“Our Doctrine Is Not Right”
Yesterday, Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, made a startling confession during a Senate hearing on military detention facilities in Iraq. “Our doctrine is not right, it’s just not right,” Abizaid said. “What do the MPs do, what do the military intelligence guys do, how do they come together in the right way? And this doctrinal issue has got to be fixed if we’ve ever going to get our intelligence right to fight this war and defeat this enemy.”
The good general is absolutely correct. But let’s not stop with our policies on detention facilities. The entire Bush Doctrine is wrong.
Congress unwisely—and unconstitutionally—gave the president authorization to go to war in Iraq. Without such authorization Mr. Bush would not have been able to set in motion his doctrine of preemptive war. And now the administration is giving hints that Syria and Iran are next. But it’s too late to reverse the course as long as Bush is president. The precedent for preemptive war is set.
In his commencement address at West Point in June 2002, Mr. Bush called upon all Americans “to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and defend our lives....If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long.” This theme was further developed in the National Security Strategy published in September of 2003, which argues that “the United States can no longer solely rely on a reactive posture as we have in the past...” and “We cannot let our enemies strike first....The greater the threat, the greater the risk of inaction—and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves.”
In point of fact, the administration’s focus on unilateral action and its emphasis on military power to the exclusion of other policy options has seriously undermined U.S. security and made the world a more dangerous place. New policy initiatives in the Bush administration are now stating that contingencies might exist for the preemptive use of nuclear weapons or the use of nuclear weapons in retaliation to a non-nuclear attack. Such a first use of nuclear weapons by the U.S. should be unthinkable. It violates a central tenet of just war theory and our own military tradition. The Bush Doctrine is setting a precedent for others that may well come back to haunt us.
Contrast the position taken by candidate George W. Bush, who spoke about the importance of humility in international affairs. In the second presidential debate he stated:
If we’re an arrogant nation, they’ll resent us; if we’re a humble nation, but strong, they’ll welcome us. And our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power, and that’s why we’ve got to be humble, and yet project strength in a way that promotes freedom.
Indeed, it is this approach that is in our nation’s best interest and consistent with our standards and values. Yet because of the Bush Doctrine the United States has become isolated and overly dependent on its military to protect its interests and its citizens. Many people the world over view us as a rogue nation that refuses to listen to reason and that imposes its will on others.
The Bush Doctrine has taken us into uncharted territory without adequate reflection, without consultation with Congress, and without constitutional precedent. It will take decades to repair the damage Mr. Bush and his neocon advisors have done to our standing in the international community. The goodwill we experienced after the tragedy of 9/11 has disappeared and been replaced by distrust and hostility even among our closest allies, who are repulsed by our arrogance and intimidation.
The Middle East is now a laboratory for democracy-building, at the point of a bayonet. The region views us, not as a great and good power, but as a tyrant.
With the Bush Doctrine, we have crossed the Rubicon.
May 20, 2004
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. His latest book, Why I Stopped Listening to Rush: Confessions of a Recovering Neocon, will be released in June.