Lone Superpower Plan: Ammunition for Critics

by Patrick E. Tyler
The New York Times
March 10, 1992


The Pentagon's draft policy statement that foresees a one-superpower world in which no collection of allies or foes is allowed to become a rival reflects intense pressure in the American military establishment to define a robust mission for itself in the post-cold-war era.

Should this draft policy be issued this month to the military chiefs under Defense Secretary Dick Cheney's signature, the Bush Administration will find itself at odds with a number of its international allies and, domestically, with the Democratic majority that controls Congress.

And, perhaps more problematical for the President, the Pentagon vision of the new American role sharpens the debate within the Republican Party, where Patrick J. Buchanan lashed out today at the Pentagon prescription for the United States' becoming the ultimate guarantor of world security.

"This is a formula for endless American intervention in quarrels and war when no vital interest of the United States is remotely engaged," Mr. Buchanan told reporters on his way to Memphis, Tenn. "It's virtually a blank check given to all of America's friends and allies that we'll go to war to defend their interests."

Mr. Buchanan called on Mr. Bush to repudiate the draft document. The White House was silent on the matter, and a State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher, said he would not comment on a document that was internal to the Pentagon.

The Pentagon spokesman, Pete Williams, today characterized the document as a "low level" draft, but defended its contents. He said the statements were very similiar to public statements and Congressional testimony by Mr. Cheney and Gen. Colin L. Powell, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Democratic reactions to the draft document were as strong as those from Mr. Buchanan on the Republican right, indicating that Mr. Buchanan's opposition converges in this instance with Democratic calls for greater reductions in military spending and for greater collectivism in international security.

Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he agreed with some of the objectives stated in the policy draft, like combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The problem, he said, was that "the Pentagon vision reverts to an old notion of the United States as the world's policeman -- a notion that, not incidentally, will preserve a large defense budget."

A 'Pax Mundi' Is Urged

He criticized what he termed was an inappropriate Pentagon instinct to erect a "Pax Americana, a global security system where threats to stability are suppressed or destroyed by U.S. military power."

As an alternative strategy, Mr. Biden suggested that the United States pursue "the next big advance in civilization," which he described as "collective power through the United Nations," an option that is effectively rejected by the Defense Department draft.

Among Democratic candidates for President, Paul E. Tsongas has most pointedly addressed the question of whether the United States should take an overarching role in world security.

In his political manifesto, "A Call to Economic Arms," Mr. Tsongas says he would pursue a policy not of Pax Americana, but of Pax Mundi, under which collective security would be a matter of equitable risk sharing and burden sharing so that each nation seeking to protect its vital trade or security interests would make contributions in forces and financial resources to reflect those interests.

"Efforts are going to have to be made to provide a United Nations Security Force with real teeth," Mr. Tsongas writes. "Pax Americana must give way to Heal Thyself. This is not isolationism. It is participation in a new internationalism truly based on the principle of collective security."

Draft Called 'Low Level'

George Stephanopoulos, deputy campaign manager for Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, said the first reaction to the Pentagon document was that it seemed to be "one more attempt" by defense officials "to find an excuse for big budgets instead of downsizing."

John D. Steinbruner, director of foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution, and an advocate of significant reductions in the President's $1.2 trillion five-year defense plan, said that while many of the goals stated in the policy statement were laudable, its somewhat chauvanistic tone might prompt allies "to challenge us in terms of military procurement."

"People will develop capabilities designed to offset ours," he said, especially if the United States takes a position, as the draft does, that no collection of nations can aspire to regional dominance because that would put them on the path to global rivalry with the American superpower.

"This is very likely to happen if we assertively pursue this kind of superiority," Mr. Steinbruner said.

Caught off guard by the publication of extensive excerpts from the draft defense planning guidance in The New York Times on Sunday, the Pentagon seemed at a loss today whether to embrace the document or reject it. Mr. Cheney was said to have complained to aides that his public testimony on defense strategy gets scant coverage in the news media while classified documents relating to policy formulation underlying those public statements get greater attention.

Mr. Williams called it a "low-level draft" that had not been seen by Mr. Cheney nor been approved by any senior official. "Undoubtedly it will be revised," he said, adding that he had not seen the document, but had instructed his staff to prepare examples of where the document "overlaps" with the public testimony of senior defense officials.

Who Got the Document

On Feb. 18, the draft "Defense Planning Guidance," prepared under the supervision of Paul D. Wolfowitz, the Pentagon's Under Secretary for Policy, was circulated to General Powell, who serves as the President's principal military adviser, the secretaries of all four military departments, Mr. Cheney's under secretaries and assistant secretaries of defense and the chiefs of all four military services.

A week after the draft document was circulated, Adm. David E. Jeremiah, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the document would be issued by Mr. Cheney in early March, thus indicating it was in an advanced drafting stage. A cover memo from Mr. Wolfowitz's deputy, Dale A. Vesser, also indicates that the policy statement is near final form and asks recipients to "focus your comments on major substantive concerns."

One 15-page section of the guidance states that it has been approved by Mr. Cheney and begins, "This section constitutes definitive guidance from the Secretary of Defense" to be used in conjunction with "fiscal guidance published by the Secretary on 15 February 1992."

Today, Mr. Williams declined to say when the final policy document would be issued. But owing to its classification as a secret document, the public may not discover for some time how Mr. Cheney resolves the questions that have been raised about the draft.

Copyright 1992 The New York Times Company

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