Pentagon mulls ending Bush-era first-strike doctrine
The most important and most controversial element of the “Bush Doctrine” on foreign policy is being reassessed by the Pentagon.
A news report Thursday states the Department of Defense is reviewing the policy of preemptive war, the notion that the United States can and should attack countries it believes will pose a threat in the future.
A strategy expert inside the Pentagon told Bloomberg News that the policy is under review, and if the Pentagon finds it no longer applies to current circumstances, it will be revoked in its next Quadrennial Defense Review.
Kathleen Hicks, a deputy undersecretary for strategy, told Bloomberg that the world is “more complex” than it was in 2002, when President George W. Bush announced the policy.
“We’d really like to update our use-of-force doctrine to start to take account for that,” she said.
President George W. Bush announced the doctrine of preemption in a 2002 address to graduates of West Point Military Academy. It was considered by many as paving the way for the following year’s invasion of Iraq.
In his address, Bush stated:
For much of the last century, America’s defense relied on the Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment. In some cases, those strategies still apply. But new threats also require new thinking. Deterrence — the promise of massive retaliation against nations — means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend. Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies.
Our security will require transforming the military you will lead — a military that must be ready to strike at a moment’s notice in any dark corner of the world. And our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives.
Bloomberg news reported:
Congress requires the administration to report its national security strategy annually, and it requires the Pentagon to reassess its policies and war-fighting doctrine every four years.
The Obama administration will state its security doctrine for the first time as part of the Pentagon’s review, which will be given to Congress in February along with the fiscal 2011 budget.
But many commentators declared the Bush doctrine dead years ago, a casualty of the US’s failure to find weapons of mass destruction after the invasion of Iraq and the ongoing insurgencies the US has been fighting there and in Afghanistan.
At the same time, some analysts say the Obama administration may want to hedge its bets against a possible future terrorist attack and retain the doctrine of preemption, but would want to narrow its uses so as to avoid looking like it is continuing Bush-era foreign policy.
“The clear challenge for this administration is to find a balance between retaining the right, in extremis, to preempt, while avoiding association with the Bush administration,” Michael O’Hanlon, a researcher at the Brookings Institution, told Bloomberg. “The only solution is to try to downplay this option and say it will be reserved for the most extreme cases and even then pursued only with as much international backing and legitimacy as possible.”