American Friends Service Committee
Patrica Watson, Editor
Sara Burke, Assistant Editor
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
2161 Massachusetts Ave.
Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
Views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of the AFSC.
Moderate or Militant: Will the Real Dick Cheney Please Stand Up?
William D. Hartung is President's Fellow at the World Policy Institute of the New School, New York City.
If you remember Dick Cheney at all, it is probably from his supporting role in the "Dick and Colin Show" (my title, not theirs), that slick exercise in televised spin control that kept America mesmerized during the 1991 Persian Gulf conflict. While Colin Powell had the star power, Cheney added a certain low-key, matter-of-fact credibility to the Bush administration's effort to sell the Gulf War as an antiseptic, "humane" conflict.
To hear Dick and Colin tell it, every US weapon worked as advertised, "collateral damage" (i.e., deaths of innocent men, women, and children) was limited, and the successful coalition effort to reverse Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait had ushered in a new post-Cold War order in which tyrants and human rights abusers would no longer go unpunished.
Those of us who stayed tuned to the Gulf War story after it dropped out of prime time soon learned that the Cheney-Powell PR machine had badly distorted the fundamental military and political facts of the conflict.
Militarily, it ended up that US "wonder weapons" hadn't been so wonderful after all. MIT weapons scientist Theodore Postol and the Israeli military persuasively demonstrated that the "star" of the air war, Raytheon's Patriot missile, was successful in intercepting Scud missiles just 10 to 40% of the time, not the 90%-plus rate broadcast by Cheney and Powell.
On the global political front, needless to say, the bombardment of Iraq did nothing to stop mass killing and repression in Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, southeastern Turkey, or East Timor. In fact, in many of these places, the US armed and trained the perpetrators of ethnic slaughter.
Unlike his more charismatic cohorts, Generals Powell and Schwarzkopf, Cheney didn't get a multi-million dollar book contract after the Gulf War. Instead, Dick Cheney, the man who helped direct a war that was largely aimed at keeping 'our oil supplies' out of the hands of Saddam Hussein's dictatorial regime, decided to get into the oil business, just as his longstanding friends in the Bush administration had done. Cheney's new employer, the oil industry services firm Halliburton, hired him not for his experience in the industry (he had none), but rather for the doors he could open for the firm in key Middle Eastern markets. Cheney has done a good job of opening doors, helping the firm pursue new business opportunities with old friends (like Saudi Arabia) and "states of concern" (like Iraq and Iran) alike.
Despite his reputation as a moderate, Dick Cheney is in reality one of the most conservative political figures of the modern era of American politics. During his Congressional career as Wyoming's member of the House of Representatives in the 1980s, Cheney's conservative votes included staunch support for aid to the Contras, opposition to abortion even in cases of rape or incest, and opposition to common sense gun safety measures such as a ban on "cop killer" bullets.
His record as a moderate stems largely from his tenure as George Bush's Secretary of Defense, when he presided over significant cutbacks in US troops and opposed several unnecessary weapons programs. But as Lawrence J. Korb of the Council on Foreign Relations has pointed out, Cheney's image as a "budget cutter" is vastly overrated. Clearly, the defense industry has harbored no grudges; his wife has served for years on the board of Lockheed Martin (for which service she is compensated $120,000 a year). During Cheney's tenure at the helm of the Pentagon, the Berlin Wall fell, Soviet troops were pulled out of Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union itself dissolved into its constituent republics. Yet despite the disappearance of our Cold War adversary, Cheney wanted to cut the US military budget by only 10 percent over a multi-year period.
To his credit, Cheney seems to be more closely allied with respected, internationalist Republicans like former Reagan Defense Secretary George Shultz and former Bush National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, than with right-wing true believers like Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz. If he were to use his inherent caution to put George W.'s harebrained National Missile Defense scheme on the slow track while nuclear arms reductions are resumed in earnest after an eight-year hiatus during the Clinton term, he could make a positive mark on US security policy. And if his newfound experience in the oil business makes him more open to normalizing relations with former "rogue states" like Iran and Iraq, all the better.
Before we can gauge how Cheney might perform as vice president,
we will need a much more vigorous and detailed foreign policy
debate than either Al Gore or George Bush have offered thus far.