December 21, 2003

Bush Doctrine Dana Milbank writing

Bush Doctrine

Dana Milbank writing in the WaPo:

"It has been a week of sweet vindication for those who promulgated what they call the Bush Doctrine.

Beginning with the capture of Saddam Hussein a week ago and ending Friday with an agreement by Libya's Moammar Gaddafi to surrender his unconventional weapons, one after another international problem has eased.

On Tuesday, the leaders of France and Germany set aside their long-standing opposition to the war in Iraq and agreed to forgive an unspecified amount of that country's debt. On Thursday, Iran signed an agreement allowing surprise inspections of its nuclear facilities after European governments applied intense pressure on the U.S. foe. On Friday, Libya agreed to disarm under the watch of international inspectors, just as administration officials were learning that Syria had seized $23.5 million believed to be for al Qaeda."

Later in the article (well worth reading in full) Milbank writes:

"Those who developed the Bush Doctrine -- a policy of taking preemptive, unprovoked action against emerging threats -- predicted that an impressive U.S. victory in Iraq would intimidate allies and foes alike, making them yield to U.S. interests in other areas." [emphasis added]

This is how the Bush Doctrine is oft-described by people like Paul Krugman, George Soros, and Maureen Dowd. But the reality is more complex, as the National Security Strategy document that outlines the new doctrine makes clear:

"The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction— and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.

The United States will not use force in all cases to preempt emerging threats, nor should nations use preemption as a pretext for aggression. Yet in an age where the enemies of civilization openly and actively seek the world’s most destructive technologies, the United States cannot remain idle while dangers gather. We will always proceed deliberately, weighing the consequences of our actions. To support preemptive options, we will: build better, more integrated intelligence capabilities to provide timely, accurate information on threats, wherever they may emerge; coordinate closely with allies to form a common assessment of the most dangerous threats; and continue to transform our military forces to ensure our ability to conduct rapid and precise operations to achieve decisive results.

The purpose of our actions will always be to eliminate a specific threat to the United States or our allies and friends. The reasons for our actions will be clear, the force measured, and the cause just
." [emphasis added]

Note the references to a "specific threat," "common assessment of the most dangerous threats," (to be sure, such a consensus didn't occur on Iraq) "anticipatory action to defend ourselves," acting "deliberately" (for instance, getting a unanimous Resolution 1441 at the U.N. holding Iraq to task for its 12 year long violations of post Gulf War I undestandings and such).

Note too, the strategy document enunciates key, common attributes of rogue states:

--brutalize their own people and squander their national resources for the personal gain of the rulers;
--display no regard for international law, threaten their neighbors, and callously violate international treaties to which they are party;
--are determined to acquire weapons of mass destruction, along with other advanced military technology, to be used as threats or offensively to achieve the aggressive designs of these regimes;
--sponsor terrorism around the globe; and
--reject basic human values and hate the United States and everything for which it stands

In other words, the new national security posture is not one of "unprovoked" preemption. The neo-cons (whose influence is overstated, as is the fashion these days, in Milbank's article) haven't hoisted a foreign policy on us that allows for myriad interventions pursued will-nilly, for the hell of it, or just for kicks.

There is actually some pretty sober thinking that's gone into what kinds of threats, post 9/11, are constitutive of a danger that might, under certain parameters and analyzed deliberately, occasion the need for some form of preemptive action.

Remember too that we are talking of very few states about which some form of premptive action has even been discussed--and this only in limited locales like the hallways of AEI.

Put differently, even if the post-major combat in Iraq had been as easy as the main combat stage, we weren't rushing on to erect new imperial garrisons in Tripoli, Teheran, Damascus and Pyongyang.

Tripoli shows the U.S. can still can pull off good cop/bad cop diplomatic initiatives with allies like the Brits to bring pressure to bear on dictators. We are giving China a big hand in multilateral negotiations on North Korea. A Euro foreign ministerial troika was dispatched to Teheran. Cooperation, despite rough patches, continues with Damascus.

Is this the "rigid doctrine of military preemption" that people like John Kerry speak of?

"Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), a presidential aspirant, portrayed the success with Libya as an exception to the Bush Doctrine. "Ironically, this significant advance represents a complete U-turn in the Bush administration's overall foreign policy," he said in a statement Saturday. "An administration that scorns multilateralism and boasts about a rigid doctrine of military preemption has almost in spite of itself demonstrated the enormous potential for improving our national security through diplomacy."

Memo to Kerry: Such tortured reasoning and almost absurdly hyperbolic campaign rhetoric is part of the reason your campaign can't get any traction.

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