The End of Democracy As We Knew It (Part II)

Part I:



2. Who Ruled the World – Yesterday, and How?

2.1 The Rise of the Neocons

Americans regularly insist that the U.S. is the only global governing authority that underpins the world’s security and prosperity, that without it, there would be widespread chaos, economic stagnancy, and far more frequent international warfare. The proponents of this conception emphasize the dependency of world order on US military, economic, diplomatic, and ideological capabilities (Falk, R., 2014). Falk mentions Michael Mandelbaum as the most passionate proponent of this position [9].

Recently Mandelbaum (2014) bluntly restated this argument, saying, “The United States stands alone as the world’s de facto government.” Though administered from its statist headquarters in Washington, according to its promoters, this form of world government is meta-political and unselfish, qualities that should be appreciated by all people of good will since the U.S. is contributing to the betterment of humanity (Kagan, R. 2006). Indeed, there was only one group on earth which claimed the right to global governance: the US neo-conservatives.

By the mid-1970s, then US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld began to argue that the Soviet government would be ignoring bilateral treaties and secretly building up weapons with the intention of attacking the United States. Together with Paul Wolfowitzhe wanted to create a much more severe view of the Soviet Union, its intentions, and views about fighting and winning a nuclear war. 

When George H. W. Bush became Director of Central Intelligence in 1976, he set up a team of sixteen outside experts who were to take an independent look at highly classified data used by the intelligence community to assess Soviet strategic forces, commonly referred to as Team B [10]. Their allegations proved all wrong. The CIA director concluded that the Team B approach set “in motion a process that lends itself to manipulation for purposes other than estimative accuracy.”

The “neo-conservative offensive” (Hamm, B., 2005, 1-18), which started in August 1971 with the Powell Manifesto (Nace, T., 2003 [11]), had its first great success when Ronald Reagan came into power und brought many of the neocon hawks with him. They had been in place before and were waiting for their chance. Ronald Reagan was the worst informed president, an old man who napped even in meetings of the National Security Council, and who perceived the world through the lens of Hollywood movies:

“A man of limited knowledge but deep religious beliefs and strong conservative convictions, he provided little guidance on policy and had no interest in or grasp of detail. … Reagan’s disengaged style and lack of foreign policy experience left the door open to palace intrigue among his subordinates, who were eager to fill the void” (Stone, O., Kuznick, P., 2013:421-4).

After the collapse of the socialist regimes the neocons lost influence while still opposing the foreign policy establishment of the republican Bush Sr. administration as well as of that of its democratic successor under President Clinton. Their major foreign policy concern was how to prevent the rise of a new rival. The Defense Planning Guide, a document prepared by the then Undersecretary for Defense Policy Paul Wolfowitz mentions:

“Our most important goal is it to prevent to emergence of a new rival, whether on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, which would represent a threat similar to that of the former Soviet Union. This reflection governs the new regional defense strategy and demands that we prevent every hostile power to dominate a region the resouces of which would suffice to justify a claim to global power” [12].

In 1997, a group surfaced under the name of Project for a New American Century (PNAC), a think tank based in Washington, D.C.founded by William Kristol and Robert Kagan. The PNAC’s stated goal is “to promote American global leadership.” Fundamental to the PNAC were the views that “American leadership is both good for America and good for the world” and support for “a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity.”

After the faked presidential elections of 2000 (Palast, G. 2002), its members came in numerous key administrative positions and the PNAC exerted influence on high-level government officials in the administration of George W. Bush and shaped its military and foreign policies.

As J. Petras (2013b) writes, the restoration of “direct US imperial interventions, unhindered by Congressional and popular opposition, was gradual in the period 1973-1990. It started to accelerate in the 1990’s and then really took off after September 11, 2001” The first military test after the collapse of the Soviet empire was how Iraq President Saddam Hussein was lured into the Kuwait trap in 1990. The 28 nations “coalition of the willing” was bought together, and war was waged over the people of Iraq, a war that first was fought with murderous weapons, then with sanctions, and has continued until this very day.

On January 16, 1998, members of the PNAC, including Donald RumsfeldPaul Wolfowitz, and Robert Zoellick drafted an open letter to President Bill Clinton urging him to remove Saddam Hussein from power. They argued that Saddam would pose a threat to the United States, itsMiddle East allies, and oil resources in the region if he succeeded in maintaining what they asserted was a stockpile of Weapons of Mass Destruction. The PNAC also supported the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which some have regarded as evidence that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a foregone conclusion (Mackay, N., 2004).

It should not be forgotten that the war against Afghanistan, too, was being planned well before the 9/11 attacks. US officials had been in talks with the Taliban about building an oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea to Karachi, Pakistan, via Afghanistan in order to avoid crossing Iran. In July 2001, a German diplomat was reported saying that the talks ended with the announcement from the US side: “Either we cover you with a carpet of gold [if you comply], or we cover you with a carpet of bombs”. Even the date when bombings would begin was given as October 2001 [13]. This had nothing whatsoever to do with the 9/11 attacks, nor with Osama bin Laden (Chossudovsky, M. 2005).

Rebuilding America’s Defenses (September 2000), the most widely circulated document of the PNAC group, was developed byRumsfeldCheneyWolfowitz and Scooter Libby, and devoted to matters of “maintaining US pre-eminence, thwarting rival powers and shaping the global security system according to US interests.” Section V, entitled “Creating Tomorrow’s Dominant Force”, includes the sentence: “Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event––like a new Pearl Harbor”.

Though not necessarily implying that Bush administration members were complicit in those attacks, it was often been argued that PNAC members used the events of 9/11 as the “Pearl Harbor” that they needed––that is, as an “opportunity” to capitalize on in order to enact long-desired plans.

In a 2007 speech before the Commonwealth Club, retired General Wesley Clark cited a classified Pentagon Memorandum of 2001 (months before the September attacks) which read that the US would attack seven countries in the next five years, i.e. Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran in order to gain control over their natural resources, oil in the first place, and enable fabulous profits for the arms and oil industries.

“Our country was governed by a group of paranoids like Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and others who wanted to destabilize the Middle East and gain control over its resources” [14].

By the end of 2006, PNAC was “reduced to a voice-mail box and a ghostly website”, with “a single employee left to wrap things up”. In 2006, Gary Schmitt, former executive director of the PNAC, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and director of its program in Advanced Strategic Studies, stated that PNAC had come “to a natural end.” Instead, untiring neocon hawk Robert Kagan replaced it with the Foreign Policy Initiative [15].

2.2 Regime Change

The strategic reasoning of the PNAC was formulated by former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski (1997), who wrote: “The world’s energy consumption is bound to vastly increase over the next two or three decades. Estimates by the US Department of Energy anticipate that world demand will rise by more than 50 percent between 1993 and 2015, with the most significant increase in consumption occurring in the Far East.

The momentum of Asia’s economic development is already generating massive pressures for the exploration and exploitation of new sources of energy, and the Central Asian region and the Caspian Sea basin are known to contain reserves of natural gas and oil that dwarf those of Kuwait, the Gulf of Mexico, or the North Sea.(p. 125). “Moreover, they [the Central Asian Republics] are of importance from the standpoint of security and historical ambitions to at least three of their most immediate and more powerful neighbors, namely Russia, Turkey, and Iran, with China also signaling an increasing political interest in the region”(p. 124).

This PNAC global “chess game” analysis was the ideological centerpiece of the Bush Jr. administration.

From 1991 on, the United States relentlessly pursued a strategy of encircling Russia, just as it has with other perceived enemies like China and Iran (Gagnon, B.K. 2014). It brought 12 countries in central Europe, all of them formerly allied with Moscow, into the NATO alliance. US military power is now directly on Russia’s borders. The actual Ukraine crisis is in part the result of a zero-sum calculation that has shaped US policy toward Moscow since the Cold War:

“Any loss for Russia is an American victory, and anything positive that happens to, for, or in Russia is bad for the United States. As much as this reality is contested by Western rhetoric and suppressed by Western media, it is nevertheless the dominant perception in Russia, China, and Iran (Glazyev, S., no date; Mearsheimer, J. 2014)”.

Slowly, under President Gerald Ford and, especially President Jimmy Carter, an imperial revival emerged in the form of clandestine support for armed surrogates in Southern Africa and neoliberal military dictatorships in Latin America. The first large-scale imperial intervention involved massive support for the Islamist uprising against the secular government of Afghanistan and a mercenary jihadist invasion into the Southern member states of the Soviet Union, sponsored by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the US (1979).

Since September 11, 2001, US Special Operations forces have grown in every conceivable way. In the waning days of the Bush presidency, Special Operations forces were deployed in about 60 countries around the world. In 2013, elite U.S. forces were deployed in 134 countries around the globe. This 123% increase during the Obama years demonstrates how the U.S. has engaged in growing forms of overseas power projection.

Conducted largely in the shadows by America’s most elite troops, the vast majority of these missions take place far from prying eyes, media scrutiny, or any type of outside oversight, increasing the chances of unforeseen blowback and catastrophic consequences. SOCOM is reportedly on track to reach 72,000 personnel in 2014, up from 33,000 in 2001.

Funding for the command has also jumped exponentially as its baseline budget, $2.3 billion in 2001, hit $6.9 billion in 2013 ($10.4 billion, if you add in supplemental funding) (Turse, N. 2014).

In order to install governments obedient to US wishes and interests, US governments have been involved in and assisted in the overthrow of numerous foreign governments without the overt use of US military force. Often, such operations are tasked to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or, more tacitly, to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), (Lopez, A. 2014). Regime change has been attempted through direct involvement of US operatives, the funding and training of insurgency groups within these countries, anti-regime propaganda campaigns, coups d’état, and other activities [16]. Indirect support is lent by, e.g., the EU Eastern Partnership Program.

The art of regime change, soft and hard, has been a well developed and important part of US foreign policy since the Iran coup in the early 1950s. Beginning with Serbia in 2000, “colored revolutions” have spread over most parts of the former Soviet allies (unsuccessful in Belorus), to Myanmar 2007 (unsuccessful) and North Africa. The propaganda is always the same, centered around catch words like democracy, human rights, prosperity, justice and freedom while in reality it is about installing capitalist friendly governments, deregulation, privatization, natural resources, military bases and armament sales, and containment of potential rivals (Moglia, J. 2014).

Mass media, especially TV advertising, public opinion polls together with revolutionary cells plus indefinite money mostly from US public and private sources or exiled Russian oligarchs help to orchestrate the process of transition. Soros’ Open Society Fund with numerous subsidiaries and his Central European University are illustrative examples. A document recently released under the Freedom of Information Act confirmed that the US is making similar efforts throughout the Middle East [17].

Conceived for Solidarnosc in Poland and the OK’98 civic campaign in Slovakia, the strategy has been progressively perfected and adapted to other contexts. In Serbia, this gave birth to what would be called the “Bulldozer Revolution” and led to the end of the Milosevic regime. It then spread to other contexts, featuring protests and regime changes in Georgia, Ukraine, and to a limited extent, Kyrgyzstan. The deployment of that strategy is perfectly visible, with all the events in a clear sequence: unpopular regime, falsification of elections, street protests and the political death of the current president. Because of their high non-violent component, they resemble more a massive party than direct confrontation with the authorities.

Whilst regimes in countries like Belarus and Uzbekistan tightened control on internationally funded NGOs, Georgia and Ukraine remained relatively liberal in this respect. Both countries were open to Western influence whilst still keeping decent relations with Moscow. The Central European University is selecting what is to become the elite of those countries. Programs of assistance to Ukrainian and Georgian students are well established in the USA and in loco. One could interpret each of those “color revolutions” as arm wrestling between Moscow and Washington, with the EU timidly trying to have a voice (Polese, A. 2011).

US governments’ actions for regime change implied many thousands of people murdered (Blum, W., 2004a). Operation Gladio, supervised by NATO and masterminded by Washington, had the sole purpose of preventing leftist parties in Europe of being democratically elected (Ganser, D., 2005). Operacion Condor (Calloni 2010) used terror regimes and death squadrons throughout Latin America to secure subservient governments, no matter how cruel (Davies, N.J.S. 2014).

At the very moment of writing, regime change operations can be observed in Egypt, Thailand, Venezuela, Syria, Ukraine. They all are being prepared and accompanied by carefully planned propaganda campaigns. In none of these, as well as in many of the previously mentioned cases, have such meddlings brought about democratic governments.

Quite to the contrary, the end result was usually some sort of corrupt junta grabbing power, thus, further enriching a small cabal of local criminals plus their US accomplices. Widespread poverty, social polarization, and conflict are the common consequences (Mitchell, G. 2014; Gosztola, K. 2014; Vance, L.M. 2014; Auken 2024). PNACs foreign policy has failed everywhere, without exception. Instead of regimes favorable to the US and obedient to its rule, they created chaos, widespread misery, fear and hostility. PNAC has prepared the coffin in which US global power is going to be buried.

Their greatest achievement was to what extent they got through with their neoconservative ideology and made it the basic political philosophy in Western and, even more so, in the transition countries of Eastern Europe. Their greatest mistake of truly global impact was the diligent dismissal of disarmament and peace proposals submitted by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbatschev from 1986 on.

They did not even test the seriousness of his proposals. Eager to deliver a deadly blow to the global competitor, they helped to oust its charismatic leader and replace him by a pathological alcoholic, Boris Yelzin. The primary responsibles were Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and Dick Cheney, then CEO of Halliburton and later the vice president [18].

The same can be said with respect to President Putin’s proposals for confidence building and closer cooperation, which have been rejected right away by the Obama administration. How much entire humanity would have gained from the enormous peace dividend! Imagine only for a second the US would have concluded from the energy forecasts of the 1990s to promote energy efficiency and renewable energies instead of war: The world would have a different face. Millions could live in peace and prosperity instead of being murdered or pushed into misery. The US itself would have avoided gigantic environmental damage caused by fracking, and social and political decline.

Why does the Obama administration choose this type of foreign policy? The main reason is that the above-targeted countries had slid out of the US orbit of control, and only these far-right groups are interested in getting them back into the US orbit. “Ultimately, US capitalists gain mountains of profit when a country is dependent on US loans, US-made weapons, manufactured goods, foodstuffs, etc.

This is why the US establishment — now represented by the Obama administration — will not simply leave Latin America, the Middle East, or Eastern Europe to be independent or fall into the orbit of a competing regional power like Russia. There is simply too much profit at stake. Peace is not an option” (Cooke, S., 2014). Power and influence of the military-industrial complex have allowed extraordinary rates of profit.

“According to a new study by Morgan Stanley, the shares of big weapons industries have gained in value by 27,699% during the last fifty years while for the rest of the economy it was 6,777%. During the last three years alone, Raytheon has brought 124%, Northrup Grunman 114%, and Lockheed Martin 149% to its investors” (Petras, J. 2014).


Continues in Part III)

This paper was written for a special edition of FORESIGHT on Who Rules the World? edited by Dennis Morgan, to be published this fall by Emerald

Bernd Hamm is professor emeritus of sociology, University of Trier, now living in Berlin, Germany. His recent publications include Devastating Society – The Neo-conservative Assault on Democracy and Justice (London 2005), Cultural Imperialism – Essays on the Political Economy of Cultural Domination (ed. together with Russell Smandych, Ann Arbor 2005) and Umweltkatastrophen (Environmental Catastrophies, Marburg 2011). He can be reached under

Notes and References


[9] The Case for Goliath: how America acts as the world’s government in the twenty-first century (2005); Democracy’s Good Name: the rise and risks of  the world’s most popular form of government (2007); Frugal Superpower: America’s global leadership in a cash-strapped era (2010)

[10] Team B was partly recruited from the Committee on the Present Danger which first met in 1950. It lobbied the government directly and sought to influence public opinion through a publicity campaign. This iteration of the CPD was disbanded in 1953 when its leaders were offered positions in the administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower. It was privately revived in March 1976 and provided 33 officials to the Ronald Reagan administration including Director of Central Intelligence William CaseyNational Security Advisor Richard V. AllenUnited States Ambassador to the United Nations Jeane KirkpatrickSecretary of the Navy John LehmanSecretary of State George Shultz, and Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle. In June 2004 a third incarnation of CPD was being planned to address the War on Terrorism. It’s still active: “Today, the CPD includes over 100 former White House officials, Ambassadors, Cabinet Secretaries, academics, writers, and other foreign policy experts. Its Co-Chairmen are the Honorable George Shultz, Secretary of State under President Reagan, and R. James Woolsey, Director of the CIA under President Clinton. Senators Joe Lieberman and Jon Kyl serve as Honorary Co-Chairs”; see Committee on the Present Danger homepage,

[11] Landay, J.M., (2002), The Powell Manifesto: How a Prominent Lawyer’s Attack Memo Changed America,, August 20, cited in Nace, T., 2003:137; Nace, T. (2003), chapter 12, gives a lively account on how the Revolt of the Bosses was instigated


[13] see, among other sources, Galtung, J., (2007), The State of the World, Journal of Futures Studies, 12, August, 1: 145 – 160


[15] further information on its members and their activities, see Lobe, J. (2014)

[16]; see also Vltchek, A. (2014). Only recently it became known that “for two years from 2010 on the United States Agency for International Development USAID had developed an internet service similar to Twitter for the people of Cuba. Its long term goal is it to foment public uprisings against the government and to destabilize the country”, Many hints to drug trading, money laundering and other crimes committed by the CIA cannot be followed up here, cf. Ruppert, M. (2004) or Edmonds, S. (

[17] U.S. State Dept. Document Confirms Regime Change Agenda in Middle East,

[18] it goes without saying that these three names stand for a number of others; see Ruppert, M. (2004), Chossudovsky, M. (2005), and go on to Stone, O., Kuznick, P. (2013); Chris Floyd: A Future in Hell: The Bitter Fruits of Bellicose Policy. When the Soviet Union fell, there was an opening — a genuine opening — to make a better world. But America’s bipartisan elites refused to take that path.

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