For thirty years, Paul Wolfowitz has been a member of almost all Pentagon’s civilian cabinets. A brilliant intellectual, and a disciple of Leo Strauss, he justifies war as a means to expand free market democracy. An expert in making up unreal threats to receive money and embark on war adventures. He has created theories on "pre-emptive interventions" and intimidation to "emerging competitors". He has not hesitated in making a foray into military tactics thus imposing his notions on officials in the field.
Paul Wolfowitz special position in US public life -the political and university domains- allows him to be counted among those close to Bush administration’s theoreticians and occupy executive posts in the Department of Defense.
Like father like son
Paul Wolfowitz is the son of Jacob Wolfowitz, a Polish Jew born in Warsaw, whose parents migrated to New York when he was ten years old. A graduate from the City College of New York, Wolfowitz senior made a PhD in Mathematics, becoming one of the leading US experts in Statistics Theory. He was, at the time, a close friend and collaborator of Abraham Wald, the Hungarian mathematician. Politically, Jacob Wolfowitz is a convinced Zionist, committed to organizations that oppose Soviet repression against minorities and dissidents.
During WWII, Jacob Wolfowitz studied in the US military, at the Columbia University Statistics Department. Paul was born during that time, in 1943. In 1957, the family moved to Israel, where Jacob Wolfowitz had accepted a job at the Technion University. Paul was also a brilliant student in Math at Cornell University. He rapidly grew fond of history and political science, and he became a member of the Telluride Association, established in 1910 by LL. Nunn selecting Cornell’s university elite, as is the practice in almost all American universities .
It is in this group that he meets philosopher Allan Bloom, who multiplies contacts with Telluride students, such as economist Francis Fukuyama, presidential candidate Alan Keyes, information and intelligence expert Abram Shulsky (linked to espionage), Sovietologist expert Stephan Sestanovich, and Charles Fairbanks, an expert on Central Asia, among others.
A “Straussian” Education
- Léo Strauss
Under Allan Bloom’s influence, Paul Wolfowitz develops his interest in political science and Leo Strauss’ philosophy , Bloom’s adviser. His interest in or choice of Chicago University for his doctorate degree was due to the fact that the German philosopher was still a professor there.
Even though the professor leaves Chicago before Wolfowitz graduates, and despite the fact that young Wolfowitz does not regard himself as a true conservative at the time, he is currently considered Leo Strauss’ intellectual heir. In an interview in 2002. Jeanne Kirkpatrick stated that in her view, “Wolfowitz continues to be one of the great Straussian figures” .
Certainly, the American leader focuses his discourse on the elimination of tyranny and how to condemn Evil; on the dictatorship-democracy dichotomy and on the almost supernatural powers he confers to dictators, who, out of sheer malice, are capable of deceiving defenseless liberal democracies. This is an argument or rhetoric elaborated during the Cold War years, that will be later reintroduced on the subject of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Nowadays, Wolfowitz is not completely comfortable with him being called a Straussian. In Chicago, he found a new mentor or guide in Albert Wohlstetter. The latter had studied Mathematics with Jacob Wolfowitz -his father- at Columbia, and was also the country’s first nuclear strategist, a member of The Rand Corporation and a theoretician on America’s vulnerability.
Under his guide, Paul Wolfowitz writes a thesis on the desalination plants set up by Washington on the borders of Israel, Egypt and Jordan to officially promote collaboration between Tel-Aviv and the Arab world. Unofficially, one of the by-products of the desalination process would be plutonium. In his thesis, Wolfowitz opposes nuclearization of the Middle East, both on the Israeli and Arab sides, even if it were not for the same reasons: for him, if the Hebrew State would be in possession of the nuclear weapon, it would lead to an arms race with Arab countries backed by the USSR that far from consolidating its position would weaken it.
Preventing Arms Control
Due to his wide knowledge on international relations, Paul Wolfowitz is sent to Washington in the summer of 1969 to join the Committee to Maintain a Prudent Defense Policy. That body, established by two great Cold War figures, Dean Acheson and Paul Nitze, President Truman’s Secretary of State and State Department Planning Director, respectively, was tasked with convincing Congress about the need to establish an anti-missile shield, a project strongly opposed by several American representatives, particularly Edward M. Kennedy, William Fulbright, Albert Gore Jr., Charles Percy and Jacob Javits.
To help Nitze and Acheson in their battle, Wolfowitz got the help and support of Peter Wilson, another of Wohlstetter’s students, and of Richard Perle, who was at the time engaged to Wohlstetter’s daughter. The three young men put in a tenacious fight, drafting scientific studies and distributing technical specifications among Congress members. They also organized the audience of “pro-shield” Senator Henry M. Scoop Jackson before the Senate Committee dealing with weapons issues. It paid off: by the end of the summer of 1969, the “hawks” had won majority in the Senate, 51 votes to 50.
The adoption of the project would later allow Nixon to start negotiations with the USSR on the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty from a position of strength. The negotiations ended with the signing of the SALT I Agreement between both nuclear powers.
- Henry « Scoop » Jackson
This episode marked a turning point in US defense policy, being the first victory of the “hawks” since 1941 and a Congress vote on the extension of the recruitment service in times of peace. Besides, Nitze and Acheson’s victory allowed for a debate on antimissile shield, which continues till today, 2005.
Above all, it reinforced Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle’s conviction on disarmament matters: after this political battle they were both very distrustful of any US arsenal control process, convinced that such a policy would be unfavorable for the United States, both from an strategic and psychological point of view. On the other hand, their involvement in such a delicate political venture as the one entrusted to them by the eminent Cold War theoreticians, ensured them a promising future in Washington.
While his friend Perle immediately commits to politics and becomes an assistant in Henry “Scoop” Jackson’s Senate, Wolfowitz goes back to his studies in Chicago, where he finishes his Ph.D. But shortly after, in 1973, he once again hears Washington’s call: the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency was under a real purge ordered by Scoop Jackson, who believed that the former team was more than willing to negotiate with the Soviet enemy.
Fred Iklé, a Rand Corporation “hawk” strategist becomes in charge of the department. On Wohlstetter’s recommendation, he decides to recruit Wolfowitz, who quickly becomes his closest adviser. Wolfowitz drafts notes on missile launching and detection for him, works on the negotiations on arms control and follows Iklé on a tour to Paris and other European capitals.
- Henry Kissinger
His most relevant act in the field of armaments dates back to 1974 and 1975: for two years, he becomes involved in the American campaign to pressure South Korea to abandon its program for developing plutonium. Back then, Wolfowitz tries to question Henry Kissinger’s foreign policy against the Soviet Union and, what’s more, the static vision of the capitalist industrial world by Metternich’s admirer. What he actually wants is to become an intellectual alternative to Kissinger. To this end, he brings with him some young university graduates, like his friend Francis Fukuyama.
An Expert in Making -Up Threats
An Expert Threat Maker,Wolfowitz is very efficient at his work and in his mission to turn arms control in a futile attempt that will not tie nor untie nor serve any purpose. Later on he will be recruited by a group that has come to be known as the expert «alarmists» always handy when it came to making up a threat that would allow voting for a military budget increase. Therefore, it is only natural that he is invited to join the famous “B Team”, established in 1976 by CIA Director Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush (senior) to reevaluate the Soviet threat, allegedly underestimated by the Agency’s (CIA) inept experts. .
Richard Pipes, Daniel Pipes’ father, headed this “B Team”. The members of the team decided to base their report on public statements made by Soviet leaders rather than on traditional satellite spy photos. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that their assessment or final report, submitted towards the end of 1976, asserts that the Soviet Union could shortly take again the lead in the world’s arms race in order to establish “Soviet global hegemony”.
It is then that Wolfowitz realizes that under the independent cover it is possible to pass over the work done by intelligence agencies, something he will resort to in his long political career.
The advantage of being an expert on the matter is mainly the result of being, first and foremost, “independent”. Jimmy Carter’s coming to power did not affect Wolfowitz. We need to point out that two of his closest political allies -Senator Henry Jackson and Richard Perle-are democrats. Wolfowitz got a post at the Pentagon as head of “regional programs”.
Actually, he was in charge of assessing the problems that the Pentagon might encounter in the future. Defense Secretary Harold Brown, asks him to specifically analyze threats to the U.S. military in the Third World. Wolfowitz focuses on the Persian Arab Gulf region, establishing a research program -the Limited Contingency Study. The first oil clash (or embargo) alerted the United States about the strategic importance of controlling the richest regions in energy resources, particularly Saudi Arabia.
1976: Paul Wolfowitz’s First Iraqi “Threat”
As part of his new assignment, Paul Wolfowitz attends a seminar by Geoffrey Kemp, a young professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy who asserts that the United States focuses too much on Europe y does not take the consequences of a likely Soviet penetration in the Gulf too seriously. Wolfowitz immediately recruits him for the Limited Contingency Study, together with Dennis Ross, a young expert on the Soviet Union and future negotiator in the Middle East under Clinton’s Administration.
This team of researchers, based at the Pentagon, is exclusively concerned with the possibility of USSR controlling the oil fields. They also contemplated the possibility of another regional power in the Gulf area seizing control over the black gold, by studying a probable Iraqi attack on Saudi Arabia.
It is highly unlikely for such an operation to take place, but that doesn’t bother Wolfowitz. In his view, “they should not base themselves only on something happening, but also on the gravity of its consequences” a particularly convenient working method if the aim is not to confirm a threat but rather fabricate it.
From a military perspective, the conclusions of young Wolfowitz’s study are crystal clear: the United States must strengthen its presence in the Gulf region, specifically by establishing new military bases in the area. It is also necessary to mistrust any regional power that could become too important, like Iraq or, at the time, Iran.
Such a recommendation was not only made in black and white but was also put into practice: three years later, the CIA succeeded in toppling the Shah of Iran —who had become too demanding- even preferring an Islamic regime opposed to the United States, which they thought they could control. .
This is a total break away from the policy introduced by Nixon and Kissinger, i.e. making Iran a pro Western strongly armed regime to guarantee regional balance. Shah’s toppling prompted -not by chance-a renewed interest in Wolfowitz and his friends work: suddenly, the Pentagon attempts to establish bases in Oman, Kenya or Somalia, encourages friendly governments in the Middle East to build bigger airports, and tries to build up its presence in the Gulf to enable rapid deployment.
A year later, American an Egyptian Troops carry out a joint military exercise called Bright Star, while US forces develop military technologies for fighting in desert areas.
On January 20, 1981, the day Ronald Reagan took office, the new administration announces the establishment of CENTCOM, the US Military Central Command in the Middle East.
The “Asian” Period
Wolfowitz’s participation in the new White House team is not guaranteed. In fact, as a member of the Carter Administration and a close friend of so-called “democrat” figures, his pedigree is not pure enough for the Reagan Administration so close to the extreme right. In late 1979, he is advised by his friend Fred Iklé about the danger of staying on his post till the end of the campaign, so Wolfowitz resigns in early 1980 and goes to work as an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
The White House still does not trust him. Richard Allen, the new National Security Adviser, refuses to take him in as part of Ronald Reagan’s “Foreign Policy” team. It will take a lot of persuasion by John Lehman -a friend and old comrade of Wolfowitz under Nixon’s term-to convince Allen on the need to recruit him. Later on, during his appointment, Senator Jesse Helms refuses to approve considering him a dangerous liberal.
Wolfowitz then invites the Senator’s Cabinet Director, John Carbaugh, over to assure him about his neo-conservatism. He finally gets the job as State Department Planning Director. Like in the Carter Administration, he is in charge of drafting a long-term approach on geopolitical changes and the diplomatic role the United States should play. It’s a post that involves a great deal of responsibility, once occupied by George Kennan, the Cold War theoretician. To this end, Wolfowitz recruits a team composed by Philadelphia magistrate Scooter Libby, economist Francis Fukuyama, Afro-American conservative Alan Keyes, and Zalmay Khalilzad, who has the advantage of coming from the Chicago University and being a former Wohlstetter student. Some of his recruits are democrats, like Dennis Ross and Stephen Sestanovich, a close friend of Allan Bloom and a student at Cornell when Wolfowitz was studying there.
- Zalmay Khalilzad
The recommendations by the new State Department Planning Director break away from the traditional foreign policy implemented by the United States so far, particularly that of Jimmy Carter’s Administration. Wolfowitz questions the sale of AWACS aircraft to Saudi Arabia, asks for Washington to distance itself from Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization and becomes one of the strongest advocates for Israel within the Reagan Administration.
However, it will be case of China what will cause him more confrontations. The Kissinger doctrine so far claimed that China was too powerful a country to be ignored and that it was necessary to negotiate to turn it into an objective ally in the struggle against the USSR. According to a proven line of argument, Wolfowitz denounces this interpretation of things. In his view, the United States has long underestimated the importance of China; while this country is in fact more threaten by Moscow than by the United States itself.
This means that it is Beijing who needs Washington and not the other way round. There is no need to make concessions to China, quite the contrary. This made Alexander Haig -the then Secretary of State and former adviser to Henry Kissinger - frenetic. Rumors about Wolfowitz’s imminent dismissal run around for few days, but it never really happened.
It was Haig, instead, who on June 25, 1982 is replaced by George Shultz, confirming Reagan Administration’s definite break away from the Nixon-Kissinger doctrine and making way for Wolfowitz’s ideas. He was promoted to Under Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific. It will be the first serious field assignment for the Pentagon university graduate burocrat.
Under his new assignment, Wolfowitz will become in contact with two Reagan Administration key figures for Asia: Richard Armitage, who represents the Pentagon, and Gaston Sigur, of the National Security Council. The three of them -who meet every Monday-will coordinate Washington’s foreign policy for the Asian region. One of the thorniest files they dealt with was the Philippines, where they organized dictator Marcos Ferdinando’s political retirement in 1986, who so far had enjoyed Washington’s support.
Ronald Reagan’s “Asian” team is worried about the country running towards an increasingly mobilized leftist opposition. The coming to power of “Communists” could make the country walk away the US sphere of influence, closing down two US Army bases deployed in the archipelagos: the Clark Air Force Base and the Subic Bay Naval Station.
They then encourage Marcos to let a sector of the political opposition become part of his government. It was a futile exercise, as the old dictator is convinced that Ronald Reagan, who has received him thrice in the White House, will never let him down. He was wrong: the three men in charge of Asia will remove him from power, putting an end to his dictatorship and benefiting Opus Dei and the Catholic Right.
This episode does not reveal that Washington shows preference for democratic regimes. It only serves to corroborate that the Pentagon and the State Department are willing to establish a democratic regime only if maintaining a dictatorship would lead to “communist” taking over the country. In this case, Wolfowitz’s choice of policy was not to defend democracy but to fight communism.
Symptomatically, the Philippine venture is immediately criticized by Henry Kissinger, who questions United States’ change of attitude toward Marcos, a Washington long-standing loyal ally. In his view, «abandoning» Marcos could cause the destabilization of other authoritarian regimes such as South Korea, Thailand or Indonesia. Wolfowitz, on the contrary, argued that the United States couldn’t reproach USSR’s authoritarian rule while tolerating anti-democratic countries in its block.
What the American diplomat seems to propose here is a U-turn in US foreign policy on the basis of “promoting democracy”. Obviously, nothing happened. Only unstable authoritarian regimes will be replaced, and not necessarily by democracies. As a good guarantor of regional stability, Paul Wolfowitz is appointed US ambassador to Indonesia till the end of Ronald Reagan’s second term.
Back to Iraq
George H. W. Bush’s coming to power brings Wolfowitz back to Washington, to the same post he held at the beginning of Reagan’s mandate: Under Secretary of Defense, in charge of Pentagon’s policy, particularly for disarmament matters in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. He begins the work, already done under Jimmy Carter’s administration, requesting an evaluation of America’s capacity to defend Saudi oil fields. This time, the possibility of a Soviet intervention is disregarded and focus is centered on regional powers, Iraq first of all.
There are many indications that would lead to believe that the American strategy to encourage Saddam Hussein’s regime to invade Kuwait was partially conceived by Wolfowitz. The goal of such a tactic is clear: it would allow for a massive deployment of the US military in the region, particularly in Saudi Arabia, and would reduce to ashes the power that Baghdad, with Washington’s consent, had built over the last 15 years.
Several elements allow predicting Wolfowitz’s involvement in such scenario. On the one hand, the position he held in the Pentagon allowed him to associate himself with this kind of decisions. On the other, the need for deploying US troops in the region had been for a long time one of his main concerns. Finally, Dennis Ross told a very disturbing episode.
During a trip he made to the region in those days, Ross was surprised when his traveling partner, James Baker, showed him documents accepting the hypothesis (afterwards totally denied) of an Iraqi attack against Saudi Arabia. But on the other hand, he already knew them, as they were an updated version of the studies he had done in the late 70’s, at the request of Wolfowitz’s Limited Contingency Study.
The position of the Under Secretary of State for Defense was crystal clear: the withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait should not be negotiated with Saddam Hussein. The opportunity must be seized to devastate the country. He works with Richard Cheney designing a plan of attack conceived by Henry S. Rowen, a member of the Stanford Business School and the Hoover Institute, as an alternative to Colin Powell -the then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - and General Schwarzkopf’s general plan.
The advantage of that plan, which involved the deployment of troops from Saudi Arabia up to Baghdad’s surrounding area, to force Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait, was to guarantee the protection of Israel from any probable ballistic attack. The plan was eventually rejected, as was Wolfowitz’s position, once the war ended, to carry on once the goals had been achieved. This time, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell won, by arguing that the United States «was killing thousands of persons», reports James Baker in his Memoirs.
The « premature » ceasefire was a tremendous disappointment for Wolfowitz who, some argue, recommended the army marching over Baghdad. In the late 90’s, Wolfowitz will claim that to continue fighting may have favored a coup d’état and, consequently, Saddam Hussein’s fall. In any case, he draws a political lesson from that episode: in future, if you want to achieve your strategic goals you better control the military power.
New World Order
The collapse of the Soviet Union between 1989 and 1990 that should lead to a new deployment of US forces in the world means the designing of a new doctrine for neo-conservatives and Paul Wolfowitz. Those in charge of America’s defense must justify before the Congress, the need to maintain military expenditures when the main enemy has collapsed. Wolfowitz and Powell, once against each other, will develop together the idea of the need to have a minimum intervention force in the US Army, so as to be in a position to stop any possible threat.
But the essence of Wolfowitz’s doctrine will be worked out in 1992, under the Defense Planning Guidance. This document, led by the then Secretary for Defense Richard Cheney, was actually drafted by Zalmay Khalilzad, Scooter Libby’s assistant at the Pentagon, on the basis of the meetings in which Richard Perle, Andrew Marshall, Paul Wolfowitz or Albert Wohlstetter would alternately participate.
In the document that was voluntarily leaked to the press, the author talks about a new “world order [...] maintained by the United States”, in which the sole superpower would only establish temporary alliances, according to the conflicts. The United Nations, and even NATO would increasingly maintain a non-intervention position.
In more general terms, Wolfowitz’s doctrine theorizes on the need for the United States to block the emergence of any potential contestant to US hegemony, particularly among “advanced industrialized nations” such as Germany and Japan. The European Union is a special target: “Despite the fact that the United States supports the European integration project, we must see to it that no strictly European security system is developed that could undermine NATO, specially its joint military command structure” .
The Europeans will be asked to include in the Maastricht Treaty a clause subordinating its defense policy to NATO , while the Pentagon’s report advocates for the integration of the new Central and Eastern European States to the European Union, benefiting from a military agreement with the United States that would protect them against any probable Russian attack .
After the scandal caused by the premature publication of the document, Paul Wolfowitz distances himself for a while from its drafting, till Dick Cheney’s support to Khalilzad convinces him to join in again. In fact, Scooter Libby, Wolfowitz’s assistant and the man who will be in charge of the second version, will go even further. Even when he avoids mentioning the European Union, he explicitly states his theories on the need for the United States to achieve such military superiority, that it would deter all other emerging powers from attempting to challenge it.
Democrat Bill Clinton’s coming into power in 1992 will send Paul Wolfowitz back to his longed for studies. He goes back to the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, where he works on his theories about America’s obligation to preserve a “strategic depth” , an euphemism leading to the fact of being the sole world superpower. In 1996, he is chosen by Ronald Rumsfeld -who was running the presidential campaign for Republican candidate Bob Dole-to supply ideas on foreign policy issues.
But the Middle east and Iraq continue to be his obsession.
After having repeatedly regretted the fact that the US army would not stay longer on Iraqi soil to topple Saddam Hussein, in 1997 he writes an article entitled “United States and Iraq” in which he calls for the establishment of a new regime in Baghdad, but gives no specifics on how to do it. .
Late that year, in an article co-authored by Zalmay Khalilzad and published in Weekly Standard, a neo-conservative magazine, he goes even further. The title speaks for itself: “Overthrow him!” referring to the Iraqi dictator .
It is in those days that he elaborates his personal vision about a successful overthrow that would include an armed support in the south of the country, as he would rather work with Shiite and not Kurd opponents, calling upon the need to unite reluctant allies whose hesitation is explained by Clinton Administration’s lack of determination. The arrival of a team of “hawks” to power should have put an end to his reluctance, since, in his opinion, Russia and France should be easily convinced by the “oil wind”.
Though such predictions turned out to be wrong, Wolfowitz’s efforts received the blessings of the United States, where, in 1998, many eminent figures of the Republican Party joined the Project for a New American Century, in which Saddam’s removal was one of the very first demands.
It is precisely then that Wolfowitz is invited to join the Congressional Policy Advisory Board, organized within the Republican Party by Martin Anderson to enable the design of a neo-conservative foreign policy with the financial support of the Hoover Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney are regular guests, while Colin Powell deliberately withdraws, as well as Richard Armitage.
Wolfowitz does not stop. In 1998 he takes part in the Congress Investigation Committee led by Donald Rumsfeld and in charge of determining how real was the threat of a missile attack on the United States. According to the model designed by “Team B”, established by George H. W. Bush (father) in the mid 70’s, this Committee was to review the data supplied by intelligence agencies and propose a different interpretation, if necessary.
In 1995, the US intelligence community had reached the conclusion that no power, except for the declared nuclear States, could hit US territory with a missile at least for another 15 years.
Therefore, it was a matter for the US industrial military complex, and particularly those advocating for the anti-missile shield, led by Paul Wolfowitz and Newt Gringrich, to question such optimistic conclusions. The Committee did its job and Donald Rumsfeld was able to win over the support of the three Democrats in the Committee, especially that of Richard Garwin, officially opposed to the anti-missile shield.
Thus, the Committee confirms the threat of a real missile attack from North Korea, Iran, and Iraq. In 1999, always in the framework of the Project for a New American Century, Wolfowitz signs a petition on behalf of Taiwan, according to which Taiwan should enjoy US protection in case of a Chinese aggression.
- Paul Wolfowitz (left) accompanied by Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush
Turned into a key card for the neo-conservatives, he is recruited by George W. Bush (junior) in the fall of 1998, as an assistant for foreign policy matters together with a person very close to the then Republican candidate, Condoleezza Rice, with whom Wolfowitz sets up the “Vulcans” team, in reference to the Roman god who forges the divine weapons in the depths of the volcanoes. The foreign relation experts team is composed of eight members: Rice and Wolfowitz, of course, but also Richard Armitage, Richard Perle, Dov Zakheim , Stephen Hadley, Robert Blackwell and Robert Zoellick.
Simultaneously, a second team is established during the second campaign of George W. Bush (junior), led by Rumsfeld and with the purpose of promoting the anti-missile shield project, in which some of the Vulcanos members (Rice, Wolfowitz, Hadley and Perle) participate, together with other outsiders like George Schultz or Martin Anderson.
Paul Wolfowitz’s big involvement in George W. Bush’s presidential campaign -which he announces together with Condoleezza Rice before the debate with Al Gore in TV-merits a reward after the final victory, which materializes with the return to the fold by the «Pentagon child», this time as the second in command.