Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet/Cruel and Unusual: Bush/Cheney's New World Order

Article excerpt

Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet, James Mann, London: Penguin Books, 2004, 426 pp.

Cruel and Unusual: Bush/Cheney's New World Order, Mark Crispin Miller, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004, 343 pp.

Both of these books deal with the same subject, the G. W. Bush presidency. They cover the same events and the same historical epoch, but have very different points of view.

James Mann, author of the Rise of the Vulcans is very much in the political mainstream. On the back cover of the book he is described as a "Washington Insider." He is a former journalist for the Los Angeles Times, who is currently a senior writer in residence at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, whose best-known alumni are general Alexander Haig, the Nixon and Ford Chief of Staff, Admiral William Crowe, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Richard Allen, the former head of the National Security Administration.

The Vulcans of the title refers to six individuals: Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Armitage. G. W. Bush characterized these six individuals during the 2000 presidential campaign, as " . . .one of the finest foreign policy teams ever assembled." It was during this campaign that this group named themselves in honor of the Roman god of fire and metalworking. Rice grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, which boasts a 56-foot statue of Vulcan overlooking the center of the city, paying tribute to the town's steel industry.

The core of the Vulcans' political ideology is unabashed militarism. They believe that the proper role of this country is to impose its will on the world, primarily by threatening and using, if necessary, the military power of the United States Armed Forces.

This book is not psychohistorical. There is very little about motivation. The one exception is that Mann points out the importance of overcoming the "Vietnam Syndrome" as a central tenet of the Vulcans foreign policy beliefs.

The "Vietnam Syndrome" became an operative myth of the American neoconservative movement during the Carter administration. Ronald Reagan was one of its most prominent spokesmen. The core of the "Vietnam Syndrome" myth is that the United States lost in Vietnam because we did not have the will to use sufficient military force to win the war. The nation was betrayed by cowardly political leadership and traitorous antiwar protesters. This resulted in a national malaise, a kind of collective depression accompanied by lowered self-esteem and self-confidence of the American people that was much like Hitler and the Nazis blaming the loss of the World War 1 on the "stab in the back" betrayal by Jews and Communists. Like Hitler and the Nazis, the Vulcans remedy for the nation's bad feelings was an aggressive military response to compensate, undo, and overcome feelings of weakness. These are both examples of the Italian psychoanalyst Francisco Fornari's concept of the paranoid "elaboration of mourning in which a country responds to losing the war by starting another war rather than grieving the loss.

Mann traces the history of the Vulcans and other neoconservative foreign policy leaders from the time of the second Nixon administration until the present. The essence of their stance, which has been maintained consistently, is one that can only be described as paranoid. They formed organizations with names like, the "Committee to Maintain a Prudent Defense Policy", the "Committee on the Present Danger", and the most recent, the "Project for a New American Century". They churned out a steady stream of papers, warning of imminent threats to the nation. Early on, there was the need to guard against the machinations of the "Evil Empire" and its minions, later, the possibility of rogue nations developing nuclear or biological warfare capabilities and the need for an antiballistic missile defense, "Star Wars", became the focus of their fear-mongering. …