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What Is The Bush Doctrine?

By Jesse Taylor
Saturday, September 13, 2008 15:35 EDT
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imageChuckie Krauthammer decides that the person who gets to define the Bush Doctrine is him, because he used it once. I once used the word “surge” to refer to how I felt after downing a Red Bull and some chocolate-covered potato chips, which means that the troops in Iraq are, in fact, on the world’s biggest snack run.

I know something about the subject because, as the Wikipedia entry on the Bush doctrine notes, I was the first to use the term. In the cover essay of the June 4, 2001, issue of the Weekly Standard entitled, “The Bush Doctrine: ABM, Kyoto, and the New American Unilateralism,” I suggested that the Bush administration policies of unilaterally withdrawing from the ABM treaty and rejecting the Kyoto protocol, together with others, amounted to a radical change in foreign policy that should be called the Bush doctrine.

Which would be relevant if anyone but Wikipedia actually remembered or cared.

Krauthammer then goes on to define three more “versions” of the Bush doctrine:

From this day forward any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.” This “with us or against us” policy regarding terror — first deployed against Pakistan when Secretary of State Colin Powell gave President Musharraf that seven-point ultimatum to end support for the Taliban and support our attack on Afghanistan — became the essence of the Bush doctrine.

[...]

A year later, when the Iraq war was looming, Bush offered his major justification by enunciating a doctrine of preemptive war.

[...]

It’s the third in a series and was superseded by the fourth and current definition of the Bush doctrine, the most sweeping formulation of the Bush approach to foreign policy and the one that most clearly and distinctively defines the Bush years: the idea that the fundamental mission of American foreign policy is to spread democracy throughout the world.

Actually, it’s all the same doctrine – further parts were enumerated after previous parts started to fuck up, like duct tape on leaky pipes where the pipes were the Middle East and the duct tape was bombs. The Bush Doctrine, in its simplest terms, is the idea that America has the right to target terrorists and terrorist-harboring states preventatively, with the stated purpose of using said action to promote democracy. The preemption is the action, the terrorist-harboring the cause and the democracy part the motivation. Because the doctrine came together and fits and starts doesn’t mean that every iteration is a new doctrine – while it certainly arose schizophrenically, the entire thing was developed towards the same purpose.

Didn’t we spend a good several years being told that this was a president who approached foreign policy with a clarity and single-minded determination that the muddle-headedness of diplomacy and case-by-case determinations of our path forward would destroy? Now we’re being told that, in fact, Bush had no fewer than four drastically different approaches to foreign policy in his first four years.

Gibson was entirely correct in asking about the Bush Doctrine as a doctrine of preventative war (although he did mistakenly say “preemptive”). The reason this was correct was because without the prescribed action that defines it, it’s not really much of a goddamn doctrine.

I am willing to admit, however, that Krauthammer is potentially right – perhaps Bush did simply change his entire foreign policy worldview four times in four years. In turn, that would make the Bush Doctrine not preventative war, but instead the far more accurate view that it means lying about why you did something as soon as it starts to go wrong, and having a body of ideological flacks to lay down cover fire as you switch positions. Why won’t the liberal elites just accept that as the most successful policy vision of our time?

Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor is an attorney and blogger from the great state of Ohio. He founded Pandagon in July, 2002, and has also served on the campaign and in the administration of former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. He focuses on politics, race, law and pop culture, as well as the odd personal digression when the mood strikes.
 
 
 
 
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