The Bush Doctrine

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Ohg Rea Tone is all or nothing. He is educated and opinionated, more clever than smart, sarcastic and forthright. He writes intuitively - often disregarding rules of composition. Comment on his posts - he will likely respond with characteristic humor or genuine empathy. He is the real-deal.

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The Bush Doctrine

Doctrine: a principle or position or the body of principles in a branch of knowledge or system of beliefs’ – from the Merriam Webster Dictionary.

When we think of Government we think of the Wilson Doctrine or the Monroe Doctrine or the Truman Doctrine – the fundamental belief systems that guide decision making.  We have Domestic Doctrine and Foreign Policy Doctrine and Military Doctrine.  This past Century has seen the Foreign Policy and Military Doctrine closely intertwined.  So let us compare Casper Weinberger’s Doctrine, Colin Powell’s Doctrine, and the Bush Doctrine.  We should look to the future as we examine the past.

John McCain says things like, “I will chase Osama Bin Laden to the gates of hell – and I know how to do it!”  His fans roar their approval.  But John McCain is not running for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or even for Admiral of the Navy.  What are some reasonable preconditions a President might use before unleashing the John McCain’s on the purported enemy?  The ‘how’ of War should be left to the Generals – the ‘why’ and ‘when’ should remain in the doctrine of the Citizen Commander in Chief.

In the 1980’s Ronald Reagan was President.  His Secretary of Defense was Casper Weinberger.  This was a troubling time because the most recent American experience with Was was in Vietnam.  Anxious not to get into another Vietnam, Secretary Weinberger had a set of preconditions to be met before recommending putting American troops in harm’s way to the President.

Here are the essential ideas – which have come to known as The Weinberger Doctrine:

  1. Restrict the use of force to matters of vital national interest.
  2. Specify concrete and achievable objectives- both political and military.
  3. Secure assurances of popular and congressional support
  4. Fight to win.
  5. Use force only as a last resort.

Reagan was followed by George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.  Both of these Presidents looked to the new military star power of Colin Powell.  Powell added to the Weinberger Doctrine – giving us the Powell Doctrine.

  1. Restrict the use of force to matters of vital national interest.
  2. Specify concrete and achievable objectives- both political and military.
  3. Secure assurances of popular and congressional support
  4. Fight to win.
  5. Use force only as a last resort.
  6. Require an ‘exit strategy.’  The idea was to avoid open-ended commitments.
  7. Emphasis on ‘overwhelming force.’

These ideas did not come out of thin air.  People like Robert McNamara, Weinberger, and Powell studied the history of war, they studied tactics, they studied combat, and they studied technology.  Historically war has been fought for some very meager purposes.  For love, for land, for commerce, for greed, for domination, for defense, for punishment, and for revenge.

With these notions in mind we Americans can reasonably ask why we are in Iraq, what was the strategy – was the use of force our last resort, was the fall of Saddam vital to our national interest, did we apply enough force, did we have concrete objectives, did we fight to win, and did we have an exit strategy?

What exactly was the Bush – Rumsfield – McCain Doctrine?

From Bush’s National Security Strategy from September 2002: “While the United States will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community, we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self defense by acting preemptively against such terrorists, to prevent them from doing harm against our people and our country.”

By itself this is not a new philosophy.  Reagan shot cruise missiles into Lybia.  Clinton sent missiles into Afghanistan – hoping to kill Bin Laden.  Other Presidents have acted unilaterally and preemptively with military force.

The difference is in magnitude and definition of ‘terrorist.’  No other President has unilaterally invaded a sovereign nation – bent on the destruction of that nation.  President Bush distorts the preemptive mentality of former Presidents by labeling countries he does not like as ‘supporters of terrorists’ – justifying any and all use of violence.

We continue studying the American military in the last Century – we are learning and we will report more as our ideas and thoughts coalesce.

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