Bush Doctrine From the Early Term Paper

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Quoted in "Strengthen Alliances..." Chapter III of "NSS" paper)

Not long after the unveiling of the Bush doctrine vide the NSS, the United States demonstrated its practical application by taking unilateral military action against Iraq despite opposition from most of its key allies and not having a specific UN Resolution to do so.

US Hegemony: Another key feature of the Bush doctrine that appeared in the NSS was that the United States was determined to maintain its military pre-eminence and worldwde military supremacy. It is explicitly state in the NSS policy document: "our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States." The intent to dissuade others from surpassing its military strength indicates a desire for U.S. hegemony. ("Transform America's National Security..." Chapter IX of "The NSS paper")

Actively Promoting Democracy, and Liberty around the World: The Bush doctrine exprsses the intent to actively spread democracy and freedom in all regions of the world. This was a long-held dream of the "neo-conservative" hawks, who have believed that American-style democracy can and should be actively promoted in all parts of the world, especially in the Arab and Muslim countries in order to contain the lure of Islamic fundamentalism in countries ruled by monarchies and dictatorships. The policy is based on an up-dated version of the "domino theory" -- the belief that the establishment of a "model" democracy in a key Muslim, Middle eastern country would have a knock-on domino effect in the whole of the region.

Pros and Cons of the New Bush doctrine

There has been plenty of criticism of the 'Bush doctrine,' both at home and at the international level especially by the left-liberal critics. On the other hand, the supporters of President Bush and the neo-conservative columnists dub the previous U.S. policy of containment as outdated in the post-Cold War period and the introduction of the more aggressive Bush doctrine as long overdue.


Tarnished U.S. Image: The Bush doctrine of 'pre-emption' -- elevating an implicit policy option of striking first into an explicit doctrine has altered the long-held image of a benign superpower that would always use its overwhelming power with restraint, into that of a unilateralist, overbearing, hyperpower, which is insensitive to the concerns of others. (Record, 17)

Invitation to Isolation and Enmity: The neo-conservative agenda of permanent American primacy through perpetual military supremacy, and the willingness to use force preemptively incorporated in the 'Bush doctrine' to 'end' rogue states and threatening regimes invites perpetual isolation and enmity. According to one prominent analyst, "An explicit American hegemony.... nakedly based on commercial interests and military power it will lack all legitimacy. Terror will continue, and worse, widespread sympathy with terror." (Sir Michael Howard quoted by Record, 18). This means that the long-term effect of the Bush doctrine has placed America in a more hostile and divided world at heightened risk from terrorists, making it more insecure than ever.

Unethical Doctrine: The doctrine of "dissuad[ing] potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in the hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States," as expressed in the U.S. National Security Strategy, cannot be justified ethically. In effect, this doctrine means that while the quest for acquiring military power is legitimate for the United States, it is not so for other countries. This may be an appropriate reflection of Social Darwinism and the theory of 'survival of the fittest' in a world where 'might is right,' but the policy can certainly not be justified ethically.

Invites Abuse and Sets a Precedent for Others. The doctrine of preemptive war invites abuse because it offers no criteria by which to judge whether a threat justifies a preemptive strike. The U.S. invasion of Iraq is an appropriate example of such a 'preemptive' war in which there was arguably no imminent threat of an attack except in the sole judgment of the Bush administration. It also sets a dangerous precedent for others to follow in order to settle their regional differences. There are a number of current political disputes around the world in which the stronger adversary could invoke the 'preemptive' doctrine to attack its weaker neighbor. For example, China could attack Taiwan over the question of Taiwan's independence; India could attack Pakistan over the Kashmir dispute, and Russia is already threatening to attack Georgia over the alleged cross-border terrorist activities of Chechen guerillas.

Democracy Cannot be Exported: Critics of the neo-con agenda of exporting American-style democracy to the Middle East warn about the inappropriateness of such an adventure. They point to the warnings of Thomas Jefferson, who despite being a great proponent of democracy always believed that the institutions of democracy cannot be successfully enforced from outside and no foreign power can create a state of freedom in another nation.


Threat of Terrorism needs New Strategy: There is no doubt that the threat of terrorism is vastly different from a conventional threat such as was faced by the U.S. from the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Terrorists do not follow rules of war and, therefore, cannot be countered through outmoded policies such as that of containment and deterrence. Only preemption can possibly prevent terrorist attacks.

Preemption by U.S.: not the First time: The critics of the Bush doctrine would have us believe that such a policy is being followed by the U.S. For the first time. This is far from correct. Before the War of 1812, James Madison authorized military operations in Spanish Florida to preempt the British from using it as a base for attacks on the U.S.; the Monroe Doctrine was aimed at preempting renewed European military intervention in the Western Hemisphere; the U.S. launched a preemptive attack on a Spanish fleet in the Philippines in 1898; it intervened in Vietnam to preempt other countries in South Asia from succumbing to Communism. (Donnelly)

Is the Bush doctrine Succeeding?

The proof of the pudding is, of course, in its eating. So let us see if the application of the Bush doctrine proved successful so far? The test case of the Bush doctrine is the U.S. occupation of Iraq. It is perhaps still too early to judge with certainty whether the Bush administration's gamble to venture into Iraq has been worthwhile? By all accounts the U.S. score-sheet on Iraq is mixed, although most analysts view the developments in Iraq according to their individual political leanings. The first aim of the U.S., i.e., regime change in Iraq was achieved swiftly and at minimum cost; the expectation that the Iraqis would receive the U.S. forces as 'liberators', however, has not come to pass. A violent resistance to the U.S. occupation still continues and the death toll of American soldiers in the post war period has topped 1500; the reconstruction of Iraq's infrastructure has been slow resulting in disillusionment and anger among Iraqis; the failure to find WMDs and Saddam's links to Al-Qaeda have undermined the credibility of the U.S. administration, and the Al-Gharib prison scandal has tarnished the image of the U.S. military among the Arabs. Other key elements of the Bush doctrine such as preemption and unilateralism have also suffered setbacks. There is little appetite or support in the U.S. now for preemptive attacks on other members of the "Axis of Evil" such as Iran and North Korea. As for Unilateralism, failure to control the violence in Iraq has compelled the U.S. To approach the United Nations to solve its political problems in Iraq, and has appealed to NATO for help on security. "As a result, Bush doctrine could become the biggest casualty of U.S. intervention in Iraq." (Wright A01)

On the other hand, elections have been successfully held in Iraq (as well as Afghanistan) and there are signs that the neo-con theory about a 'domino effect' of implanting democracy in Iraq may not have been a 'pipe-dream' after all. The deeply Conservative and tight-fisted monarchy in Saudi Arabia has been nudged into holding Municipal elections for the first time; demonstrations for democracy in Egypt has prompted Hosni Mubarak to announce free contested presidential elections; and most of all a 'Cedar Revolution' in Lebanon has brought down the puppet government installed by Syria, and forced the withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country. Charles Krauthammer, writing in the Time magazine recently, notes: "It was not people power that set this in motion. It was American power."


The 'Bush doctrine' implemented in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, has given a decisive new direction to the U.S. foreign policy, which was previously based on the principles of containment and deterrence. The new foreign policy principles of pre-emption and unilateralism were immediately put to test by the U.S. administration by its occupation of Iraq. The results of the adventure have been mixed so far and it is still too early to tell whether the…[continue]

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