What Is – Was – the Bush Doctrine?
I don’t watch television, so I wouldn’t actually know, but I take it there was some sort of dustup in a Sarah Palin ABC interview in which Governor Palin was asked about the so-called Bush Doctrine. I don’t know exactly what the discussion was about, but I did get an email from a friend a little while ago that said, “You’re the only person I know who has ever defended the Bush doctrine. What did you think it was?” Well. The fact that my academic friend, whom I adore, wouldn’t know anyone who ever defended the Bush doctrine might perhaps be taken mostly as statement about the bubble of academia, but, sure, I would count myself as something of an expert on it. In my mind, it has meant all or some of the following propositions:
- The Bush post 9-11 statement that you are either for us or against us when it comes to terrorism and harboring terrorists;
- the doctrine of preventative war that was used to justify the Iraq war;
- the doctrine that America should spread democracy, including by removing dictatorial regimes, and that this is both right per se and conducive to American national security;
- the proposition that freedom, as expressed through democracy, is a fundamental human desire; and
- the general agglomeration of positions found in the Bush administration’s 2002 national security strategy, including all of the above plus some new things, such as the resolve of the United States to maintain global military predominance.
Maybe there are some other things that I’m not thinking of offhand. And I see, looking at Wikipedia, that it largely agrees that these positions describe the shifting contours of what has generally been called the Bush doctrine. And here’s what AEI’s Thomas Donnelly had to say about it in a short position paper in 2003. Here’s Charles Krauthammer, who coined the term, and here’s a decent news story in the Washington Post on what “experts” think. I suppose the larger point is that the Bush doctrine seeks to marry, successfully or not, consistently or not, certain realist positions with certain idealist ones.
(Update: I added a couple of links; it occurs to me reading the news coverage afterwards that perhaps we would be better informed if the press skipped the ‘gotcha’ questions and went with the rather sensible list of questions that Bobbitt and Danforth offered in the NYT, noted in my earlier post. I, at least, would really like to see the questions cleared up by both campaigns before election day. Though I’m not holding my breath.)