The Neocon Plan for War and More War

Exclusive: A major test for President Obama is whether he will in the face of the Republican midterm victories submit to neocon demands for more wars in the Middle East and a costly Cold War with Russia or finally earn the Nobel Peace Prize that he got at the start of his presidency, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Buoyed by the Republican electoral victories, America’s neocons hope to collect their share of the winnings by pushing President Barack Obama into escalating conflicts around the world, from a new Cold War with Russia to hot wars in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and maybe Iran.

The new menu of neocon delights was listed by influential neocon theorist Max Boot in a blog post for Commentary magazine, an important outlet for neocon thinking. Boot argued that the Republicans and thus the neocons have earned a mandate on national security policy from the electoral repudiation of Obama’s Democratic Party.

President Barack Obama uncomfortably accepting the Nobel Peace Prize from Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 2009. (White House photo)

President Barack Obama uncomfortably accepting the Nobel Peace Prize from Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 2009. (White House photo)

“I am convinced [national security policy] was as important a factor in this election as it was in the 2006 midterm when, in the midst of Iraq War debacles, the Republicans lost control of the Senate,” wrote Boot, who then blamed Obama for pretty much everything that has gone wrong:

“The president did himself incalculable damage when he set a ‘red line’ for Syria last year but failed to enforce it. That created an image of weakness and indecision which has only gotten worse with the rise of ISIS and Putin’s expansionism in Ukraine.”

Boot’s recounting of that history is, of course, wrongheaded in several ways. It may have been foolish for Obama to set a “red line” against chemical weapons use in Syria, but there is growing evidence that the Syrian government was not behind the lethal sarin attack of Aug. 21, 2013, and that it was instead a provocation by rebel extremists. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case.”]

Further, Putin’s approach to the Ukraine crisis in February 2014 was reactive, not provocative or expansionistic. It was the European Union and the United States (led by neocons such as Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman and Sen. John McCain) that set out to overturn the Ukrainian status quo.

Neocon support for political disturbances in Kiev, including Nuland plotting how to “glue this thing,” contributed to the putsch that ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych and touched off a bloody civil war. Putin was supporting the status quo, i.e., maintaining the elected government, not instigating its overthrow. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Powerful Group Think on Ukraine” and “Treating Putin Like a Lunatic.”]

And, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria arose not from Obama’s timidity but from the neocon-inspired invasion of Iraq last decade. ISIS emerged from the hyper-violent Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which didn’t exist until President George W. Bush followed neocon advice to invade and occupy Iraq. The terrorist group, rebranding itself as the Islamic State, moved on to Syria where the neocons were seeking another “regime change” in the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocons Revive Syrian ‘Regime Change’ Plan.”]

If Obama had bombed the Syrian military in summer 2013, as Boot and other neocons wanted, not only might Obama have been attacking the wrong people for the sarin attack, he might well have precipitated the collapse of the Syrian government and a victory for either ISIS or al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, the only two effective fighting forces among the anti-government rebels. There would have been a good chance that jihadist banners would be flying over Damascus, creating a terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East.

In other words, Boot is working not only from a false narrative but a dangerous fantasy. Nevertheless, it is a narrative that is widely accepted inside Official Washington where one of the favorite sayings is “perception is reality.” So, although Boot’s perception is factually unhinged, it is regarded as “reality” by many “smart people” in the world’s most powerful capital.

Dangerous Prescription

After laying out his false diagnosis that Obama’s supposed failure to destroy the Syrian military in 2013 led to the crises of Ukraine and ISIS in 2014 Boot then prescribes what needs to be done.

First, he wants the Republican-controlled Congress to pour more money into the U.S. military or, as he puts it, “Save the defense budget from the mindless cuts of sequestration, which are already hurting readiness and, if left unabated, risk another ‘hollow’ military.”

Second, launch a full-scale economic war against Russia while dispatching the U.S. military to defend the Ukrainian regime now in control of Kiev and to other nations on Russia’s borders. Or, as Boot says: “Impose tougher sanctions on Russia, freezing Russian companies entirely out of dollar-denominated transactions, while sending arms and trainers to Kiev and putting at least a Brigade Combat Team into each of the Baltic republics and Poland to signal that no more aggression from Putin will be tolerated.”

Third, keep the U.S. military fighting in Afghanistan indefinitely. Or, as Boot says, “Repeal the 2016 deadline for pulling troops out of Afghanistan and announce that any drawdown will be conditions based.”

Fourth, recommit a larger U.S. military force to aid the Iraqi military and to invade Syria. Or, as Boot says, “Increase the tempo of airstrikes against ISIS, and send a lot more troops to Iraq and Syria to work with indigenous groups we need at least 15,000 personnel, not the 1,400 sent so far.” [Emphasis added to point out that sending U.S. troops into Syria would amount to an invasion.]

Though the Syrian government has tolerated U.S. airstrikes against ISIS, the idea of sending U.S. soldiers into Syria would be a game-changer and underscores how casually neocons call for committing the U.S. military to war and how disdainful they are of international law. If Boot’s intentions on Syria aren’t already obvious, he further recommends “launching airstrikes on Iran’s proxy, [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad.”

Despite the breathtaking quality of this recommendation, Boot tries to tamp down any alarm by adding: “This isn’t a call for U.S. ground combat troops, but we do need a lot more trainers, Special Operators, and support personnel, and they need to be free to work with forces in the field rather than being limited to working with brigade and division staffs in large bases far from the front lines.”

Apparently Boot foresees a Libya-style operation in which the U.S. military and its allies destroy a government’s armed forces from the air while rebels on the ground ultimately take power. In 2011, the Libya strategy led to the ouster and murder of Muammar Gaddafi followed by the country collapsing into violence and chaos, including the killing of the U.S. ambassador in Benghazi and the decision by Western governments to abandon their embassies in Tripoli.

In Syria, such a scenario would likely lead to a victory by Islamic extremists, but it would fit with the Israeli strategy of favoring the ouster of Assad, an Iranian ally, even if the conflict ended with al-Qaeda-related radicals in power.

Boot’s recommendations match closely the strategic interests expressed by Israel’s Likud leadership. As the Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told the Jerusalem Post in September 2013, “The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc.

“We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” Oren added that this was the case even if the other “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Bomb, Bomb Iran

And, if instigating a new Cold War with Russia and expanding wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria aren’t enough for you, Boot also advocates what would amount to a military ultimatum to Iran, saying:. “Make clear that any deal with Iran will require the dismantlement of its nuclear facilities not just a freeze that will leave it just short of nuclear weapons status.”

And what if Iran refuses to dismantle its nuclear facilities or throws out international inspectors? Then, presumably Obama would have to enforce this new “red line” with yet another war, this one against Iran, just as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and neocons have long favored. Remember Sen. McCain breaking into a Beach Boy tune to extol the idea to “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.”

Boot makes it clear that what is important for Obama is to realign U.S. foreign policy with the desires of Israel and the Sunni states against Shiite-ruled Iran. He says: “End the rapprochement with Iran that has scared our closest allies in the Middle East, and make clear that the U.S. will continue its traditional, post-1979 role of containing Iranian power and siding with the likes of Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE over Tehran.”

In case you’re wondering, Boot is not just some lonely neocon voice in the wilderness. He is a senior fellow at the powerful Council on Foreign Relations and a close associate of the Kagan family of neocon royalty, which includes Robert Kagan’s wife, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.

Boot is also a friend of retired four-star General and former CIA Director David Petraeus. It was Boot who was moderating a speech by Petraeus on Oct. 30 at New York’s 92nd Street Y when former CIA analyst Ray McGovern was denied entrance and arrested. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Petraeus Spared Ray McGovern’s Question.”]

So, the neocon thinking is now out in the open. Boot has explained how the neocons view the national security implications of the Republican electoral victory and how Obama should bend to this supposed mandate. But Boot also has left little doubt what will follow if Obama does submit to the neocon agenda a future of endless warfare across the Middle East and even nuclear brinksmanship with Russia.

There has long been a madness to neocon thinking, matching what the most extreme elements of the Israeli government seem determine to create, a roiling chaos across the Middle East amid fantasies of “regime change” somehow producing Arab leaders compliant with Israeli interests.

Yet, to carry out these schemes, which far exceed the capabilities of even Israel’s highly capable military, the American neocons and Israeli hardliners need the U.S. taxpayers’ money to pay for the wars as well as young American soldiers coming from small towns and large cities across the United States to be dispatched halfway around the world to kill and die.

As President Obama heads into the final quarter of his presidency, he must decide whether he will be led down that bloody path or finally stand up to the neocons (and their allies in Congress and within his own administration) and seek reasonable accommodations for peace with the countries on Max Boot’s hit list.

[For more on the neocon agenda, see Consortiumnews.com’s “What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis” and “Why Neocons Seek to Destabilize Russia.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

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19 comments for “The Neocon Plan for War and More War

  1. Abe
    November 11, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    Neocon thinking has been out in the open for years. As Sibel Edmonds noted on the recent Boiling Frogs Post Roundtable https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knWWAhiaApU (minutes 59:00-1:02:00), the most honest and clear policy statement ever written was Project for the New American Century (PNAC).

    In The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (2207), John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt named Max Boot as a neo-conservative ‘pundit’ that represented the Israeli lobby’s positions, notably within the Council of Foreign Relations. The authors argued that Boot and other figures dishonestly warp American foreign policy away from its national interest.

    Boot served as a foreign policy adviser to John McCain in 2008, having stated in an editorial in World Affairs Journal that he saw strong parallels between Theodore Roosevelt and McCain.

    Boot praised President Obama’s decision to appoint General David Petraeus as the ground commander of the Afghanistan campaign, and he said that the conflict is winnable. He also mentioned that he has served as a civilian adviser to both Petraeus and his predecessor Stanley McChrystal.

    Boot wrote for the Council through 2010 and 2011 for various publications such as Newsweek, The Boston Globe, The New York Times, and The Weekly Standard among others. He particularly argued that President Obama’s health care plans made maintaining the U.S.’ superpower status harder, that withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq occurred prematurely while making another war there more likely, and that the initial U.S. victory in Afghanistan had been undone by government complacency though forces could still pull off a victory. He also wrote op-eds criticizing planned budget austerity measures in both the U.S. and the U.K. as hurting their national security interests.

    In April 2011, Obama nominated Petraeus to become the new Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. During his tenure at CIA (September 6, 2011 – November 9, 2012), Petraeus was well-positioned to coordinate a “new way forward” in the Syrian conflict. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Al-Qaeda re-boot, rapidly expanded.

    In September 2012, Boot co-wrote with Brookings Institution senior fellow Michael Doran a New York Times op-ed titled “5 Reasons to Intervene in Syria Now”, advocating U.S military force to create a countrywide no-fly zone reminiscent of NATO’s role in the Kosovo War. He stated first and second that “American intervention would diminish Iran’s influence in the Arab world” and that “a more muscular American policy could keep the conflict from spreading” with “sectarian strife in Lebanon and Iraq”. Third, Boot argued that “training and equipping reliable partners within Syria’s internal opposition” could help “create a bulwark against extremist groups like Al Qaeda”. He concluded that “American leadership on Syria could improve relations with key allies like Turkey and Qatar” as well as “end a terrible human-rights disaster”.

    There you have it. Liberal interventionism is simply left-wing neocon thinking. Samantha Power is the neocon UN Ambassador from Hell.

    The next two years of Republican political theater and neocon kvetching about Obama are just foreplay until the big stick passes from the left hand to the right hand in 2016.

    • Thomas Howard
      November 11, 2014 at 9:40 pm

      Abe, you nailed it.

    • Arius
      November 12, 2014 at 4:37 pm

      McCain is a very sick, very dangerous man, but so are most of those in control of the two major parties.

      • Orville H. Larson
        November 13, 2014 at 7:48 pm

        I agree with you about McInsane . . . er, McCain. That Israel-First, warmongering degenerate is beyond the pale.

        Our Lady of the Pantsuits is also a corrupt, bought-and-paid-for hack.

  2. ignasi orobitg gene
    November 11, 2014 at 8:34 pm

    avaaz petition signatures
    remove Obama honors Nobel PEACE.
    Because otherwise a candidate.

  3. F. G. Sanford
    November 11, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    Somewhere in an obtuse parallel universe, one slightly distorted by the impossibility of Euclidian straight-line geometry imposed by the curvilinear reality of non-Newtonian physics, there exists an imperfect mirror image of our own planet. It is a world we would recognize in a wakeful dream. Not quite our own, but familiar enough to challenge our sense of disbelief, and convincing enough to inspire the nightmarish reality of…The Twilight Zone.

    Maxine Bustier was born to German parents whose family fortune could never be directly attributed to the Vichy regime nor documented among legitimate business interests in Alsace Lorraine. Born in Strasbourg but raised in the United States, she spoke nearly perfect English with charmingly French imperfections. From an unremarkable education to a series of insignificant journalistic assignments, Maxine suddenly emerged on the world stage as an expert in foreign relations.The relative mediocrity of her early work did not detract from the seemingly endless praise she now garnered. She easily published book after book, while authors of great stature struggled to find publishers. Celebrity seemed inescapable. To quell rumors of unseemly associations, she took to parading herself in the corridors of power on the arms of victorious generals and distinguished elder statesmen. In some cases, they too had charming foreign accents. But all that was before the announcement of “The New Eurasian Homeland”. Maxine by then had curiously assumed a reclusive and seemingly detached academic existence. The plotters who would nearly unleash a nuclear exchange were never connected to her meteoric rise and equally enigmatic disappearance. In the privacy of her gated enclave, she was now free to remove the wig and the makeup. The uniform transformed her, and with the help of carefully administered supplements, the quaint little mustache began to grow, just as one might expect it to…in The Twilight Zone.

    • dahoit
      November 12, 2014 at 1:59 pm

      Uncle Adolf?Not a fan of the guy,too many died from his wars and his paranoia,but isn’t his legacy rehabilitated by these serial lying copycats of Zion?Anything about him comes from proven documented serial liars,who even back nazi like crazies in Ukraine,while calling democracy null and void,and demonize patriots of other nations as if they have no credence with their populations.Total outer limits if you ask me,they control the vertical and horizontal.

  4. Joe Tedesky
    November 11, 2014 at 10:42 pm

    Didn’t Maxine have a sister, who got knocked up at a peace rally?

    Seriously now, F.G. You are scaring me! …twilight zone???

  5. Zachary Smith
    November 11, 2014 at 11:59 pm

    Max Boot was mentioned a couple dozen times in the essay, so I’m going to focus on him as well. I’ve no idea at all whether he’s a bright guy or a really dim bulb; so long as he does good propaganda for Holy Israel they don’t really care. So on to my first link:

    You can tell from the start that Boot is writing in bad faith, which is SOP for neocons. These sleazes can never say what they mean, because it’s so horribly simple it’d disgust everyone who reads it. So, since they won’t say, I will: here’s the actual meaning of every neocon article ever written, in one easy sentence: Likud wants it, so I’m in favor of it.

    https://www.nsfwcorp.com/dispatch/the-syrian-boot/

    Gary Brecher is an author with whom I’m in agreement most of the time. He’s a very cold-blooded type, and I suppose that’s a big part of his appeal too. Anyhow, he clearly doesn’t think much of Boot and his sort. Can’t resist one more quote:

    It’s either an evil plan like that, or it’s just stupidity. I really don’t know, because there’s only one thing more bizarre than Boot’s way of imagining the world, and that’s the fact that he still has a job.

    At least that’s one I can answer: Boot still has a job because Israel is satisfied with his output.

    In ‘real world’ terms, Boot just doesn’t care what happens to the US of A so long as it continues to follow the commands of the crappy little state on the east end of the Med. There is reason to believe that somebody cranked up his courage and at the last moment and told BHO that an attack on Syria was going to be a hell of a lot more of an adventure than Kerry’s moronic “unbelievably small” affair.

    The attack was inevitably going to start with dozens to hundreds of cruise missiles raining down on every known Syrian Air Defense installation. And those missiles were instead going to take out dozens to hundreds of gas stations, outhouses, and empty fields.

    xxxx://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MID-01-031013.html

    Russia makes some really good GPS jammers. Syria is probably chock-full of the things. And there would be more on small boats at sea. The Tomahawks have backup systems, but they’re not very good with open ocean. And I seriously doubt if their ‘terrain matching’ gear would work with active jamming. So they were going to mostly/entirely miss, and that’s a major propaganda defeat at the outset.

    Yes, the US has lots of excellent airplanes, but those are even more expensive, and likely nobody in Washington has forgotten the 1984 fiasco where Jesse Jackson had to go to beg for the release of the pilots shot down while Reagan was taking his turn playing God-Emperor. Fast forward to 2013, and Syria has replaced those itty bitty short-range IR-guided SAMs with some late model Russian stuff. Really fine weapons, and many of them manned by Russians.

    Yes, if DC was willing to pay the price, it could eventually bash and batter through the modern air defenses with manned US aircraft. But the cost would have been very high. Better to grab the lifeline Putin threw them.

    But since Israel doesn’t give a hoot about dead US pilots, Boot and his disgusting kin are still at it.

    Swine.

  6. jaycee
    November 12, 2014 at 12:14 am

    John McCain wants a new AUMF to reflect that America is no longer at war with the alleged perpetrators of the 9/11 strikes. What McCain does not acknowledge is that the alleged perpetrators, or at least their allied forces, are now America’s allies in the push for regime change in Syria (and apparently later in Lebanon, Iran, and Russia). It is also very curious that Israel is so comfortable with al-Qaeda at its borders.

    Leaked policy papers in Canada showed that the “plan” (as of this past spring) was for two wars in Syria – the first to topple Assad and then a second to destroy the extremist elements which had been allied in toppling Assad. With the literal “roll-out” of ISIS it appears that the order of the two wars has been reversed – perhaps as a bait-and-switch operation to overcome public opinion.

  7. K. Talbot
    November 12, 2014 at 1:04 am

    I will not bore you with any reasoning why it should be; but could someone please tell me why you keep calling them neocons when they are racist zionist? Is it a fear of reprisal thing?

  8. Daniel Guyot
    November 12, 2014 at 4:57 am

    Dear Mr. Parry,
    I am a follower of your site, and once again I would like to thank you for the information and precious comments you give to your readers.
    From time to time I am also a reader of the NY Review of books, which was recommended to me by an American friend. I was amazed to read their articles about Ukraine, in particular the last one, “Putin’s New Nostalgia”, by Timothy Snyder, whose version of history and facts is a complete distortion. I would like you to take a look at that article, comparing Putin to Stalin, Stalin to Hitler, Sovjet policy to Nazi antisemitism, and mentioning the “invasion” of Ukraine planned by Russia. Even the picture showing Putin last May in Crimea mentions the celebration of “a Victory day”, as though Putin was celebrating the invasion of Crimea. The 9th of May in Russia is not “a Victory day”, this is “the day” of Victory in second world war. The information given by NYRB is so biased, that it can be qualified as pure propaganda against Russia and Putin. I suppose, that NYRB is part of the mainstream media oriented against Russia.
    Worse of all is that by comparing Putin to Stalin or to Hitler, or the present international situation to the situation prevailing in Europe in 1939, NYRB is depriving readers from any possibility to understand the present world. To understand, not necessarily to approve! But in any case to have a position based on facts.
    The level of disinformation in the press, not only in America, but in Europe, is really scaring.

  9. onno
    November 12, 2014 at 7:09 am

    Mr. Parry, reading your articles are more revealing and truthfully than all the MSM propaganda you hear and read in the press today. Mr. Parry, you’re an eye and mind opener.
    Presently also in Germany we find an anti-MSM movement books like ‘Gekaufte Journalisten’ or’ Bought Journalists’ by Udo Ulfkotte a 17 year journalist Veteran of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung who lists how USA/NATO and also national governments pay journalists to write pro government articles and lie to the public.

    This article again shows what is really happening in the Middle East and Ukraine where US CIA and NATO are using psychological warfare and sanctions hoping that President Putin will lose his temper at one point and we will face WW III with or without nuclear weapons. And Western politicians will point their fingers to Russia since they NEVER take their responsibilities.

    Now with a Republican Congress (Senate and House) and a weak, Lame Duck president in the White House we are facing a very explosive condition especially under the influence of such ‘brain dead’ people like McCain and Nuland. THey are blinded by their own ego’s that they forget that Russia won 2 wars before (Napoleon and Hitler) by defeating the Nazi Army at Stalingrad they they turned around WWII and the landing at Normandy was more to stop the Soviet Army reaching Western Europe. Ever since then Europe is in hands of USA with 78000 US troops in Germany complete with nuclear heads spread all over Europe.
    President Putin stands up for his borders and his people to stop US/NATO aggression and war machine not the other way around. Consortium News tell us how it really is, let’s spread the word, please!

  10. Arius
    November 12, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    The article should be titled ‘The Neocon and Neoliberal Plan for War and More War’. We know well the chaos and violence caused by US policy in the Bush years, so after the effect of seven years of Obama can self-identifying progressives please tell me how it would be any different if the Democrats won the recent election? It doesn’t matter what face is put on the US Deep State.

  11. Dave S
    November 13, 2014 at 3:31 am

    The article is a good one, but does anyone really even listen to Max Boot(licker)?
    Secondly when it comes to international law Bush, Obama frankly many US administrations before are guilty of war crimes. International law is completely disregarded by Democrips & Rebloodlicans as Jesse Ventura calls them, and I agree with him. Both parties are hopelessly bankrupt thinkers, sociopaths and worse. People who carry any water for the current US political system are either paid by it, or mentally ill.

  12. JWalters
    November 13, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    Another fact-based analysis by Robert Parry. This is the purpose of a free press.

    Parry’s analysis fits 20th century history well. FDR told us the big bankers were gangsters. And war profiteering bankers started a religious war in Palestine using Jewish religious supremacists as boots on the ground. All knowledgeable observers at the time predicted the resulting ongoing war.
    http://warprofiteerstory.blogspot.com

    As part of that process, they captured America’s mainstream media and government, analogous to a business sector capturing a regulatory agency, but on a bigger scale. We need an avalanche of facts.

  13. Richard Steven Hack
    November 13, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    There’s no chance Obama will ever deserve that Peace Prize he got. Obama has been on board with the “all war all the time” plans of the neocons from day one. You don’t have to be a neocon to be a warmonger. All you have to be is beholding to the people who financed your political career. For Obama that means the military-industrial elites such as the Crown and Pritzker families in Chicago.

    This isn’t about neocons vs everyone else. It’s about the corrupt US government which is controlled by corporations and oligarchs. The neocons are just one faction of the people who think they can profit from endless war. It’s not just ideology that drives war – it’s MONEY.

    • tembot
      November 18, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      totally agree with you

  14. November 15, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Replace “neocon” with “fascist” and the mask will be completely off.

Comments are closed.