007, 05:10:25 am »

Main areas of current conservative dispute include immigration policy, stem cell research, levels of troop commitments in Iraq, democratization policy, Israel, and U.S. relations with China, North Korea, and Iran. Although the neocon camp and its allies, including Cheney's foreign policy team, are all hardliners with respect to Iran, there are public differences about which groups should receive U.S. assistance. While the leading neocon figures on Iran policy, such as Michael Rubin and Kenneth Timmerman, oppose funding the Mujahedin e-Khalq (MEK), an Iranian resistance group with militants in Iraq, other players in the Iran policy debate, such as Raymond Tanter and the Iran Policy Committee, are MEK boosters.

Another widening divide among neocons surfaced in the immigration debate, with an increasing number of neoconservatives—including Perle, David Frum, and Gaffney—distancing themselves from the neocon historical support for a liberal immigration policy, while others, notably William Kristol, have been sharply critical of social conservatives for their restrictionist positions. Two neoconservative centers—FDD and especially the Center for Security Policy—have positioned themselves in the restrictionist camp.

Funding. From 2000 to 2005, PNAC received $241,735 in grants from several conservative foundations, including the Earhart, Olin, and William H. Donner foundations (Media Transparency, "Grants to the PNAC"). From 1994 to 2005, the New Citizenship Project, which sponsored PNAC and whose chairman is Kristol, received $3.5 million in grants, largely from the largest right-wing foundations: Bradley, Olin, and the Scaife Foundations. The Bradley Foundation has been PNAC's largest source of foundation support, granting PNAC $800,000 from 1997 to 2005. In its first year of operations, PNAC received grants from Bradley, Sarah Scaife, and Olin foundations (Media Transparency, "Grants to New Citizenship Project, Inc.").

Lists of Signatories

Complete list of PNAC letter signers, study participants, and contributing writers (1997-2003)
PNAC Reagan admin signatories
PNAC Bush I signatories
PNAC Bush II signatories
Contact Information

Project for the New American Century
1150 17th Street NW, Suite 510
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: 202-293-4983
Fax: 202-293-4572



Project for the New American Century,

David Altheide and Jennifer Grimes, "War Programming: The Propaganda Project and the Iraq War," Sociological Quarterly, 2005.

David Carr, "White House Listens When Weekly Speaks," New York Times, March 11, 2003.

Robert Kagan and William Kristol, "Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy," Foreign Affairs, July/August 1996.

Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone: The Neoconservatives and the Global Order (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

Chris Dolan and David Cohen, "The War about the War: Iraq and the Politics of National Security Advising in the G.W. Bush Administration's First Term," Politics & Policy, Vol. 34, No. 1, March 2006.

George Packer, The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005).

About PNAC,

PNAC, "Statement of Principles," June 3, 1997,

William Kristol and Robert Kagan, "Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy," Foreign Affairs, July/August 1996.

William Kristol and Robert Kagan, "Introduction: National Interest and Global Responsibility," in Kagan and Kristol, eds., Present Dangers: Crisis and Opportunity in American Foreign and Defense Policy (San Francisco: Encounter Books and Project for the New American Century, 2000).

Walter LaFeber, The American Age (New York: Norton, 1989), p. 380.

Media Transparency, "Grants to the PNAC,"

Media Transparency, "Grants to New Citizenship Project, Inc,"



For media inquiries, email or call (505) 388-0208.



Published by the International Relations Center (IRC, online at Copyright © 2007, International Relations Center. All rights reserved.

Recommended citation:
"Project for the New American Century," Right Web Profile (Silver City, NM: International Relations Center, August 17, 2007).

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