Outside the Inside

Frida Berrigan April 12, 2004

Last March, as U.S. troops were prepar­ing to launch the inva­sion of Iraq, a much qui­eter war was tak­ing place inside the Pen­ta­gon. Karen Kwiatkows­ki, a life­long con­ser­v­a­tive and career mil­i­tary offi­cial, was knock­ing heads with what she called the neo­con­ser­v­a­tive coup, the hijack­ing of the Pen­ta­gon.” Kwiatkows­ki recent­ly wrote of the war and occu­pa­tion in Iraq and what she calls the Bush Doc­trine Exper­i­ment: Costs have been high, pay­offs unclear and there is no exit strat­e­gy in sight.”

Can you describe the Bush Doc­trine as you saw it oper­at­ing with­in the Pen­ta­gon, and how is the exper­i­ment going?

The doc­trine as pre­sent­ed in the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Strat­e­gy is an off­shoot of the Project for a New Amer­i­can Century’s Rebuild­ing America’s Defens­es.” Both NSS and RAD are on the web. The NSS includes the idea of pre-emp­tive war as a pol­i­cy instead of an emer­gency response, and rewrites or inval­i­dates the idea of inter­na­tion­al law. 

The Doc­trine is about the US as glob­al hege­mon, mil­i­tar­i­ly and ide­al­ly eco­nom­i­cal­ly. This atti­tude is reflect­ed in the desire to expand the mil­i­tary foot­print to con­trol or lever­age glob­al ter­ri­to­ry, glob­al resources like oil and gas, and space as well. The atti­tude that we are the dom­i­na­tor, all oth­ers are either work­ing for us or else are in our way, is well reflect­ed in the Pen­ta­gon, specif­i­cal­ly among Bush appointees. Andrew Mar­shall, a key long­time, neo­con-friend­ly strate­gist in the Pen­ta­gon, has been work­ing on glob­al mil­i­tary place­ment issues for a long time, and prepar­ing to pre­vent the ascen­dance of any near peer com­peti­tor for the Unit­ed States in the next thir­ty or more years. It is seri­ous busi­ness for the pol­i­cy mak­ers, even though it is not shared wide­ly or publicly. 

The exper­i­ment is not work­ing because we are finan­cial­ly strapped as a nation, and we have a vol­un­teer mil­i­tary and a domes­tic pop­u­la­tion that is not pre­pared to col­o­nize the world. Hence the need for and con­ve­nience of a war on Ter­ror” to try to acti­vate this effort.

If it is going bad­ly, why, and does the White House know it? Is there a course cor­rec­tion” that can happen.

It is going bad­ly in some sens­es, and not bad­ly in oth­ers. If the pub­lic rhetoric about improv­ing the lives and giv­ing democ­ra­cy to the Iraqis (or the Afgha­nis) is the basic rea­son for the occupations/​emplacement of new gov­ern­ments is true, then it is not work­ing that way. But if the real rea­sons for the wars and occu­pa­tions (increas­ing and solid­i­fy­ing a mil­i­tary bas­ing struc­ture and force pro­jec­tion foot­print around key oil and gas regions and with­in areas where threats to US (and Israeli) inter­ests (Iran, Syr­ia, Sau­di Ara­bia) could emanate, then it is suc­ceed­ing mar­velous­ly. In fact – a civ­il war and oth­er strife in Iraq will sap nation­al ener­gies that a unit­ed front or a sta­ble democ­ra­cy might have devel­oped to actu­al­ly ask us to remove our forces and hand over the bases we have already built in Iraq (and Afghanistan). 

As for course cor­rec­tions, indeed, pulling back and reduc­ing our foot­print in Iraq for exam­ple, is pos­si­ble and doable. Instead of an announced plan to keep 80,000 to 100,000 troops in Iraq at our bases indef­i­nite­ly, we should announce and imple­ment a more dras­tic reduc­tion to less than 10,000 troops, and simul­ta­ne­ous­ly accel­er­ate the self gov­ern­ment of Iraq. To cor­rect the wrongs done already in Iraq, con­tracts award­ed to mem­bers of the US appoint­ed gov­ern­ing coun­cil and their extend­ed fam­i­lies should be inval­i­dat­ed and an open pub­lic bid­ding process ini­ti­at­ed to ensure that we have not cre­at­ed an new sec­u­lar Shia elite led by Ahmad Cha­l­abi in Iraq to take the place of the sec­u­lar Sun­ni elite of the Ba-ath Party. 

Our Kuwait and Sau­di pres­ence like­wise should be reduced dras­ti­cal­ly. Plans to con­struct the largest US embassy in the world in Bagh­dad should be nixed imme­di­ate­ly, and we should lease space or pur­chase an exist­ing build­ing. The palaces we occu­py in Iraq should be vacat­ed and turned over imme­di­ate­ly, in advance of elec­tions to show good faith. US inter­fer­ence with the Iraqi finan­cial bank­ing sys­tem and oil min­istry must be reduced or elim­i­nat­ed. These are prac­ti­cal steps, the over­all course cor­rec­tion is char­ac­ter­ized sim­ply as giv­ing them their coun­try back.

You are not a peacenik; rather a career mil­i­tary offi­cial and a self described life time con­ser­v­a­tive.” But you have writ­ten a lot about the val­ues you hold dear and admire with­in the mil­i­tary and how those were tram­pled by the neo-con­ser­v­a­tive rev­o­lu­tion. Can you describe the moment when you knew the Pen­ta­gon and the uni­form were no longer your home?

The moment in August 2002 when I had writ­ten five anti-neo­con­ser­v­a­tive essays to help ease my own angst about what I had been see­ing going on around me, and I real­ized that my views had made me an inter­nal ene­my” of the pol­i­cy mak­ers. It dawned on me that my allies would be those out­side the Pen­ta­gon who cared about the direc­tions we were going. I sent these arti­cles to Col David Hack­worth and asked if he would pub­lish them anony­mous­ly. He agreed to. How­ev­er, in a larg­er sense, my pol­i­tics while nev­er chang­ing, result­ed in my switch­ing to a third par­ty. The Repub­li­can Par­ty I grew up in had evolved from the small gov­ern­ment, states rights and bill of rights par­ty into some­thing that was real­ly the oppo­site — fed­er­al cen­tral­iza­tion and growth, big spend­ing domes­ti­cal­ly and inter­fer­ence with oth­ers abroad. I reg­is­tered Lib­er­tar­i­an in about 1995.

I’ve seen your writ­ings in Mil​i​tary​Week​.Com, LewRock​well​.Com, Amer­i­can Con­ser­v­a­tive mag­a­zine. It seems clear that while you are cri­tiquing the Repub­li­can inner cir­cle, your per­spec­tive is shared and admired by oth­er con­ser­v­a­tives. Do you see oppor­tu­ni­ties for pro­gres­sives and con­ser­v­a­tives to col­lab­o­rate on régime change” at home? Do you see your­self as part of a move­ment of con­ser­v­a­tives against the neo-con­ser­v­a­tive agen­da in Washington? 

Absolute­ly. Pro­gres­sives and tra­di­tion­al con­ser­v­a­tives share a respect for the indi­vid­ual over the state, and they share a love of the free­dom of thought and action that made this coun­try the great place it has been. Both have been appalled at the restric­tion in civ­il lib­er­ties, includ­ing infringe­ments on free speech, prop­er­ty rights, pri­va­cy, and the right to defend one­self in speech and action against gov­ern­ment infringe­ment or inter­fer­ence. Both love the Con­sti­tu­tion, in con­trast to the neo­con­ser­v­a­tives in both polit­i­cal par­ties and the cur­rent admin­is­tra­tion. I am whol­ly in the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment against the neo­con­ser­v­a­tive agen­da, and have been since 2002. I have dis­cov­ered, how­ev­er, that many con­ser­v­a­tives have been fight­ing and debat­ing the neo­con­ser­v­a­tive agen­da for as many as twen­ty years, and I am proud to be a new­er mem­ber of this movement.

You write, the ter­ror fight can be won…. But as the Madrid bomb­ings illus­trate, it is not being won by Bush or his poli­cies.” What alter­na­tives do you see? What poli­cies would you sup­port? And final­ly, do you see the polit­i­cal will to pur­sue that sort of approach mount­ing?

The ter­ror fight can be won using a com­bi­na­tion of domes­tic policing/​sleuthing, inter­na­tion­al policing/​sleuthing, and cer­tain changes in US pol­i­cy that make us appear to be hyp­o­crit­i­cal and insen­si­tive to the prob­lems fac­ing a large num­ber of peo­ple, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the Arab world. The arti­cle I linked to by Jeff Record lays out how ter­ror can be reduced and fought. Win­ning the war on ter­ror (there real­ly is no such war”) does not mean that ter­ror tac­tics won’t ever be used in the future. It means that the rea­sons for such acts against the Unit­ed States or her allies will be elim­i­nat­ed while the crim­i­nal fund­ing of those who do the ter­ror acts is reduced dras­ti­cal­ly. If we wished to start win­ning the war on ter­ror, we would:

  1. Stop overt­ly and mil­i­tar­i­ly sup­port­ing unde­mo­c­ra­t­ic and author­i­tar­i­an gov­ern­ments (Sau­di Ara­bia, Uzbek­istan, Tal­iban before Nov 2001, cor­rupt and unde­mo­c­ra­t­ic African and north African gov­ern­ments) around the world. Divert those funds towards coun­tries that reflect our own inter­ests and val­ues, or else reduce the nation­al debt. This of course hurts Amer­i­can defense con­trac­tors who depend on gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies to sell weapons to our auto­crat­ic allies, and this cor­po­rate cap­i­tal­ism of sorts must be resolved.
  2. Address ter­ri­to­r­i­al defense and bor­der issues more aggres­sive­ly, and do so in con­junc­tion with local nation­al and inter­na­tion­al polic­ing agen­cies. Share infor­ma­tion, learn from coun­tries that have dealt with ter­ror suc­cess­ful­ly in their histories.
  3. Pay seri­ous atten­tion to resolv­ing the Israel Pales­tin­ian issues by lis­ten­ing to the peo­ple in Israel and the peo­ple in Pales­tine — or else sim­ply stop fund­ing Israel and Egypt.
  4. Pull back our mil­i­tary pres­ence glob­al­ly, and vol­un­tar­i­ly reduce our glob­al mil­i­tary empire — start­ing with Iraq and Afghanistan.
  5. Ensure that the mil­i­tary is not sucked into more domes­tic or inter­na­tion­al police work (hon­or the Posse Comi­ta­tus Act). This is a side issue, but it is a sub­tle way to rein in domes­tic author­i­tar­i­an­ism in our gov­ern­ment and pre­serve democ­ra­cy at home — which in turn reduces home­grown ter­ror­ism like the Mur­rah Build­ing. Mur­rah is seen as a ter­ror attack against the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment as a result of the mil­i­tary assist­ed storm­ing of Waco. 

These are things that more and more Amer­i­cans are start­ing to ask for any­way, as they become fatigued with the end­less procla­ma­tions by the state about a war on abstract mean­ing­less con­cepts (ter­ror, drugs, illit­er­a­cy, etc) and as they real­ize Bush and the neo­con­ser­v­a­tive world­view of Amer­i­can mil­i­tary hege­mo­ny has made the world more, not less, vul­ner­a­ble to future major attacks.

What do you think America’s role in the world ought to be?

I would like to see Amer­i­ca as a light on a hill, a gen­tle giant, pro­duc­tive, free, not demand­ing oth­er coun­tries buy our goods or our trea­sury notes, not threat­en­ing oth­er nations with inflict­ing our ver­sion of democ­ra­cy on them. We should, as a nation, decide whether to oper­ate our nation as a con­sti­tu­tion­al repub­lic, a nation of laws, or if instead we pre­fer to be a coun­try dri­ven and defined by cor­po­rate cap­i­tal­ism and mercantilism. 

Our huge mil­i­tary machine is a cold war anachro­nism, and yet polit­i­cal­ly, we have been unable to reduce it in the 15 years since the Cold War end­ed. This is a struc­tur­al prob­lem, and we would do well to solve it before we become an empire and col­lapse the whole house of cards under that future weight. America’s role in the rest of the world should be sim­ply that of Good cit­i­zen.” We should be the fam­i­ly in the neigh­bor­hood who keeps our yard clean, invites the neigh­bors over on occa­sion for a BBQ, and whose chil­dren all do well in school and have nice man­ners, respect­ing the prop­er­ty of oth­ers. That is all, and it is cer­tain­ly enough.

What now for Karen Kwiatkows­ki?

I am hap­pi­ly retired, teach col­lege part time, and raise cat­tle and hors­es out here in west­ern Vir­ginia. I will con­tin­ue to speak out on the direc­tions I think this coun­try should go, as we all should.

Fri­da Berri­g­an is a senior pro­gram asso­ciate with the New Amer­i­ca Foun­da­tion’s Arms and Secu­ri­ty Ini­tia­tive and a mem­ber of the Cam­paign for a Nuclear Weapons Free World.
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