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The halcyon days of the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance (DPG)


Part 1

Too few of today's readers remember how controversial (also here) the leaked 1992 Defense Planning Guidance (DPG) was in 1992. (This leaked DPG has apparently not been printed in full. Longest excerpts are at the end of this article.) A background snippet is in order:

Prepared by OSD and published in the odd year, the Defense Planning Guidance (DPG) contains "defense strategy and the guidance for key planning and programming priorities to execute that strategy." The DPG is a primary product of OSD planning as it is the SecDef's "strategic plan for developing and employing future forces." The stated formulation of the DPG is supposed to reflect "military advice and information recommended by the CJCS [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff]; service long-range plans and positions on policy and other matters advanced by Service Secretaries; and CINC [Commander in Chief] appraisals of major issues and problems bearing on command missions."

This was the first post-Soviet DPG; the Cold War was over and there were expectations of a 'peace dividend' and some stand-down in US forces abroad. Instead the DPG spoke in stern terms of maintaining sole US superpower status and thus moving to quash potential regional hegemons that included the USSR's successor, Russia shorn of its former satellite republics, but also Germany, Japan and India, maintaining US force status overseas, retain the capacity to fight a multi-front war, and formally introduced preemption of another state's use of what we now call WMD (chemical, biological and nuclear weapons) even "where our interests are otherwise not engaged."

The leaked DPG of February 1992 dispensed with the idea "that American efforts would be centrally multilateral" and caused an uproar as it stated "We will go with whoever we can convince to bring us along and, at the same time, we'll try to keep the coalitions behind us." The more politic draft of May 1992 deleted explicit references to Germany, Japan and India while saying "Our principal strategic goal is to preserve these coalitions. And only if they fail, will we act alone," but the damage was done. Many domestic and international constituencies were taken aback, categorically ill at ease with a self-appointed monopole, a benevolent, sole-source guarantor of world peace. As late as 2004, I noted:

One cannot grasp the flow of near-superpower political action without adding China and Russia to France's view that "Its sacred duty is to check American power by publicly and ostentatiously objecting to it from without. The French are so concerned by the dominance of American powermilitarily, economically, culturally, and technologicallythat a former French foreign minister felt the need to coin a new word to describe it: hyperpuissance, or "hyperpower." Think of it this way: France thinks the United States has so much power that the French language didn't have a word for it.

There is a valid school of thought that the 1992 DPG was a continuation of US containment policy that rose from George Kennan's 1947 Foreign Affairs article, The Sources of Soviet Conduct, then written anonymously, that called for an end to appeasement, but the 1992 draft went well beyond containment, calling it "an old idea, a relic of the cold war," in the process enshrining unilateralism and dispensing with the primacy of alliances formed in World War II. As it was classified Secret No Forn [Foreign], the DPG was presumably not to be shared with even NATO allies.

The three drafting authorities for the 1992 DPG were Paul Wolfowitz, then undersecretary of defense for policy, Dick Cheney, then defense secretary, and Lewis "Scooter" Libby, called to State, and later Defense, by his former professor, Wolfowitz. At the time of the 2002 National Security Strategy, Wolfowitz was second at Defense, Cheney was Vice President and Libby was Cheney's chief of staff.

Frontline's 2003 interview with Barton Gellman is recommended. Regarding the final public 1992 DPG draft:

The overall guiding language got much softer. But one important thing to keep in mind is this is a document that is designed to direct the military services, how they should spend their money, how they should structure their divisions and their air wings. Even though the language softens, they were told, "Your requirements are that you need to be able to pull off each of these seven scenarios in the appendix." Those scenarios continue to be a dual war with Iraq and North Korea, or repelling a Russian invasion of Lithuania. The sort of philosophical guidance got softer, but the hard planning didn't.

Regarding the 2002 National Security Strategy:

Whatever they say about who drafted it [such as Phil Zelikow's denial of linkage] and whether the world is a little bit different now than it was 10 years ago, I see a very strong overlap between the [National Security Strategy] as expressed today, and the first and very muscular draft of the 1992 [DPG]. You have many of the same players who are in primary positions of influence. You simply have to lay the documents side by side, and you will see huge areas in which they're the same, and frankly very few in which there are striking differences.

Regarding the Bush43 administration's approach to international condominium:

Bush has a very strong conception of America as consensus shifter, and as a country that can change what the market will bear globally in terms of balance of power, in terms of leadership of unfriendly countries, in terms of the use of tools that include economic sanctions and military force. Clinton saw himself much more as the steward of alliances and of consensus that moved in the right direction. He didn't see himself as someone who could change the overall thrust, I think, of global policy.

One is left to presume that the US approached Iraq in 2002-2003 with the 1992 no "nation building" lineage intact.

The glimmer of a new multilateralism to follow.

The National Security Strategy of the United States of America
The White House
September 2002

Keeping the U.S. First; Pentagon Would Preclude a Rival Superpower
Barton Gellman
Washington Post
March 11, 1992

U.S. Strategy Plan Calls for Insuring No Rivals Develop
A One-Superpower World
Pentagon’s Document Outlines Ways to Thwart Challenges to Primacy of America
By Patrick E. Tyler
March 8, 1992

Excerpts from Pentagon’s Plan: ‘Prevent the Re-Emergence of a New Rival’
New York Times
March 7, 1992

The Sources of Soviet Conduct
By 'X'
(George Kennan)
Foreign Affairs
July 1947

Gordon Housworth

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