Infamous warhawk Paul Wolfowitz has heaped praise on President Donald Trump’s recent military action in Syria, as well as engaged top Trump administrators via email regarding future engagement in the Middle East. Are we seeing the resurgence of the “Wolfowitz doctrine”?
WASHINGTON, D.C.– This week, in an interview with Politico, the so-called “godfather” of the Iraq War Paul Wolfowitz stated his glowing optimism regarding the future policies of President Donald Trump, a sharp departure from Wolfowitz’s pre-election statement that a Trump presidency would be “unacceptable.”
Wolfowitz told Politico’s Susan Glasser that Trump may offer more than he had anticipated, calling Trump’s recent strike against the Syrian government a “fantastic opportunity,” yet cautioning that it was “only a first step” and must be followed by more military action.
While Wolfowitz stopped short of outright praising the president and noted that his unpredictability is still a point of concern, he added that on Trump’s “national security team [there are] two individuals who are nearly the opposite, who have a long consistent record of thinking clearly, strategically. I’m talking about McMaster and Mattis.”
Incidentally, both National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Secretary of Defense James Mattis are long-time associates of Wolfowitz. In the interview Wolfowitz summarized his ties to the two high-ranking officials, stating “ I know McMaster quite well from before. And Mattis actually was my senior military assistant when I first came to the Pentagon in 2001, and I worked with him quite a bit later on in his various later capacities, including in Iraq. So I know them pretty well.”
More troubling than Wolfowitz’s strong ties to McMaster and Mattis is his ongoing private email correspondence with both officials, a move which Glasser noted was done “in hopes they will pursue a U.S. strategy of stepped-up engagement in the Middle East.”
While Wolfowitz sought to downplay his communication with McMaster and Mattis by stating that he not had face-to-face “direct” contact with them since they assumed their posts, email correspondence is often the medium of choice for those who guide U.S. foreign policy from the shadows, as evidenced by private email correspondence between controversial financier George Soros and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton among other examples.
Trump’s recent foreign policy reversal certainly seems to suggest the influence of Wolfowitz. His recent military adventurism in the Middle East and elsewhere has led other notorious neo-conservatives like Senator Lindsey Graham – who was also strongly opposed to Trump during his campaign – to exclaim “we have got a president and a national security team that I’ve been dreaming of for eight years.”
The Trump administration’s moves targeting North Korea and Syria, as well as the resurgence of anti-Russian rhetoric, are in line with the policy laid out in “Defense Strategy for the 1990s: The Regional Defense Strategy,” better known as the “Wolfowitz doctrine.”
This notorious document, as the New York Times noted in March 1992, laid out a policy meant to “ensure that no rival superpower is allowed to emerge. With its focus on this concept of benevolent domination by one power, the Pentagon document articulates the clearest rejection to date of collective internationalism.”
The Wolfowitz doctrine gives particular attention to preventing the resurgence of Russia as a potential economic challenger to U.S. hegemony and to “remain the predominant outside power in the [Middle East] region and preserve U.S. and Western access to the region’s oil.”
The most aggressive military action seen under Trump thus far has focused on the Middle East – namely in Syria and Yemen, whose conflicts are both based on securing fossil fuel interests for the U.S. and its regional allies. Furthermore, the Trump administration’s most aggressive rhetoric has been directed at Russia and China, the U.S.’ other greatest potential rivals. China has been particularly concerned over the U.S.’ recent deployment of the THAAD anti-missile system to South Korea, which China says threatens “regional stability.”
One of the most potentially troubling aspects of Wolfowitz’s connection to Mattis is the fact that Mattis was recently granted “freedom of initiative” by Trump – essentially giving the Pentagon free reign to launch strikes and bombings without presidential or congressional approval. In one recent instance, Trump was not even informed of the use of a Massive Ordnance Air Bomb (MOAB) against Daesh (ISIS) forces until after it was detonated.
Wolfowitz, in the interview, made it clear that he knows Mattis is calling the shots, stating that Trump’s statements and positions take a backseat to the decisions Mattis ultimately makes.
“I think in many ways it matters much more what Secretary Mattis and Secretary Tillerson think it [Trump’s statements] means than what the president had in mind when he said it,” he said.
Listen to the Wolfowitz interview below: