The Bush Doctrine(s)

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On Page One of the Washington Post today, Michael Abramowitz has a more sympathetic view of that moment in the first Charlie Gibson interview where Sarah Palin seemed unfamiliar with the Bush Doctrine:

Intentionally or not, the Republican vice presidential nominee was on to something. After a brief exchange, Gibson explained that he was referring to the idea — enshrined in a September 2002 White House strategy document — that the United States may act militarily to counter a perceived threat emerging in another country. But that is just one version of a purported Bush doctrine advanced over the past eight years.

Peter D. Feaver, who worked on the Bush national security strategy as a staff member on the National Security Council, said he has counted as many as seven distinct Bush doctrines. They include the president’s second-term “freedom agenda”; the notion that states that harbor terrorists should be treated no differently than terrorists themselves; the willingness to use a “coalition of the willing” if the United Nations does not address threats; and the one Gibson was talking about — the doctrine of preemptive war.

“If you were given a quiz, you might guess that one, because it’s one that many people associate with the Bush doctrine,” said Feaver, now a Duke University professor. “But in fact it’s not the only one.”

Second guessing is always an easy exercise, but I think I might have preferred a more specific discussion of which aspects of Bush foreign policy Palin thinks have been successes, and which she believes have been failures.

UPDATE: Oops. It looks like Joe and I had a collision of posts here.

UPDATE2: I agree with Joe that the concept to which Gibson referred is one that has been well understood as the hallmark of this President’s approach to foreign policy and the use of military power. Here is a description of this doctrine, in a cover story I wrote in 2002 during the run-up to the Iraq invasion:

This isn’t just another military adventure. This would be unlike any other war the nation has waged. Bush & Co. aren’t responding to cross-border aggression or an assault on American citizens or interests. To use the President’s language, this would be “pre-emptive,” launched against a country that has not–yet–attacked the U.S. or its allies. …

Bush has been building his case since he branded Iraq a member of the “axis of evil” in his State of the Union speech in January. He made a more explicit argument for pre-emptive action in a June talk at West Point, in which he argued that “new threats require new thinking” and warned, “If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long.” But without fresh evidence of Iraqi chemical, biological or nuclear weapons ready to be fired at the U.S., it will be difficult for the White House to answer the central question: Why now? Why, 11 years later, is Saddam any more of a threat than he was when the first President Bush left him in power? What’s different, Bush will argue again and again, is that today America knows it is vulnerable to attack in a way never dreamed possible on Sept. 10, 2001. At the President’s meeting with congressional leaders, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin made the case for containing rather than deposing the Iraqi dictator. Bush wouldn’t hear of it, replying, as one aide paraphrased him: “That’s not an option after 9/11.”

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