BOOKS OF THE TIMES, March 4, 2004
RISE OF THE VULCANS
The History of Bush's War Cabinet
By James Mann
A REVIEW BY MICHIKO KAKUTANI
The Vulcans in James Mann's compelling new book are not the ultra-logical pointy-eared beings from "Star Trek," but the Pentagon-trained pro-military foreign policy advisers who surround President Bush. THEIR NICKNAME, WHICH THEY COINED DURING THE 2000 CAMPAIGN, CAME FROM THE ROMAN GOD OF FIRE AND THE FORGE, and was meant, Mr. Mann says, to convey a sense of "power, toughness, resilience and durability."
Mr. Mann's real subject in this book is the United States' evolving relationship with the world over the past three decades, as American power rose from a nadir at the end of the Vietnam War to a position of military supremacy. The prism he uses to examine this subject consists of THE BELIEFS AND EXPERIENCES OF SIX LEADING VULCANS: VICE PRESIDENT DICH CHENEY, DEFENSE SECRETARY DONALD H. RUMSFELD; DEPUTY DEFENSE SECRETARY PAUL WOLFOWITZ; SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN L. POWELL; DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE RICAHRD ARMITAGE AND THE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER CONDOLEEZA RICE.
The Mystery of Iniquity...(2 Thessalonians, chapter 2...KJV).
The resulting book is lucid, shrewd and, after so many high-decibel screeds from both the right and left, blessedly level-headed. It is necessary reading for anyone interested in understanding the back story of how and why America came to deal with the rest of the world the way it is doing under the Bush administration.
Although much of the information is familiar from newspapers and policy documents, Mr. Mann a former correspondent for The Los Angeles Times does an impressive job of pulling it all together and connecting a multitude of dots. He explicates the complex legacy of such watershed events as Vietnam, Iran-contra and the first gulf war, while at the same time showing how crisscrossing alliances and rivalries among the Vulcans in earlier Republican administrations informed the debates and the decisions surrounding the war in Iraq.
Despite serious disagreements that emerged between Mr. Powell and Mr. Armitage at State, and Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Wolfowitz at the Pentagon, Mr. Mann argues, larger shared assumptions tie the Vulcans together. THESE ARE A BELIEF IN THE IMPORTANCE OF AMERICAN MILITARY POWER, A FOCUS ON TRADITIONAL NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUES (as opposed to, say, international economic concerns), A BELIEF THAT "AMERICAN POWER AND IDEALS ARE, ON A WHOLE, A FORCE FOR GOOD IN THE WORLD: AND AN OPTIMISM ABOUT AMERICA'S ABILITIES AND ITS FUTURE.
He that siteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.
Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure.
Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion...
I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; THIS DAY HAVE I BEGOTTEN THEE...(Psalm 2:1-7).
Some of the Bush administration's policy decisions, this book suggests, were fed by temperamental differences among the Vulcans and by internal decision-making dynamics. Mr. Mann describes Mr. Powell as a problem solver and pragmatist, not given to big-picture thinking, and chides him for failing to put forth a compelling alternative to Mr. Wolfowitz's vision of America as an unchallengeable superpower or to Ms. Rice's National Security Strategy with its doctrine of pre-emption.
He also observes that bureaucratic warfare between the Pentagon and the State Department meant that the White House was regularly called upon to resolve disputes, further enhancing Mr. Cheney's already substantial leverage and power.
Mr. Mann charts the permutations and flip-flops in neoconservative thinking over the years, underscoring how the cause of democracy and self-determination overseas went from being a largely liberal, Democratic idea (looked upon with suspicion by conservatives like Jeane J. Kirkpatrick in the late 1970's) to a fiercely held axiom of the Bush administration.
He similarly charts the sea change that the thinking of some Vulcans underwent over the years, ALTHOUGH HE DOES NOT ALWAYS MANAGE TO EXPLAIN EXACTLY WHY THOSE CHANGES CAME ABOUT. For instance he points out that Ms. Rice evolved from being a pragmatist (in the tradition of Henry A. Kissinger and her mentor Brent Scowcroft) to being "the prime mover behind the drafting of a new National Security Strategy that laid the framework for a preventive war."
In addition Mr. Mann reminds us how policies, frequently presented by the Bush administration as responses to a post-9/11 world, had roots in long-standing neoconservative theories and propositions: from the push by many Vulcans for a more assertive, moralistic stance toward the Soviet Union in the 1970's and 80's, to a hawkish 1992 Defense Planning Guidance paper, which was drafted by Mr. Wolfowitz's office, sponsored by the defense secretary at the time, Dick Cheney, but turned aside by the White House of the current president's father...
For Mr. Mann, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 "greatly accelerated" the willingness of the current administration "to rethink cold war ideas about national security" namely, containment, deterrence and multilateral approaches to foreign policy and persuaded the Vulcans that "America had entered a new era and needed new concepts to guide it."
In the ensuing months, he observes, the administration would abandon the ABM Treaty, move away from cold war strategies of deterrence, recast America's stand on nuclear weapons, turn the war on terror into a campaign against weapons of mass destruction and reshape American approaches to Israel and the Palestinians.
The decision to invade Iraq last year, Mr. Mann writes, "encapsulated virtually all the key elements in the Vulcans' views of the world" and "reflected the foreign policy ideas and themes that the Vulcans had gradually developed over the previous three decades."
Writing in clear, authoritative prose, Mr. Mann provides a coolly nonpartisan assessment of these developments. He argues that while Democratic leaders often accused the Republicans of unilateralism, "the truth was that the Clinton administration too gave far less weight to principles of collective security than had America's leaders from the 1940's through the 1980's." On the other hand, he points out that after the war in Iraq ended, "many of the forecasts of the hawks proved inaccurate," from their assertions about weapons of mass destruction to their predictions of a welcoming Iraqi nation.
Mr. Mann wants to treat the Vulcans as a singular and historically important group, like THE WISE MEN, WHO SHAPED AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY AT THE END OF WORLD WAR II, OR THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST WHO PROSECUTED THE VIETNAM WAR IN THE 1960's.
Unfortunately this premise sometimes goads him into playing down the serious schisms that developed among the Vulcans and also results, at the book's very end, in a highly dubious generalization, that "during the 35 years FROM 1968 THROUGH 2003, THE VULCANS REFLECTED THE MOODS AND BELIEFS OF AMERICA AS A WHOLE."
But such reductive asides are rare in this book, which not only shows how the personal experiences of individual Vulcans shaped "the choices they made after taking office in 2001 and after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11," but also delivers A MEASURED AND KEENLY ANALYTIC ACCOUNT OFHOW THE VULCANS AS A GROUP TRIED TO PROMOTE THEIR AUDACIOUS AND PROBLEMATIC VISION OF AMERICA AS AN UNCHALLENGEABLE BEHEMOTH, "WHOSE MILITARY POWER WAS SO AWESOME THAT IT NOT LONGER NEEDED TO MAKE COMPROMISES OR ACCOMODATIONS (unless it chose to do so) WITH ANY OTHER NATION OR GROUPS OF COUNTRIES." THE NEW YORK TIMES, March 4, 2004
BEHEMOTH? (Job 40:15-24).
VULCAN, GOD OF FIRE AND IRON
Vulcan, the lame god of Hesphaetus (Roman Vulcanos), was the god of fire and the forges AND MYTHICAL INVENTOR OF SMITHING AND METAL WORKING. (The sons of Darkness...Genesis 4:16-22). His forges were under Mount Aetna on the island of Sicily. He was smith, architect, armorer, chariot builder and artist of all work in Olympus - dwelling place of the gods.
He built of brass the houses of the gods, he made for them THE GOLDEN SHOES with which they trod the air or the water, and moved from place to place with the speed of the wind or even of thought. He also shod with brass THE CELESTIAL STEEDS, WHICH WHIRLED THE CHARIOTS OF THE GODS THROUGH THE AIR OR ALONG THE SURFACE OF THE SEAS.
Powers and Principalities
VULCAN WAS THE ARCHITECT OF THE PALACE OF THE SUN which stood reared aloft on stones; polished ivory formed the ceilings and silver the doors. The workmanship surpassed the material, FOR UPON THE WALLS VULCAN HAD REPRESENTED EARTH, SEA AND SKIES WITH THEIR INHABITANTS.
Vulcan was the son Zeus and Hera. The story is that Zeus threw him out of Heaven for taking part with his mother in a quarrel which occured between them. HE WAS LAME FROM HIS BIRTH ACCORDING TO SOME STORIES, BUT OTHERS ASSERT VULCAN'S LAMENESS WAS THE CONSEQUENCE OF HIS FALL. HE WAS A WHOLE DAY FALLING and at last alighted on the island of Lemnos, which was henceforth sacred to him."
Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth THE PEACEABLE FRUIT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS UNTO THEM THAT ARE EXERCISED THEREBY.
Wherefore lift up the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees;
AND MAKE STRAIGHT PATHS FOR YOUR FEET, LEST THAT WHICH IS LAME BE TURNED OUT OF THE WAY; BUT LET IT RATHER BE HEALED...
FOLLOW PEACE WITH ALL MEN, AND HOLINESS, WITHOUT WHICH NO MAN SHALL SEE THE LORD.
Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any ROOT OF BITTERNESS springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled...(Hebrews 12:11-15).
The Number Six Hundred, Sixty and Six
The American Military Establishment
Neo-Conservatives and The Protocols of Zion