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In James Bond films the villain always has a plan to dominate the world. Usually this is something that he reveals in private, in some secret hideout far from the everyday world. Not so the United States under George W Bush. A fortnight ago his administration published The National Security Strategy of the United States of America.
This remarkable document begins with the affirmation, "The United States possesses unprecedented-and unequalled-strength and influence in the world." It concludes with the warning, "Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in the hopes of surpassing, or equalling, the power of the United States."
In other words, the US currently dominates the world and it intends to use its military power to ensure that it continues to do so for the indefinite future. The document has three remarkable features. First, though drafted mainly by Bush's National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, it reflects the collective outlook of the group of Republican right wingers who dominate the present administration.
Even at the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, when most of them were serving under George Bush Sr, they were worried that US supremacy was threatened both by economic rivals such as Germany and Japan and by potential military rivals such as China and Russia.
Paul Wolfowitz, now deputy secretary of defence, compared the end of the 20th century to the era 100 years earlier, when global economic growth produced new powers like Germany and Japan. The failure of the international system to contain these powers led to the two world wars.
Dick Cheney, now vice-president, was defence secretary under the elder Bush. In March 1992 a Pentagon planning document was leaked to the New York Times. The document said, "Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union.
Our strategy must now refocus on precluding the emergence of any potential future global competitor." The same preoccupations inform the new National Security Strategy document, which warns, "We are attentive to the possible renewal of old patterns of great power competition."
China is the subject of particular criticism. "In pursuing advanced military capabilities that can threaten its neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region, China is pursuing an outdated path that, in the end, will hamper its own pursuit of national greatness. In time, China will find that social and political freedom is the only source of that greatness."
By "social and political freedom" the Bush administration means, of course, US-style free market capitalism. The second main theme of the document is that, as Bush puts it, this is the "single sustainable model of national success".
What the US now offers the rest of the world, including its rivals in Europe and Asia, is what Bush calls "peaceful competition" on American terms. The neo-liberal economic policies enforced by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have as their last line of defence the military might of the Pentagon. Behind the relatively friendly language of the National Security Strategy the Bush administration is openly contemptuous of its European allies. Defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld followed Condoleezza Rice in denouncing the German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, for winning re-election by campaigning against war in Iraq.
Underlying this spat is the fact that while the European Union is still a political and military pygmy, it is a very serious economic competitor to the US. Real conflicts of interest divide American from European capitalism. Thirdly, the National Security Strategy restates the so called Bush Doctrine, first set out in a speech at West Point on 1 June. This asserts the right of the US to take pre-emptive military action against states that it deems to be a threat.
This doctrine has given even Henry Kissinger pause. The old war criminal told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, "It cannot be either the American national interest or the world's interest to develop principles that grant every nation an unfettered right of pre-emption against its own definition of threats to its national security."
This then is the thinking behind the Bush administration's plans to attack Iraq. It reflects the fears of a relatively small group of right wing politicians and ideologues that the US's current economic and military strength will decline over time. They want to use the opportunity provided by 11 September to perpetuate US supremacy.
But the contempt that the Bush administration is showing for the rest of the world, and increasingly for US public opinion as well, is building up a storm of opposition that can blow them away.