November 02, 2005

Taking Stock: The State of the Bush Doctrine

Commentary magazine, to commemorate its 60th anniversary, is asking 36 "leading thinkers" the following Qs:

1. Where have you stood, and where do you now stand, in relation to the Bush Doctrine? Do you agree with the Presidentís diagnosis of the threat we face and his prescription for dealing with it?

2. How would you rate the progress of the Bush Doctrine so far in making the U.S. more secure and in working toward a safer world environment? What about the policyís longer-range prospects?

3. Are there particular aspects of American policy, or of the administrationís handling or explanation of it, that you would change immediately?

4. Apart from your view of the way the Bush Doctrine has been defined or implemented, do you agree with its expansive vision of Americaís world role and the moral responsibilities of American power?

Link here. We'll be exploring in more detail soon. In the meantime, readers are invited to note what analysis is closest to their own view, and why. (Hat Tip: Reader 'sbahadir')

Posted by Gregory at November 2, 2005 12:30 PM | TrackBack (2)

The problem with most of the responses is that there is a disconnect in the basic premise as outlined in the introduction, i.e. "In response to a radically changed world situation since the Islamist attacks of 9/11, the United States under George W. Bush has adopted a broad new approach to national security."

Although the "world situation" has "radically changed", that change is a result of the adoption of a "broad new approach to national security" under Bush, rather than vice-versa.

For all of its emotionally traumatic impact, 9-11 itself was really about the ability of a handful of religious nut-cases to exploit obvious -- and easily fixed -- holes in our control of our domestic security. What was truly significant, in terms of our security, is that terrorists had absolutely no problem hijacking four passenger jets at the same time. (And its not like we didn't know that hijacking passenger jets was a possibility.....)

9-11 was a watershed event because it presented the US with an opportunity to discredit the radical Islamist movement that resulted in the attacks that day. The entire world was horrified by the attacks, and was willing to do what was necessary to bring the perpetrators to justice. Despite the enormous tragedy of 9-11, the world was a better place on 9-12-2001 than it was the day before, because we all shared the sense of disgust toward those who were responsible for the attacks.

The implementation of the "Bush Doctrine", rather than discrediting Islamic extremists, has wound up legitimizing the ideological foundation of the extremists for hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people.

In short, the "Bush Doctrine" has been an unmitigated disaster of such overwhelming proportions that "unmitigated disaster" is an understatement of its impact.

Posted by: lukasiak at November 2, 2005 01:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Bush Doctrine itself was an improvised response to a short-term public relations emergency. It can occasionally be used as a reference point for specific American actions, but is an unreliable guide to American policy over the long term, even in the context of this administration.

Moreover no doctrine or even actual policy can fully respond to the essential problem of terrorism, which is fundamentally a product of backward cultures accustomed to violence as a means of both resolving disputes and asserting authority at all levels coming into possession of means of violence far more powerful than those they had access to before. 9/11 did not discredit use of these means; neither did Saddam's atrocities over many years, or the tactics used by both sides in the Algerian civil war, nor suicide bombings in the Middle East and Kashmir, nor Iranian use of human-wave tactics to clear minefields in the 1980s, nor the unending barbarism in Somalia, nor deliberate massacres of civilians in Iraq, nor the Sudanese government-sponsored genocide in Darfur. Administration advocates of cultural transformation are not wrong to point to this as the ultimate answer to terrorism and tyranny alike, but err both in thinking that such transformation is related only to political systems and in believing it can be achieved over a short timeframe. Cultural transformation may well be a worthy cause to which we may contribute over the long term; in the short term our main objective needs to be damage control.

Posted by: JEB at November 2, 2005 05:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

p.s. jeb, saw your recent letter in the economist while overseas. congrats.

Posted by: greg at November 2, 2005 07:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

thats a lot of good material, thanks for linking to it.

I liked a number of very different essays - Kagan and Boot and Berman and Gerecht, and also looked at Hoffman and Fukuyama for different POV's.

Posted by: liberalhawk at November 2, 2005 08:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yeah, Greg, it seemed worthwhile to point out something The Economist neglects to mention at all every single time they do a piece on the subject. The part where I point out that The Economist neglected to mention it was the part that got cut. As if I didn't know that would happen.

Posted by: JEB at November 2, 2005 09:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

My countryman, Owen Harries. Prudence, realism. Unaffected by imperial hubris or the "anything other than" frustration fallacy.

Posted by: AlanDownunder at November 4, 2005 05:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

...And regrettably prone to the fuzziness common to academics and foreign observers who wish to be associated with American purposes, but not too much.

I mean that Harries worries about precedents that he doubts will be precedents, drags in a lot of irrelevant though intellectually respectable quotes from people like John Stuart Mill, and generally seems perplexed as to whether the Bush Doctrine represents a new direction in American foreign policy or a departure that will be corrected when Bush leaves office. To his credit he correctly observes that President Bush's limited sophistication about foreign affairs and his short career in government has contributed to his administration's presenting its policies to the world basically by repeating the same phrases over and over. About the Bush Doctrine itself, though, Harries does not seem to have considered the possibility that a Bush Doctrine was considered necessary as a public justification for things the administration had already decided to do with respect to Iraq; that its application to other aspects of foreign policy had not been considered in depth, let alone decided upon, when the Doctrine was issued in 2002 -- in short, that it began life as the servant of one specific situation, and will inevitably wither away into irrelevance as that situation resolves itself, one way or the other.

Posted by: JEB at November 4, 2005 11:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Like US State Department Scowcroft's decade's old foreign policy of Stability trumps Genocidal Dictatorships was really working?

Come to think if it, Scowcroft's policy of Appeasement t worked quite well for enriching Arafat's wife on behalf of starving Arabs, the Russian Mafia on behalf of arming Middle Eastern dictators, enriching King Kofi and his UN family con-artists on behalf of starving Iraqis and the Socialist Welfare France on behalf of endless vacationing for 'indigenous' French people.

This war comes down to two sides, either one is in full support of United for Genocidal Peace and Justice for Dictators or one is for the Bush Doctrine of Liberation from those United for Genocidal Peace and Justice for Dictators.

No in-between, moderate, or 'intellectualized' navel-gazing is necessary.

Posted by: susan at November 5, 2005 03:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This way lies madness:

This war comes down to two sides, either one is in full support of United for Genocidal Peace and Justice for Dictators or one is for the Bush Doctrine of Liberation from those United for Genocidal Peace and Justice for Dictators.

So, when are we invading Pakistan? With what army? How high will the tax burden have to go? Will we re-introduce conscription?

Sometimes it is apparent that our nation's schools have not done enough to teach critical thinking to our citizenry.

Posted by: stickler at November 5, 2005 08:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


1.I support the objectives of the Bush Doctrine, have supported it, and will continue to support it. The obvious reason for supporting the doctrine is that it is an active strategy if properly executed. We have fallen short in execution, however, for a number of reasons, notably the many major miscalculations in Iraq. The threat we face is Islam, and the doctrine addresses the Islamic Jihadist threat explicitly. We have been relatively safe since 9/11, in part because of the focus on Iraq, where the Jihadists cannot afford to see us successful there.

2.The doctrine has been relatively successful in its principal objectives: to take the fight to the Jihadists, to give Iraq a chance at a more democratic government, and to create a military presence in the middle of the Islamic World that cannot be ignored. However, we have not been able to convince many people that we are not pursuing empire, that we are not after the Iraqi oil, and that we are not an overly-aggressive nation. This is hurting us in world opinion, and may well inhibit other policies we are trying to pursue worldwide, such as globalization.

3.I fault the Administration's execution in Iraq on at least the following counts: 1) underestimating the number of troops that would be needed during the occupation period to ensure sufficient security both internally and on the key borders of Iraq; 2) disbanding the Iraqi Army and turning many thousands of men loose with no way to make a living, and with the need to reconstitute it later with long delays and extraordinary costs; 3) The very poor performance of the Beamer team over two years in getting reconstruction rolling and administering the efforts thoroughly; and , 4) not clamping down extremely hard throughout on Iraq with martial law, curfews, heavy restrictions on movements, especially vehicles, and far more checkpoints, plus a thoroughgoing search for all weapons caches, and instituting a shoot-to-kill policy for anyone not in an official capacity discovered brandishing a weapon. In a like manner, we have not explained our policies and directions in ways that people around the world could readily grasp and understand. We have let the opposition define us, instead of taking a very proactive approach to what we intend to do, our plans, and our restraints.
We have let the opposition define us in our use of imprisonment and interrogation tactics.

4. I do agree with the expansionist role defined by Bush. We should be in the forefront of efforts to bring democratic government to people around the world. We should speak loudly at times, and softly at times, and always have a big stick. Globalization, and freedom are valid objectives for the US to pursue.

Posted by: mannning at November 6, 2005 03:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Bush "Doctrine" of confronting dictators, active involvement and spreading freedom is in conflict with the actions of the Bush Presidency. The doctrine is a broard stroke, corporate mission statement given the shareholder meeting. It is not followed by the organisation.

We cannot judge its effectiveness except in theory because the doctrine is not being implemented.

I like the Bush Doctrine as theory a lot. In practice I do not like Bush a lot.

Posted by: unaha-closp at November 6, 2005 03:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I find it amusing that there are so many people that like the Bush Doctrine "in theory", but have a problem with its implementation.

Basically, the Bush Doctrine is "if we think there is a threat to us anywhere in the world, we reserve the right to do whatever the hell we want to address the perceived threat. And btw, the threat doesn't have to be real."

The arrogance and hubris underlying the Bush Doctrine makes it practically inevitable that its implemenation would reflect the same arrogance and hubris. The internationalist policies and institutions that existed before 9-11 were more than adequate to protect the US from any serious threat. (i.e. 9-11 happened not because the threat was so great, but because we failed to secure our borders and take the necessary precautions here at home to ensure our own safety.) Moreover, in the wake of 9-11, there was an opportunity to strengthen those policies and institutions---but that opportunity was squandered.

Posted by: lukasiak at November 6, 2005 02:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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