Friday, August 18, 2006


The Bush Doctrine

By the time this is posted, I’m sure the leading edge of criticism will have moved well beyond it, but please read in its very lengthy entirety, Norman Podhoretz’s brilliant essay in Commentary, Is the Bush Doctrine Dead?

The short answer is no.

Podhoretz does an excellent job reminding those who can yet be persuaded what the Bush Doctrine actually established as US Foreign Policy, delightfully using the President’s own words from important speeches.

Podhoretz examines in detail the initial three pillars of the Doctrine, using as primary source the President’s address to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001.

Flatly contrary to ignorant or willfully obtuse claim by critics, central to the Bush Doctrine is the promotion of Democracy and the advance of human freedom in grounds fertile to terrorism. Podhoretz describes the first pillar as:
“…Categorical rejection of the kind of relativism (“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”) that had previously prevailed in the discussion of terrorism, and a correlative insistence on using such unambiguously moral categories as right and wrong, good and evil, in describing the “great harm” we had suffered only nine days earlier.”
Podhoretz quotes President Bush:
The advance of human freedom, the great achievement of our time and the great hope of every time, now depends on us. Our nation, this generation, . . . will rally the world to this cause by our efforts, by our courage.
The second pillar of the Bush Doctrine refutes the notion that terrorism is a law enforcement problem, but rather acts of war:
Under the old understanding, terrorists were lone individuals who could best be dealt with by the criminal-justice system. Bush, by dramatic contrast, now asserted that they should be regarded as the irregular troops of the nation states that harbored and supported them. From this it followed that 9/11 constituted a declaration of war on the United States, and that the proper response was to rely not on cops and lawyers and judges but on soldiers and sailors and marines.
Podhoretz describes the third pillar as our “determination to take preemptive action against an anticipated attack.” Podhoretz again quotes the President:
If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long. . . . [T]he war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge.
Podhoretz adds a fourth pillar by way of a “Palestinian Codicil” of the Doctrine, whereby the President set conditions on nations to demonstrate their commitment to peace by renouncing terrorism and acting against it. Podhoretz uses another Presidential speech on the subject of the conditions for US recognition of Palestinian aspirations for statehood:
Every nation actually committed to peace will stop the flow of money, equipment, and recruits to terrorist groups seeking the destruction of Israel, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hizballah. Every nation committed to peace must block the shipment of Iranian supplies to these groups and oppose regimes that promote terror, like Iraq. And Syria must choose the right side in the war on terror by closing terrorist camps and expelling terrorist organizations.
Podhoretz goes into a lengthy analysis of conservative, neoconservative, foreign policy realist, and other foreign policy wonk criticisms, against the Bush Administration, and the Bush Doctrine as implemented (or not).

Read the whole thing, if you consider yourself at all interested in Foreign Policy, or if you too think the Bush Doctrine is dead, or should be.

Podhoretz concludes, convincingly to me (but then I’m a strong proponent of the Bush Doctrine), that, like thye Truman Doctrine, the Bush Doctrine will long outlast George W. Bush:
So far as the implementation of this new strategy goes, it is still early days—roughly comparable to 1952 in the history of the Truman Doctrine. As with the Truman Doctrine then, the Bush Doctrine has thus far acted only in the first few scenes of the first act of a five-act play. Like the Truman Doctrine, too, its performance has received very bad reviews. Yet we now know that the Truman Doctrine, despite being attacked by its Republican opponents as the “College of Cowardly Containment,” was adopted by them when they took power behind Dwight D. Eisenhower. We also know now that, after many ups and downs and following a period of retreat in the 1970’s, the policy of containment was updated and reinvigorated in the 1980’s by Ronald Reagan (albeit without admitting that this was what he was doing). And we now know as well that it was by thus building on the sound foundation laid by the Truman Doctrine that Reagan delivered on its original promise.

It is my contention that the Bush Doctrine is no more dead today than the Truman Doctrine was cowardly in its own early career. Bolstered by that analogy, I feel safe in predicting that, like the Truman Doctrine in 1952, the Bush Doctrine will prove irreversible by the time its author leaves the White House in 2008. And encouraged by the precedent of Ronald Reagan, I feel almost as confident in predicting that, three or four decades into the future, and after the inevitable missteps and reversals, there will come a President who, like Reagan in relation to Truman in World War III, will bring World War IV to a victorious end by building on the noble doctrine that George W. Bush promulgated when that war first began.
Rich Lowry linked to this piece at The Corner, where he offers two small criticisms of what he acknowledges as an otherwise very successful essay. Lowry picks up on what some construe as the rhetorical dodge by Podhoretz, whereby he suggests that a rise of insurgent attacks and infiltration by foreign jihadis would signify that Democracy in Iraq was succeeding, and causing its enemies to fight more desperately.

Lowry observes:
It is certainly true that jihadists feel threatened by what we're doing in Iraq. But their attacks aren't necessarily "a tribute to the enormous strides that we have made in democratizing the country." If we were succeeding even more, does that mean there would be 200 people dying a day instead of 100? Even if the violence is a tribute to our democracy-building, it certainly isn't a tribute to our ability to establish order, something that people value more than democracy.
Lowry notes that Podhoretz doesn’t adequately respond to a central complaint of critics like George Will, that a Democratized Middle East can “risk bringing to power a new set of Islamic radicals who enjoy a measure of popular support.”

This is no doubt true, but underscores the need for that “Fourth Pillar” enunciated by President Bush. It’s not enough for democracies or would be democracies to give only lip service to the right relations between nations. They must act against terror in their midst, and renounce terror as a method of foreign policy. Until they do, such nations or popular movements must be regarded with deep suspicion, if not pre-emption of one form or another.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]